Always Give the Option Before the Number!

As I approached the elevators to head to my fourteenth floor hotel room recently, I was met with the elevator selector pictured here. Someone on the design team of this elevator company felt 100 percent positive that this selector was designed clearly so I would have no trouble at all in choosing whether I wanted to go up or down. You may think so as well.

But look closely…

If you wanted to go Up, do you push the button that the Up arrow is pointing to? Or the button beside the Up arrow? It kinda looks a little circular to me, and that could get frustrating!

Here’s what this elevator selector has to do with phone systems. Too often, the Auto-Attendant is set up on the fly by whoever is installing the phone system. Sure, the installer has tried to get the business owner or manager to tell him what options to program, and what to say, but the truth is, the business owner is thinking “Phone System” at that point, not “Caller Experience.” See, those are two different parts of the brain!

How many times have you called a phone system that sounds like this: “Thank you for calling XYZ Corp, where we really value your business! If you know your party’s four-digit extension, you may enter it at anytime. Please press 1 for Sales. Please press 2 for Service. Please press 3 for Parts. Please press 4 for Accounting. Please press 5 for Human Resources, or press 0 to reach an operator. Press 9 to repeat this message.”

That’s even hard to write, must less listen to over the phone! And here’s why: When you give the number before the option, I have to hold that number in my head while I listen to the option, and I have to analyze whether or not that’s the option I need. After listening above, I’ve got a total of seven options in my head, and they are all jumbled together. Because I’m not calling to push a number…I’m calling to go to a department.

If you list the department first, followed by the option (“To reach sales, press 13”) the department name, “clicks” with what I’m looking for in my head, making it a very easy choice to press 1. If I don’t need the Sales department, I can simply forget about that option altogether, and move on to the next one.

There’s a time to answer the phones with a live person. And there’s a time to use an Auto-Attendant. (Do you know which one to use when?)

When you decide to use an Auto-Attendant, make sure the options are clear, and easy for your caller to understand—not confusing like our elevator. If you confuse your callers, they won’t know which way is up! (and they will go for the last option they hear by pressing 1″!)

So what does your Auto-Attendant sound like from the caller’s perspective?

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