Since you’ve probably already guessed from the picture above, I’ll just come right out and say it:
The most important rule of business phone etiquette? Smiling.
But before you stop reading because that’s such a simple answer, let me challenge you with one task: Ask yourself this question... and answer it honestly.
Do I smile on the phone every time I talk to a customer? Do my employees?
The answer is probably no. As fundamental as this is, I’m shocked at how many businesses don’t implement this into their training or really think about it at all.
I wonder, would they make it a priority—would you make it a priority—if you knew that smiles converted into dollars?
Yeah, I thought so, too. Read on.
Smiling = Friendly Tone
Smiling instantly changes the tone of your voice from mundane and straight, to warm and friendly. The physical act of smiling moves your vocal cords in a way that impacts how you sound. Smiling changes your tone so dramatically that classically-trained vocalists are taught not to smile when they sing! (I guess they aren’t going for warm and friendly.)
Listen to this. It's proof that you can hear the difference!
Without Smiling [audio non-smiling-call.mp3]
With Smiling [audio smiling-call.mp3]
Friendly Tone = Emotional Connection
So, why is tone so important? Because the tone you take with customers can literally determine the difference between sale and no sale or good experience and bad experience. Here’s what Judith Filek, President of Impact Communications, has to say about it.
“The tone of your voice either makes or breaks you when you are conducting business over the phone. People can’t see that you are competent and knowledgeable. What they use to assess your credibility on the phone is your tone of voice.”
Emotional Connection = Doing Business
Establishing a friendly relationship with customers in general is absolutely critical to business. Did you know that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated (McKinsey)? That’s a huge percentage. This article sums it up really well.
“Studies show that most customers will make a purchase based more on their emotional connection to the product and company, rather than making a decision based solely on logic and even need. When companies are able to relate to their customers on a more personal level, this can often translate to higher sales...There is no doubt that friendlier service can be as good for your bottom line as it is for your customer’s satisfaction.”
And all that can stem back to a simple smile? You’re probably ready to smile til your cheeks fall off right now.
(Skeptical about emotional connection leading to purchasing? There are all kinds of articles out there supporting it. Try reading this one about chickens.)
Doing Business = Customer Loyalty
Let's take this a step further. Doing something as simple as smiling can make your business stand out. And standing out can lead not only to sales, but to something even better—loyal customers.
How many companies can you think of that you would consider to have exemplary and superior customer service? I can think of maybe three. (And that’s out of the hundreds of companies I’ve had interaction with in the past couple of years.)
In the extended version of this Time Magazine article, Brad Tuttle says this.
“Smart businesses should come to realize that the customer service bar is lower, and that today, it’s easier than ever to differentiate your company from the pack with (crazy as it seems) actual quality customer service.”
It’s so true! It doesn’t take much to stand out in a world of mediocrity. Smiling on every phone call could instantly take your business to the next level. Customers notice things like that. And when they start wishing every other company treated them like you do, you've got the secret recipe to loyalty! The best part about that is, you have customers that will do business with you over and over again, and they'll tell their friends about you. A lot of benefits from a very simple thing. Pretty convincing argument that you should smile, huh?
This ancient Chinese proverb sums things up pretty well. (If they got it thousands of years ago, it's about time we get it today!)