Are you still there caller? In the last two articles we briefly looked at the technology, features and costs of telecom solutions, but there is a far more important element to the equation which is just how you use these. What follows is a brief rehearsal of some of the thought processes we use to set up effective call flows and associated call handling, which I hope will be of use to you in your own situation, whatever system you have in place.
So let’s start with the basics. Good call handling gets every call to the best person every time. Simple enough, but let’s look at that last bit; “best person”. This should perhaps be “best available person”. However, to know that we need to identify who is calling and what they want or need. Then we can see who would be best, whether they are available and if not whether the next best person is available and so on until, eventually, a phone rings. All of this of course has to happen within seconds because we all know that, whilst we ourselves are paragons of patience, people calling us probably (definitely!) are not.
This then breaks down into a few logical questions, the first of which is how do we know who is calling and/or what they want? There are several ways we can address this and these can be combined to create extraordinarily accurate routing. Firstly there is the Caller ID or number the caller is calling from. Most lines carry this and present it to the telephone system or hosted exchange. This can be used to identify a caller from a database just as we see daily on our mobile phones. Depending upon the sophistication of your set-up (phone system and database) this will also identify the caller type as in customer or prospect or bad debt. If this is known then the call can be routed to the accounts/sales/support team.
Secondly there is the number the caller used to dial in. DDI (or DID) numbers are very inexpensive and assigning a different number for functions such as sales, service or accounts can immediately identify the type of call, whoever is dialling. DDI’s can also be assigned to advertising or marketing campaigns too which facilitates the assessment of leads generated. Sounds obvious doesn’t it but it’s rarely used.
Now we come to the obvious idea which is to get the caller to route their own call, or the infamous IVR or Auto-attendant. I remember these being first launched and they rightly have an infamy beyond belief but in truth if they are set up correctly (BIG IF I know…) they can be very useful. We always recommend finding someone enthusiastic and cheerful to record the messages (actually that often means we do it!). Have as few options as possible, definitely no more than two layers and always always always offer an escape button either to go up a level or to go to reception. Not everyone will use automation so do not force them. That said if the set-up is right, the voice is good and there is an escape button very many will do and this is a good thing.
So now we know who is calling and what they want we can get creative with the destination. Obvious solutions are to group accounts, sales, support and senior management staff together and apply a ring strategy ranging from “every phone rings until answered” through a round robin or “person who has had longest without a call”. Some calls may be considered sufficiently important that the group can overflow to a bigger call group and so on until eventually there are so many handsets ringing it has to be answered. Yet inevitably there will be times when there just isn’t anyone to answer or the least experienced/skilled/appropriate person takes the call. There are simple solutions for this. If there is no one to take the call either, use a voicemail with a suitably worded greeting (we often end up doing these too!) or engage a decent quality Virtual Assistant or call answering service. The former can gather data, send out information, book appointments or process orders which prevents a build-up of these things in a pile of messages, so well worth the investment. Voicemails notoriously get forgotten or are not checked so use the feature in most systems to have an alert or even the recording itself emailed to the user. All the above are fairly commonplace, however, an alternative solution is to score each extension user against a set of skills. For example if it’s telecom technical, solutions advice, problem solving or boating then I’m a 9. If it’s administrative or accounts then a 1 is way too high! Once this exercise is done, it is pretty obvious that a question about invoicing is not well directed in my direction, yet if I am the only person then I will “do”. Skills based routing or weighted routing of calls identifies the required destination or skill then seeks through the extensions with those skills until it finds the person with the highest score who is not already on a call or not logged in. This creates a dynamic response to calls and combined with strategies to identify the nature of the call means I can know that Mr Smith is calling in the sales queue to order kit. Add in one last tweak which is the ability of modern systems to interrogate databases and software packages and I can also know that he actually owes for four previous orders. Now that changes the conversation, possibly also the destination as there is no point in wasting a sales teams time, why not direct the call to credit control?
What I hope I have achieved with the above is open your eyes to what is available with a little attention to detail and some decent hardware or service provision. Your existing system in all probability can do most of these things already (I’ve delivered most of them with some very old systems for years!) but if it cannot or if your current supplier says not (not necessarily the same thing), then get in touch and I will give you an unbiased answer
Contact James Bulman of MSP Phones on 0330 088 3200 or 0330 088 3202. Mobile 074 9575 8345