Published 5th of January 2017
Author Lisa Hartwell
When Did You Last Call Your Own Business Telephone System?
The start of a new year is notorious for being a time when we look inward at the things we’d like to change about our lives. But this isn’t limited to our personal wellbeing and ambitions. It’s also a time when business owners and senior management re-evaluate what is and isn’t working in their businesses.
One area that is often overlooked but can be an invaluable marketing tool is your business telephone system. When did you last update your system? Is it working for your business AND your customers?
Call Your Own Business
When did you last pick up the phone and call your own business? Most of our marketing and social interaction with customers is clear to see and evaluate, it’s on display and changes on a regular basis, but your phone system is often overlooked because you never need to call the main phone line yourself. Yet, this can be your customers’ first point of contact with the business and should be a shining example of what your business does and represents.
So, pick up the phone and call your business and, when you do, ask yourself a few important questions.
Does Your Phone Message Reflect Your Brand?
If you have an IVR system (a series of pre-recorded prompts directing callers to different departments or information), does the voice, style and information reflect your brand? Is it in keeping with your other external marketing?
For example, if your business caters to the corporate market, does the voice on your system sound professional and efficient, is the language and tone-of-voice in keeping with your other branding?
Does Your Phone System Help Your Employees Work Better & Smarter?
IVR systems were designed to take the pressure off a main receptionist so that they could deal with general enquiries, people walking through the front door and a multitude of other tasks, meanwhile enabling callers to reach the right person quickly. IVR systems also revolutionised call centres and enabled callers to obtain the information they needed or complete a specific task quickly and without the need to speak to anyone OR reach the best person to deal with their problem or enquiry.
From a business point of view, this meant that employees didn’t have to repeat the same information over and over again to callers, leaving them free to handle more detailed enquiries. They could also be ready with the right information when they did speak to a customer because the initial screening process had been done automatically.
So, ask yourself, is your IVR system doing the job it was designed for? Is it helping or hindering your employees? Are the instructions taking callers to the correct department every time? Are the mundane questions like opening times, business location, and website address being provided in the automated system so employees are free to answer more in depth enquiries?
Is Your Business Telephone System Costing You Too Much Money?
Inbound calls often cost the business money and streamlining your IVR system could save you hundreds or even thousands of pounds every year (one client calculated that we reduced the call journey by 40% which equated to considerable savings).
So, take a listen to your phone system again and ask yourself:
- Is all the information necessary?
- Is the information clear and to the point?
- Could the caller’s journey be made faster in any way e.g. putting the most popular choices first, reducing the number of steps in the journey or removing unnecessary information?
What About Your Customers?
IVR systems were not only created to improve business practices, they were designed to improve the customer experience, too. If you ask the average person on the street how they feel about IVR systems, the overwhelming conclusion would be that they are not fulfilling their remit.
Calling your own business and working through the business’s IVR system will help put you in the position of your customers. Imagine you are a caller with a specific goal in mind. Does your journey through your IVR system provide quick answers or lead to frustration? At the end of the experience, do you think the caller would recommend you to a friend or have you just lost a customer? Was the experience so bad that the caller is likely to have a rant on social media at your expense?
Callers want answers, whether it’s a sales or payment enquiry, updating their information on your systems, finding out your opening times, or simply obtaining a web or email address. And they want those answers with the minimum fuss and maximum speed.
So, ask yourself:
- Is the information (and the voice delivering it) clear and concise?
- Are any of the messages ambiguous and likely to be confusing?
- Is there a lot of information or general “wordiness” that slows down the caller’s journey?
- Is there an abundance of clichés and over-used phrases that will annoy the caller e.g. "Your call is important to us"?
- Are you confusing your callers with too many options, too much information or too many steps in the journey?
- Will the caller end the call feeling frustrated or satisfied with the result? Frustrations result from: feeling their time is being wasted including being put in a long queue to speak to somebody; patronising, ambiguous, repetitive or inconsistent messages; going around in circles from menu to menu trying to find the right option for their enquiry; not receiving the answers that prompted the call in the first place; and reaching a customer service agent only to find they have to repeat all the information that they had inputted into the system.
- Most importantly, how long was your caller on the phone line? Many businesses have a three rings policy i.e. the phone shouldn’t ring more than three times before it’s answered. But, with an IVR system, that caller may have already been on the line for 30 seconds or more (sometimes much, much more). Is the average call time acceptable from the caller’s point of view or will they consider your business has been wasting their time?
All these are important questions to ask on a regular basis, not just at the beginning of the year. So, pick up the phone, put yourself in the shoes of your customer and analyse whether your phone system is working for them and for your business.