A phone tree gives your business three important features to help manage your incoming phone calls:
- A call menu (“Press 1 for sales, press 2 for customer service, etc.”)
- A dial-by-name directory for callers to connect with your employees directly
- The ability to route calls based on rules you define
Setting Up a Phone Tree with Vonage
Vonage refers to their automated answering service as a virtual receptionist, so we’ll do the same for the rest of this article to be consistent.
Add a Virtual Receptionist
- Sign in to your account
- Click on the ‘My Receptionist’ icon on the home page or click on the ‘Phone System’ icon at the top of the page and ‘Virtual Receptionists’ in the navigation pane
- Choose whether you want to add a new receptionist or update an existing one
- To add, click the ‘Add New’ menu and select ‘Advanced Virtual Receptionist’
- To update, click on the receptionist you want to change
- Enter the settings for your receptionist (see Virtual Receptionist Settings section below)
- Record a greeting if you choose to
- Define the schedule for your receptionist
- If you choose 24 hours/day and seven days/week, then your setup is complete
- If you choose ‘Configure’ separate options for non-business hours, you must specify whether a live operator picks up first and how to route the call
- Click ‘Save’
Virtual Receptionist Settings
The settings for your virtual receptionist are organized into five sections. You can also set your virtual receptionist’s schedule by defining business and nonbusiness hours.
These are the virtual receptionist settings available to you:
Create Virtual Receptionist
|Name and Extension||Specify a unique identifier (usually a department or employee’s name) of up to 30 characters and enter an extension number of between 2 and 6 digits|
|Telephone Numbers||Associate one or more phone numbers with your receptionist -- by default, your business’ main phone number is listed here as well as any other available phone numbers on your account|
|Try Live Operator First||Indicate whether calls go directly to the virtual receptionist or ring an extension first -- if you send to an extension, specify how much time elapses before ringing your receptionist|
|Options||This is where you define how your calls should be routed:|
|Play List of Options||Route calls to extensions, virtual receptionists, call groups, call queues or an outside number from a recorded list of options
Choose from the following automated options:
|Forward to Single Extension||Connect to an extension with option to record a greeting|
|Forward to Voicemail||Send to the voicemail of an extension and opt to play a greeting first|
|Play Greeting and Repeat||Play a recorded greeting and opt to allow the customer to dial an extension directly at anytime|
|Play Greeting Once and Disconnect||Play a recorded greeting once and opt to allow the customer to dial an extension, then disconnect the call|
|Record Business Hours Greeting||Appears only if you can record a greeting and provides you with the options to do so|
|After Hours Virtual Receptionist||Appears only if you decide to configure separate options for non-business hours
You will be presented the option to specify whether a live operator picks up first and where to route the call
|Non-business Hours Greeting||Appears only if you can record a greeting and provides you with the options to do so|
|Virtual Receptionist Schedule||Specify when you want the schedule to be in effect
|Manual Schedule Override||Allows you to bypass the schedule in place
This setting is only available after you set up and save your Virtual Receptionist
Keep It Short & to the Point
Now that you know how to create your phone tree with Vonage, there are some important considerations to make before setting one up.
According to Harris Interactive, 75% of callers believe that it takes too long to connect with a live person. And the primary cause of the wait? Overly-complicated phone trees. We can all relate to the frustration of choosing between a seemingly endless number of options, only to keep hearing more options.
So what can your business do to prevent this?
- Stick to a single “layer” of menus — whenever possible, your callers should only be a single option away from connecting with a live person
- Setup a dial-by-name directory — this allows callers to find the specific employee they need to reach by typing their name through the keypad
1. How to Draw a Phone Tree
Before you setup your phone tree with Vonage, it can be helpful to draw out a flowchart like this one:
In this example, the caller would progress through the following steps:
- They would hear a greeting that you recorded
- They’ll be given the option to press 0 to hear the menu in Spanish or continue in English
- The recorded voice will list each option and the caller can press their selection at any time
Vonage includes several additional options with their service, free of charge. These can include:
- Professionally recorded greetings
- Call groups, such as your sales team or customer support team
- Dial-by-name directories to connect callers directly with individual employees
2. Assign Employees to Call Groups
Below your flow chart, note which employees will be part of each call group. This will help you when you create your call groups and assign employee extensions to them. Remember that one employee can belong to multiple call groups or be designated to receive calls only when no one else is available.
3. Dial-By-Name Directory
A dial-by-name directory should be one of the final options on your main menu. This allows callers to type an employee’s first or last name using the letters on their phone’s keypad. The system will scan your database for the employee, then read back any matches. When the caller confirms their choice, they are forwarded directly to that employee.
A dial-by-name directory can save both your business and your and callers a lot of time. Allowing your callers to connect themselves directly means less work on your end transferring calls. For example, if a sales call gets disconnected the caller can immediately call back to the right extension.
It’s also helpful for businesses with dedicated account representatives. Employees can connect with their assigned representative, even if they forget the direct line.
Why Use a Phone Tree
Regardless of the size of your business, there’s several benefits to setting up a phone tree:
1. You always have “somebody” answering the phone
According to Forbes, 80% of callers sent to a businesses’ voicemail don’t leave a message. This can result in lost leads and fewer sales, directly impacting your business’ bottom line. A phone tree can help you avoid this.
Even if you receive a call outside of your business hours, a call tree can automatically forward the call to an alternate line like your mobile phone.
2. You allow people to connect themselves to the right department
Manually connecting callers to the correct person or department can be time-consuming and costly, especially if you use the services of a full-time live receptionist. Your call tree’s auto attendant may not be as personable as a receptionist, but it’s much more efficient and economical.
3. It looks (or sounds) professional
A phone tree can create the impression that your business is much larger than it actually is, which can create a favorable impression in your callers. No one needs to know that your customer service “department” is just you — and that you’re also sales, billing, and technical support!
Bottom Line on Setting Up a Phone Tree
An effective phone tree strikes a balance between being comprehensive enough to include access to all areas of your business while being simple enough that your callers don’t get frustrated using it. Thankfully, many VoIP service providers include supplemental features in addition to their phone trees that make finding this balance easier such as call groups, dial-by-name directories, and virtual receptionists from Vonage.