Mastering the Telephone

Cartoon of old telephone receiver

Phone image courtesy of © shockfactor - Fotolia.com

Yep, we’re living in the future. We have websites, Facebook, online payments, and online scheduling. But when it comes down to it, many clients are still going to get in touch with you with that tried-and-true gadget of the 20th century, the telephone. That being said, are you telephone savvy? How much do you know about making a good impression on the phone?

Answer like a pro.

When you answer your phone, what do you say? “Hey, what’s up?” doesn’t cut it. Neither does a simple “Hello.” To make the most of your phone conversation you’re going to get used to “Hello, this is Joanne, may I help you?” Practice this whenever you get a phone call, even if it’s from somebody you already know. It’ll get you in the habit, so that once you’re getting regular calls from clients you’ll already be settled into a routine.

Speak clearly.

It’s easy to think that you speak clearly when you already know what you meant to say. But understanding someone over the telephone is a lot more difficult than you might imagine. Here’s a checklist to help you speak up.

  • Do you usually speak very quickly? Slow down your speech just a bit when on the phone. It’ll give listeners an extra moment to decipher what you just said. Besides, clients want to feel like you’re able to relax them, not rush them along.
  • Do you have a very high-pitched voice? Older clients in particular have an easier time hearing in the lower registers. Don’t strain yourself, but you might want to avoid the higher end of your range.
  • Focus on your words. It sounds like common sense, but the person on the other end of the phone can’t hear you nodding in agreement or raising your eyebrows in surprise. If you want to convey an emotion, you’re going to have to do it out loud.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Turning your head away from the phone, opening a window onto a noisy street, or walking through different parts of your building can all cause changes that may make it more difficult to hear. Try and stay as consistent as possible.
  • If all else fails and you simply can’t create a good environment to talk on the phone, it’s okay to apologize, or simply let the call go to voicemail to begin with.

Clean up your voicemail.

Your voicemail message is another way that you greet people. “Leave a message,” doesn’t make the grade professionally any more than forcing people to listen to a robot voice droning, “You have reached the voicemail box of Sprint customer five … five … five … eight … two … six …” As a student, your message doesn’t have to be anything fancy. “Hi, you’ve reached the voicemail for Joanna James. I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now. Please leave your name and number and I’ll return your call as soon as possible,” should do the trick. You can add more details once you get your massage business up and running after you graduate.

Learn to leave a message.

Useful phone messages include:

  • A greeting
  • Who you’re calling for (some people share phones)
  • Who YOU are
  • Why you’re calling.
  • What you’d like the listener to do (probably call you back)
  • Your phone number (ideally twice so they don’t have to repeat the message after tracking down a pencil)

“Hi Mrs. Smith, this is Joanna James, the massage therapy student you spoke to at the health fair this weekend. I’d like to speak more with you about the possibility of volunteering with your organization. My number is 555-826-4455. I’m available to speak anytime after 5:30 in the evening. Again, my number is 555-826-4455. Have a good day. Goodbye.”

If this is a touch more formal than what you’re used to, that’s okay. You can find the words that suit you best, so long as you’re able to include all the necessary information clearly and concisely.

Be confident.

Talking on the phone is a source of anxiety for a lot of people. If it’s the talking part that bothers you, consider joining a Toastmasters group to boost your speaking skills. If you have social anxiety, then having a basic script to follow can often give you the confidence you need. With clients that you know well, you may find that text messages and emails are more effective forms of communication. But no matter what, good phone skills are never wasted and never go out of style.

This article is part of the MassageSchool.org Marketing 101 series. To read the first article that touches briefly on all the topics, visit Massage Marketing 101. Or start with whatever article seems most urgent to your situation right now. How you begin is less important than what you end up with: a strong, vibrant massage therapy practice. Ready? Let’s go!