It’s tough to know what your customers are thinking, which is basically the whole reason that marketing strategy exists, but you can be sure of a few things. People don’t like to wait, they don’t like to go through any extra hassles, and they want things to work the way they’re supposed to.
Those are the core issues behind these 5 points that you’ll see here, as it applies to your business’ phone system. You might not know exactly what every person who calls your business is thinking, but these 5 grievances are things that you can easily address to make your calling customers happy.
1. Long Wait Times
Callers might have to wait on hold; that may be unavoidable. But you should limit that wait time to the best of your ability and manage their anxiety while they hold. One thing you can do to solve this problem is to make it policy that a representative will always answer within 15 seconds, or 30 seconds (as quickly as is practical for you)–whatever you designate as an acceptable amount of time.
Even if you have to transfer them to a voice mailbox, just hearing a live person pick up the phone and speak to them goes a long way to keep the caller generally satisfied and amiable. Callers are very likely to hang up if they have to wait for more than a couple of minutes because people have less patience for it than they used to, generally speaking.
A fact you have to come to grips with is that there’s a lot of pressure on small businesses to provide very fast customer service as this area is becoming more competitive. Customers are getting used to their call or inquiry through other channels being answered quickly.
When your callers do have to hold, it’s important that there is music or some kind of message to fill the silence because the first priority for holding callers is that you manage their anxiety to prevent them from hanging up due to frustration.
2. Hanging Up On the Caller
Obviously, you’re not going to hang up on your customers intentionally, but it unfortunately does happen from time to time. This mainly happens when staff members make a mistake. You might not even realize that it’s happening because the last thing an employee wants to do is to admit that they accidentally hung up on a customer.
This kind of human error is not necessarily their fault because chances are, they don’t fully understand how to work the system. Don’t start going around accusing everyone on your team, but realize that it’s possible there are key functions of your phone system that employees are using incorrectly.
So, most of the time, a caller will be accidentally disconnected due to a transfer error; this occurs all the time when employees fail to transfer the call incorrectly. It’s a helpful practice to check in with everyone periodically to make sure they know exactly how to transfer a call successfully.
Another way callers can be unintentionally disconnected is when, depending on what type of system you’re using, staff can put someone on hold and then forget about them, causing the system to hang up on them after a certain time without any input.
3. The Call Menu Doesn’t Have the Option They Need
A call menu, or auto attendant, is great to have, but it has to work and be useful to the caller if you decide to use one. While the alternative is to opt out of using a call menu and pick up every call, that’s of course not always viable for your business, especially if you have a very high volume of calls.
The key here, if you’re using a call menu, is to be careful to add menu options to the auto attendant that address as many needs as you can think of for your calling customers. Even though you probably can’t think of everything, you can hit most of the bases.
Callers get pretty frustrated when they don’t hear a menu option that matches up with the reason for which they are calling. We all know that frustration. You call a business to resolve something or get a specific question answered, only to find that no option on the menu has anything to do with the reason you called.
This is why you should have an option the caller can select to reach an “operator”, or otherwise, an option they can select to reach a general voice mailbox.
4. Dead Ends
Do you have dead ends in your phone system? It’s a question you need to have the answer to because when a customer calls you and reaches a dead end, you may have lost that customer. Basically, if a customer calls after your business hours, or if all of your lines are occupied and it just rings and rings, then that’s a dead end for them.
Some systems even just hang up on the caller after a certain number of rings, which, if you have one of those systems, you have to resolve with your service provider to make sure it doesn’t happen. The main problem with this is that people don’t know what to do when this happens because they don’t hear any instructions for what to do in that event. If that occurs with a new customer, they’ll most likely just go to the next listing in their Google search.
Furthermore, it’s imperative that your callers never hear a busy signal, an endless ringing tone, or silence on the line for any reason. If you’re unavailable, just make sure that they can at least leave a voicemail.
5. No Voicemail
Given how useful it is for callers, as well as for you, it’s surprising how many businesses don’t have voice mailboxes set up for people who can’t reach a representative, directly. Put yourself in the caller’s shoes. How many times have you called a company when they were closed, and after it stopped ringing, the line either went silent or disconnected completely?
It happens quite a lot. It’s a cautionary example that tells you this should never happen with your phone system. The worst part is that, unless you at least have a record of the call, there’s no message to let you know that the customer even called; so you could be losing sales without ever knowing it.
Whether your business is open or closed, callers should always get some kind of feedback, 24/7. Most small businesses can’t be available to receive calls every hour of the day (24-hour support is expensive, after all), which is why voicemail is such a great asset. Voicemail can save sales that would have otherwise been lost.
It’s a misconception that people hate voicemail; though it’s not ideal, most callers will be fine with leaving a voicemail as long as someone returns their call in a timely manner. People understand that businesses probably won’t staff their phones 24 hours a day, but they do expect that you return their call the next day, so that’s an important practice to observe.
Finally, make sure that any extensions on your system have a voice mailbox set up, even if all extensions are linked to the same mailbox, so that whenever a caller selects an option from your menu or calls after hours, they don’t get sent to an infinite ringing tone.
People who call your business will undoubtedly have many grievances, many of which might be completely impractical, but if you address these 5 concerns, you can resolve the majority of complaints callers normally have with phone systems.
Ultimately, it’s fairly simple. Set up your system so that no caller is ever hung up on, hears a busy signal, or can’t leave a voicemail for you, and they’re generally going to be satisfied. They may not be overjoyed if they can’t speak to someone right away, but they usually understand that a live person isn’t always available at all hours of the day. People just expect some level of courtesy and want to know that you respect their time.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.