Posted by BeTopLocal
Here’s a scenario that may be all-too-familiar:
You’ve worked with your client to improve their SEO and optimize their pages for conversion. You’ve set up tracking software and done a great job of delivering qualified leads.
Then your client complains they still aren’t closing more deals.
What if it’s not the tech part of the funnel letting you down? What if your problem is of the human variety?
“Hold up!” you’re thinking. “Not my problem!”
Digital agencies often don’t think of “interfering” with in-house operations (or don’t feel empowered to), and it’s easy to wipe your hands of the issue once your ad campaigns are in full swing.
But when you’ve spent thousands of dollars making the phone ring, you can’t sit by idly and allow your client to lose customers to busy phone lines or poor onboarding. If you do, you risk losing the client.
Online marketing doesn’t end with the “submit” button or a phone call. Frontline staff are CRITICAL to both your ad campaigns and your client’s success.
In this post, I’ll share the process we followed to make frontline staff an extension of our digital efforts and grow our client’s new patient booking rate to 61%.
Step 1: Earn staff buy-in by solving their problems
Buy-in is tricky. You’re an outsider trying to introduce change into a company that’s been doing things “their way” for years.
You need to overcome this fear and get staff to buy into your new goals and marketing plans. Once they do, they’ll be an unstoppable part of your onboarding process.
First, interview frontline staff, and make it about helping them vs. instructing them.
Advice from an outsider is seldom welcome, so it’s your job to get to know the staff by asking them three simple questions:
- What is the most frustrating thing that happens on a call?
- What do you wish people calling in already knew?
- How could we make your life easier?
By showing staff you want to make their lives simpler and asking them for input, you build credibility and rapport with them while making them feel like you’re on their team. What’s more, you learn about the information customers currently lack when they call in, which is information you can give them on the landing page ahead of time.
Remember, receptionists are the first point of contact that a customer has with many businesses. They’re extremely important for shaping how new prospects view the entire company.
Second, consider offering an incentive for staff to close deals more quickly.
This is a tricky one, as booking clients is, technically, the job of frontline staff; but if there’s a way to recognize top performers, monetarily or otherwise, this can become another powerful way to get staff in on the deal.
An incentive could be anything from an office lunch on Friday if more than X number of appointments are successfully scheduled in a week or a gift card if scheduling rates increase by a certain percentage to vacations, TVs, etc. for top performers.
A quick example
One of our clients, a small, local clinic in Utah, was enjoying an influx of quality leads after we launched our Facebook, AdWords, and Pandora ad campaigns. However, long wait times resulted in lost prospects.
To remedy this, we sat down with the staff to learn about their pain points and showed them the ads we were running, then asked them what was missing. We wanted them to have a voice in the changes being made and to know how valuable they were in the onboarding process.
Their feedback was surprising.
Our client was also able to offer a $5-10 incentive for every appointment booked. This incentive motivated receptionists to answer calls and emails as soon as they came in, even on weekends, and reduce calls placed on hold or sent to voicemail.
Once you remove all barriers to staff buy-in, your marketing campaign can really take off. In this case, our client was able to book 203 new leads per month on the strength of staff enthusiasm.
Step 2: Use analytics to diagnose weak points in the funnel
Once the staff is onboard, it’s time to dig up some granular results that will help them refine their processes and eliminate the obstacles in the way.
That means tracking and recording calls so that you can provide hard-hitting feedback for your client. The key here is to record calls and take the right lessons away from what you learn.
Get a tool to record phone calls
There are dozens of different platforms for call tracking out there, and most are quite affordable (usually $3-5 per line per month plus a small fee per minute). We wound up choosing CallTrackingMetrics to record calls for its affordability and reliability.
Make sure the staff knows they are being recorded, and that you’ll use the information learned from the calls to make their lives easier.
Including a standard “this call may be recorded for quality control” message on calls is also good practice so that you don’t violate callers’ privacy. (This is not necessary in every state; you can see a list of the applicable rules here.)
Get a tool to trace calls back to digital sources
After evaluating several tools, none did what we needed, so we designed a custom WordPress tracking plugin solution (which you can download for free) to help us attribute converting calls to channels.
This also enables you to see with clarity where poor leads are coming from so you can either improve your landing pages and conversion funnel or keep those leads from coming in at all.
These tools gave us the means to analyze the clinic’s onboarding techniques and calculate the cost per lead (CPL) and ROI of our advertising channels.
Listen to incoming calls to identify common causes of drop-offs
- Questions you can proactively answer
- Questions staff try to answer, but shouldn’t
- Difficult prospects, and what made them difficult
Track these carefully, then take them back to frontline staff to get their insights and opinions. This is not a time to be accusatory, but to talk through ways to combat common problems.
When you have a clear picture of what your reception staff deal with, you can collaborate with them to turn their weaknesses into strengths, whether on your end in content, or on their end in the way they answer or divert client questions (which we’ll cover in the next step).
Step 3: Improve your ‘time-to-value’ ratio
The main goal of your reception staff should be to get customers off the phone and into the office (or to the next step of the funnel).
You can support this goal by using your landing pages to prevent bottlenecks, as well as having strategies in place that help staff book appointments and navigate difficult situations.
A quick example
One of our clients had a problem that’s common to most businesses: Patients wanted all of their questions answered over the phone by front-end staff who weren’t qualified or equipped to answer them.
That meant more time on-call. More calls on hold. And more potential patients hanging up, tired of waiting.
We addressed this issue by first solving whatever bottlenecks we could with landing page content:
- We made sure our landing pages answered any FAQs we might have missed so that the receptionists wouldn’t be answering them so often
- Second, we worked with the front staff to come up with a very specific strategy and goal for each call, and we provided examples that they could draw from. (Note: This was not a script. It’s far more important that your staff understand your “closing strategy.” In our case, this was walking reception staff through best-practices that would get new patients to make an appointment.)
To tackle this in a practical way, we worked with frontline staff to help them generate a list of guidelines that not only worked but that they believed in.
We guided the process but gave them ownership over the guidelines.
Here’s what we included in our strategy:
Empathy: Make a connection with your caller
It takes less than three seconds to make a good impression, but only one bad experience to drive a new caller away. Knowing this, we drew on best-practice advice for business telephone etiquette and collaborated with staff to come up with our main objectives:
- Answer calls promptly and professionally
- Make a good first impression
- Show you care
- Build confidence
- Be courteous and helpful, even when redirecting calls
To do this, we listened to successful calls and noted what made the best frontline staff successful. How did they answer questions? What were their greetings?
You can do the same, then use this information to draft basic scripts for greetings, redirects, and answering common questions.
Authority: Have clear priorities and achievable goals
Medical clinics have a lot in common with other B2C businesses in that most questions can’t be answered over the phone. Receptionists often aren’t qualified to speak on behalf of the staff members who are experienced in solving the particular problems that callers have.
The best response to most customer questions is, “That’s a great question for_________. Let’s get an appointment/consultation scheduled so s/he can answer it.”
To set up our goals, we took cues from resources like these Receptionist KPIs and combined them with the personal experiences our client brought to the table.
Our reception staff goals were:
- Ask questions and track responses
- Make onboarding painless
- Show empathy and compassion
- Give hope to callers
- Offer accurate information
- Don’t answer questions you’re not qualified to answer
- Schedule an appointment
Response: Have a strategy for dealing with difficult callers
You lose most of your callers during high stress periods, especially if it makes new callers wait for long periods of time.
When difficult callers tie up your phone lines or you experience an influx of new callers and you have to manage multiple lines, you risk losing new callers that grow frustrated with waiting.
Our strategies for dealing with difficult callers:
- Stay polite and courteous. Say your greeting, offer your name and ask for the caller’s name.
- Avoid saying anything that might upset the caller. Offer them reassurances instead.
- Tell the caller that you understand their frustration and want to help them.
- Stay calm. Remaining calm will calm the caller down too.
- Keep your conversation positive and diplomatic
- Show that you’re willing to help them resolve the conflict they’re experiencing
- Be empathetic. Think like the caller and understand that their problem is important.
Our strategies for managing multiple lines:
- Prioritize calls in the order they come in
- If a second call comes in and you need to put a caller on hold, get permission to do so
- Solve simple problems for the new caller if possible (e.g., a transfer request) to free up the line
- If the second caller also needs your help, ask them to hold while you finish with the first caller
- Don’t make callers on hold feel neglected. Check in with them periodically if your first call takes a long time to resolve.
- If possible, have a system in place so that you don’t have to place callers on hold at all (e.g., transfer the call to another staff member or an automated attendant)
- Keep a pen and paper handy. Take notes whenever necessary.
Frontline staff are a critical part of the funnel. With the right approach, their work can be optimized.
You might not think it’s your prerogative as an agency to train reception staff, but this is an opportunity to bring the principles of online conversions to the offline staff and unify the client’s entire team to get better results for everyone.
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