As I write this blog, I hope my competitors don’t see it and take me up on my recommendation. The inspiration for this golden nugget of consultancy is that indeed….just last week….I called 5 of my competitors for the sole reason to talk about trends in our industry. Fortunately, we are friends, attend annual association meetings together, call each other from time to time, and get along nicely for the most part. To reach these folks, I located their main phone numbers which were found either online, or in our association directory.
Most of my industry friends are of similar size to us, with 3-10 employees. On 4 of these calls, I was answered by an Automated Attendant, which offered me a menu choice that typically included SALES, ACCOUNTING, and maybe a couple of other options. I chose the SALES option…and…in all cases….was sent to voicemail.
Wow. If I had been a prospective client, I was certainly not going to leaving a voice mail message. In our business, prospects want quick answers, and though there is no hard data we can offer, our presumption is that more than 50% of these callers would NOT leave a voicemail message…and instead call your competitor.
So what about YOUR business? Consider the following:
1. What is the cost of a lost prospect?
2. Do you have ANY data that tells you how many callers abandoned the call when they encountered your Automated Attendant?
3. When you are physically shopping at a retail location, and there is no salesperson available to help you with a product, just how long will you actually wait until somebody appears in your general area? Yes, you may move throughout the store to locate somebody, but that is not really an option you have on a telephone system.
4. Call your own business as if you were a prospective client. How long did it take to move that prospect (you) to the person most qualified to manage that caller? The more steps it takes, the more likely your prospect abandons the call.
5. Perhaps you offer direct dial phone numbers for individuals or departments, and thus your phone call traffic is minimal to a main listed number, and that’s great! If so, is it safe to say that somebody calling your main number is either:
a. New to your company?
b. Needing help…now?
Personalization Can Happen Without Staffing Up
Technology offers the ability for all of us to foster multiple communications channels and touch-points to our companies. Chat, email, electronic forms, text…all of these are easily deployed and managed, and often preferred by certain buyer / customer types with millennials being a prime example. But here, even in the Year 2020 and beyond, there is no substitute for the personal touch a phone call can provide.
So consider turning your AUTOMATED ATTENDANT off for a week…or at least, using it only as a backup to answer the phone after the caller has heard 3-4 rings. There are a myriad of ways to ‘staff up’ to handle the calls, without actually adding headcount in most businesses. Thoughts:
1. If you have your main number ring simultaneously on a few phones, the Caller ID can often tell your team who is calling, and the appropriate answering staff member may be able to jump on it. We do that here at On Hold Marketing, and it……is……cool.
2. Depending on the nature / size of your business, your management / executive team may benefit from participating, if even as a test of sorts. Sound crazy? Might be…..but this exercise will absolutely put them in touch with reality….PLUS….it never hurts for these folks to KNOW the clients.
3. DO educate callers on direct numbers to departments or individuals if you have them. That will make it easier for your team to field a fewer number of ‘main phone number’ callers.
4. If you have a fresh ‘new caller’, then remember, you probably paid for that call with YOUR marketing $’s. If you choose to direct that valuable caller to barriers, your marketing $ investment was somewhat wasted.
“Yeah, Rich…..but we get SO MANY ROBO-CALLS or SOLICITATION CALLS, we would go crazy!”
I hear you and there’s good news, help is on the way:
1. Pending legislation is going to minimize ROBO CALLING.
2. It takes less than 5 seconds to hang up on ROBO-CALLS. We do it all the time.
3. Solicitation phone calls, on occasion (gulp)………..are good for your company and its owners, depending on the nature of the solicitation. In addition to being educated on the service options the solicitor offers, the SOLICITOR….in turn, can occasionally become a prospect for YOUR services*.
Every cold calling salesperson has encountered the tables being turned on them, and it can be a good thing. And if the solicitor is REALLY GOOD……hire them. Heck, put them ON HOLD and have your ON HOLD MESSAGING program (I’m sure you have one, right?) and educate them on your company! Leave them there for at least one minute. The hacks will hang up and move on. The more serious folks will hang on.
Finally, I can confidently suggest that if a prospect speaks directly with me or our team here at On Hold Marketing, yet only communicates via voicemail, email, forms, chats to my competitors……we will win. If YOUR competitors are answering their phones with people, and you are not, they are at competitive advantage……and you may not even be aware. They opened the door and invited them in. The business owner with the Automated Attendant…..did not.
There’s truth in these tips! The below story is optional reading per #3 above!
*I simply have to share this completely true story concerning turning a ‘wrong number’ into a sale. The incident is over 30 years old, but the concept still can be applied.
I fielded a phone call at my house and the person asked for somebody I didn’t recognize. I told the caller he had a wrong number, but I could also tell (fuzz on the line) that he was a long-distance caller (he was in Utah…I’m in Virginia). I told him I’d be glad to look up his desired party’s phone number in a local White Pages phone book (RIP), and he was thankful.
As I was fumbling for the number, the caller asked me about the weather in Virginia, and I eventually uncovered the fact that he was opening a new office in Virginia, and that his desired party was a prospective employee. It would be an insurance company with over 15 employees. He jokingly and eloquently asked if I had my insurance services taken care of (I did have my services already in place), and conversely I asked him if he had made arrangements for a phone system for the new office (I sold phone systems in those days). The line went silent for 4 seconds, and he said…….”in fact, I have not”.
One week later, we met at my company’s office and I demonstrated our phone system, and made a $12,000 sale. Over the next 3 years he opened 4 more offices. Total sale? Over $75,000. So…..that is why this writer advocates talking to complete strangers at times….even if they call you! ?
Rich is the President of On Hold Marketing, a marketing focused audio studio helping businesses and practices take advantage of their telephone system’s On Hold capabilities. Prior to On Hold Marketing, Rich spent 20 years in telecommunications working for such giants as Williams Communications, NextiraOne, Bell Atlantic and Nortel Networks.