Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Here's Looking at Me - A Simple Solution to Phone Rudeness

Schools can lose 12% of potential enrollment when potential students make their first actual contact with the college. That’s right. Your school loses students who are interested in attending when they take the steps required to make a positive decision to enroll.

This should not surprise anyone who ever heard about first impressions or has read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. But oddly enough, when I talk with school administrators, “12% off the top” comes as a surprise. Until they objectively look at their web or call into to an office on campus.

The web issue is a larger topic that will be discussed at greater length later on the blog but telephone problems… I have been getting plenty of calls lately from administrators who have been getting complaints from callers to their schools, staff members and trustees. There are numerous issues people call and complain about. But a recent common theme has been complaints over phones being answered in a rude, indifferent, and offensive manner. It seems that people answering phones have been doing so while distracted, angry or apparently annoyed at having to answer the phone. And these attitudes clearly affect tone, and voice style.

I don’t know but I guess there is something offsetting about a person answering the phone with “Yuh. What?” or with a very bored and indifferent “SchoolOrTechnicalCollegeWhatCanIDoForYuh?”

And little tells a person he or she is unwanted than being “dissed” on the phone. If a student gets the feeling that he or she is not wanted from an early or first phone call, it can be an uphill battle to retain the student’s interest in attending the school. And it is so simple to assure that people answer the phone in a friendly manner.

Here is one quick and inexpensive customer service solution. Mirrors.

Yes. Mirrors. Go to a local craft store and buy simple, small mirrors and double-sided tape. Give the mirror with the tape to everyone who might answer a phone. Have them tape the mirror to a spot level with their face or where they could easily see their face when they go to answer the phone. Then have everyone look into the mirror and smile before picking up a phone. All they need to do is retain the smile when saying “hello, how can I help you?” Problem solved.

It is a simple fact that when a person is smiling, he or she cannot answer the phone with an angry or negative tone. In fact, the caller will hear the smile come through in the voice. This may not eliminate all the phone protocol issues a school will have but it will certainly help.

Any comments, questions or other customer service issues? Contact me at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is true – people can hear a smile in your voice. It goes back to the adage "do unto others as you would have them do to you." No one likes to hear a cranky voice on the other end of the line so we should try our best to be friendly when others contact us.

I think the mirror suggestion is a good one; personally I just have a note tapped to my phone that reads "smile." It’s a good reminder not just for when I am on the phone, but for any situation.