Tips for improving phone calls between retail staff and customers

Mike Butts profile image January 29, 2024 | 0 min read

Communication is an essential part of any retail business. It’s not only important to have effective communication with your customers, but your suppliers and partners as well.

The good old phone call is still one of the best tools in your communications quiver, but how can you master your retail phone system? We’ll take a look at what makes an effective phone call and how you can get there. Let’s go.

What makes retail phone calls effective?

First, let’s take a second and talk about what makes an “effective” phone call in the first place. A lot of people may learn about your retail business through social media, an internet search or word of mouth. While their interest may be high, some of them may want to call before making the trek.

Your staff needs to be able to clearly and quickly relay information to your potential customers about return policies, inventory, store hours and more. Inventory is especially important, because why would a customer drive all the way to your business if you don’t have what they’re looking for?

If your staff can stay calm and composed on a phone call and deliver inventory information to the customer, you’ll have yourself an effective phone call. After all, it’s incredibly frustrating to get told a store has something, make the journey there, and then find out it’s on back order.

How can you make telephone calls more effective?

It begins with clear, simple language and a friendly tone. We know it can be hard to do during a retail rush, or if there’s a queue at the cash register, especially during busy periods like the holidays, but it’s absolutely essential to maintain at all times.

If you are busy, politely tell callers that it’s a busy time and you’ll need to put them on hold briefly. Or, you can also get a phone system that takes care of the simple stuff for you. This can help free up staff to take care of more customers in the store.

When you are talking to a customer, keep it calm and friendly. Answer their questions as best you can. This means your staff, whether it’s a stock person, a cashier or an associate wandering the floor, needs to be well versed on your policies and inventory. If they don’t know the answer, they could tell the customer they’ll find someone to help. This is where an overhead paging system comes in handy.

Make great phone calls part of your store’s culture

Great phone calls are a pillar of any successful store.

When you’re hiring employees, make good communication a high priority for your candidates. You can do that by asking how they handle conflict, how they communicate, and if they can share specific moments they’ve had to practice effective communication.

Also, make it an important piece of your training procedures. Create documents that can help your staff, new and old, understand how important good communication is for your business. Train them on how to respond to frustrated customers. You can even give them scripts they can use. These scripts can communicate hours, whether you’re busy, store policies and more. They can also be for specific scenarios, like if someone wants to return an item after your return period ends or there’s a viral product and you’re sold out of them.

It’s important to remember that scripts don’t have to be repeated verbatim as that can make employees sound robotic and tone is an important part of a phone call. You want your staff to be warm, empathetic and energetic not impatient, cold and short. Always remember the things you appreciate when working with other businesses.

How to take phone calls to the next level

Clearly communicating over the phone is an important first step, but there are some great tools you can use to improve how you handle those phone calls and make your employees feel better cared for.

A VoIP phone system offers many advanced business features not only to train your employees, but foster effective phone calls with customers. Here are some of the many tools in Ooma Office to consider.

Overhead Paging integration

How do you operate a retail operation without an overhead paging solution? You can’t, as it’s incredibly important to be able to quickly make announcements to everyone inside your storefront. With Ooma Office, you won’t have to replace or change your setup. It plugs right in, making it a smooth transition.

Record calls for training

Use Call Recording to better train your staff. You can record calls to review later, allowing you to hear how your employees communicate with callers, take notes and circle back with tips from real situations so they can resolve difficult situations calmly, educate and offer better support.

Don’t leave callers hanging

If your cashiers and associates are busy and you don’t want callers left hanging, Virtual Receptionist has your back. You can set it up to answer basic questions, like a brief description of the type of goods you sell, hours, return policy and any inventory shortages they may need to know about.

Stay connected on the go

Retail isn’t just about customers. You also work with suppliers and more to make sure your business is running smoothly. If you can’t be in the office for any reason, you can stay connected to them anyway with the Ooma Office mobile app no matter where you are.

Reduce call waiting time

Want your phones to be answered quickly? With Multi-Ring, you can have phone calls ring on multiple phones and devices at the same time, allowing the first person to answer and help.

Send important documents with eFax

Faxing is still an important part of any business, especially if you’re dealing with taxes or third party suppliers. With Ooma Office, you can easily send a Virtual Fax, aka eFax, with just a couple taps. Administrators can access your virtual fax logs, handy in case you need to verify details in a faxed invoice.

Manage callers during peak hours

Black Friday and the holiday shopping period aren’t easy for any retailer. With Call Queueing, you can create a simple call center that places callers in a virtual waiting room. Enhanced with recorded announcements, this can be a great way to help customers until a staff member is available to answer the phone.

You’re ready to improve your phone calls

Now that you’ve got the basics down, you’re ready to make more effective phone calls between your staff, customers and suppliers. Start an action plan and implement some of the ideas and strategies we’ve talked about here. If you need an advanced, affordable business phone system to take you to the next level, Ooma can help.

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