Calling All Manners

My family doesn’t have the best phone etiquette.

As a child, I was so petrified of calling people that I would write out exactly what I wanted to say ahead of time and recite my lines repeatedly before dialing. Once I was finally confident enough to ad lib, my mother saw fit to secretly listen in on my conversations. One night, when there was apparently nothing good on TV, I could hear her and my brother, Chris, laughing on the other end of the phone.

But Chris has problems of his own. For the first month that he was job searching after graduation, he found it perfectly acceptable to leave his voicemail message as “Yo, this is C-Bizzzzle”—something that just screams young professional. It’s a miracle he’s gotten any interviews at all.

My mother, on the other hand, likes to answer the phone with a Stepford-esque, “Hello” that one would use when expecting a call from the President. We always know when her best friend is on the other end because she immediately drops the fake voice in favor of a Baltimore/cockney “Ey Mare!” (Translation: Hi Mary.)

My dad always finds this funny, yet he never seems amused when we explain that although a cell phone is very small in size, there is no need to scream into it. Unless he is making a call to the moon, Pops could take it down a notch.

What can I say—we’re better on paper. So are a lot of people.

Fortunately, apartment management company Alliance Residential has started a new Call of Fame program to address this.

Created to improve Alliance’s phone-call conversion rate, the program recognizes staff’s top phone “shops” based on the leasing professional’s ability to convey warmth, enthusiasm, intelligence and overall personality during the call. All incoming calls from prospective residents are recorded and reviewed, with the most effective examples being posted to an Intranet website page. The number of phone calls placed on the Call of Fame is factored into Alliance’s quarterly bonuses and performance reviews.

Alliance’s Vice President of Performance Tina Makssour says her company conducts mandatory phone interviews as part of the hiring process to ensure potential hires have the necessary skills.

Current employees also take part in telephone training classes that allow them to practice speaking to prospects on the phone. Makssour says phone etiquette is crucial, as a prospect’s first experience with a community is often when they call the leasing office for the first time.

Such steps help address the challenge of training sales associates (like C-Bizzle) who “increasingly are from a generation that has never learned the art of conversation because text-messaging is their primary method of communication,” Makssour adds. Additionally, Alliance is adding chat and text-messaging as communication channels for prospects, which will be more native and comfortable for many of its associates.

Sign the Bostons up!

For information on Alliance’s Call of Fame program, check out Paul Bergeron’s article, “Call of Fame is the Answer,” in the January issue of units, which mails Jan. 8.