Many dog pros feel like slaves to their telephones, reporting a near compulsion to answer them no matter the hour, inconvenience, or what else may be going on. What if the call goes to voice mail and the potential client moves on to another choice?
Put the Phone Down
There are several compelling reasons to put the phone down.
• Answering calls throughout the day hurts efficiency and productivity.
• It can also contribute to burnout by eroding the work/home barrier. Having and enforcing set work and non-work hours when running a business is key to enjoying your profession for the long haul.
• And don’t overlook the ethical issues involved in allowing oneself to be distracted by a conversation with a potential customer while being paid to care for another client’s animal. Whether out on a neighborhood walk, in the middle of a training session, or on the daycare floor, the dogs in our care should rightfully have our full attention.
Besides, it’s entirely normal and professional for businesses to keep hours. Short of emergency services, what high end companies do you know that are available at all times?
Make Them Want to Wait
Still, the worry persists that the dog pro who picks up the phone first is likely to get the job. Here are some tricks to make potential clients choose to wait for you:
The tone and content of your outgoing message can make all the difference. Too often this tool is underutilized.
Tell clients what you’re doing that’s keeping you from answering.
Perhaps you’re training dogs or giving your undivided attention to the daycare playgroups. In other words, you’re being the kind of responsible professional they’re looking for to care for their own dog.
Most importantly, tell them when you’ll return their call.
Have set times of the day for this task so people know when to expect to hear from you. When people can put a timeframe on their wait and feel assured that they’ll be speaking with you soon, they are much less likely to call the next number on their list for “insurance.”
Record your message daily.
A freshly dated message increases a potential client’s confidence that they will hear back from you. It also makes you appear particularly organized and professional—why should they call anyone else?
Include your marketing message.
Slip in a brief statement or two about why you are worth waiting for. What is it that makes you best? A commitment to safety? Personalized attention to each dog?
Keep it short.
Long messages irritate. Resist the temptation to include superfluous information they can more easily get from your website. And speaking of which, don’t tell callers to visit your website for answers to all their questions. Most likely they’ve just come from there.
Check your website.
Is it doing everything it could to answer peoples’ questions and sell your services? A strong marketing message on your site can contribute to peoples’ willingness to be patient, too.
Don’t: “Hi, you’ve reached The Best Dog. We’re sorry we can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave a message we’ll call back as soon as we can. Or you can visit our website at www… Thanks and woofs to you!”
This message, while nice and short, gives no sense of why someone should wait.
Don’t: “This is The Best Dog. We’re sorry we missed your call. Please leave your name and number at the beep. We provide daycare and dog training classes. Our classes include puppy and basic manners and agility. You can see a class schedule on our website. Our daycare is open from 7:30am to 7:30pm, with pick up and drop off hours between 7:30 and 8:30am and 6 and 7:30pm. Late fees are assessed after 7:45pm. We’re open Monday through Friday except on national holidays. For daycare we require a behavior evaluation. Drop in eval hours are Mondays and Fridays between 12 and 1:30pm. Thank you and we look forward to talking to you soon.”
This one is too long, and with nothing to show for it—all the content is simple information that could easily be seen on the website, and the message lacks any kind of marketing punch.
Do: “Thank you for calling The Best Dog. We are either with a client, teaching class, or on the daycare floor. We look forward to giving you and your dog our same personalized attention. It’s Tuesday the 23rd and we will be returning all calls today between 12 and 1pm and 7 to 8pm. Please let us know where we can best reach you at those times. We look forward to hearing how we can help you enjoy the best in your dog.”
Ah, just right. Why wouldn’t they wait? They know exactly when they’ll hear from you and you’ve given them a sense of your professionalism, reliability, customer service. You’ve also made it clear that their dog will be well cared for and slipped a little marketing promise in—working with you means enjoying a good dog.
Spending just a little time on your outgoing message can make a big difference—and release you from bondage to your phone.