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!

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