Many businesses spend time coming up with catchy taglines, picking the perfect business cards, purchasing matching uniforms, and unveiling new designs for their websites. But there's one brand strategy consideration that most businesses overlook: phone presence.
The way your business sounds on the phone is actually a brand matter that few companies approach strategically. But the issue is worth examining, considering that 32% of callers think that phone calls are the most frustrating form of customer service, while 78% of customers have decided to forgo a purchase due to a poor customer service experience.
Phone Presence: Now We're Interacting
When a customer encounters a company's phone presence, it usually means that he or she is at least considering the company's product and services. At that stage, every interaction that you have with the customers will essentially reflect your brand. In fact, phone presence might be the first real branded experience the customer encounters.
The way that agents interact with a customer, their tone of voice, employed language, empathy, and intelligence, will all play a key role in how the customer perceives your business. But phone presence is more than just how your agents sound. Phone presence also refers to how effectively you've deployed your phone system, taken advantage of its features, and built a pleasant calling experience that delivers satisfied callers, not frustrated ones, to your agents.
Here are seven ways you can makeover your phone presence to keep callers happy and win more customers.
1. Call Yourself
The best way to understand your phone presence is to call your own business. Call your main phone number in the morning, at lunch, during the day, and towards the end of working hours. Dive into the auto attendants and calling menus. Call key staff members, but also navigate to lesser traveled sections of your phone tree.
Take notes about what you want to change. Perhaps even try to purposefully trick your phone tree to see if there are any errors that could send customers askew. Try calling after hours and on weekends to see if your business hour rules are working. Consider our blog on after hours attendant/voicemail greetings for sample calling scripts.
2. Optimize Phone Menu Recordings
In some cases, an automated menu may be the first real interaction a caller has with your business. Auto attendants that are robotic, monotonous, and poorly executed will turn callers off before they've even spoken to your agents.
Unlike other phone system features, the auto attendant does have a human presence. This presence is essentially an extension of your in-person presence, and callers will judge the recording as an indicator of your business's overall attitude towards its customers.
Changing the auto attendant a few times a year can make the calling experience a little more lively. The recording should be fresh, fun, and match the vibe that the customer would get if they walked into your office. You should also simplify your auto attendants to avoid long lists of options. A rule of thumb is to include no more than five options per menu.
3. Make Queues More Personable
Queues help to sort and hold incoming callers, but the waiting period is an important aspect of your company's phone presence. Callers who are waiting to talk to agents hate to hear generic greetings, such as:
- Your call is very important to us, please remain on the line for the next available operator.
- Thank you for calling. All our agents are currently busy. Please stay on the line, and an agent will be with you shortly.
While these phrases convey important information, constant repetition of these phrases can leave callers frustrated, and ultimately lead to them hanging up. That's why you should pack these waiting periods with Music on Hold (MoH), informational tidbits, and engaging announcements.
Get creative. Perhaps introduce a trivia question that offers the caller a certain percentage off if the answer is right. These are the kinds of incentives that keep callers on the phone.
4. Change On Hold Music
If you're using Music on Hold (MoH) in your queues and elsewhere, you'll probably want to change up the music stream on a regular basis. Some phone systems offer thousands of custom music streams, or allow you to stream music directly from an mp3, wav, or customized playlist hosted on the web. Customers who call frequently will notice the change. If you're paying attention to small details like changing the music, customers will believe you're probably paying even better attention to the big picture, in terms of your product or service.
5. Update Voicemail Greetings Regularly
A voicemail recording that's confusing, vague, or unprofessional will make customers less likely to leave messages. Ensure that all business voicemail greetings for your staff clearly identify the recipient, along with associated information, such as cell phone number, email, hours of operation, and anything else that will encourage successful communication. We've written a whole series of blogs on business voicemail greetings, including sample scripts and general tips.
- 5 sample voicemail scripts for individuals and businesses, including emergency situations such as weather closings.
- Voicemail greeting scripts for doctor's offices, dentist offices, and law offices.
- Business voicemail greeting tips that will work for any job or industry.
High volume callers, such as salespeople, should try to create fresh voicemails as often as possible. To customers, these recordings are a subtle indicator that the salesperson is competent, unique, and authentic. Jack Daly, a professional sales coach, speaker, and expert in corporate culture, suggests that all sales staff should update their voicemail greetings every day. Per Naomi Simson:
[Jack Daly] noted that most times now the first impression is way before you ever meet in person. He said most people meet you for the first time on voicemail (or email). How does your voice mail sound? Do you change the message every day? Are you letting your personality shine, even making a joke?
6. Eliminate Dead Ends
A dead end for your customers represents a dead end for winning their business. In today's saturated communications environment, with phone, text, email, and even video calls, the prospect of leaving a customer without a way to get in direct contact with you could ruin the relationship. We recommend always giving the customer an immediate way to contact your team members, operators, or even your receptionists.
Many auto attendants will attempt to directly connect callers with operators with a specific option, such as dialing zero. This is a good start, but there are also other ways to enable contact, such as after hours ring queues, external phone numbers, and anything that keeps the customer from reaching a wall. It also makes sense to optimize voicemail with other contact information, such as a team member's email.
7. Hire Professional Voice Talent
If you think your voice, or the voices of your employees, are not making a strong impression, you can always hire professional voice talent. Think of this piece as the icing on the cake, something to consider after all the other portions of this blog have been explored. Professional voice talent shows that you value the customer experience, retain high standards, and are willing to put in the extra effort to make your business topnotch.