I took a phone workshop a few years back. The San Francisco Chronicle, when newspapers used to make money, offered workshops. They used a hotel conference room, charged nothing. You never know where you'll learn something new!
I'm always curious about running a "real business" I often think I should have taken a few business classes in college, I just wanted to do those darned acting classes all the time! The downside to having a personality that drives you to do everything yourself (the set designer, the performer, the pr agent, the director, the office staff...) you are unlikely to just ask for help or take a simple class in marketing or accounting.
I've learned my skills through trial and error.
In this phone workshop, they talked about the face of the company. It was really interesting the lowest paid employee tends to be the receptionist at a company and often they are pretty surly. That really struck me. I remember years ago calling around to mechanics to price out a clutch repair on my car. Some folks were just so short with me, I had no interest in giving them business. I could deal with "business like", straight with approximate price or "we need to take a look before I can give you a real estimate". But I encountered a few "I can't tell you on the phone, come in."
What I heard was: You are not important, I don't have time for you, I don't need your business.
That was what the workshop basically was about. Made me think a lot about my phone manners. The phone is how I am able to sell my services. Even when people have seen me, I still have to talk to the person. It's mine to lose, if I am not good on the phone, I'll lose the job.
I have a friend I knew from the circus. After the circus, she went back to school. One of her assignments was to pick a business and do a phone analysis. She picked the local clowns and told me how generally rude people were. Her favorite was a local performer that also ran a small agency.
He was great on the phone. No wonder he was so successful. He answered all questions and had all the time in the world to talk.
Do I do that? I hope so but I have to check in with myself and make sure my customer knows they are the only thing I'm focuses on. If I have to get my kids from school, I better call them back so I can completely focus on their needs.
I try to translate this to email. It's tougher, it's very easy to come off as rude on email my method is to make it a little silly in the first sentence and use colors in the reply. What I learned from that workshop so long ago and my friend with her marketing class. Smile, and realize this is a big deal to people, this is their child we are talking about. Answer their questions like you've never heard the question before and be understanding and thank them for calling. Even if you know they won't book. Even if the call didn't go well. I've been very surprised over the years with people calling me back I was sure would go with someone else.
It's true for all businesses. I don't know much about cars. The mechanics I use now are really nice and patient explaining. It's the same in our business, patience and explaining!