Companies like RingCentral, and Nextiva are revolutionizing phone service for small businesses. These companies, known as business VOIP service providers, offer amazing features for around $30 per month, per user. Your business can use these features to appear larger to customers, to provide better service to VIP customers, and to expand the ability of employees to respond to phone calls outside of the office. This article deals with some of the choices that your company will need to make when moving to this feature-rich technology.
Here are some questions that you should consider when setting up your phone system:
Do you want to present your company as a friendly business or a larger company?
In certain fields, potential customers feel more comfortable dealing with a larger company. In others, potential customers want the higher level of service that they associate with a smaller firm. You can use your phone service to send a message about your company’s identity.
Choices That Impact Client’s Perception Of Your Company:
The Voice Of The Company: Should the company founder or well-known employee be recording the phone-system messages or a voice over professional? The cost to have a professional record a few messages will cost less than $100 with Voicebunny, so this mainly becomes a question of what image you want to project for your company. If your customers come into your establishment regularly, a professional voiceover isn’t going to make them think you are a corporation with hundreds of employees. On the other hand, if you serve other businesses which will never see your office, a professional sounding voice may influence their opinion.
The Opening Menu: When a person calls your business, what type of options do you want to provide them? Almost all the major business VOIP service providers give the option of a dial by name directory. In addition, do you want callers to be able to have the option of contacting different departments (ie sales, support, billing) or be separated into categories like new customer or existing customer. The more options that you give, the larger your company will likely appear. However, more options can potentially irritate a caller who wants to speak to a live person ASAP.
Recording Calls: Nothing says big company like the phone announcement: “Your call may be recorded for training and quality control purposes.” However, unless you have a really good reason to record calls, like taking orders over the phone, my personal opinion is that this announcement does more harm than good. I personally associate this announcement with being served by a large, unhelpful call center.
Do you want to treat all phone calls in the same way?
I recently had to call up my health insurance company and waited 20 minutes to speak with a live person. While my level of customer satisfaction is very low, I don’t have much flexibility when it comes to my choice of health insurance providers. The health insurance company was making a conscious choice to under staff their customer support for plan members. While this is an extreme example, every business makes choices on where to put limited resources.
Do you want to encourage people calling your business? Are there certain categories of clients or requests that you want to prioritize above others? These are questions to consider when setting up your phone system.
I would suggest before you set-up your business phone system, you have a brainstorming session in which you ponder the following questions:
- What are the common reasons people call your business?
- Should their type of request be handled by a specific individual, a group of people, or is there a better alternative?
- Which types of calls do you absolutely want to be handled by a live person?
- Are there certain times of day / situations in which your business is flooded with calls? How do you want to handle them?
- Do you want employees to receive and make business calls when they are outside of the office?
The answers to these questions will help you develop or draw up a flow chart for how you want calls to be handled.
When a potential client calls your business, lets say they hit a main menu and they select to speak with sales. You can set-up your VOIP phone system to have that call ring on several numbers at once (i.e. everyone in your sales team), or a specific number. If the call doesn’t get answered within a certain period of time, you can have the call forwarded to a different group of people, ring on someone’s cell phone, or get placed into voicemail. You can even change these rules based on the time of day.
There are a few key ideas that are embedded in the example just described:
1) Personal / Business smart phones now can be an extension of your company’s phone system. Most of the business VOIP service providers have apps that work on iPhones and Android phones. If you have a workforce which is traditionally away from the desk, they can now respond to customer calls without handing out or dialing from their personal cell phone number.
2) You have control of the level of access to your staff. Through the use of call menu options, you can segment incoming calls into higher and lower priority groups. For higher priority calls, you can increase the chance of the caller speaking to a live person by having the call ring on multiple extensions, forward to few numbers if unanswered, or go to employee cell phones.
Keep In Mind Your Objectives
The underlying assumption of this article is that you want to answer important phone calls with a live person as quickly as possible. The longer it takes for a call to be answered, the more likely the caller will hang-up, potentially costing sales or creating a poor customer experience. While I haven’t been able to find any good stats on call abandonment rates versus hold time, I have been able to find information regarding typical call center goals. Answering 80% of calls with a live person within 30 seconds is considered good, with the goal of keeping the number abandoned calls (hang-ups) under 7% of total call volume. Every business is different. You may want to encourage callers to look for information on your firm’s website or your customers may be willing to wait longer to be served.
Do you have experience choosing a VOIP phone system for your business? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!. Also be sure to stay read the next article where we discuss who is the best VOIP service provider for your small business.