Archive for January, 2011

Use a consistent sound brand throughout your business

Have you ever seen a brand book? If you haven’t, you may not realize how much thought, detail, and specifics go into deciding how a brand image looks, how it’s used, and the proper ways to display it. If you’d like a really fun few minutes, take a look at Skype’s Brand Book. Go ahead…I’ll still be here when you get back.

Pretty cool wasn’t it? I mean, they have a really fun approach that doesn’t feel like some dictator yelling at you for even *thinking* about doing something wrong.

But did you notice something? That brand book is 93 pages long. Yes…93 PAGES! Just to show you how to use the Skype logo!

Have you considered your AUDIO brand? How people experience the sounds your company produces is just as important as your visual brand elements.

What is Audio Branding?

Audio Branding describes the process of brand development and brand management by use of acoustic elements within the framework of brand communication. It is part of multi-sensory brand communication and holistic corporate design. Audio branding aims at building solidly a brand sound that represents the identity and values of a brand in a distinctive manner. The audio logo, brand music or the brand voice are characteristic elements of audio branding. (from the Audio Branding Academy)

This Audio Branding needs to be designed for any space where your customer can experience your company, it’s products or services.

  • When they walk into your business, what music do they hear? What sounds in general? Is it consistent with your business image?
  • When they call your business, what do they hear? Does your Auto-Attendant use the same voice throughout? Or is the voice of the receptionist that used to work for you but has been gone for a year?
  • When that caller is On-Hold…can they still identify that it’s the same company?

Designing and implementing an “Audio Brand” is a critical piece of your overall Customer Experience.


“Concerning the effect on the emotional level and the communication of the brand image, sound is more efficient than visual elements. By using acoustic touchpoints like music on-hold, phone mailboxes, and the company’s website, it is also possible for small and medium sized companies to do audio branding in a reasonable way.” Margarita Bochmann – Audi AG

Bob McCurdy created a very compelling presentation called the Power of Sound. ( In it, Julian Treasure, author of “Sound Business”, says:

“Sight and hearing must be considered the twin major senses for two reasons. First, they can both carry specific messages: we can say exactly what we want in either vision or sound. Second, sight and hearing can both be broadcast, and they are therefore the only two mass communication senses. So far, nobody has found a way of broadcasting smells or tastes.”

In 1999, (I know, the dark ages, right?) three scientists got together to study the effect of sound influencing product sales. Over a two week period, French and German music was played on alternate days from an in-store display of French and German wines. French music led to French wines outselling German ones, whereas German music led to the opposite effect on sales.
Obviously, sound plays a critical role in the emotional connection a customer makes to your product or company.

Sound is Engineered

Did you know that Mercedes employs 12 engineers who are dedicated to fine-tuning the sound of opening and closing doors? Mercedes takes their sound seriously!

The sound a Pringles potato chip can makes when opened is engineered to make you associate the product with freshness.

“Sonic branding is about getting something that sticks in someone’s head and is not going away, even if you’re not watching or not paying attention, you hear that sound and you know it.” Alex Moulton, Creative Director at Expansion Team

Brands you know by sound

How many of these brands can you identify by their signature sound?

Signature Sound #1

Signature Sound #2

Signature Sound #3

Signature Sound #4

Signature Sound #5

Signature Sound #6

Signature Sound #7

(See the logos while you play the signature sounds.)

Audio Branding is about much more then simply having your secretary voice the new Auto-Attendant greeting Audio Branding is as important to your customer as your visual brand. How important is it to you?

Please listen carefully as your customers have changed

I didn’t write most of the headline. Credit for that goes to David Myron in his Editor’s Letter of Speech Technology Magazine. (I’m hoping he won’t mind me tweaking it here to suit my purposes).

Have you noticed? Your customers have changed. What used to work so well to connect with customers 5-10 years ago is no longer effective. If you really want to know what’s going on, watch Michael Drew present the 40 Year Pendulum presentation at TedX Calgary.

So what does this have to do with phone systems?

Your customer’s expectations have changed from wondering what you can tell them, to demanding you give them the information they need this instant. Social media, cell phones, text messaging, push email, and IM have all increased the speed at which we consume information. This leads to less patience, and more knowledge. Customers no longer care what you think, and how you want to present it.

Instead, they are asking: Why should I care?

Caller’s are quick to tune out, and one of the most frustrating phrases you can tell them is: Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed.

“Really?” says your customer, “I’ve heard that everytime I’ve called, and frankly, you’re wasting my time.”

Melanie Polkosky, Ph.D, a social-cognitive psychologist and speech language pathologist, has this to say about the oft-heard phrase:

Never open with platitudes: It only signals antagonism for the listener to utter something as trite as, Please listen carefully as our options have changed. The listener is more apt to roll his eyes in exasperation and stop listening altogether. It creates atmosphere for your interaction, no more positive than a book that begins, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Well said Melanie, well said.

Is your phone system making this same mistake? We can help evaluate your Caller Experience. Go ahead…you may be surprised at what your callers are putting up with!

Please choose from the following 6 options…

When designing the options for your IVR or Auto-Attendant, make sure they match your customer’s expectations. Presenting a caller with a few clear, concise options will allow them to navigate through your system quickly, with out wasting time waiting to hear options they are not interested in. 
Limiting yourself to only a few options will likely take some extra thought on your part to make sure you are expressing the options in a way that callers are looking for them.

My experience with a system recently was along this line. I was trying to reach the TurboTorch division of Thermadyne, a large holding company, for tech support on a torch. I found their number on the Support section of their website, which lists 8 divisions of the company. However, the Auto-Attendant only listed 6 options! (Two of which sounded VERY similar) And worst of all, the one company I wanted wasn’t even listed. Now, what was I to do? I stabbed option 1, and got lucky that they combined the tech support for the company I was looking for there as well!

So, what could they have done to make this more Caller Friendly? If in fact the two support options were combined, go ahead and express that in the greeting. Instead of saying “For Victor, press 1”, they could have easily created “for Victor and TurboTorch, press 1”. Then I would have known which option to choose. In their case, they had the choice to include TurboTorch as a 7th option, combine it with the first option, or leave it out all together. Unfortunately, they chose the last option. With a little more thought, they could have not only kept their options short and concise, they could have saved me the frustration of having to call back a couple times to guess the right option!

Repeat the options, with a prompt

When you have reached the end of your options, allow them to repeat, but let the caller know that is what is happening. You can give them the choice to repeat (“To repeat these options, press *”), or you can automatically repeat them (stay on the line to hear these options repeat). Sometimes people do need to hear the options again, and to simply send them to an operator won’t serve them, or your business the most effectively. No matter what, don’t EVER simply disconnect the call after the options are played! That is a great way to make people never call you back!

Let callers know the number of options up front.

Another way to manage your caller’s expectations is to let them know at the very beginning, how many options you will give them. That would sound like: “please select from the following 6 options”. This allows callers to know how long they’ll have to listen, and how many choices they need to keep in their head before they choose a selection.

Should you answer that ringing phone?

How to decide who to help

How many times has this happened to you: Your front door opens, and in walks a new customer. At the same moment, the phone begins to ring. In a lot of small businesses, answering the phone, and helping that customer, fall to the same person. Do you let the phone ring? Or do you hold up your hand to the customer, in the unspoken language of “wait”, and answer the phone? Which is most important?

Making both feel important

Both. That’s right…both, and it’s your job to make both FEEL important. So how do you do that. First of all, have a backup plan for you phones. It doesn’t matter if it’s a customer walking in the door, or one more line ringing that you can’t answer, you need to have a backup plan for your phones. Tip: A busy signal isn’t a backup plan! If you’ve chosen to live answer every call…if that’s your effort, and you’ve determined that is the best approach, it still will be a good idea to have a well-designed Auto-Attendant as a backup plan. At some point you WILL need it.

The easiest thing is to let the phone ring to your backup plan, and help the customer. They can see your actions, the caller can’t. The caller doesn’t know if you are deferring them or not. The customer does. So help the customer. Let the call go to your backup plan.

That doesn’t just mean letting the call go to your normal voicemail that says “sorry, we’re closed”. If you’re Auto-Attendant is a backup for a primary live answer, you can design it to help the customer. Here are some tips to include in the greeting:

  • Let them know your staff is busy.
  • Give them options to reach people or departments for which they may be calling. You may not need to handle their call at all!
  • Provide a voicemail option if they really would rather leave a message. But give them some kind of promised follow-up time from their message. (“We promise to call you back in the next 2 hours”)
  • Ask them to hold (and if your system supports it, give them the option to wait in queue)

On this one, if your phone system doesn’t support a caller waiting in queue, you could answer the phone, and ask them to hold. But make sure you wait for the answer! They may just need to transfer to another person, and you can quickly handle that for them, without neglecting the customer. It really is a juggling act!

How to be confident of your backup plan

Test your backup plan. Make sure that if you’re on the phone, calls will be handled properly. Nothing worse than “thinking” it worked, when it really didn’t. Or it sounded poor. Or it didn’t provide the options you thought it did. Test your backup plan. It’s not a “plan” unless it’s been tested!

Welcome a new On-Hold messaging client!

We are very excited to be transforming the caller experience for Truslow Yost Insurance in Orange, Virginia with a new Custom On-Hold message, and Auto Attendant design! Truslow Yost Insurance is an independent business and personal insurance agency in Central Virginia.

Greg Truslowhas expertise in the resolution of problems. His goal is to use his experience to define your insurance needs, develop innovative solutions to provide you with the superior protection you require and to do so at the lowest possible cost. Greg values the relationships he has with his clients and works hard to maintain a reputation of fairness, trust and honesty within the community.

Truslow Yost Insurance recognized a need to be able to talk to customers about the many types of insurance they offer. They write insurance for all types of business risk, from general liability to worker’s compensation, key employee insurance and most every risk a business might face, including crop, farm and health insurance. They’re not your typical small-town agency…and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

This On-Hold message works to introduce new areas of the business to callers, to educate potential customers about the agency, and to strengthen the relationship with existing clients.

Prosound has used the customer’s time On-Hold to extend the warm, caring experience of Truslow Yost Insurance to each caller.

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What to say when you answer the phone

What to SayNumber one thing to consider when you are crafting how your phone will be answered: Never…never, don’t ever…require your staff to speak your entire sales spiel, USP, or company mission statement when answering the phone. Don’t do it. Most people know who they’ve called, and they just need confirmation that they’ve reached the right place.

Remember talking about Ben Franklin the Plumber a few weeks ago?

When it’s time to decide how to answer your phone, they can be an example for good…and for bad. You need to have scripts for your front line people. How they answer the phone is critical to how people perceive your business and you don’t want to leave that up to chance. But don’t put your entire sales spiel into that script…no matter how tempting that may be! Your frontline phone people will be dealing with a large number of calls, and it is more customer-friendly to limit the greeting. Sure, if you’ve got some major promotion that will affect a lot of people, then let them know. But keep it brief…no more than a few words.

Confirm the company name, and provide your first name

Here’s an example: “Charter Insurance, this is Julie”. (apologies to any Julies that work at any company named Charter Insurance!) This confirms that they reached the right company (you’d be surprised!) and gives your name as an invitation to use it to springboard into their conversation. You have now become the “voice” of the company. And with that power comes a responsibility to provide a great customer experience

Ask how you may direct their call, unless you can answer their question

This is one thing that a lot of companies do that frustrates callers: asking “how may I help you?” when really what they mean is “how may I direct your call?”. Those greetings give two entirely different meanings to the caller. The first says: “I’ve reached someone who can bridge between myself and this company, probably looking into any records the company has about me or my purchase, and can probably make a decision regarding my concern.” If that’s truly the case with whomever answers the phone at your business, then including “how may I help you?” in your script is great. However, more often then not we hear that, when really all the person is authorized to do is transfer your call to someone else who does in fact have the ability to find you in their computer. Do you see the difference?

When you hear someone answer with “How may I direct your call?” you instantly know that this person won’t be the one helping you solve your problem, or answer your question, but they very likely will be a big help in getting you to the right person. The more obscure your question, the more you need their help and knowledge of the inner workings of the company in order to transfer you to the right person.

The first greeting, if spoken by someone who really just wants to transfer you will cause customer frustration. After taking the time to explain the details of their situation, the receptionist says “please hold while I transfer you to Customer Service” where you get to start your story all over again! Heaven forbid you were transferred to the wrong place, or that Customer Service isn’t the right place for you to be! So pay attention to these minor word differences…they can make a big impact on the service you deliver over the phone.

Please leave a message…Voicemail etiquette for your outgoing message

Speak Clearly

The greeting you record on your own voicemail box can be critical to how callers connect with you. Number 1 on the list of things to remember is to Speak Clearly. I’ve heard dozens of mumbly greetings, garbled recordings, speaking too fast. This is not a great way to start a relationship! Your greeting should be an invitation for people to connect with you. Speak clearly and distinctly. This doesn’t mean overly slow or robotic, but you want people to be able to understand you.

Use your name

“Hi, leave a message” Hmmm, have I reached the right voicemail? Was that really their voice I heard? I don’t want to leave this message for the wrong person and look like an idiot. Maybe I just won’t leave a message at all. Use your name. It provides confirmation that callers have reached you, and they’re not on some accidental mis-dial adventure that sends them off into Generic Voicemail Land.

Use your voice

Second to using your name, your voice most closely identifies your mailbox. Use it. Record your own greeting. Don’t leave it up to the phone installer, your secretary, or some person you find on the sidewalk. It’s your voicemail, record it in your voice! And customize it beyond the default standard of “You have reached the voicemail of……please leave a message after the tone.”
Think of your voicemail not as a hassle, or a pain, but as a way to multiply your effectiveness. It allows you to be in two places at once. One, answering calls at your desk, and two, out where you want or need to be. So use your voice when you record your voicemail greeting.

Provide another way to reach you

If another way of reaching you is preferred, your want to give people the option, it’s a great way to let people know how to reach you. Leave your email address or cell phone. More than one or two alternate options is probably too many, but it might be easier to reminder people about your email address, than to play phone tag with them only to find out they wanted you to attach a file and email it to them! Remember, 51 percent of people are extroverted and would prefer to pick up the phone and call you, even when an email would be more efficient!

Change it every day

Changing your voicemail daily might sound like a chore right now, but what a difference in makes in the connection you’re able to provide by updating them about your daily plans. Are you in the office today, and temporarily tied up? Are you out of the office all day, and they shouldn’t expect a call back today? Will you be out in the morning, but back in this afternoon? Or are you on permanent vacation? (in which case, maybe voicemail isn’t applicable to you! Send me your secret so I can join you!)
I’ve often appreciated reaching people who have updated their voicemail daily. Most phone system will let you set a one-button speed dial to connect with your voicemail to change the greeting. Very quick and easy. 
One caveat: Don’t forget to change it back after a holiday, vacation, or being away. That’s easily solved if you do it everyday, but if you forget, it’s a little embarrassing that your summer vacation greeting is what callers hear in November!