Pete Turpel opens “Holding Power,” his recently released book, with a story about how he did something all of us think about doing — sometimes more than once a day.
He threw away his smart phone. In fairness to smart phones, it was a BlackBerry, a less cool and perhaps more intrusive device than the aging iPhone 3 that tethers me to the cosmic forces of business and life 24/7.
But you have to applaud Turpel, the owner and creator of Thousand Oaks-based Phone On-Hold Marketing, for an act of rebellion against the all-things-digital-all-the-time world in which we live. Turpel threw away his
BlackBerry because he got tired of the constant intrusions and the way it was creating less connection and more distance between him and his life.
His book, subtitled “Building Long Lasting Customer Relationships With the Push of a Button,” is in part Turpel’s story, in part a promotional piece built to accompany his talks on the road, and in part a testimonial to hard work and focus on your customers.
We’ll start with the hard work and customer focus part, skip the promo and then talk a bit about Turpel, who became part of the Pacific Coast Business Times family when he won a Spirit of Small Business award several years ago.
At a time when companies, especially small ones, are finally achieving a degree of stability after the Great Recession, customers become absolutely key to gaining back lost revenue. New customers may be harder to find because the landscape has been so devastated. Old customers may have changed their business model or their management, so keeping or building new relationships becomes the bridge to success.
How to do it? Turpel’s window on the world of customer relations is the narrow niche of building simple, radio-like scripts that fill the few moments when people are being transferred around the phone system. With the demise of the receptionist and the proliferation of the phone tree, this niche turns out to be a crucially important one for many companies, large and small, and Turpel and his team of 10 people have been unusually effective at winning and retaining business from Fortune 500 companies down to mom-and-pops.
He’s got a wealth of data about what makes a message effective and about what it has taken for Phone-On-Hold to win its share of business in competition with corporate giants. Here are a few of Turpel’s rules for retaining customers.
• Keep it simple. As a guy schooled in the simple, straight talk of radio, Turpel tells his readers that clean, clear, short bursts of information are the best way to communicate.
• Be consistent. A hotel that offers extremely courteous service help from the front desk on one shift and absolutely no service the next is going to put customers on a roller coaster and eventually drive them away.
• You can’t avoid putting people on hold. What happens next is what’s really important, and establishing a human connection is key.
The son of a naval officer and top-ranked diver, Turpel grew up with a love of the sea and still gets out on his boat from time to time. He discovered a love for radio early on and that led to a career as an announcer and voice-over specialist.
Several decades ago an advertising customer at the radio station asked him to write a script for callers placed on hold. As Turpel’s radio career wound down, he helped create a new industry that blossomed in the 1980s as on-hold messaging became a fast growth business.
Today the telephone is a tool for business, not the tool. Email, social media, Twitter and texting have all become ways we communicate — often they are at the forefront of customer relations.
If we could all bring the customer focus to our e-business relationships that Turpel brought to the on-hold industry, the glory days of the pre-recession economy would return in a flash.
Holding Power is published by Advantage Media. You can buy the book at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble or at www.phoneonhold.com for $14.99.
• Contact Henry Dubroff at [email protected]