‘Hello?' Customer service starts here (2023)




Two hardware leaders talk about reviving telephone etiquette – and why it’s so needed.

Tim Burke

HomCo associate Alex Lopez, receptionist.

You’ve looked up that important telephone number. You’ve set aside some of your valuable time – and found some much-needed quiet space to sit down and make that vital call.

You dial –

It’s ringing –

and then….

(One of several things happen.)

You’re hung up on!

You’re put on endless hold. <Cue that ‘hold’ music, set on forever loop!!>

The phone on the other end has been set down somewhere. <And never picked back up again!!!>

You’re transferred to a voice mail or into a phone system. <Never to be heard from again!!!!>

Sound familiar?

In retail, phone calls that get dealt with like any of those above can be soul-crushing to the caller, who is potentially a customer – and that can wipeout your hardware store’s sales opportunities.

HBSDealer reached out to two leaders in hardware, Todd Callan, COO at HomCo Lumber & Hardware, located in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Elliot Greenberg, owner and CEO of JC Licht, located in Addison, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago, to discuss teaching today’s “text-first” generation to revive the fading art of telephone skills.

Calling Mr. Callan

Todd Callan has worked at HomCo for 22 years, and for the past nine years serves as the chief operating officer overseeing all operations of the business. His family first moved to Flagstaff in 1973 to purchase a lumber and hardware store. Today the business serves all Northern Arizona, along with a few neighboring states. HomCo’s retail store is 50,000 square feet, and their lumberyard sits on 12 acres of land.

HBSD: Generally speaking, how would you describe customer communications in retail today?

Callan: “Online shopping has become a lot more prevalent than it was even three or four years ago, and the communications focus hasn’t entirely kept up with these growing demands.

“There needs to be ways of communication that aren’t in-person, like online websites, phone calls, and emails if need be. Slower responses are no longer as acceptable because of this changing environment, and everything needs to be quick and accurate.

“Miscommunications can also be deadly for a business, and with the growing online presence necessary for businesses, the waters become muddier, and communication becomes diluted and confusing if it isn’t focused on and refined.”

(Video) hey youtube my dreams and career starts here


‘Hello?' Customer service starts here (4)

HomCo team, standing, from left: Dan Groth, CFO; Marc Braatz, special projects manager; Donn Merrick, contractor sales manager. Seated, from left: Christy Engle, store manager; Todd Callan, COO.

HBSD: Diving into details, what sorts of phone skill challenges did you find atyour own operation?

Callan: “We’ve worked hard over the years to attain 100% engagement with our customers when they are physically present shopping in our store, so you can imagine my disbelief when I began monitoring our phone calls via Call Rail and realized that this same level of service was absent over the phone.

“Some issues we discovered were poor usage of language, improper tone and volume, customers being left on hold for long periods of time, transferring calls that never arrive at a destination, not taking messages when uncertain about customers’ questions, and never calling them back with an answer.

“Others included interrupting customers when he or she were speaking, not utilizing active listening skills, informing customers we didn’t have an item in stock when in actuality, we did, or even offering to special order items we didn’t have. This is literally thousands of dollars lost over these mentioned issues.”

HBSD: What new methods did you use to improve your team’s phoneetiquette?

Callan: “Our marketing company, Mountain Mojo Group, set us up with Call Rail. Call Rail is a service that connects data points and lets us see why someone called – like if they called after clicking on an ad, or a specific page on our site – and helps us determine how we can better reach our market.

“If we don’t know why people are calling, or a better way to reach them, we won’t be able to target them effectively, and that’s information lost. We could lose a sale because someone was looking to purchase something we had, but we didn’t know they needed it.

“Call Rail can track common questions that customers call about, so that we can assist people better and faster. If we know common questions, we can train our employees on how to better handle those questions and assist the customers in an exemplary way that will keep them coming back.

“If we’re unable to assist our customers, less people will call, and that will in turn decrease our business. Being able to assist our customers with the answers that they need, and knowing how to answer their questions, is something that we aim for very highly. Informing our employees of how to help those customers efficiently is also something that the Call Rail system has allowed us to do.”

HBSD: What tips can you pass along to readers who want to improve their team’s phone skills?

Callan: “Communication is key. If phone etiquette skills are lacking, communicate this to the whole team. Make sure to explain what exactly is lacking, and the proper way to fix the poor communication. Bring up some examples, highlight the main issues, and provide the solution to those problems.

“Keep emphasizing the fixes, beyond the initial meeting, so that there is a consistent effort to change the poor behaviors. That consistent effort will really hammer in the changes that need to be done to improve the phone etiquette.

“Some specific issues we encountered and spoke about were specific word choice when answering the phone, tone, and enunciation. We like to ask ‘how may I help you’ so that the customer knows they’re in the right hands. Another important aspect is asking the customer if it is alright with them to be put on hold. Let the customer know that we’re working for them, and not the other way around. This helps strengthen the business-customer relations.

(Video) Hey, I don't work here - (Official Music Video)

“Phone etiquette and speaking etiquette is an art that is dying off and needs to be emphasized and revitalized, so we aim to improve this skill and assist our customers more effectively.”


‘Hello?' Customer service starts here (5)

Recent Phone Excellence graduation at JC Light. Owner and CEO Eliot Greenberg is seated in the middle of the first row wearing glasses.

Calling Mr. Greenberg

Elliot Greenberg is the owner and CEO of JC Licht, which is celebrating its 115th year of operation. The company is a local, independent paint and decorating chain with 47 paint locations as a largeBenjamin Moore dealer. The firm recently added 10 Ace Hardware stores to their mix for a total of 57 JC Licht locations in the greater Chicagoland area.

HBSD: What challenges are hardware owners running into with employee phoneskills; and what challenges did you find specifically atyour operation?

Greenberg: “With the boom and subsequent employment shortage, many of us are faced with having new and inexperienced employees.

“For many of our part-time younger employees, they do not have a ton of work experience. Do not make assumptions that they even have the basics of answering a phone down.

“Most young people have grown up in the informal world of texting and short cell phone exchanges. The days of having to call your friend’s house and introduce yourself to their parent and politely ask to speak with them are long gone.

“Don’t wait until they are on your sales floor to realize they do not have the very basic skill of clearly answering the phone. Give them a script. Make sure to include phone training in your onboarding and orientations.

“For JC Licht, it begins with having a universal, standard greeting. No matter what JCL store they call, a customer should always receive the same initial greeting, ‘Thank you for calling JC Licht (neighborhood), this is (employee name) speaking, how may I help you today.’ Recently we have also added a standard ending to every conversation which is ‘Have a JC Licht Day.’”

HBSD: What new methods should hardware owners be using when looking to improve their team’s phoneetiquette? And what methods have you used?

Greenberg: “Early in the pandemic with the uptick in business, we realized that for many new customers, the phone would be their very first interaction with JC Licht. Unfortunately, we also realized that our customer service level on the phone was not the same experience you would receive if you were in-person in our stores.

“Our team members looked at the phone as a distraction from their in-store responsibilities rather than as a huge sales opportunity. Our motto at JC Licht is ‘Make It Happen,’ and we are very proud that in almost every transaction we are doing just that. However, that was not what was happening over the phone.

“We quickly implemented a Phone Excellence course. It is conducted every Tuesday morning for four hours and each course runs for four weeks. Senior leadership attends every class so that we message to our team how important our phone interactions are to the health of our business.

“Slow it down and do not rush the customer off the phone. We focus on asking open-ended questions; always getting the customer’s name and contact information; never making assumptions; asking them if it is okay to put them on hold or if they prefer a quick call back if we need to research a product; but most importantly answering ‘Yes.’

(Video) 12 Days of Quiltmas ~ Charm Pack Christmas Quilt Pattern

“Instead of saying ‘no’ to a product we may not carry, say ‘yes, we can certainly get it for you, when do you need it by and what are you using it for. ‘We suggest substitutes if they are on a quick deadline, or offer delivery if they must wait for the product to come in. ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ Since the inception of the Phone Excellence course in 2020, almost 350 employees have cycled through, and we believe it has had a dramatic impact on our business.”


‘Hello?' Customer service starts here (6)

The JC Licht store team. Said Greenberg: “Listen, coach and implement small changes – but whatever you do, don’t minimize the impact phone interactions are having on the success of your business.”

HBSD: What tips can you pass along to readers who need to improve their team’s phone skills?

Greenberg: “Whether you have one store or are a large chain, put significant energy into your company’s phone interactions. The world is in a hurry and people are busy. They are going to call your store for a myriad of reasons to save time. Think about what your phone interactions say about your business.”

Parting words before we go

Callan: “Phone etiquette is oftentimes the first line of contact between customer and business, so it is not only imperative but vital that this first line of contact leaves the best of impressions upon them. It’s a make-or-break situation, and if that situation is handled poorly, that’s business you’ve lost right there.

“If the customer forms a poor judgement of the business based on the phone conversation, they have no reason to come in, so improving that judgement, assisting them quickly and accurately, will improve your business, just as it’s improved ours.

“Phone etiquette – and speaking in general ­– is becoming a lost art, with texts and emails becoming incredibly prevalent, so it’s important for businesses and their employees to practice those skills and hone them.

“Effective communication is almost a dying art, and when it fails, businesses will also fail. Focus on that, and people will appreciate you and remember you more than the business who doesn’t care to improve, or have their employees improve.”

Greenberg: “The phone might be the only shot you get with a new customer, so don’t blow it by undervaluing its importance. It could also be your unfair advantage against the big boxes. Call a big box, you get a recording.

“Getting an immediate answer and an actual person on the line might be the difference a hardware customer needs for making the choice to support an independent local chain.”

The messages come across clear: Improve your hardware store phone etiquette and you’ll stand out in the crowd; and you’ll improve your customer relations and bottom line – And we all hear that.


    (Video) Hello, everyone ^.^ Here’s a basic overview of my YouTube channel!


    How do you greet customers customer service? ›

    Part 1: Customer service greetings
    1. “Nice to meet you!”
    2. “How can I help you today?”
    3. “I hope you're doing well.”
    4. “I hear what you're saying.”
    5. “I'm sorry you're facing this <issue>.”
    6. “Thank you for taking the time to explain that to me.”
    7. “I need a little more information to understand what's going on.”
    11 Jun 2021

    How do you politely greet a customer? ›

    How to greet customers
    1. Dress professionally. It's important to dress professionally so customers know you care about your job. ...
    2. Be friendly. ...
    3. Acknowledge customers quickly. ...
    4. Make eye contact. ...
    5. Ask questions. ...
    6. Take your time. ...
    7. Remember customer preferences. ...
    8. Show customers to products.

    What does customer service begin with? ›

    It starts with the first person you hire or partner with. It starts as you create the culture of your organization. It starts as you begin to plan out what the customer experience should be. In other words, it starts long before the customer ever starts actually doing business with you.

    What are trigger words in customer service? ›

    9 Customer Service Phrases You Should NEVER Say
    • “I'm not sure.”
    • “Let me check.”
    • “I can't help you.”
    • “Visit our Help Center instead.”
    • “Calm down.”
    • “You're mistaken.”
    • “I'm having a bad day.”
    • “We've never had this issue before.”
    14 Feb 2019

    How do you greet a customer and start the call? ›

    1. The welcome greeting.
    1. “Thank you for calling [business name].”
    2. “Thank you for calling [business name]. ...
    3. “You have reached [business name]. ...
    4. “Thank you for calling [business name]. ...
    5. “Thank you for calling [business name], where customer service is our priority.”
    19 May 2022

    How do I start a welcome message? ›

    40 Awesome Welcome Messages for New Employees
    1. We are delighted to have you among us. ...
    2. Welcome to the team! ...
    3. The entire team of [name of the company] is thrilled to welcome you on board. ...
    4. A warm welcome and lots of good wishes on becoming part of our growing team.
    14 Sept 2022

    How do you greet in professional? ›

    How do you greet someone professionally?
    1. "Dear Sir/Madam"
    2. "To [title/designation]"
    3. "To whom it may concern"
    4. "Dear Mr/Ms"
    5. "Dear [first name]"
    6. "Hi, [first name]"
    7. "Hello/Hello, [name]"
    8. "Greetings"
    9 Aug 2021

    How do you greet a customer warmly? ›

    Steps in Greeting Customers Right
    1. Quickly and Be Very Welcoming. ...
    2. Professionally. ...
    3. Make Eye Contact. ...
    4. Assure Them That Their Needs Are in the Process of Being Handled. ...
    5. Capture All Relevant Information. ...
    6. Keep It Simple. ...
    7. Make It a Branded Experience. ...
    8. Show Customers That You Recognize Them.
    18 Jan 2022

    How do you greet everyone professionally? ›

    Formal Ways to Say Hello
    1. Hello. This is the standard opening word that everyone knows. ...
    2. Good Morning. This is a very polite greeting. ...
    3. Good Afternoon. ...
    4. Good Evening. ...
    5. It's Nice to Meet You. ...
    6. It's a Pleasure to Meet You. ...
    7. Greetings/Greetings and Salutations. ...
    8. Good to See You.

    What is customer service in one sentence? ›

    Customer service is the support you offer your customers — both before and after they buy and use your products or services — that helps them have an easy and enjoyable experience with you. Offering amazing customer service is important if you want to retain customers and grow your business.

    What is first line customer service? ›

    First Line Support means (a) receiving and acknowledging problems from End Users, (b) checking lists of known problems and workarounds, and (c) if the reported problem is known, giving the published answer to the End User and helping the End User implement the solution.

    What words can attract customers? ›

    10 Powerfully Persuasive Words Your Customers Want to Hear
    • Free.
    • Exclusive.
    • Easy.
    • Limited.
    • Get.
    • Guaranteed.
    • You.
    • Because.
    2 Aug 2016

    What are positive trigger words? ›

    Like we said before, if you want to elicit a positive response and make readers feel good, you have to include positive trigger words, like “great”, “amazing”, and “awesome”. Here are some tips for choosing the right trigger words for your headlines: Match the intent of the word to the emotion you want to invoke.

    How do you attract customers quotes? ›

    20 Marketing Phrases to Attract Customers and Increase ROI
    • Beautiful in Its Simplicity. ...
    • Artistically Inspired. ...
    • Enhance Your Life. ...
    • Enhance Your Beauty. ...
    • Looks so Good on the Outside, It'll Make You Feel Good Inside. ...
    • Never Looked so Good. ...
    • Simply Awesome. ...
    • Perfect From Beginning to End.
    23 Nov 2020

    How do you start a professional call? ›

    They can help you set the foundation for a positive conversation, and soon, you'll be conversing on the phone with ease.
    1. Talk About Today. ...
    2. Mention an Industry News Trend. ...
    3. Ask About Their Work. ...
    4. Chat About the Company.
    19 Jun 2020

    How do you put the customer first answer? ›

    Here are 14 ways to put the customer first:
    1. Base the company culture around the customer. ...
    2. Take care of employees. ...
    3. Target your audience. ...
    4. Create a customer-centered attitude. ...
    5. Personalize the customer experience. ...
    6. Offer exceptional service. ...
    7. Ask what the customer wants. ...
    8. Allow customers to leave feedback.
    23 Nov 2021

    What is a good sentence for welcome? ›

    Example Sentences

    Verb She welcomed the students into her home. We welcome you to the show. He's a bright student who welcomes a challenge.

    What are some welcoming words? ›

    "It's my pleasure to extend a cheerful welcome to you all! Your presence makes us very happy."
    • glad welcome. ...
    • hospitable welcome. ...
    • amiable welcome. ...
    • gracious welcome.
    4 Aug 2021

    What is a welcome greeting? ›

    (a word of kindly greeting, as to one whose arrival gives pleasure): Welcome, stranger! noun. a kindly greeting or reception, as to one whose arrival gives pleasure: to give someone a warm welcome. verb (used with object), wel·comed, wel·com·ing. to greet the arrival of (a person, guests, etc.)

    What are simple greetings? ›

    Formal Greetings
    • Hello!
    • Hi there.
    • Good morning.
    • Good afternoon.
    • Good evening.
    • It's nice to meet you.
    • It's a pleasure to meet you. As you may have assumed, these last two only work when you are meeting someone for the first time. We hope you enjoy putting these new English greetings to use!

    How do you greet in office? ›

    Try these top tips for greeting someone new at work.
    1. Stand Up. When you're greeting new people, do so face-to-face. ...
    2. Look 'Em in the Eye. ...
    3. Smile (and the World Smiles With You) ...
    4. Take the Initiative With a Handshake. ...
    5. Say Who You Are. ...
    6. Observe the Hierarchy. ...
    7. Get the Name Game Right.
    19 Feb 2018

    How do you say hello in office? ›

    Good morning/afternoon/evening.

    These are classic, formal phrases to use when greeting someone, whether it's the first time meeting them or if you've already met them before. Hello, Frank. Good morning, Frank. Using good morning, good afternoon, or good evening depends on the time of day.

    How do you say hello in a formal email? ›

    Here are some formal email greeting examples:
    1. "Dear Sir or Madam"
    2. "To [insert title]"
    3. "To Whom It May Concern"
    4. "Dear Mr./Ms."
    5. "Dear [first name]"
    6. "Hi, [first name]"
    7. "Hello or Hello, [name]"
    8. "Greetings"

    What is the most professional greeting? ›

    • Hi [Name], This is the most basic, yet formal greeting option for businesses. ...
    • Hello [Name], Using hello is a more formal greeting option. ...
    • Dear [Name], ...
    • Greetings, ...
    • To follow up on our meeting, ...
    • I'm checking in... ...
    • I'm getting back to you in regard to... ...
    • As promised...

    How do you greet people in formal and informal ways? ›

    Formal greetings are usually used when you are speaking with your employer or someone of high authority examples include Hello,Good morning, Nice to meet you. Informal greetings are usually used when speaking with friends or relatives examples,hey,how are ya, what's up .

    What is a good sentence for service? ›

    Use “service” in a sentence

    The students volunteered for community service. Why don't you call customer service? They complained about the poor service. We are here to provide a service for the public.

    What is service simple words? ›

    an act of helpful activity; help; aid: to do someone a service.

    How do you give customer service examples? ›

    12 examples of good customer service
    1. Add a personal touch.
    2. Be transparent and educate customers.
    3. Respond quickly to all customer feedback.
    4. Use creative and unexpected return policies.
    5. Find a workaround when items are out of stock.
    6. Build a connection with local shoppers.
    7. Remember and reward repeat customers.
    4 Jun 2021

    What are the good customer service skills? ›

    Here are the top customer service skills your representatives need, according to data.
    • Persuasive Speaking Skills. Think of the most persuasive speaker in your organisation. ...
    • Empathy. ...
    • Adaptability. ...
    • Ability to Use Positive Language. ...
    • Clear Communication Skills. ...
    • Self-Control. ...
    • Taking Responsibility. ...
    • Patience.

    What is front line customer? ›

    Front Line is a customer service team that has direct contact with customers on a daily basis. It is one of the most important elements of the company, because they represent it in front of customers, have an impact on the image and have a real impact on sales.

    What does customer line mean? ›

    Customer line means the pipe, stops, and fittings leading from the property line to the premises served. Sample 1Sample 2Sample 3. Based on 31 documents. 31. Customer line means the pipe, stops and fittings leading from the property line to the building served, excluding the meter and meter box.

    What are the 5 good customer service? ›

    • 5 good customer service examples to provide great service. Respond as quickly as possible. Know your customers. Fix your mistakes. Listen to your customers. ...
    • 3 ways to improve customer service. Deliver context-based support. Innovate the customer journey. Invest in human and automated service channels.
    10 Oct 2022

    What is a good customer service answer? ›

    What is good customer service? Good customer service means consistently meeting customers' expectations. Great customer service is quick, easy, personalized, and empathetic. Companies that deliver excellent customer service take the time needed to understand the needs of their unique customer base.

    What is the 3 key of customer service? ›

    Essentially, the 3 important qualities of customer service center around three “p”s: professionalism, patience, and a “people-first” attitude. Although customer service varies from customer to customer, as long as you're following these guidelines, you're on the right track.

    How do you bring customers? ›

    10 Ways to Get New Customers
    1. Ask for referrals. ...
    2. Network. ...
    3. Offer discounts and incentives for new customers only. ...
    4. Re-contact old customers. ...
    5. Improve your website. ...
    6. Partner with complementary businesses. ...
    7. Promote your expertise. ...
    8. Use online reviews to your advantage.
    6 Apr 2017

    How do you make customers feel loved? ›

    Photos courtesy of the individual members.
    1. Genuinely Thank Your Customers. ...
    2. Tell Them You're Thinking Of Them. ...
    3. Be There For Them After The Sale Closed. ...
    4. Listen, Then Remember. ...
    5. Always Tell Them The Truth. ...
    6. Show You Are Acting On Their Feedback. ...
    7. Show Your Appreciation With A Handwritten Note. ...
    8. Give Them A Gift You Know They'll Like.
    24 Feb 2020

    What are the 3 triggers? ›

    These triggers, they argue, can be summarized into three categories: the Truth Trigger, the Relationship Trigger, and the Identity Trigger. As you read through each of the three triggers, think back to recent feedback conversations you have had.

    What are trigger phrases? ›

    Trigger words and phrases are those that cause a listener to feel strong emotions because of previous experiences. While the phrase is used in a number of different ways, we're using it here as many people now do, to refer to words or phrases that trigger memories and emotions from traumatic events.

    What words increase sales? ›

    That way they don't feel like merely a number in your pipeline.
    • 14 Sales Power Words for Better Connections and More Sales. ...
    • You. ...
    • Goals. ...
    • Opportunity. ...
    • We. ...
    • Easy. ...
    • Success. ...
    • Amazing.
    17 Aug 2020

    How do you charm your customers? ›

    Here are a few tips to help out.
    1. Charm Them, Don't Manipulate Them. ...
    2. Do Your Homework. ...
    3. Assess The Situation. ...
    4. Smile. ...
    5. Open Up With A Non-Business Related Question. ...
    6. Don't Forget Your Customer's Name! ...
    7. Make Your Prospect Feel Understood. ...
    8. Most Importantly, Be Yourself.
    4 Apr 2015

    How do you greet someone professionally? ›

    How do you greet someone professionally?
    1. "Dear Sir/Madam"
    2. "To [title/designation]"
    3. "To whom it may concern"
    4. "Dear Mr/Ms"
    5. "Dear [first name]"
    6. "Hi, [first name]"
    7. "Hello/Hello, [name]"
    8. "Greetings"
    9 Aug 2021

    How do you say hello in a formal way? ›

    Formal Ways To Say “Hello”
    1. Good morning/afternoon/evening. These are classic, formal phrases to use when greeting someone, whether it's the first time meeting them or if you've already met them before. ...
    2. Pleased to meet you. ...
    3. It's nice to meet you. ...
    4. It's good to see you. ...
    5. How are you? ...
    6. Hey. ...
    7. What's up? ...
    8. What's new?


    1. Hey Girl, Ryan Gosling's Here
    2. Kenan & Kelly - SNL
    (Saturday Night Live)
    3. When you just can't pretend anymore...
    (The Minimal Mom)
    4. Hi my name is Sky, and I'm here to support the girls scout by selling cookies || POVs
    (See Tok)
    5. Hi there! New 'Round Here? Start here :)
    (Randi Pierce)
    6. Hello & welcome! I'm so happy to have you here...
    (Alicia Rafiei)
    Top Articles
    Latest Posts
    Article information

    Author: Velia Krajcik

    Last Updated: 11/29/2022

    Views: 5860

    Rating: 4.3 / 5 (74 voted)

    Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

    Author information

    Name: Velia Krajcik

    Birthday: 1996-07-27

    Address: 520 Balistreri Mount, South Armand, OR 60528

    Phone: +466880739437

    Job: Future Retail Associate

    Hobby: Polo, Scouting, Worldbuilding, Cosplaying, Photography, Rowing, Nordic skating

    Introduction: My name is Velia Krajcik, I am a handsome, clean, lucky, gleaming, magnificent, proud, glorious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.