Avoid Voicemail Jail in an Automated Phone System With Proper Call Routing
A well-designed office phone system must be focused on customer service. It should quickly route callers to a live person at the desired customer service desk. Failure to do that will only lose potential customers.
First impressions count and can destroy a business relationship, especially when one calls a business and is treated poorly.
If you ever had the experience of calling a company, reaching their automated phone system, and getting the run-around through endless menus, then you'll appreciate the importance of programming a phone system that a caller can easily maneuver through quickly.
Make Callers Feel Wanted
When a caller finds they are pressing button after button and not getting anywhere to reach a live person, or to get the information they want, they will feel that they are dealing with a company that does not care to have his or her business.
When a customer is considering switching insurance companies, or where they bank, or any other company they do business with, a negative phone system experience will strongly affect their decision. That is the primary deciding factor that leads me away from doing further business with a particular organization.
Being in the phone business, whenever I sell an automated system to a client, I instruct them to consider their attitude towards their customers. I explain that the phone system must do three things:
- It must make their customers feel welcome.
- It must make it easy for callers to get what they want quickly.
- It must always have an option to go directly to a live person by pressing zero.
Use a Short and Simple Welcome Greeting
The initial welcome greeting should mention the company's name, so the caller knows they dialed correctly, but should not delay offering options for the caller to select. The menu of options needs to be useful and straightforward, so callers don't need to guess what keys to press.
A well-designed automated attendant menu guides the caller promptly. It should be simple to understand, not overwhelming, not ambiguous, and not confusing.
Confirm a Phone System's Accuracy
Much too often, I have called large corporations and heard a confusing list of options that contradict with one another.
Being a systems analyst, I don't consider the programming of a phone system completed until the techs thoroughly test it. Unfortunately, many companies never do that part of the work. They just install the system and expect it to take care of things without proper customization and testing.
Once a company installs a new phone system, someone in the tech department should check how well it handles callers. They need to call in as a customer to find out what the customer goes through.
If they would do that, they might discover how stupid their phone system is set up, and they would be motivated to correct it.
Keep It Simple and Test Often
A simple easy-to-understand menu of options is all that's required. Proper planning will help to achieve this. Think about what callers usually call about and include menu options to address those needs. That's all it takes to make a phone system work well.
Planning an automated phone menu is a simple task. However, some managers want to make it so complicated that callers get frustrated. I always tell my clients to test the system after they have completed the installation. It will enlighten them to any issues that may be the result of poor planning.
I have found many company managers who don't care to understand the necessity of a well-designed system. They tell an employee to install the phone system, and they never follow up to check on the outcome.
They never test it by calling in, as a customer would, to find out how it works for a caller. That is such an easy thing to do, and it should be repeated occasionally to be sure things are always functioning smoothly.
Always Allow Pressing Zero for a Live Operator
Besides an easy-to-follow menu, one thing that should be considered a standard among all phone systems is the menu option zero that leads directly to a live person.
Some callers may not be in the right frame of mind to listen to a long list of recorded options. Programmers of the phone system should consider that.
When I call a company, and I'm feeling rushed, I press zero, and I expect to get a receptionist or live attendant who can route my call to the right department or person properly.
Of course, I don't always get through this way, and I end up going in circles, sometimes never getting anywhere. If I have a choice of where I give my business, I end up never contacting that company again. They just lost a customer.
Some automated phone systems will route the caller to a live operator after pressing zero several times. I don't condone this method. It's just a shame that some companies play these games.
Show Your Customers You Care About Them
Some companies, especially utilities and banks, are terrible with their customer service, and this is obvious when a caller has trouble getting through the phone system to a live person.
I have tried to report my findings to the programming department of various companies. In most cases, my reports fall on deaf ears since I find the same problems months later. I wonder how many customers they lose over that time.
I have found that utilities and government agencies are the most likely to have unfriendly auto attendant menus that waste the caller's time on the phone. It's a shame that they don't need to care since customers usually don't have other options.
They don't seem to care, but more likely, they don't have good managers responsible enough to oversee what their programmers have done when setting up the phone system. That is why the system ends up being time-consuming for the caller.
It doesn't have to be that way. These systems were designed to speed the caller through, and quickly give them what they want.
If you run into a phone system that does not do that for you, it's the manager’s fault. They are in charge of planning the design of the menu of phone options provided to the caller. They are responsible for overseeing the system programmers.
Do the companies with unfriendly phone systems even know what they are doing? They are driving away business. It's not the phone system destroying their business. It's the way they programmed the system.
Blame it on the manager who didn't correctly guide the programmer with what they want the system to do.
If one finds their phone system menu is too complicated, they are designing it totally wrong. That will reflect on how the callers feel about doing business with the firm.
There's no reason why a phone system can't be made simple. All that is required is to program a simple menu of options to cover essential tasks that a caller needs to accomplish. Then test each menu option to be sure it is working as expected. Also, always include a quick way out by pressing zero.
Those companies that put some effort into designing a simple-to-use phone system will have satisfied customers who recognize that their focus is on customer service.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2011 Glenn Stok