A growing business like yours needs to control operating costs and increase efficiencies, and one of the best ways to do this is to automate your business phone systems. But doing so can be a risky move, as it can pit you a tug of war between cost savings and increasing convenience for your customers.
When considering solutions to automate your business phone system, you don't want to make a decision that might be at the expense of your customers' patience. Being caught in phone-tree-purgatory is not something you want your customers to associate with doing business with you.
Luckily, there are many great phone automation alternatives that will help you save money on business communications while giving your customers a great experience when seeking information from you. Consider these five cost-saving ways to automate your business phone system:
1. Outbound Communications
Outbound communications hosted through an IVR (interactive voice response) system can be implemented with no expensive equipment. Such systems can deliver hundreds -- or even thousands -- of messages in minute, which frees up your staff's time to attend to more complex and mission-critical tasks. Outbound communications are an efficient way to deliver automated appointment and payment reminders, product delivery status notifications, emergency alerts, and more.
Through most web-based phone service providers, you need no additional hardware, software, or phone lines. Through your customer web portal, you're able to designate one message to all recipients, or merge personalized messages to be delivered to individual customers at a time that you designate.
2. Answering Rules
Use the answering rules feature of your phone system to give each person or department in your company unique business hours. Based on the day or hours of operations, you can customize how each call is routed and offer custom greetings during specific date ranges, in case staff are out on vacation, traveling, attending special events, or can be reached elsewhere. You can also set rules to route calls based on caller ID information to any given phone number. This will help ensure that you're not missing any important calls after close of business.
3. Dial-by-Name Directory
We're all familiar with the dial-by-name directory. When you're an inbound caller, the welcome greeting suggests you "Press 9 for the company directory." When the caller presses that extension number, the directory automatically asks the caller to enter the first few letters of a person's first or last name. Alternatively, this could be used for a department as well. The automated directory may then read the name of the person or department and connect the call to the extension.
If you opt to use a cloud-based VoIP phone system, the setup of such automation is typically done through an online portal. You can create a number of extensions and assign them to certain individuals or to a department's main desk. A caller will hear that name read to them via the auto-attendant's computer-generated voice. You can quickly add, remove, or change the name of any extension to be applied to your phone system in real-time, allowing you to move at the speed of business and make quick changes as needed.
4. Phone Menu
When set up correctly, a phone menu can act as your receptionist, helping to vet incoming calls and direct them to the proper departments, provide information without needing human intervention, and update callers on certain statuses, such as weather cancellations or service disruptions.
When a user calls, they're greeted with a list of choices (one of which might be the dial-by-name directory suggested above). For example, "For hours and locations, press 1". The user enters a choice on the telephone keypad, and the next list of choices or information is read. The key to making a phone menu successful is to provide your customers with a quick and direct way to get the information they're seeking. If you're always getting calls that request you recite directions, you may make this option one of the first offered through the recorded message, rather than routing them to your front desk.
5. Communication Options
One of the greatest ways to automate your phone system for the benefit of your customers is to offer them an alternative to voice communications. More and more small businesses are using SMS or text messages to communicate with customers, setting up email reminders and employing self-service utilities on their website.
There are many ways you can consider the benefits and cost savings of automating your business phone system:
- Save on staff time and wages for outbound notifications, or pay much less per call than a reminder sent by postcard or letter.
- You can go without employing a full-time or in-house receptionist to handle an abundance of inbound queries.
- Keep your IT staff from having to spend time and resources wiring up expensive and complicated hardware or separate phone lines.
- No lost business due to not having the proper systems set up to provide answers quickly to frequently asked questions.
Most importantly, you should discuss and document your goals of setting up your telephone automation before you start implementing any of these options. Consider input from your front desk or administrative staff, department heads, and customers. You may even do a little research into what your competitors have in place, or consider speaking with a consultant who has worked with small business owners to optimize phone automation systems.
Click here to compare options from top vendors on automating your business phone system.
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