Businesses probably have no idea how many customers they use by not handling incoming calls well. Many people will not leave a message or are tired of playing telephone tag or going through what I call voicemail hell.
Marco Suarez shares with us what a quality office phone system should include.
A good phone system is a crucial element of any smoothly operating office.
Without one, you could be losing out on valuable enquiries and customers.
Your company will lose its professional image if you’re heard scrabbling around passing phones across desks. What you need is a phone system that will allow you to pass calls seamlessly to the relevant person without it turning into a major phone swapping operation, and several other features which will improve your customers’ views of your company.
The first thing you need to find out is whether you can rig all the phones in the office up to the same line. If this is the case, you can then use an extension system to direct callers to the relevant department. Or, if you prefer, you could get each department set up with a different line, so that different phone numbers are used to contact a department directly. It is likely that the most senior members of staff will want to be excluded from any departmental phone-line system, and may require a line of their own.
Another feature you’ll need is the option to transfer calls easily. It’s no use having to go through a complicated process to switch someone to another phone, as the person calling will get impatient and may even hang up – not ideal if it’s a new customer.
One-press transfer systems are far easier, especially if you often find yourself referring to the same person. Avaya phone systems are particularly well known for their easy transfers, and are the preferred systems in many offices.
It’s not essential, but it looks much more professional if you have a personalised answerphone message for out of hours calls. The main information you should include is your normal office hours, your email address and who to call in an emergency. If there is any extra information a caller might need to know, such as unexpectedly leaving the office early or different opening hours to accommodate statutory holiday, include this.
If you make lots of calls abroad, you could even consider using a VoIP system. This works by carrying the phone signal over the internet rather than by using standard phone lines, meaning you don’t pay an extortionate amount to call other countries.
This is particularly useful if most of your client base is overseas or if you have international offices you need to contact frequently. However, if you are primarily UK-based, a normal phone line may be a better idea, as if your internet is cut off for any reason, your phones will go down with it, which could leave you unable to get in touch with anyone.
Any office needs a basic system that allows calls to be picked up and transferred between employees. There are many more advanced features, though, that could benefit your company. For example:
- CTI – Computer Telephony Integration (any system that integrates computers and phones – usually custom solutions)
- Call Logging and Recording – useful for hourly billing, time management, and measuring productivity
- Advertising on Hold – sharing details about your business while your potential customers are holding
- Mobile Collaboration – mobile roaming transfers office calls to your cell phone
- Mobile Twinning – using your mobile phone like it was your desk phone
- Multibranch Networking – treats calls between branches as internal calls
- Home Working – combines home networking, computer, broadband and advancing technologies
Don’t lose business because your phone system drops calls or makes it nearly impossible to transfer them. Professionally handling your incoming calls is key to increasing business.
Marco Suarez is a professional business coach who advises small businesses on the most suitable communications technology to help them succeed.
I’m sure we have all had the experience of a company asking us to call back because they can’t transfer between departments – or having the phone disconnect us so that we had to call back repeatedly.
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