During my time working as a manager at a busy day spa, I would regularly dedicate a portion of my day to answering the phones.
Because the phones are the first point of contact with your patient or client and it’s extremely important to make them feel welcome and answer their questions from the first phone call all the way to the follow up.
You might be thinking phone etiquette is pretty straightforward or customer service 101… all you have to do is be friendly, right?
Of course, that’s one of the most important aspects to phone etiquette, but there are a few other considerations you’ll want to keep in mind to make sure both you and your team are making the best first impression possible.
Because although you may have receptionists or client service representatives on your team, they’re looking to you as an example.
And when you’re clear on the basics of positive language, speaking techniques for effective sales conversations, and how to handle a negative customer with grace and tact, you’re effectively creating a culture where everyone on your team feels equipped and empowered to handle phone calls successfully.
The Basics of Positive Language
As I mentioned, friendliness is a key component of top-notch phone etiquette, but being friendly over the phone requires more than just an upbeat tone and a smile, you’ll also want to use positive language.
Positive language is a style of communication that puts emphasis on serving the client and being responsible for their experience by using words of affirmation and positive connotation.
Keep in mind that words and terms that are used everyday in our industry may have no meaning at all to a first time patient when they are calling in.
For example, to us, as the aesthetic expert, the difference between a neuromodulator and soft filler may be crystal clear but believe me, patients get them confused all the time.
Another common misconception from patients comes with chemical peels. How many patients have you had come in worried that they are going to look like Samantha from Sex and the City?
It’s up to us to examine and be aware of our language and word choices, and we have to remember that we’re talking to someone who isn’t in our industry or have our training. This is especially important when speaking on the phone because we can’t see our client’s face and pick up on visual cues or expressions of them being unsure or confused.
By using positive language on the phone, you’re helping to create a comfortable and safe environment for your patient to ask questions, which builds trust with you and your spa or practice.
Positive language is also a technique for navigating negative responses using constructive conversation, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
First, let’s practice a sample script for how to answer the phone and steer the conversation in the appropriate direction using positive language.
Here’s a greeting to start with:
Hello, thank you for calling the relaxation spa, this is Daniela, how can I help you today?
This greeting is simple, but it lets your caller know they’ve reached the right number, who their original point of contact is, and that you’re grateful for their call.
Now a key point to remember is to speak slowly, which I know is tough because working the front desk in a spa requires performing a balancing act between grace and efficiency.
It’s crucial be polite to the patient physically standing in front of you, but you also need to be present with the client on the phone all while working as quickly as possible because no one likes to wait around.
Trust me, I know what a challenge it can be. One of my first jobs was at a busy resort spa where I had to start at the front desk, but it also taught me the nuances of positive language.
So, once your caller let’s you know what they’re calling about or who they need to speak to, use positive language to make your patient or prospective patient feel welcomed in and listened to.
For example, if your caller is requesting information or asking to set an appointment, use genuine responses with positive language such as “great, absolutely, or I’d be happy to” to convey friendliness and clear communication.
Other positive language phrases include:
“What would work best for you?”
“It sounds like [ insert your suggestion ] would work best, does that sound good to you?”
“I can [insert request you need to fill], but need to do [ insert action item ] first. Do you mind holding briefly?”
Notice that the emphasis is on asking for their preferences to enhance their experience because being of service means centering the conversation around the needs of the patient or client.
Speaking for Effective Sales Conversations
In addition to using positive language, it’s also vital that you stay conscious of how fast you’re talking. When we’re intentionally being bubbly and working hard to close a sale or set an appointment, it’s easy to become nervous and speak too quickly.
My top piece of advice is to take a big breath before answering the phone to get centered, then talk the way you would talk to a close friend while having a thoughtful, heartfelt conversation.
Go slow, speak softly, yet clearly, and focus on listening just as much as you’re focused on speaking.
We’ve all experience being on the phone with an employee who sounded incredibly rushed or breezed through information so quickly that you have to ask them to repeat themselves to make sure you caught everything. It probably made you feel unimportant or agitated, and that’s definitely not the impression you want your potential clients (or current clients) to be left with.
Another technique to use to make sure you’ve relayed all their information properly is called closed-loop communication. In closed-loop communication you repeat the information someone has told you and ask them to confirm if what you said is correct.
For example, if your caller says:
Can I set my appointment for Wednesday at 1 p.m. with Daniela?
After gathering all the necessary information you need to set the appointment, use closed-loop communication to confirm that you have everything correct:
“Great, I have you all set for Wednesday at 1 p.m. with Daniela for a facial. I’ll be giving you a call the day before to confirm your appointment. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
Yes, it can be a tad redundant, but using closed-loop communication shows that you’re committed to getting the important details correct the first time, which will give your client peace of mind that their request was being handled properly.
Handling Negative Calls With Tact
Finally, you can use all of these techniques to properly handle the phone situation everyone fears: the unhappy client.
If an unhappy patient calls, the first thing that you want to do is listen. Listen to their experience and see if you can put yourself in their shoes and relate because empathy always works best for quelling a negative scenario.
Once the patient has finished sharing their experience with you, you’ll want to be sure that you’re not using negative phrasing, which includes telling your caller what can’t be done or using language that hints at blaming.
This is bound to leave your caller more upset than when they first called. And I don’t need to explain how that can make for bad business.
Instead, by emphasizing what can be done to remedy the situation, giving the caller choices and alternatives, and using positive and encouraging language, you can not only diffuse the situation, but you’ll also have a better chance at turning the conversation around into a positive experience.
Often times if you are able to successfully right a client’s wrong, they become even more loyal to your business than your standard happy client. So, if you’re presented with a phone call with an unhappy client, don’t approach it with dread, look at it as an opportunity.
The added benefit to this approach is that it’s also beneficial for you as you carry out your day and maintain a positive attitude with your clients.
So, there you have it: positive language, speaking techniques and a mindset to form the foundation of stellar phone etiquette so you can make a great first and lasting impression over the phone.
Remember, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking the customer experience starts and ends within the setting of your practice or spa, but it’s just as crucial for you and your team to extend that experience through the phone for your prospective and current clients.
If you want to go the extra mile, I suggest setting yourself up for success by practicing some sample scripts with your team and creating a protocol or SOP for how to handle various phone calls and scenarios in your spa.
And I can’t forget one of the easiest and most important tips: don’t forget to smile. Even though it can’t be seen over the phone, it is definitely heard!