When building call flows, it is easy to think of the everyday situations, like who is part of which hunt group or how the auto attendant buttons function. There are factors that tend to go unnoticed, and this article will discuss some of them.
Internal, Outbound, and Inbound
There are three directions in which call flow will move across your network. We can explore each one and offer advice on how to optimize their potential as well as highlight any gaps or potential missed opportunities that can be found. This article with a focus on the most complex of the three, Inbound calls. If you would like to learn more, you can access the first article in this series, which will discuss Internal and Outbound call flow basics.
The Worst Sound in the World
Just about the worst sound a caller can hear is a busy signal. A couple of decades ago, it meant that the office was busy but open, and you should call back. Now, in the era of Call Waiting, it projects the message that your business does not want to be disturbed by anything as trivial as whatever you have been calling about. Frequently, the first contact your business will have with a customer is over the phone.
By sending out the busy signal you indicate that you are not willing to take the business offered to you. Because of this we will do our absolute best to avoid presenting a busy signal. You can always check this by calling your own business from time to time.
Inbound Call Flow
Inbound calls originate external to your network, they terminate inside. Inbound calls represent sales opportunities, therefore they should be treated with the highest regard. Your company's main number is generally the phone number that is printed on billboards or on your website, it is the number most likely to be called by potential customers.
Do your callers speak to a human when they call your company? How many rings, on average, must they wait to get answered? Do you know how many hang up before they reach somebody? Are your inbound calls handled by an auto attendant to better serve the customer and get them to the right person fastest?
The answers to these questions form the foundation of the first impression that you send forward to those who call your company.
Human or Auto Attendant?
So the question is, would it be better for a receptionist or an auto attendant to handle the inbound calls? A live receptionist is an expense that companies with substantial pocketbooks can generally afford. Ironically it's the choice that many small businesses use out of a matter of necessity. For the most part, people would like to talk to a human being rather than a machine.
On the other hand an auto attendant with the correct options laid out can allow the caller to reach the appropriate party more efficiently. An auto attendant can make your company appear larger than it actually is. This is a double-edged sword though, if your company prides itself on being a local solution this may not be your best option.
There is no right answer for all situations, but a decision will need to be made. The fashionable way to handle inbound calls right now is to employ a live operator with an auto attendant as a failsafe in case that operator is busy or away.
How Many Rings?
The number of rings that a caller will tolerate before going elsewhere varies on the type of business you have and services you offer. Most callers will not tolerate more than three or four rings without some kind of answer. If your calls go to a live receptionist be prepared to have some sort of backup in case he or she can't get to that call within two or three rings.
The Queue Solution
One innovative solution that many small and medium businesses are using is a small call queue. By setting up a call queue even for one person like a receptionist, you can engage your callers, they don't hear constant ringing, and a live human still picks up the call. You can even use comfort messages and escape keys to let the caller who is sitting on hold transfer into an auto attendant for faster service.
Another advantage of a call queue is the reporting capabilities that are a part of most platforms. With the reports about the queue you can tell how long your customers will hold. If you really are interested in the activity of your receptionist or your inbound calls in general these reports are invaluable.
You could even use some strategies such as marketing messages on hold, which can offer services and products to your customer or can answer frequently asked questions while they wait.
The key is to ensure that inbound calls are answered in a timely manner and are sent to the appropriate spot. Always be mindful of dead spaces in your flow by calling your own business from time to time, and make your first impression sets the tone for the type of business you offer.