Who Is Answering Your Phone?

A lady multi-tasking.

If I called your company today, who would answer? Do you have a receptionist answer all calls? Or maybe a group of "front office" folks? For many people the answer is YES! Many business owners believe (correctly) that the best way to give fantastic customer service is to have a real person answer the phone. (And we agree.)

But should EVERY call be answered this way? Maybe not... A study reported in the Wall Street Journal reveals it can take up to 25 minutes to get back on task after a brief interruption. This clearly means lost productivity, precious time wasted, not to mention, it's costly! Today's technology can truly 'save the day' and in doing so, create efficiencies for your business! Read on...

Here are some ways to significantly reduce the nuisance factor in these calls and even make your customers happier.

Interactive Voice Response

While many of us prefer interacting with someone 'live' when calling a company (myself included), technology to automate answering the phone may be beneficial.One example is Interactive Voice Response, or "IVR". This automated telephone system typically accepts a combination of voice input and touch-tone digits to provide the caller with information. You have likely used this type of system many times, such as when calling your bank and receiving your balance.

The Norwalk Housing Authority (NHA) logo.

We installed such a system for one of our clients, Norwalk Housing Authority (NHA), which transformed they way they do business. Norwalk Housing Authority provides housing assistance to those in need. The demand always seems to outpace the supply, and so there are a lot of people on waiting lists to get an affordable place to live. The waiting list can be very large at times (sometimes over 1,000 families).

On the first of each month those who are waiting can call into NHA to see where they fall on the list to receive assisted housing. When we met them, NHA staff took these calls live. The time needed to give out this routine information was massive, and productivity was taking a big hit.

Now prospective residents call into a dedicated number, enter their social security number, and the system tells them their position on one or more lists. It is very easy for families to learn their status, and employees don't get swamped with calls each month.

"We estimate that this system has saved at least 20% of someone's time. It permits our staff to do more productive things for our customers. Plus, our customers can access it anytime, day or night. We like it!"Norwalk Housing Authority

Two men communicating.

Automated Attendant

Many businesses have routine calls for standard departments like Sales, Service and Accounting. Using a simple voice menu that plays as the phone line is answered can be a huge improvement in productivity.

Car dealers and doctors' offices who have this service find it invaluable. Such a system bypasses the receptionist, freeing him/her up to work on more productive tasks. For the caller, it bypasses the "middleman" and puts them directly in touch with their desired department. If this sounds like something that would work for you, your current PBX vendor may be able to set up your phone system with this feature at little to no cost. It's worth making the call.

We struggled with this ourselves. My staff was telling me how disruptive it could be to have the wrong people answering calls. They asked if we could try a change in our call answering... maybe offering departments to the caller while still allowing them to get a "real person" if they waited a few more seconds on the line. We implemented this recently and hopefully the reviews will be favorable.

Direct Inward Dial (DID)

DID (direct inward dialing) numbers routing to extensions.

People who are calling your company for the first time and potentially want to use your products or services should DEFINITELY get a real person. Right? They don't know which person or department they want. But what about if one of your vendors is calling you 5-7 times per day? Should they go through your receptionist every time? Or your spouse is calling... should he/she also have to ask for you?

Another practical and affordable option is Direct Inward Dialing (DID) - a service provided by your local phone company. With DID you can offer your customers a direct line to each person or department without requiring them to first go through a receptionist or auto attendant. Calls that would otherwise be screened by a receptionist go directly where they should go. And if a person is not at their desk, our newer systems can either track them down (on their cell phones, for instance) or allow a voicemail message to be left. Callers almost always prefer to leave a message in their own voice rather than have their message transcribed by a person.

If you want some guidance making your current system work better or discussing other alternatives, call LeBlanc Communications today at 203-938-8400 to see if we can assist!

Donation ornament.

Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter last month and take the survey on which one of our non-profit customers should receive a $500 donation. Congratulations to Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation!