Every business owner likes to think that they’re “customer-centric.” They want to be responsive, accessible and concerned with their customers’ needs. But too often, the first point of contact for customers — the phone system — is an exercise in frustration.
Whether you need a new system or just an upgrade, it is tempting to look at the “speeds and feeds” of a phone system. How many lines, mailbox capacities and, of course, total cost of ownership are important considerations; but the true value of a communications system its ability to meet your customers’ demand for access to information and people within your organization.
The right communication system should be:
- Easy to use for both customers and employees — Customers should know right away how to navigate the system, dial direct extensions and know they’ve left messages that will be answered. Employees should be able to answer calls within a couple of rings, easily transfer without dropping calls and manage their inboxes so that they don’t become digital wastebaskets.
- Easy to administer — Custom outbound messages should be easy to create and moves adds and changes (MACs) should be within the capability of non-technical personnel.
- Tailored to your business — If you have mobile employees, your system should route calls intelligently based upon availability and role within the business. If you need to gather information such as account data before routing a call to an attendant, the system should add value, not frustration.
So, you need a communications system that’s more customer-friendly, what to do about finding the right one?
- Pretend to be a customer — Get a friend or a colleague to call your business as a potential customer and listen in to the call. How quickly does the call get answered? How is the call handled and by whom? What options does the caller have for finding the right person, leaving messages and getting automated information?
- Call your competitors — Ask for general information that you would ask your own employees. You’ll see how quickly the call answered and how the phone system either helps or hinders the caller.
- Check references — Your local IT/telephony partner should have plenty of satisfied customers with successfully installed systems. Ask your provider for a couple of references (including what types of equipment and software they have installed) and then call them. Again, you can gauge the performance of the system by interacting with it as a customer.
The perfect telephony/communications system should be transparent to customers, guiding them effortlessly to people and information, and generating revenue for your company. Finding out if you have the right system can be a simple as making a call — to yourself.