Archive for the ‘“Hold It!”’ Category

Effective Auto-Attendant use

One way to make effective use of both a live answer, and an auto-attendant system, is to use the Auto-Attendant as a backup. Rather than letting the phone ring when your normal receptionist is busy, hoping that someone else will pick up the phone, direct it to your Auto-Attendant. The really beautiful thing is that most phone systems include a basic Auto-Attendant in them, so it’s simply a matter of turning it on or setting it up.

Here’s a significant advantage: your receptionist knows how to direct callers efficiently to the correct places. If that person is busy, and you allow the phone to ring to whomever might answer, not only will you take someone off-task, but that person isn’t used to answering the phone. The greeting that person uses, and her familiarity (or lack of) with routing calls could provide a negative caller experience.

Using an Auto-Attendant as a backup, you get the advantage of a live person answering the phone, while still covering that person when call volume is too much for her to handle, or she is simply tied up with another caller.

Using the Auto-Attendant also gives you the opportunity to highlight a special or promotion that the customer may not have known about. Pizza shops use this opportunity quite a bit to play their weekly special to callers BEFORE they answer the phone live to take their order. Those pizza shops that take advantage of this tool experience a tremendous uplift in advertised items, like extra garlic bread, drinks, and desserts.

What to say when you do answer (Part 2)

Ask how you may direct the person’s call, unless you can answer his or her questions

One thing a lot of companies do that frustrates callers is 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 than not, when we hear that question, all the person is really authorized to do is transfer your call to someone else who does in fact have the ability to find you in her 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 answering your question, but she very likely will be a big help in getting you to the right person. The more obscure your question, the more you need this person’s help and knowledge of the inner workings of the company in order to transfer you to the right person. “How may I help you?”, if spoken by someone who really just wants to transfer the call, will cause customer frustration!

So pay attention to these minor word differences when crafting your phone answering script…they can make a big impact on the service you deliver over the phone.


Keep a Notepad Handy

Always keep a notepad and pen handy near your phone. When you use it every call, you’ll begin capturing really important information. Start with the name of the caller as soon as he gives it. This way you can use it during the conversation. Use it to refer back to the call, or when transferring the call to someone else.

If you use a flip-notebook, you’ll easily be able to go back and find a name, phone number, or detail that you need later.

One of the things that is really neat about Click and Clack, the Car Talk Guys, is that they use the caller’s name quite a bit, and they deal with a tremendous amount of information on each call! They don’t just remember all that stuff…they’re writing it down as the call happens!

Start doing that yourself and you’ll sound like a hero to your callers!

What to say when you do answer (Part 1)

Don’t say your entire sales spiel.

A long greeting causes your caller to be uncomfortable, unsure whether you’re quite finished, and even interrupt you before you finish! This situation makes the initial interaction an awkward one.

Remember the plumbing company from Chapter 2? When it’s time to decide how to answer your phone, it can serve as an example for good…and for bad. You should have scripts for your front line people. How they answer the phone is critical to how people perceive your business, so 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.” This greeting confirms for the caller that he reached the right company (you’d be surprised how many people dial the wrong number!), and it gives your name as an invitation for the caller to use it to springboard into the conversation. You have now become the “voice” of the company. And with that power comes a responsibility to provide a great customer experience.

Answering the Call

Be Genuine

When you answer with genuineness, you make a quick human connection with the caller. This connection will make the caller feel more comfortable, especially if he is unsure of whom he needs to talk to, or what he should ask for.

Being genuine means concentrating on the present. What’s important right now? Answering the phone…connecting with your caller. Make that personal connection.


Connect with Interest

Because the caller can’t see you, it’s even more important to convey the cues to him that you are glad he called, and you are ready to help him.

Answer with a question mark at the end of your greeting…your voice going up slightly at the end…inviting the caller to say the next thing. You can do that whether you say, “Hello?”, “How may I help you?”, or you answer with your name, as in “This is Chester?” We’re going to look at how to choose what you say when you answer the phone in the next section. Just remember that you want to invite the caller to participate with you in the conversation. Make him or her feel welcome.

Answer with a Smile

The best way to convey cheerfulness on the phone is to be excited about answering it! When I was a kid, every phone call was an event. My sister and I raced each other to the nearest phone, knocking down tables, leaping over toys, and diving or sometimes sliding around the corner…arms reaching to grab the phone. And yet, as out of breath as we may have been, we would somehow be able to control the breathing, control the excitement of getting there first, and answer the phone with a clear “Hello?”…and a solid question mark on the end of the word.

Even when you don’t feel especially happy, it’s hard NOT to improve your mood by simply lifting up the corners of your mouth. Go ahead…try it now! Now with a great big smile on your face, try to be angry! Go ahead; I dare you! The reason smiling works is because the human body associates physical responses with associated emotion. So when you smile, it automatically lifts your emotions, in turn making you happier!

Remember this…happiness is frequently a choice. So make up your mind to be happy…BEFORE you pick up the phone…even if it’s for the ninety-eighth time today!

Stop Talking and Start Answering

Time and again I’ve called a company…a professional business, mind you, and the person on the other end picks up the phone, but she hasn’t fully finished the conversation she was already having! Does she think I can’t hear her? Does she think the phone only starts working AFTER she has said, “Hello”?

If you’re in a conversation with someone, but you need to answer the phone, simply stop talking, quickly excuse yourself from the conversation, and answer the phone!

When I hear bits and pieces of your conversation as you pick up the phone, it makes me, the caller, feel less important. It amplifies that I’m barging in on whatever you were doing. And sometimes, it reaches the level where I don’t know whether you’re talking to me or the other person!

So stop your previous conversation before you answer my call!

Who Should Be Answering Your Phone?

Have you made the decision to use an auto-attendant? What went into that decision? Your company needs an edge, and how your phone is answered is a critical place to start.

Consider this real-life example: A company I recently worked with had a “live answer only” policy, thinking it was pleasing its callers. But with four salespeople answering calls, callers had only a 25 percent chance of their specific salesperson answering the call. If the salesperson the caller wants to talk to does not answer the phone, it means the customer may experience hold time, transferring, and maybe even voicemail hell! Without a dedicated receptionist, a caller’s experience will be different every time. And that’s a difficult environment for making your company stand out!

Here’s where you gain an edge. This environment is perfect for implementing an auto-attendant solution. But give your callers control over where they go. Offer your salespeople’s extensions right up front, so callers can reach them by name, extension, or option. This offering gives callers a precision experience because they reach exactly the right person 100 percent of the time.

A second benefit to your company is eliminating interruptions and distractions for your employees. Pugh Research says that every time a call takes your employee off task, it takes up to ten minutes for him to recover. Once the employee no longer has to handle calls for co-workers, he will stay much more focused on the task at hand.

Your competition has made a knee-jerk reaction to how its phone is answered. Now you can get a step ahead by extending your superior showroom experience over the phone to your valuable callers.

Rock your customer’s world while controlling the interruptions for your staff!

Live or auto-attendant? Evaluate your inside environment to make that decision with confidence.

What is Audio Branding?

The Audio Branding Academy defines Audio Branding this way:

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.

This Audio Branding needs to be designed for any space where your customer hears from you.

When your customer walks into your business, what music does he or she hear? What sounds in general? Are those sounds consistent with your business’ image?

When customers call your business, what do they hear? Is your phone system’s recorded voice the same voice throughout? Or is it the voice of the receptionist who used to work for you, but has been gone for a year?

When that caller is On-Hold…can he still identify that it’s the same company?

Margarita Bochmann, from Audi AG puts it this way:

 “Concerning the effect on the emotional level and the communication of the brand image, sound is more efficient than visual elements. By using acoustic touch points 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.”


Hold the Cheese!

Once upon a time, 6 or 7 years ago, a friend of mine planted a thought in my head.

We were driving a golf cart around some property he had recently purchased in the hill country outside Austin, Texas.

“You should write a book” he said.

“A book? What would I write about?” I replied.

“Write what you know. People are interested in what you have to say about subjects you are passionate about. Just write what’s in your head!” he answered.

That idea bombed around in my head for the next several years, but I just couldn’t seem to find the time to sit down and write a book.

Then I had the opportunity to be at Michael Drew’s workshop called Bookpublishing 2.0. I felt like I was the only one in the room who wasn’t planning on writing a book!

But through that workshop, I was shown a method for writing that opened my eyes to a vision of writing the book that was in me.

But I still wasn’t a “writer”, was I? Next I met Stephen Palmer, who showed me that we are all artists, we just need to learn how to stop stuffing the inner artist into a dark corner.

After a year of intensely working on bringing this book to life, I’m proud to say that it’s available today!

Thanks to everyone who had a part in making this happen! I’ve learned some great stuff, met some terrific people, and had some wonderful experiences along the way. Arooo! Aroo-Aroo!

10 Rules of Auto-Attendants (Part 10)

Here we are at the final post in this series of “10 Rules of Aut0-Attendants”…

But just because this is the last rule, doesn’t mean there aren’t others. If you’ll listen, you’ll probably come up with some more additions on your own. If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

This rule applies almost more to On-Hold messages than to Auto-Attendants. Both of these areas of phone messaging need to focused, concise, and clear.

Without further ado…Melanie Polkosky’s 10th Rule of Auto-Attendant design(From “The Hooptedoodle of Phone“):

10. Try to leave out the part that users tend to ignore: Think of what you ignore when you’re talking on the phone: long, extended stories that meander around, spiraling off into subplots and minor characters, taking up your precious time. What the speaker is doing is perpetrating a monologue where a dialogue was supposed to exist. I’ll bet your mind wanders through most of it.
And, like Leonard, my most important rule sums up the 10: If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

If users will ignore it, there is no sense in having it in there. You just need to determine which parts they will ignore!

It’s easy really…callers ignore what isn’t relevant or helpful to their goal.

Sometimes businesses want to fill up the messaging with things that the business cares about, rather than what the caller cares about.

If your messaging doesn’t pass the “so what?” test, you probably need to have it re-written.

If it sounds like every other company out there, it probably needs to be rewritten.

Try delighting your callers instead!

It’s been fun sharing these 10 points with you. Many thanks to Melanie Polkosky.

If you want to learn more about your Caller Experience, visit


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