When you have multiple employees in various departments, you’re probably going to want to give each of those employees their own extension. The extension numbers assigned to employees is not something that a business usually spends very much time considering, but there actually is some method, and even a little science to choosing the right number for each extension.
Whether you decide to use 1, 2, 3, or 4-digit extensions, you can optimize them for memorability and consistency using the techniques described below.
Tips for helping people to remember your extensions.
A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry to determine what types of numbers are the easiest to remember, in which a group of 500 test subjects participated, concluded that there are four categories of numbers that people find easiest to memorize. In order of memorability, the categories are as follows:
1. Single-digit numbers
2. Teen numbers (10-19)
3. Doubled numbers (e.g., 44, 77, 22)
4. Large tabled numbers (numbers which appear in multiplication tables; e.g., 27, 36, 48, 64)
You can use these memorization principles by incorporating them into your extensions. For instance, it’s easy to utilize single-digit numbers, no matter how long the extension is, by adding only zeros to the number, such as “1000”, “2000”, etc.
Adding the zeros after and not before the single digit is preferred because if the extension is “0001”, callers may assume that they don’t have to dial the zeros, which will result in a failed transfer.
3-digit and 4-digit extensions can be derived from the phone number.
A common practice for offices is to take the prefix (first 3 digits of a 7-digit phone number) of an employee’s phone number, and use this as their extension. The idea is that, if the caller already knows the person’s phone number, they can figure out their extension [without a directory]. This would be a great method, if it weren’t for the fact that it assumes the caller knows the phone number.
So even if your 3-digit extensions directly correspond to the prefix of each phone number, you’ll probably still want to provide a directory for your callers. The same can be done using the last 4 digits of the phone number.
Separate the directory from your main greeting.
Depending on how many employees you have, reading through the entire directory of extensions in your recorded greeting can take a lot of time, boring your callers to death and potentially causing them to just hang up, tired of waiting.
A great way to avoid this is to set up a specific menu option on your call menu that will play the directory for callers. That way, you don’t have to go through all the extensions in the general greeting, but if someone needs to hear it, they can press the number of the menu option that you’ve set aside with a directory.
Create a dial-by-name directory.
One of the best ways to organize your extensions is to create a dial-by-name directory. In this method, you simply create a 4-digit extension for each employee that corresponds to the first 4 letters of their last name. Of course, 3 digits may also be used, though 4 digit extensions are generally the standard length.
This is effective because even if the caller does not know their party’s extension, they can figure it out as long as they know the person’s last name. See how to create a dial-by-name directory with Talkroute in this instructional tutorial:
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1. Marisca Milikowski and Jan J. Elshout, “What makes a number easy to remember?,” University of Amsterdam, British Journal of Psychology, http://www.rekencentrale.nl/bestanden/Andere_artikelen_MM/1995_1999/pdf_files/What_makes_a_number_easy.pdf