Answer the phoneJoe Cornophone tips, voicemail
It is an interesting phenomenon, having the phone ring. To some,
it is a negative impact on production. To others, it is a blessing
from above, bringing continuing business. No matter what position
you take, how we respond to calls is the key to ensuring continued,
The frequency with and manner in which we answer the phone is
critical to each and every person in the company. The receptionist
sets the tone for the entire office. This position should be filled
with the most knowledgeable and people-friendly person in the
office. No one wants to feel disserviced by being pushed off and
sent to the bottomless pit extension.
An electronic voice service can create the element of disservice
unless it assists the caller quickly and easily in reaching his
verbal destination. I have recently experienced electronic voice
services that track down the individual whom I am attempting to
reach. Such a system interacts with the caller until the individual
picks up or a direct voice message can be left. This type of
receptionist is ever faithful, not seeking promotional advancement
and never experiences a sick day (unless the system goes down).
An actual human being continues to attract business if he never
gets angry or tired or acts in a discourteous manner. Therefore,
maybe this position should be highly paid so as to attract a real
professional. After all, the ideal receptionist is someone who
wants to answer the phone and take on any and all scenarios that
are verbally placed in front of him and can do so with an
ever-pleasing tone of voice.
The underwriter and processor are not great as receptionists.
Have you ever received the verbal response, "Well, if I could get
off the phone with you, I could review your file"? Whoa! Do you
really want such an individual on the phone? After all, if he talks
to you in such a way, how does he talk to your sources of income? I
always wonder why companies would give such people phone access,
A discourteous response clearly indicates that the individual
does not want any phone communication in the first place, yet he
will seek to control the situation by insisting that he needs to
clarify items with a customer, account representative or
This is behavior is as negative as the terse response above and
delays loan processing and underwriting. Why couldn't he simply
e-mail for clarification, instead of trying to reach someone who is
not available to talk?
Make clarifying points part of the processing/underwriting
conditions and continue pushing the loan file along. Do you see
that a phone call and message from a processor/underwriter appears
as a manipulative act to stall a loan file? This is how the
customer, account representative, broker and loan originator see
Electronic communication, such as e-mailing, can be an amazing
communication service in comparison to actual verbal communication
in our industry. Make responding to incoming e-mails quicker and
better than responding to incoming calls, and you can reduce the
amount of time your staff needs to be on the phone and the amount
of calls coming in.
A bell should sound when an e-mail is received. Anyone
(underwriter, manager, etc.) who is available should immediately
respond to the incoming e-mail. There should be a stored library of
responses for regularly asked questions to refer to, making the
response process more efficient. Software such as ACT! and hardware
such as TAPI hard drives can pull up individual files at the push
of a button.
Upper management often seems not to care about redirecting
verbal traffic into more efficient areas of communication. They
usually show disregard for customer communication service when they
keep placing incompetent people in the position or will not cover
the cost of a quality electronic voice system or receptionist.
Customer service representatives are one solution to the problem
of phone-reluctant processors and underwriters speaking with
customers. By assigning a clarifying task to an internal customer
service representative, a trained, less volatile individual will be
responding to a caller.
To make your customer service representative even more
efficient, consider utilizing these marvelous inventions -
cordless, hands-free phones. They allow a customer service
representative to research, move about and determine the status of
files without needing to be stuck in a workstation answering the
phone. I see this working in every other industry, so why shouldn't
it be used in the loan industry?
Accessibility of your customer service representative is very
important, as well. Unless directed to a specific individual, a
message should never be taken to return a call. Customer service
representatives should never be all out and unavailable at any time
during business. There needs to always be a go-to person on call so
that you are actively doing business when you are open for
business. For example, I was being fed lunch from a major national
builder in a state where it is next to impossible to develop
builder relationships. When asked whom they should use for
financing, I made two calls, placing them on my cell phone speaker
so that they could listen in.
The first call was to a major brand name, which was the
builder's choice, and I received the following remark after seeking
assistance: "I am sorry sir, but there is no one available at this
time. Could I please take a message and someone will call you
back?" I left a message and made the next call.
The next call was to a company that did little branding in their
marketplace. Rather, they emphasized open and direct communication.
The staff person placed me on hold, getting back to me within 30
seconds of each of the four times I was placed on hold, until the
individual was located.
Within two minutes, we were talking to the vice president of the
company, who took the call on his cell phone. Of course, I had no
foreknowledge that the vice president of the company I chose would
be available at that time and that the representative from the
company the builder chose would not. I find out how a company does
business by calling during business hours like everyone else
I did some introductions and expressed that the two should meet,
and the second company ended up receiving a contract to finance
every one of the 620 homes being built. In this case, the builder
was effectively marketed on communication being more important that
name branding, and in the end, no other closing techniques were
Remember the first call where the message was left? It was
returned two days later. Of course, I thought the news of missing
620 loans would be motivation enough to change their ways. It
wasn't, though their name is still recognized everywhere. This
brings us to the frequency portion of answering messages.
Each of us must respond to calls and messages almost
immediately. Return messages as soon as you are available. The
system of informing people when you will be available to return
calls is a disservice. You are telling them that they are not of
the most importance to you.
Each call and message must be treated with the most urgency
possible. I have greatly reduced phone calls by inverting
technology in place of the telephone. By far, I get more e-mails
and instant messages than phone calls. While writing this article,
I have my e-mail program minimized. I have accessed it five times
since starting this article. People are communicating with me, and
I to them.
If you are going to utilize a phone number, do not spell out
your number in ads, on your Web site or in company literature.
Encouraging your customers to call (555) GET-LOAN may seem like an
easy way to help them memorize your contact information, but it can
be difficult to pick out each letter on tiny cell phone keypads,
and with the phone number storage capability of those omnipresent
devices, few people take the time to memorize phone numbers,
You can be atypical and create fantastic brand recognition
without having branding backfire on you. By having everyone in the
company respecting the caller and responding immediately with the
utmost urgency, you and the company will be known for being prompt,
courteous and caring. If you do not embrace such a philosophy, the
opposite will be true, and you will be branded in a negative light
by the consuming publicyour customers.
If you create personal phone messages, change it every day. Be
creative and have fun. A few times each month, I find myself on an
airplane. It is part of a trainer's life. I will periodically
record something like, "Hi. I am on the plane, and they are closing
the door. No! No, I'm not on the phone! The airline attendant is
going for the marshal! Gotta go! Beep!"
By being original and fresh with each day's message, your
callers know that you are on the job. By making your recording
unique and changing it frequently, callers do not mind leaving a
Sing a part of "Singing in the Rain" when it is actually raining
outside or play a portion of a song on the radio and tell them that
you will call them back after rocking to the oldies. Thank them for
calling in your message and tell them to have a wonderful day.
I hope this article has you thinking on how you answer the
phone. Even the voicemail message that you leave should tell people
how you love your work. Let them know with your tone of voice and
the type of message you leave. Above all else, answer the
Joe Corno is president of Utah-based We Be Consulting and
Seminars. He may be reached at (801) 836-2077 or e-mail [email protected]