The first advice you get when starting a startup, and let alone a SaaS startup, is: get to know your customers. Whether you choose to use panels or surveys, or just plain ol’ phone calls, you must understand who your customers are, why they signed up, what they like and hate about your product, and how you could make them happy. Here’s how to make the most out of your time spent on the phone.
Because happy customers = loyal customers
As Jason Lemkin, co-founder of two successful SaaS Startups (EchoSign, acquired by Adobe and NanoGram Devices, acquired for $50 million 13 months after founding) pointed out:
“We can talk all about different strategies and growth hacking and business development, but the reality is, what drives growth is word-of-mouth. In the very beginning, almost no one will have heard of you. Those first few customers, you have to get yourself – you have to pick up the phone and do it.”
(read full interview here)
But don’t get me wrong, as an entrepreneur, I know that your life is already crazy busy, and picking up the phone can be seen as a foregone time-waster, interrupting other tasks and hogging your attention.
At Aircall, we’ve started to get lots of inbound calls, mainly because we share our phone number on every blog post and on top of every web page. We get people calling in asking questions, needing help or wanting to create partnerships.
So here is a selection of best practices we’ve gathered from our many hours spent on the phone to help you become a phone ninja.
1. Do not always pick up
You don’t have to pick up every single time. Only answer if and when it’s convenient for you – this is what voicemail is for.
Just a century ago, aristocrats refused to have phones in their homes as it was considered “unbearable for someone to be able to disturb you at any time in your own home”.
But what if your caller doesn’t want to leave a message?
This is one of the problems we are solving at Aircall, thanks to our call cascading solution. For instance, you can assign a phone number to different people in your sales team, and define a priority order, so that if you can’t pick up, the next person in line will get the call, or the person after… So the prospect whom you’ve been nurturing for weeks will always get someone over the phone when he finally calls you, even if you are busy.
2. Connect the right person
It’s also important to make sure you’re the right person to answer the call before spending hours trying to understand your caller’s aim in life – or at least the purpose of his/her call. Would you ask your next-door neighbour to make your next move on the New York Stock Exchange? Well, unless he’s a professional broker and doesn’t look like Jordan Belfort aka Leonardo Di Caprio, you probably won’t.
When you receive a call, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will I be able to solve customer’s issue with the tools I have access to?
- Is the problem complex or sensitive enough to need a developer to look at it?
If you’re not the expert on the subject don’t waste your caller’s time, transfer the call to the person who is. Don’t try to do someone else’s job for them.
3. Be active during your calls
Always take a moment to ask yourself what you can get from the phone call. For instance, if a salesperson calls, what can you learn about their selling techniques or customer service? Ask questions and you might get some useful information.
And all the more so if the call comes from a dissatisfied customer. OK, we all wish we only had happy customers calling us to praise our amazing product or service and to thank us for our wonderful work. But actually getting in front – figuratively speaking – of a disgruntled customer gives you a one in a lifetime opportunity to:
- First, improve and get better – angry customers are an invaluable resource for providing honest feedback to actually enhance and stand out from your competition – if you are willing to listen.
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Bill Gates
(and Bill Gates at a LOT of Microsoft unhappy customers)
- Second, each dissatisfied contact has the potential for becoming your company’s best evangelist. Delight your customers by resolving their issues and then going the extra mile, and you will make them your most loyal customers.
Phone calls are an opportunity to interact with your customers, suppliers or potential partners. You can use incoming calls to ask a few quick questions about a new feature or a satisfaction survey. Make the call work for you!
To learn more about how to persuade customers over the phone, read our previous blog post.
4. Take notes during a call (and/or after)
In order to make the most of your phone call, it’s a good idea to jot down the key points of the discussion. Create a contact from the incoming call and leave a note about who phoned and what they wanted. One of your beta users asked for a new feature that is due 6 months from now? Next time he calls, you’ll be up to speed on his previous inquiries and you’ll know you hold all the cards to answer to your best – and keep him up to date on your progress.
5. Know how to end a boring call
This one of the biggest problems with phone calls. We found this out for ourselves when we added a post-call quality survey to the Aircall app. To get people to relax, we added the option “The call was boring!” So far, we’ve had over 50 customers who find us boring… and counting!
Therefore, we opened a quora question for users to share their ideas on how to end a boring call.
Personally, we recommend remaining polite and professional:
- I’m sorry, but I need to run (wrap up).
- I’m sorry, but I’m not interested (hang up).
We don’t recommend:
- Faking a very precise excuse like going to the doctor’s – there’s no need to lie!
Our time on the phone has helped us come up with these “ground-up” techniques – they’ve all been thoroughly tried and tested. If you have any other ideas or suggestions, please contribute to this quora question or comment this article.