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Call Handling Excellence – Boosting Sales In Later Living


A recent webinar hosted by UK online later living directory Lottie, revealed thata staggering 70% of enquiry calls in the care and later living industry are left unanswered. 

That’s pretty disheartening, right? 

This high percentage emphasised the necessity of ensuring our phones are manned, and the importance of having a robust response system in place, especially during peak times like 7pm on Fridays and over the weekend.

The Importance of Quality Call Handling

Not only do missing calls, not calling people back, or failing to make follow-up calls result in lost sales opportunities, but they also pose a wider problem in terms of wasted marketing efforts, resources, and the overall credibility of our business.

It takes a lot of courage for someone to pick up the phone to speak with us, and when they do, they are often going through a range of emotions about this big life change. With every missed call, you lose a chance to comfort, understand, cultivate trust, and ultimately welcome a new family into your business.

First impressions count, meaning that the first few moments of a call can make or break the outcome. Every phone call to us is an opportunity to show your organisation’s outstanding customer service, dedication, and empathy. Failing to pick up is more than just a missed call – it’s a squandered chance to let them know you’re available, paying attention, and prepared to help them along the way.

Ensuring the Phones are Staffed

Making sure that specific systems are in place for answering calls and ensuring that they are answered quickly, efficiently, and sympathetically is vital. This responsibility extends to the evenings and weekends too, when many families find the opportunity to speak with us in search of assistance beyond standard working hours.

Scheduling a mix of management and front-line employees with training in managing enquiries also ensures that someone is always available to take these important calls at key times. When it’s not practical to have staff answer calls, for example, over the night time, an answering machine, or trustworthy external human answering service can be set up. 

When people seek our services for themselves or a loved one, they want things resolved as quickly as possible. It’s a good idea to have an SLA (service level agreement) in place for answering calls and returning any messages. Ideally, calls should be answered within 3 rings, and any missed calls should be responded to within 10 minutes. 

A maximum response time of 8 hours is advisable for any messages that have been left – making sure that the people tasked with handling enquiries are aware of this target. 

Leveraging Technology for Excellence  

When someone contacts you, they are looking for more than options regarding their care; they are looking for a reassuring voice that can relate to the feelings and aspirations associated with this major life change. These early conversations are not only fact-finding calls; they’re an opportunity to establish the foundation for a partnership based on mutual trust and support. 

The implementation of technology means that the effectiveness of the enquiry-handling process can be greatly increased.

Online chat and customer relationship management (CRM) tools are examples of features that enhance accessibility while enabling prompt, tailored communications.

Let’s look at these a bit closer; 

– Online chat: Provides real-time support and answers questions from people who are not able to call or prefer digital communication. It is also possible to staff this tool with qualified team members, such as administrators or receptionists, who can offer prompt assistance. 

– CRM Integration: Having this system in placeensures that when a call is entered into the system, all correspondence with a prospective customer or their family is recorded and available, allowing for customised follow-up and a thorough comprehension of their needs and requirements. By capturing details such as a home address, email and mobile number, a CRM system also allows us to regularly keep in contact by sending content such as brochures, newsletters, texts, and event invites. The first 10 days after an initial enquiry are prime time for regular follow-ups, sending them around 3 – 4 different methods of communication during this period. 

By doing this, the goal is to always stay at the top of customer’s minds. 

How to Ensure the Enquiry is Handled Well

Make sure you have forms readily available for those taking the calls. As a minimum, we need to capture the caller’s full name, email address, and phone number; failing to do so could result in losing that enquiry. 

Ideally, the information captured should be entered into the CRM straight away, ensuring that the staff members dealing with enquiries know and understand what is expected of them at every step of the enquiry process. 

Empathy: The Crucial Relationship

What turns a simple call into a lifeline for someone embarking on the next stage of life is empathy. It involves sincerely empathising with the person on the other end, recognising the significance of their feelings, and answering in a kind and compassionate manner. 

Achieving outstanding enquiry handling starts with listening – really listening. It involves paying attention with the goal of comprehending rather than merely waiting for your time to speak. By establishing a space where the caller feels seen, heard, and validated, you can put to rest their worries and fears and help foster trust in your service. 

Here are some tips for improving enquiry calls;

  •  Paraphrasing – Expressing in your own words what the caller said to demonstrate that you are genuinely present.
  • Open-ended enquiries –  Provoking further in-depth discussion. Richer conversations are facilitated by asking probing questions like “What’s on your mind about the care you’re considering? 

“What prompted you to call today?” or,

“What would make you feel more at ease about your loved one’s care?” 

  • Knowledge Sharing –  Being well-versed in our services allows us to provide clear, beneficial information, as well as show your expertise. 
  • Customising Each Conversation – Everybody has a unique tale to tell. By adding human touches to our conversations – saying their names back to them, remembering specifics that were discussed, and making sure that any follow-up seems considered – you demonstrate to them that we care about them as individuals, not just as possible customers.
  • Stepping Through Tough Conversations with Care – Navigating sensitive discussions with grace shows our commitment to support, no matter the complexity. Techniques like keeping a steady, calm tone and employing calming statements can make all the difference.
  • An Always-Changing Method – Enhancing our response to enquiries is an ongoing process driven by constructive feedback and introspective work. We can improve and develop by actively seeking feedback from the people we talk with, and striving to go above and beyond in every interaction.

The Importance of the Follow-Up Call 

When families receive a thoughtful and timely follow-up, it serves to strengthen the original relationship – reassuring them that we’re available to help and understand them as they make decisions.

Managing follow-ups effectively starts with keeping every detail organised and on an easy-to-navigate CRM system. 

The right timing for a follow-up is a delicate balance, showing you are present and attentive but respecting their space to think things through. Tailoring our follow-up approach demonstrates our respect for their individual journey.

Following up on an enquiry, isn’t just about making a phone call either, it’s also a combination of marketing and sales. By sending newsletters, event invitations and brochures in the post, or via email and text – you are reminding them you’re there, and ready to help them when the time comes. 

How Mystery Shopping Can Help

Embracing feedback is essential, and mystery shopping offers a unique lens to identify opportunities for improvement in our service. By examining our processes through the eyes of the caller, we uncover valuable insights – spotting gaps we might overlook and affirming areas where we shine. 

In our next article, we’ll explore how mystery shopping can illuminate the path to better service, ensuring we remain steadfast in our journey towards truly exceptional customer service, care, and support. 

A Final Thought 

As we come to the end of this look into the complexities of call handling excellence, it’s important to keep in mind that every phone call is a family or individual going through one of the most important decisions of their lives. 

These stories are not merely heard in the retirement living and care industry; they are felt and treated with the highest dignity and compassion.

Remember – every call is an opportunity to highlight your exceptional services, strengthen your brand, and help people embrace this next step of their life’s journey. 

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