Are you rolling out a welcome mat and inviting callers into your organization? These 3 things if considered before designing your caller experience can help you create an amazing interaction with your phone solution so people will actually enjoy being on the phone.

1. Should a person or a recording be the first thing a caller hears?

“We want our phones to just ring whenever someone calls, we don’t like a computer answer our phone calls.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. I encourage everyone I talk with to reconsider their thinking on this for a few reasons. I respect what they are trying to do in getting their callers quickly connected to a real person but what they’re asking for is not akways creating the best experience for the CALLER. For example, if a system is setup simply as they suggest what a caller will experience is after they dial a number they will possibly hear ringing generated by the phone network then as your phone system answers the call it will generate it’s own ringing (which may sound different from the first ringing) until someone answers the phone. At this point the caller is not even sure they dialed the correct number! Furthermore, if it takes a minute for someone to answer because they are on the phone the caller has been listening to ringing that whole time which is not very pleasant nor is it a very professional representation of your organization. We’re all trying to avoid the dreaded abyss of the “never ending phone menus” that we’ve all experienced when calling for service to some faceless organization who didn’t read this blog post! I would suggest that at a minimum callers be answered immediately by a message that let’s them know that they’ve reached the correct organization and that someone will be right with them. Now the caller knows they dialed the right number and they’re listening to pleasant music or even informational messaging that you’ve created to intrigue them while they wait. If they have to wait at all.

2. Should I present callers with a menu of options?

Building on the first consideration of how callers should be answered is the question of should I send callers directly to a person or should I give them a menu of options. Well, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer here but here are some things to ask yourself to help you arrive at the best solution for your organization.

You Wouldn’t Make Guests Wait on Your Doorstep – Would You?

Imagine that a friend invited you over to their house. You arrive and ring the bell — but instead of a warm greeting and an invitation to take off your shoes and come inside for a cup of tea and lovely conversation — you were left standing there, listening to a series of strange commands and forced to make a choice before you’ve ever granted access inside.

  • If you would like to come in out of the cold, say “May I come in”.
  • Once you have removed your shoes, say “shoes off”.
  • You’ve indicated you’d like a cup of tea.
    • Say “hot” for hot tea
    • Say “iced” for iced tea.
    • You’ve selected hot.
      • Say “Chai” for Chai
      • Say Grey” for Earl Grey
      • Say “Darjeeling” for Darjeeling…

It would be a little… strange, yes?

Unwelcoming, off-putting, and the opposite of graciousness.  Yet, this is what lots of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) , or phone menu trees as they are commonly called, do every day.

The IVR is meant to “organize” callers and send them on to your staff who are best equipped to deal with the caller’s specific issue or problem.

Would  your callers prefer to start speaking any live person as quickly as possible or would they prefer to make a choice and speak to the right person?

That question may sound biased, however, there isn’t really a right or wrong choice.  I’ve worked with some organizations where everyone wears so many hats that there would be no way to effectively make a menu to help sort callers.  I’ve also called into places waited a few seconds for someone to answer only to realize that the person who answered can’t actually help me, they have to put me on hold and check to see who is available to answer my question and then transfer to them.  Well, I was already on hold before you answered.  Would it have been easier for me to indicate why I’m calling and then ring all the phones of the people who could help me with that type of question?

3. Should a professional voice actor do our recordings?

First of all, let me just say that it is almost impossible to make a recording that sounds as good as a professional voice artist can make. Not only do that have good equipment to make the recording they have something most of us just don’t have and can’t get… a voice that sounds amazing when recorded! On top of that, the cost to engage their services is so much less than most people think it will be, I’ve seen organizations get their recordings made for around $100. Lots of organizations still record any messages they need for their phone system themselves using someone who works there. If you elect to use someone that works in the office and answers calls, it can create an awkward situation for the caller. When they finally get through to a live voice, and are not sure if it is still a recording! Here again, I don’t think it’s automatically a wrong choice to do your own recordings but given how little it costs and how much better of a presentation it is of your organization I think everyone should at least consider it.

In Summary…

A phone system can be a preview for a caller of what working with your organization will feel like.  It could be cold, daunting, and tedious OR it can be a truly friendly voice that *greets* the caller enthusiastically; even gives them that subtle virtual hug.  A good menu can empower a caller and make them feel at ease knowing that they are about to be connected to the perfect person to help them with whatever they are calling about.

Try calling your own organization and imagine yourself as a first time caller or someone who has called many times, then ask yourself each of these questions:

  1. Were you quickly certain that you dialed the right number?
  2. Does the greeting sound friendly and professional?
  3. Do you feel like you want to stay on the line?
  4. Is the menu you’re offering short and to the point?
  5. If you have multiple levels are they consistent in tone?
  6. Do you have more than 3-4 options to choose from?
  7. Time how long it takes to work your way through your current choices. Can you delete or combine any of the choices?
  8. Finally, is there any obvious and easy way for a caller that is confused or uncertain to get to live person?

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