Answering services, message machines, voice mail, "on hold" music, speaker phones . . . where would a business be without them? Perhaps--in some situations--a lot better off! In the small to mid-sized business, where every call should count, owners and managers need to ensure that the telephone is an efficient, effective sales tool instead of a handicap. It's important to remember that the caller's first impression of your company is from the voice answering the phone. That first minute or less will help form the caller's lasting opinion of your business, so why not take the opportunity to make that opinion the best possible? Here are a few ideas for improving the way your business says hello.
Give your office a call--just don't let them know it's you. Have someone whose voice your employees won't recognize place the call, with you standing by waiting to listen. This may sound like cloak-and-dagger tactics, but it's one that successful managers use to monitor the quality of their telephone service. What to listen for:
Conduct a "test" of your answering service similarly to the above; however, you'll be listening here for that extra level of care an answering service should take in personalizing its service. Be sure the following standards are met:
If you aren't satisfied, take the time to educate your answering service about your standards and expectations. If the service can't--or won't--comply with your request, engage another organization to do the job.
When was the last time you listened to your own company's answering machine? When you do, turn a careful ear to the following checkpoints:
Does your company have automated voice mail? Speaker phones? Conference-call capability? All well and good in this era when communication is king. Just keep in mind the advantages of the "live" human voice--when you make a call, business or personal, isn't this what you prefer to hear? Although the person in your business who answers the phone may well be your lowest-paid employee, remember that this human voice is vital to the image of your company.
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