When you call a large organization, you expect to reach an auto attendant — a virtual receptionist that enables you to choose from simple menus to get to the person, department or information you need. “For sales, press 1; customer service, press 2,” etc. Modern auto-attendant systems can:
- Transfer a call to an extension or to voice mail.
- Play a message to provide further information.
- Go to a sub-menu in a tiered menu configuration.
- Play different greetings based on time of day, day of week, holidays, etc.
- Provide a shortcut to a live attendant, usually by pressing “0.”
- Take action if the caller doesn’t make a selection (usually the same as “0”).
- Repeat the menu choices.
Every call is answered promptly and with professionalism. Callers never reach a busy signal, and they can efficiently self-navigate to get what they’re looking for.
This capability is expected of big businesses, but it’s not just for them. A well-designed auto-attendant capability can make a small business appear bigger and any business to appear busy and more professional. As a virtual front door to your company, it gives callers an important, positive first impression.
Here are some tips to consider to make the most of this auto attendant capability.
Create more departments than you have people.
An auto attendant can be configured for any number of extensions. Calls to those extensions can be routed to different departments or multiple extensions going to one person. For example, if you have five employees, nothing says you can’t create 10 departments as menu choices. Five of those department extensions might be routed to the same employee, but to the caller, that’s immaterial. They get options that specifically address their needs, which lead to greater customer satisfaction and retention. This strategy is a helpful illusion — good marketing and customer relations.
If you have created 10 departments staffed by those five employees, don’t spoil the illusion by giving callers a directory listing of all five employees. Do give them the option to skip the menu tree by dialing the extension, if they know it. Do give them the option of entering the first three letters of an employee’s name to get an extension and be connected. But don’t give away the total employee list.
Create a clean and efficient menu structure.
Customers are drawn to businesses that operate efficiently and appear professional from the first contact. A confusing or cumbersome menu tree will give the impression of a confusing or cumbersome business.
If you want the perception of a bigger business, follow the best practices enterprises use for setting up the menu structure. A well-designed auto-attendant enables callers to get to the destination they want with a minimum of button presses. It should also be easy for callers to go back, correct mistakes, access the main menu again, or connect to a live operator (if available).
Don’t get in the way of the customer experience.
Companies sometimes believe it makes them sound more important if they include a sales pitch in the opening greeting. Don’t do it. There’s a place for promotional messages, but not when it impedes the caller’s experience and delays them in getting the information or connection they’re seeking. If you want to play messages instead of music for callers on hold, consider making them informative or humorous, not just self-promotional.
Use differentiated greetings.
Take advantage of the ability to create multiple recordings for different scenarios. In addition to the standard greeting for normal business hours, you should have custom greetings for after hours, weekends, holidays and special events, and each departmental extension. These recordings can be set to play automatically at designated times or dates.
Include sufficient information to answer callers’ questions about hours, locations and when a response can be expected. A bit of attention to detail here can manage expectations and enhance caller satisfaction.
Consider professional recordings of your messages.
For a big business persona, consider using professional voice talent for studio-quality voice mail greetings, messages on hold and other automated phone messages. A unified voice image gives your company that extra, almost subliminal, aura of professionalism.
There are many ways an auto attendant can add flexibility to managing incoming calls while helping to create the perception that a small business is much larger than it really is. All those calls might be going to one receptionist, but the very act of pressing “1” for Sales and “2” for Service gives the impression of specialized service close at hand from a much larger organization. Let an auto attendant be your 24/7 partner in managing a bigger brand image.
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