3 Ways to Improve Customer Experience Over the Phone

By Mike Taylor

You may not think about it often, but improving customer experience can be a game changer for your organization. Consider this:

Poor customer experiences cause you to lose potential customers and aggravate existing customers: 67% of customers have hung up the phone out of frustration when they could not talk to a real person.

It can lead customers to buy less: 78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.

And, it can cause people to stop doing business with you altogether: 82% of customers have left a company because of a bad customer service experience.

Which is likely why 62% of organizations view customer experience provided through contact centers as a competitive differentiator.

But, how can you improve your customers’ experiences? Considering that many customers and potential customers have their first experience with your organization over the phone, it’s important to look at improving your phone communication. In order to do so, you first need to think about how your organization is structured. There are typically two broad categories that most companies fall into:

  1. Do you have less than 5 people answering the phone? This applies to organizations with a receptionist or office manager taking calls.
  2. Or, do you have around 5 or more people who spend the majority of their time receiving or placing calls? This applies if you have customer service teams, sales teams, or other teams of people answering or making calls. In this article, we will refer to them as outbound or inbound call teams.

Depending on which category you are in, there are different approaches to improving customer experiences, and we’ll address both categories for each of the 3 improvement tips below.

1. Limit missed calls and get more calls to the right place

Missed calls not only provide a poor customer experience, but they can be a killer for business. Limiting your number of missed calls can be imperative to your success. Here are a few ways to reduce missed calls.

If you have outbound or inbound call teams:

One of the biggest problems call teams face is not having visibility into how many calls are being missed and how many are being taken. After all, you can’t fix what you can’t measure. You and your team need to be able to have access to detailed reports that show the number of missed calls, abandoned calls, who’s answering calls, who’s overloaded, how many calls did each person take, etc. At the end of the day, you need to know how many calls are slipping through the cracks and where those cracks are located in your organization, and then you can address the issue once you’ve pinpointed the problem. That’s where phone system reporting comes in.

VoIP phone systems like Switchvox allow you to see all the valuable information you need regarding missed calls, abandoned calls, and more with what’s sometimes referred to as Queue Stats. These VoIP phone systems also come with detailed reporting that simply enhances your call team’s ability to improve customer experience in every area of operation.

If you have less than 5 people answering calls:

Oftentimes, receptionists and office staff simply find themselves being stretched thin and trying to do too many things at once. In these scenarios, VoIP phone systems come with what’s called an auto attendant (also called an interactive voice response or IVR) that can really help alleviate some of the pressure on office staff members by automatically answering calls for them and routing them to the appropriate location. Of course, you can choose to turn the auto attendant on or off as needed, so when your staff is not as busy, you can have someone manually answering calls. But, having the auto attendant or IVR as a backup can seriously reduce missed calls and potentially save your organization a ton of frustration and negative feedback.

But, what about when you’re simply too busy to answer a call? If a call doesn’t get answered within a certain amount of time, you can set some VoIP phone systems up to where the call then rolls over to another department. So, if you’re receptionist steps away from the desk for a moment, instead of missing calls, those calls can be re-routed to another phone within the office – such as billing or finance, for example. When this happens, the person answering the call can see where the call is “rolling over” from, that way they know how to prepare for and answer that particular call.

These VoIP capabilities and others ensure that calls are not missed and that people always get someone on the phone in a timely fashion, which can do wonderful things not only for customer experience but for your organization’s overall success.

2. Make sure you’re properly staffed

One of the most important aspects of improving customer experience is to make sure you have enough people on board to manage the number of calls coming in. After all, the people answering the phone are the face of the organization, so it’s imperative for them to stay inspired and motivated to continually improve the customer experience they’re providing callers.

If you have outbound or inbound call teams:

When you have call teams, you need to be able to regularly see how the team is performing and when it’s time to hire people. That’s another area where VoIP call reporting helps.

For example, if you’re continually missing calls, that might be a sign that it’s time to hire another team member. Reporting also lets you know when you’re having a soft quarter instead of people simply not performing well. This can give you insight into trends in growth, it can confirm a sloped period, or it can provide overall performance reviews. Being able to see what’s really happening inside your organization and call teams can offer a huge advantage for the overall customer experience and can help alleviate unnecessary stress within a team.

For call center managers, simply having visibility into…

  • how many people are waiting in call queues
  • how many people are answering calls
  • how many people are overloaded with calls

…can give you good insight into when it might be time to bring on a new team member.

With VoIP systems like Switchvox, you get access to all of this information through what’s called a Wallboard, and you can see queue stats, who’s logged in and out, what the current status is of your team members, etc.

For outbound teams, in particular, it’s important to know the performance levels of team members. Seeing a regular report of team performance both on a group level and on an individual level helps you better spot trends and see who your top performers are. Not only is it important to know when to hire, but it’s also valuable to be able to give your team insight into data that keeps them motivated and driven to excel. With VoIP phone system reporting and queue insights, your team can see how they’re performing as an individual as well as how well they’re performing as a whole, and use that information to help optimize for a better experience for your customers.

If you have less than 5 people answering calls:

For smaller teams with a receptionist or office staff answering calls, VoIP phone system call reports can be especially valuable. Being able to see call reports, such as how many calls are being missed and how many are being abandoned, can go a long way in determining when it’s time to add another person to the office staff. At the very least, call reports can inform office personnel of when the phones are the busiest and when they’re not so busy, so they can staff accordingly or turn on their automated attendant to field calls during busy times. Without this level of insight into your call traffic, you’re more likely to overload your staff, leaving both them and your callers frustrated, which can be detrimental to a customer’s experience.

3. Reduce hold times

This probably doesn’t come as a shock, but putting people on hold for extended periods of time typically doesn’t end well for most companies.

One survey found that “almost 60% are not willing to wait more than one minute and 32% won’t wait any time at all.” Another study found that 60 percent of respondents believe that one minute is too long to be on hold. In other words, limiting hold times is good for any business. Here are a couple of ways to reduce the amount of time callers are placed on hold.

If you have outbound or inbound call teams:

When you have service teams answering a large volume of calls, it’s important to make sure callers aren’t sitting on hold for too long. One way to do that is to have a high-level view of how many people are waiting and who they are.

For example, VoIP phone systems like Switchvox come with the ability to see a person’s caller ID and how long they’ve been waiting, and you can drag calls to the top of the queue, you can also see which accounts are calling and assign them to a specific person based on that information or pick it up yourself. This is sometimes called Queue Call Waiting Manipulation, and it can be extremely useful for call teams and the experience they are providing customers. However, no matter how well you manage your call queues, there will likely be times when you’re simply too busy to pick up every call. In those scenarios, a VoIP phone system can be invaluable.

For example, if a person’s call doesn’t get answered within a certain amount of time, their call can be rolled over into a backup queue, typically in another department. So, if your support team is overwhelmed at the moment, available resources elsewhere in the office can be utilized to answer calls and maintain high-quality customer experiences.

If you have less than 5 people answering calls:

When you have a small team, putting people on hold is often unavoidable, but one of the simplest ways to alleviate on-hold time is to play on-hold music or announcements. It may seem like a small detail, but having on-hold music provides background noise that can distract from impatient thoughts, which can easily start to compound as a person waits in silence. In fact, one source states, “Customers who are put on-hold without background music thought a 30-second wait lasted 90 seconds. Customers who listened to-hold music thought a 30-second wait lasted just 15 seconds.”

VoIP phone systems make it easy to not only play on hold music, but also announcements, advertisements, and more. You can even use that time to give callers an estimated wait time, which can be the difference between a frustrated hang-up and an optimistic outlook.

Ready to learn more?

To learn more about how a VoIP phone system can help your team improve customer experience, take a look at our free on-demand webinar.

Interested to see how Switchvox can help your inbound and outbound call teams? Check out our Call Center Phone System page.

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About the Author

Mike Taylor

Mike Taylor is a Content Marketing Specialist at Digium. He’s a small business and entrepreneurial enthusiast, and before joining Digium he spent years helping startups and businesses of all sizes grow using content and digital marketing strategies. He covers business and communication topics on Digium’s blog and on other business publications as well.

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