Photo by Arlington Research
Whether you plan for it or not, your On Hold Messaging is always On Hold Marketing, because it sends a message about who you are as a company. What do customers think when they hear silence, or cheesy muzak? Whatever they think, they think that about you. So take control of the image you are already sending, and use your messaging to sell something.
1. Say Something Positive
Sales gurus Max Altschuler and Vanessa van Edwards both give the same advice for selling: keep it positive. You’d be amazed how much a positive comment can change the attitude of your caller. Consider a study cited by both our experts that examined what made people more likely to tip more when a roomservice waiter came to their rooms. The big secret? Saying “good morning” and offering a positive weather forecast. “Hi, it’s going to be a beautiful day”. That’s all it took to produce an average tip increase of 27%!
That’s not easy to perfectly replicate on hold, since your messages will be playing all the time to anyone who calls, regardless of the weather or time of day. The key take-away, though, keeping things positive, is easy to reproduce. Focusing on the environment of service you foster, guaranteeing a high quality, and offer tangible demonstrations of both of these.
Remember, everybody has “a helpful, friendly staff”; maybe yours greets customers at the door…
Nobody is going to claim they offer “mediocre quality goods”, but it would be a benefit to talk about how you’re willing to stand behind your products with a robust returns policy.
2. Let Callers Know Why You Value Them
People like to be told how awesome they are – in fact, they take it as a challenge to live up to the label. Fundraisers, for instance, have found that if they tell their average-level donors that they are in fact among the highest donors, they make an effort to donate more. You may not be able to tell every customer individually that they are personally your best customer, and you want to be careful to avoid sounding inauthentic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pay your callers a compliment.
Try reminding them why they called you – “you chose our veterinary clinic because you really love your pet”… “you’re not just a hobbyist, you take your trade seriously, and so do we… that’s why we carry professional grade tools for professionals like you”. Be careful to consider who actually makes up your audience, of course, and write to them! You want to make your callers feel like you cater to their specific needs; it makes them feel valued, and it also gives them a degree of identification with your business, making them more loyal and regular customers.
3. Know What to Emphasize
Remember that on hold you’re only guaranteed partial attention from your callers – so the messages you choose to play need to be attention-grabbers. This means establishing a theme and cycling through thematic messages. An individual message should sell an individual product, unless you’ve got a bundle or sale – and in those cases, sell what you’re selling. In other words, if you’re offering a deal on HVAC units and installation equipment, don’t waste your caller’s time listing all your brands – focus on the deal. Then again, if you’ve got a deal on Trane, sell Trane. If you’re a veterinarian trying to get people to vaccinate their pets, sell vaccination in general, and all the benefits of inoculation. Start listing all the different needles you need to stick in Fido, and you’re going to scare your clients off. That said, if you just started offering a new Rattlesnake venom vaccination, then mention it specifically, but even then, focus on what it does, not on the name of the brand or the name of the drug.
You also have a chance here to emphasize what makes you special. There are millions of veterinary clinics, supply stores, hardware stores, banks, and insurance agencies out there. Millions. Your specialties are what turn you from just being one of millions into being one in a million. Are you trying to sell a small credit union or local bank? Are you “the hometown bank”? Draw attention to that by reminding your callers that all of your employees, from the tellers up to the president of the bank, understand the local economy because you all drive by the same businesses, shop at the same stores, and pay taxes to the same people as your customers do.
4. Keep it Simple
This follows on the last point – you’ve got somebody’s attention for the time being. If you want to drive a point home, you need to keep it simple. You’ll feel a strong temptation to go into detail about your offerings, about all the reasons a certain treatment is a good idea—we’ve even heard someone rattle off the exact specs for their newest optical laser when selling eye exams. You do what you do because it’s your livelihood and, more than likely, because you love it. The finer details interest you. Unfortunately, your customers don’t share that passion. It’s the difference between selling someone “a hot car” and “a 1200hp 8.0L v16 26.4 gallon 7-speed automatic coupe”.
If you’re a car person, you might realize we just described a Bugatti Veyron, which was briefly the fastest street-legal car on the planet. If you’re not a car person, though, that jumble of numbers of letters meant absolutely nothing, and maybe, if we’re lucky, you were briefly interested when you read the phrase “fastest street-legal car on the planet”. These are your callers: the people who registered more information when they hear the phrase “hot car” than when they hear the alternative. So keep things simple, and only list features of your services or products that are likely to catch the eye of someone who isn’t intimately familiar with them.
5. Sell Services and Solutions, not Products and Commodities
Your callers called you because they have a problem, and they need a solution. This is true no matter what kind of business you run. Do you sell a product? They don’t have that product, and they need it to accomplish some goal. Do you provide a service? Either they need a solution immediately (like a plumber or electrician) or they’re preventing a future problem (check-ups at the vet or eye doctor). In all of these cases, you won’t be able to capture their attention with the product or service in question – they already have that on their minds – but if you let them know you understand their problem and can promise a solution? Those are the ingredients that make return customers, first because you’re providing them a solution and, second, because you have signalled to them that you understand the issues and problems they come to you to solve. A product is a means to an end: keep the means in stock, but sell the end.
6. Make it Personal
We know we’re not always rational about our buying decisions, so why sell something using a fact sheet? Get your callers excited about your brand and your solutions (remember point #5?). Don’t lay it on too thick, but playing at emotions will grab your callers attention and make them more likely to make a purchase. Consider a veterinarian who is trying to get more clients to come in for heartworm screenings. Which of these sells better?
“Heartworm occurs in all 50 states and has no season, so be sure to get your pet tested at least once a year to prevent the spread of this dangerous disease.”
“Does your dog have heartworms? Heartworms are deadly, and the symptoms frequently don’t show until the disease is in its most critical stages. Don’t take the risk: get your dog tested today.”
The first is all facts and leaves the solution open-ended; the second has practically no factual content at all. It leads with fear and uncertainty and closes with an immediate solution. Guess which is going to produce more testing appointments for the vet…
7. Talk Product Value
Your goal is to get people to form an emotional attachment to your brand, product, or service, but to do that you have to negotiate an even stronger attachment – with their wallets. That vet script we just mentioned does this: using emotion, it articulates a clear value of the service being provided. Your dog, your best friend, could be dying, and you will have no idea if he’s okay or not unless you spend the money to make and keep and appointment for a heartworm check-up. It also creates a scenario in which the caller can place themselves. Here’s another:
“Can you think of anything worse than the guy on your team that shows up to the jobsite unprepared? We never want you to be that guy, which is why we carry tools and supplies specifically made with tradesmen in mind. Get the real deal, come by to see our full selection today.”
Rearrange that with some specifics, like a brand of tool or a specific kind of work, and you’ve got a scenario your callers can picture themselves in, and a clear statement of value that you bring to their work.
8. Make Your Callers Feel in Charge
People feel good about the right decision; they feel bad about the wrong one. You’ve heard of “buyer’s remorse”, but in reality it’s more like “buyer’s resentment”. If I feel pressured into buying something, I don’t just regret purchasing the product, I resent the shyster who parted me with my money for a trinket or waste of my time. It could be that he was a perfectly honest, respectable businessman who really believed providing me with his product would solve my problem. But if a customer feels like you bullied him into a purchase, you could be the very picture of honesty and he’d still sit at home calling you a crook. That’s not the indelible mark you want to leave on your customers.
So, don’t. Make your customer feel in charge – and you can do this simply by taking advice we’ve already given you. Present them with a solution to a problem, give them tangible value, get them emotionally invested – those all have the side effect of giving your customers ownership of their purchases.
9. Pay Attention to Feedback
You’ll be able to tell if what you’re playing on hold is working just by watching and listening to your customers. Keep your messaging fresh and seasonal, and pay attention to what sells and what doesn’t. Ask your desk team if customers are mentioning sales they heard about on hold (maybe run some sales only to callers who get placed on hold). Adjust your messaging accordingly, and don’t try to do it alone – even if your business is small, consider hiring professionals who focus on marketing and sales copy with their on hold messaging service. The more willing your provider is to work with you, the more successful you’ll be. Of course, none of it will matter if you don’t make an effort to live up to the promises you make in your advertising, so be sure that you:
10. Reflect Your Sales Image in Your Business
This entire article has been about sales, but unless your sales and customer service strategies work together, both are doomed to fail. Maybe you have two whole teams devoted to each, maybe you just have one person handling both: whatever the case, your right hand always needs to know what your left hand is doing. Doing great business means being able to draw in new customers at the same rate as you retain long-standing customer relationships, since regular customers make you much more money.
Whatever strategy you pursue in sales, and whatever messages and advertising you do over the phone, make sure your customer service staff are in on the planning, or at least are informed of your marketing so they can reflect it in their behavior. Your On Hold Marketing isn’t just advertising your business: it is establishing a brand, and building a reputation – if you aren’t a living advertisement, your customers will know it, and not even the best On Hold Marketing can appeal to people who decide not to call you. So keep the calls coming with good communication between sales and customer care, and make sure you incorporate your marketing image in your day-to-day business operations.
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