Calling your business sucks! Hosted VoIP can save the day (err… customer).

A friend recently told me the story of an experience she had calling a local salon to see about scheduling an appointment for a mani-pedi. #Firstworldproblems, but it was truly traumatic. How on Earth could it have gotten ugly? Let’s investigate…

Looking down at her half-polished nails and damaged cuticles, Megan (name changed for confidentiality) decided it was time for a relaxing visit to the massage chairs of some indiscriminate salon near her home. Doing a quick Google search, she happened upon Happy Shiny Nails that Encourage World Peace (name changed for confidentiality, and this business will from henceforth be known as Happy). The hours were not listed online (Earth to Megan- don’t go there), so she decided to give Happy a quick call.

Now, let’s take a moment to think about what Megan was expecting to happen on that call. Within 2 minutes, if Happy was closed, she would find out Happy’s hours. If Happy was open, she would be connected with a friendly salonist who would schedule Megan’s appointment.

What really happened (read on only if you have an especially strong stomach):

Megan’s call was answered by a solid minute of harassing ringing. She literally had to lower the phone from her ear to prevent her eardrums from exploding. Her call was finally answered by a long stream of irrelevant sales pitches: On Thursday mornings before 10, come into Happy for a Parisian Hibiscus Walnut Lavender soak. On Thursday evenings from 5:15 to 5:30, Happy delivers all services at a 5% discount. The information that Megan was looking for was nowhere in sight. Finally at the end of the stream of sales pitches (Megan looked at her phone at this point, she was three minutes into the call) a voice told Megan to stay on the line to be connected with a salonist. Queue incessant ringing. Megan hung up.

I wanted to let Happy, and other businesses, in on a few secrets that will make calling their businesses not suck so much:

  1. You must think about why people will be calling and adjust your telecommunications in-roads to cater to caller needs as they vary with time! Megan was calling on a Sunday morning. Why would somebody call a salon on a Sunday morning? To hear a long span of ringing followed by sales pitches? Heck no! Megan wanted to schedule an appointment or figure out when Happy would open.
  2. People really don’t like to hear ringing. Give people what they are calling for right away. Perhaps Happy could have answered the call with a nice, simple recording like, “We are open and we love walk-ins. If you want to talk to a manicurist stay on the line and we will be with you very shortly, otherwise head on over!”. A customized playlist is much more pleasant to listen to when waiting than ringing. Or, if Happy happened to be closed, “Happy is closed, but we’d love to see you soon. Our hours are: (give people your hours!)”
  3. Don’t leave people who are expecting to talk to somebody within a reasonable and specified period of time hanging. If your business is open, but you are unable to answer the phone (there’s a company-wide meeting, all agents are busy with customers, etc.) let people know that by changing your recording to reflect accurate information. “All salonists are currently practicing their craft. You can schedule an appointment online at (give callers your website) or you can head over. We love walk-ins!” Perhaps, a remote employee would be available to answer- forward the calls to them!
  4. And, god forbid, don’t transfer callers around endlessly with the end-result being *shudder* a dropped call. Callers know that sometimes they must be transferred and they have a certain tolerance for it. However, having to relay the purpose of the call and the details of the situation over and over and over again will send even the sweetest customers barking up the crazy tree. Spend time perfecting your call routes so that people can get to where they need to be without an uncomfortable amount of transfers.

Of course, making all of this happen requires a technologically-advanced and robust business phone system. You might think that will cost you too much. Think again.

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