You only get one opportunity to make a first impression. It’s a very old saying but it has stuck around for a really good reason – it’s true! First impressions really do matter, and when it comes to the telephone, that impression is controlled by the first person that answers your calls.
Think about the last time you called a company and got the impression that the person who picked up didn’t have a clue. Didn’t it undermine your confidence in that company’s ability to handle your business? Did it even influence you to make a subsequent call to one of their competitors? Are you absolutely sure that the same thing never happens when someone calls your company?
Depending on the size of your company, more than one person may fill the traditional role of “receptionist”. It could also be an administrative assistant, a customer service representative, or simply the first person in your organization that is available to handle a call.
The key to creating the right impression about your company is to have written processes and information incorporated into your live receptionist services. Everyone who will be greeting callers needs to be clear on the following:
Everyone should be consistent. Ideally, your answer phrase should contain a question to help direct the call. Make the question fit what callers inquire about most often. For example “Thank you for calling ABC Company. Are you responding to our ad?” Other appropriate questions might be “Are you calling for service?” or “Are you calling to place an order?”
The single most important impression that you want to project to callers is “I want to help you.” Be careful about the tone you use, not just what you say. We have all had the experience of talking with someone whose tone made it perfectly clear that we were an inconvenience and they weren’t really committed to following through on any promises.
When a caller asks “What does your company do?” everyone should use the same description. Please don’t try to be impressive by creating a complicated description filled with technical terms and industry buzz words. The simpler the description the better. It should be no longer than 2-3 sentences and it should be so simple a fifth grader would clearly understand what you do.
Everyone who answers your calls should have basic company information like your mailing and shipping address, fax number(s), website address, directions to your office, general department e-mail addresses, etc. I know this sounds obvious, but how often have you asked this question when you have made a call only to be bounced around between extensions, and if you are really unlucky, sent into voice mail?
How are you going to ensure that new sales leads, complaints and emergencies don’t wind up in voice mail? Everyone needs a consistent process for screening and routing calls. They may also need special handling instructions for key accounts.
Lunches, Staff Meetings, Heavy Volume & After-Hours
You are going to have times when staff members are unavailable to cover calls, times when your call volume is unusually heavy and times when calls come in outside of your normal office hours. You need to document how you expect these situations to be handled in advance. Will calls be rolled over to other departments, to another location or to an outside call center? How will those parties be notified? How will you make sure that they follow the same procedures you do?
Every system requires accountability if you want to ensure consistent quality. You need to set expectations about how quickly calls should be answered (within how many rings) and the maximum acceptable hold time for callers.
If at all possible, you want to monitor things like the number of calls that were abandoned (callers that hung up before they spoke with someone “live”) and your average hold times. Your employees also need to know that you are regularly monitoring and grading a specific number of their calls each month. If your phone system does not have this capability, another option is to have someone make “mystery shopping” calls.
These live receptionist services techniques will help you to ensure that your clients know they are valuable to you. You can improve both your sales and your customer satisfaction.
What changes could you make to positively impact your caller’s first impressions?
This blog was written by Laurie Leonard, the President of SUITE 1000, a U.S. based national telephone answering service, inbound call center and outsourced call center service. Her company has specialized in handling legal intake, sales leads, email lead response, appointment scheduling, customer service and help desk calls for over 20 years.