Small Business Basics | Voice mail – How to ring the changes

When asked what aggravates them most about telephone communication it’s fair to say that the majority of people will say that it is an automated menu system and/or voice mail. If asked why, they explain that it is the generic, robotic answering process that companies use to screen and direct calls that bugs them, not the basic messaging-taking function.

Companies are spending large sums of money on these systems, but they only seem to antagonise their customers. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that when you need help with a problem and can’t reach another human, the situation deteriorates rapidly. Using the numbers on your touch tone pad is fine when you want to verify your bank balance, pay a bill or similar; but when your boiler breaks, your broadband connection fails, or a tree just fell on your car, automated call processing may not be the answer.

However, there are advantages to an automated system. Professional (not complicated) systems have a number of benefits. Not only can it save you money, but it also allows your business to appear bigger and more professional than it actually is. It prevents old-fashioned telephone tennis by allowing people to leave detailed messages in their own voice with clear and correct information – and means you’ll never miss that vital order or important enquiry. Indeed, voice mail crosses all time zones so people can leave and retrieve messages at their convenience.

The disadvantages are that people can hide behind voice mail, often the prompts are confusing, working through the menu can be more time-consuming than speaking to a real person, and some people just don’t like talking to machines.

Top Tips

If your company uses an automated system to process calls make sure it provides the best customer service by following these suggestions:

1. Keep your greeting short and sweet. (No one is interested that your menu options have changed. They only want to know what options they have now.)

2. List your menu options according to popular usage

3. Tell callers how to reach another human early in the process

4. Think twice before using voice mail for customer service issues

5. Survey your customers from time to time to see how they feel about your telephone-based customer service

6. Try calling your own phone system occasionally and experience firsthand what your customers do

Automated telephone systems and voicemail are incredible assets to your business, but they can prove painful for your customers if not used correctly. Don’t force people to spend their valuable time in a telephone black hole or even worse, sending them to voice mail jail.

Gordon

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