Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Telephone Contact - The Real 1st Impression

Many great articles have appeared over the years dealing with telesales and customer service and we all know that new sales and customer retention is essential for companies to survive and prosper in today’s competitive market.  

Today I want to explore the use of the telephone in business and how its use in your business can have a beneficial or negative outcome on your business.  

The telephone is an essential and, allegedly, the most widely used communication tool in all businesses and organizations to communicate on a personal basis with existing and potential customers, suppliers, consumers, media and other organizations & individuals to improve business.

Improving communication at all contact points with customers and suppliers will boost sales, build customer & supplier loyalty, enhance Brand value and increase profitability

The majority of potential customers looking for a new supplier will make the 1st personal contact by phone! So no matter how brilliant your initial marketing initiatives – e-mail, brochures, mailers, advertising or social networking - how that first call is handled can have a huge impact on the outcome for your business.

In a recent seminar to a group of business owners on ‘How the use of the telephone can improve Business’. Prior to the event I was given a list of the companies sending delegates which we rang to see how they performed in answering their phones  
45% Answered within 3 rings
75% Answered within 5 rings
65% of All calls answered by a Person
15 Companies Could Lose 20% of Sales (more than 5 rings)
14 Companies Could Lose 70% of Sales (answer phones)

How do you compare and are you confident that every telephone contact point in your organization is 'on message' with your core values and objectives?

  1. Customer Experience: Test the customer experience yourself by calling your company as a potential customer or as an existing customer with a query - don’t use your own phone which may be recognised by your telephone system or get a third party to do this and record the calls – then take action.
  2. How Inbound Calls are Answered
    1. Time Before Call Is Picked Up: Aim to answer calls within 3 rings and no more than 5.  The time between standard BT rings is approximately 3 seconds. 20% of all callers to businesses hang up after just 5 rings!*Source Onetel business  Survey.  (15 seconds)
    2. Answer Phone: 79% of people will not leave a message on Voicemail/Answerphone if they are calling to place an order for a product or service * Source Call Centre Helper.  Customers will use Voicemail and Answerphones if they are confident that messages will be picked up and actioned.  Change the message on a daily basis with the message including the day and date and when the messages will be actioned
    3. Answered by Automatic System: Automatic systems will usually be set to answer within 1 ring, however the average time that an automatic system will direct you to a real person is 32 seconds (>10 rings). If you have to use and Automatic System keep the number of options on any menu to 3.
    4. Answered by Person: The majority of people prefer to talk directly to a real person. Larger businesses usually direct all inbound calls to a dedicated reception which should have sufficient trained personnel manning the phones at peak times to achieve a) above.
Where there is no dedicated reception area it is essential that whoever takes answers the phone takes ownership of the call and understands the caller’s requirement before forwarding to another department. Ownership means retrieving the call if it is not answered by the intended recipient and taking a message – name, nature of the call and contact number – and giving the caller a time that he/she will be called back and then ensuring that this happens.
Many customers will need to deal directly with contacts in your business other than those in Sales or Customer Services such as IT, Credit Control, Distribution etc. It is these contact points which also need to be Customer friendly.
    1. Greeting - is it the same every time? Everybody answering in the same style will strengthen the Brand and professional image of the Business.
    2. On hold - silence/music/update/information etc. One of the most frustrating experiences encountered by customers is being put into a queue or on hold. It is not good enough for callers to be put on hold and then told that at number 35 in the queue that the Company values their business. If the customer is valued then either the business should have enough operators so that waiting time is less than a minute or the caller should be given the opportunity to leave a message and that is acted on within the hour with a return call.
It is expensive to gain new Customers, make sure that the use of the telephone in your business helps to keep them.

Paul Clayton