A business can fail its customers in a number of ways. It can struggle to meet their needs, appear unprofessional, or communicate poorly. The list goes on. But there's something all the experts, and anybody with any business sense, agree upon.
Failing customers, in any way, is bad.
Failure implies unmet expectations. Failure means your customers are expecting something from you, and you can't deliver the goods. This is how businesses lose customers. This is how businesses go out of business.
When customers call your phone number, they expect a certain quality of service. Short on-hold time, ease of navigation, decent call quality, and no dropped calls are some basic expectations that customers anticipate when they're dealing with a professional organization.
Your phone system's quality of service and ease of use can determine whether or not you gain sales and convert prospects. Pay attention to these six ways your phone system can fail your customers and how you can prevent them from occurring.
1. Make it difficult for customers to connect with you
The most obvious, and perhaps most alarming, failure is when your phone system actually prevents callers from reaching you at all. Poor voice quality, caused by a number of factors, can obstruct your conversations to the point where customers can't even identify what you're saying. This is a fundamental issue that makes you look incompetent and unprepared. Your customers may end up associating this poor quality with the overall stature of your business.
Dropped calls are the ultimate quality of service failure, because they make it impossible for your customers and your agents to communicate with you. Many prospects who don't reach an agent on the first attempt will hang up and never call back. If it's a recurring issue, dropped calls could end up costing your business a significant amount of revenue.
Call quality issues can occur for a variety of reasons. VoIP calls rely on your local network settings, your service provider, and your ISP, so failures can occur at any point in the network. If you experience frequent outages or disruptions in service, pinpoint the source of the issues to see where changes need to be made.
2. Make callers wait on hold forever
Nobody likes waiting on hold, but the experience is likely inevitable for most callers. According to AT&T, more than 70% of business calls are placed on hold. How you manage this on hold experience can make or break your ability to retain customers. 34% of callers who hang up while waiting on hold will not call back again. That's business that you've lost to your competitors.
Being on hold is a common customer experience, which is why many phone systems allow you to manage the process for efficiency, quality, and control. ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) queues let you shape the customers's on-hold experience. Most call center software enable you to set maximum wait times, or a failover option, for callers who are on hold for too long.
Once callers reach this limit, you can also give them the option to leave a detailed voicemail message, enter a phone number to receive a guaranteed callback within a time limit, or use alternative communication channels (e.g. email) during peak hours. Offering these options indicate to callers that you respect their time and don't want to keep them on the line for hours on end.
3. Bore callers waiting on hold
Ushering your customers through the on hold experience isn't enough to keep them occupied. It might seem far fetched to suggest that you can "entertain" your customers as they wait to speak to an agent, but you can still try to make their wait periods more bearable.
Playing music or recordings can keep your callers occupied as they wait to speak to an agent. Music on hold plays custom music streams while your customers are waiting on hold. Message on hold plays recorded messages for your on hold customers, such as sales offers and product information.
Just how much customer retention can these two features create? According to statistics, quite a bit. Providing message on hold results in a 40% increase in retention of on hold callers. Music on hold can make callers feel like 30 seconds is actually 15 seconds. Without on hold recordings, up to 90% of your callers will hang up within 40 seconds.
4. Offer outdated or irrelevant information
Make sure that the recordings on your phone system are up to date and accurate. Hours or operation, addresses, contact directory names, and other basic information about your business should always be current.
Depending on your phone system, you can also tailor the experience based on what they call your main line. Cloud phone systems often offer a feature that allows you to set different call routing rules based on the time of day and day of week.
For example, your phone tree during the day might list out each department, but your after hours phone tree might just play a recording of your store hours and direct callers to a general voicemail box. Business hour rules allow you to tailor the calling experience to be as helpful as possible for your customers.
5. Send callers through a menu maze
When customers call your business, the last thing they should feel like are mice in a maze. There are many businesses whose phone menus are convoluted and sprawling. It's easy for callers to get lost in those kinds of labyrinths, and the poor souls who do make it out might forsake your business altogether.
Phone menus with poor recordings or unwieldy options can confuse customers and potentially cause them to hang up. But there are ways to avoid these negative experiences. Here are some examples of phone menu best practices:
- No more than five options per menu
- A "dial zero" option that will automatically connect the caller to an operator or agent
- Professional voice talent for optimal recordings
- Ability to replay all menu options
For more tips on how to optimize your phone menu, consider our blog Brand Strategy: What Does Your Business Sound Like?
6. Provide an impersonal experience
When you offer your customers a calling experience that isn't personalized, you're wasting their time at best, and failing to meet their needs at worst. Each customer brings a wealth of information about him or herself. Customer relationship management (CRM) software allows you to parse this data, and use it to better serve customers.
Your CRM can tell you how many times a customer has called, what a customer's last purchase was, and how many times a customer has visited your website, among many other pieces of salient data. Integrating your CRM with your phone system can lead to more effective salespeople, higher conversions, and happier customers.
If a customer calls a tire company looking to purchase new tires, information about what the customer has browsed and what the customer has purchased in the past can fast track the sales process. Instead of probing for basic questions like what car the customer drives, and what brand of tire the customer uses, a salesperson will have the information readily available and save the customer the trouble of wasting time on relating background information.
Failure: the end of the line, or the birth of success
Phone systems that fail your customers can do damage to your bottom line and hurt the reputation of your business. But every failure presents an opportunity for success.
For businesses, customer success comes not just with the right technology, but also with the right use of that technology. Smart deployments of the right phone system streamline the customer experience. It might seem like a small consideration, but a positive phone experience can actually boost your company's image in the eyes of customers.
Your phone system should be the last reason you lose a customer to a competitor. The way you deploy your phone system is tied to your brand, whether you like it or not. Failure stands for more than just a dropped call. It cuts to the core of your competency as a business. By avoiding the scenarios mentioned above and creating a professionalized, well-managed calling experience, you'll be sure to stand out from the crowd.