Author: Casey Houser
Posted on September 12, 2019 by Casey Houser
In the light of our recent blog about sprint planning, we wanted to provide a deeper look at that process through a specific example: Calling your own phone tree.
Today’s post will break down the process of reworking your Automated Attendant – also known as a phone tree – to improve the initial experiences callers have with your business. Follow along to see how you can do this on your own.
Break It Down
Define Your Goal
The initial step in creating a business sprint is to define your goal. Ask yourself what you want to achieve at your business that will make your relationship with customers better. In the example of this article, the goal is this: We want to make our phone tree more efficient.
Instead of just making the phone tree better, you should focus on the word efficient in this case because sprint planning is all about completing measured tasks in short periods of time. You want to keep your goals achievable, measurable, and relatively quick.
Better is too broad and could lead to a number of conclusions about what’s necessary to complete this project. Efficiency suggests something quick, dense, and packed with helpful information, which is exactly what you want your automated attendant to be.
Determine Your Time Period
Business sprints afford you, at most, a month of time to complete a goal. This method keeps your goals in check because it makes you choose tasks that won’t exceed that time period.
Consider the Customer
Once your primary goal is established, think about how your goal affects your customers.
One easy way businesses can become stuck is through their phone trees. As a customer, you have probably sat through an automated menu of choices (“Press 1 for Sales, Press 2 for Marketing) that’s too long or meanders through its options.
Customers can become frustrated with this inefficiency. It may feel like a waste of time. And if they don’t give up on a call altogether, they’ll at least begin their call in a sour mood.
Now that you know the headaches your customers can feel when interacting with poorly-made phone trees, you have a good starting point for creating measurable sub-goals to complete during your sprint.
We’ll focus on three here:
- Create a transcript of all phone tree messages
- Pare down the language to make the customer’s trip more efficient
- Upload new messages with a clear voice and background music
Work on Your Sub-Goals
Although it would be possible to break down every sprint into smaller and smaller goals – thereby creating many smaller sprints with each iteration – it’s not necessary to bury yourself in the specifics of what should and shouldn’t become a new sprint.
You only need to look at the scope of your overall goal and think about what individual tasks need to take place to achieve that goal. Our three sub-goals for this phone tree example project are fairly succinct and shouldn’t take more than a couple weeks for each task. Here’s some detail about what you should try to achieve in each step.
1. Create a Transcript
Time: 1 Week
The first step to reworking your phone tree is to listen to all the messages in your automated attendant.
Call your own business phone number and type out the messages you hear. Listen to the introduction and all the menus. Listen to any sub-menu messages.
A visual interface to this system, like the one provided in our Dash Phone System shown here, may make the transcription process a little easier to visualize. However, it doesn’t take the place of writing down all the messages your customers can reach.
2. Pare Down the Language
Time: 1 Week
Once everything is written down, start cutting the language.
Introductory phrases, like “Hello, you’ve reached Frannie’s Floral Arrangements, the fanciest full-service floral shop on the east coast and that’s ready to serve all your needs for individual, parties, and more…,” could be shortened to a simple “Hello, you’ve reached Frannie’s Floral Arrangements.”
Your customers only need to know who they’ve called. The name of your business makes that clear. Then your phone tree options will make it clearer where the paths lead.
Push essential information to the top of your message. Be polite and say hello, and then provide customers with an immediate list of quick choices. If callers can reach extensions at any time, let them know it’s possible. And reserve extra information for after the “Press 1 for Sales…” language.
Your customers will be happy to hear about your business hours and available promotions after they know how to reach individuals at your company.
3. Upload Your New Messages
Time: 2 Weeks
Once you’ve made your messages as succinct as possible without losing clarity, you can put them back into the automated attendant.
You will need to begin by recording your messages again. This can be done in house, or it can be outsourced to a professional recording company.
You can also choose to provide light background music to your message. Although this isn’t necessary, it’s available again as an in-house option or an option from a professional recorder.
The length of this final step will be determined by the number of messages you need to record. Some businesses will have a simple introduction message and a handful of primary phone tree options. Others may have sub-menus applicable to different departments and groups.
Replicate This Phone Tree Example
Now it’s your turn to replicate this example. If your phone tree sounds like it needs a fresh message, take it apart and put it back together.
If you’re already a VirtualPBX customer, you can find even more guidance in our Support page about Incoming Call Handling with your Automated Attendant.
For only a month’s worth of effort, you can make your Business Phone System more efficient and improve the happiness of the customers who interact with your brand.
Remember that every inbound caller will need to cross paths with your automated attendant. This project is a great way to introduce your company to the business sprint and an even better way to improve your interaction with all customers who want to reach you.
Posted on September 10, 2019 by Casey Houser
One business planning style that’s become popular with fast-paced offices is called agile, which can involve sprint planning as a method of defining goals throughout a company’s calendar.
In short: Sprint planning has businesses define short-term goals that are attainable within no more than a month’s work. Businesses complete a sprint within the specified time period and then plan a follow-up goal for a successive sprint.
At VirtualPBX, we might use sprints to define goals for the development of our Business Phone System or for the improvement of our Sales or Marketing processes. Sprints can work for a range of tasks, and you can follow this method at your own business by clearly defining a goal, considering its scope, and being flexible with your results as new information arises throughout the month.
Define Your Goal
The most salient idea behind sprint planning is that your goals should be achievable. A sprint gives you a month, at most, because it tries to strike a balance between pace and results.
The goal you have in mind might require a month’s worth of work. It may only require two weeks. Or maybe even one week.
Whichever length you choose, you shouldn’t try to rush yourself. Be realistic with your time investment estimate. Make sure your grasp doesn’t exceed your actual reach.
Consider your calendar and other upcoming business events. If you want to re-work your phone system’s automated attendant message and expect it to normally take two weeks, then make sure your upcoming two weeks won’t include a big product release or multiple onboardings for new hires.
Also be sure to keep your goal realistic with respect to its results.
Pick a goal that has substantial impact – like completing a survey of your Sales and Services departments to gauge their interactions with customers. Avoid picking a goal that tries to do too much – like completing a survey and developing new scripts for each team member based on their reactions to the survey.
Although those multiple tasks may be linked, the example of the survey and script development should be split into two different goals. Each one should have its own sprint because each will produce a different fundamental set of results, and when they’re combined, they would take more than a month to complete.
Be Open to New Information
In many ways, sprint planning tries to create a better end product for the customer. To that end, a business is encouraged to consider the changing requirements of its current sprint’s goals as new information arises.
What this would mean for an internal survey about customer interaction is that customer needs might change. It could also mean that unforeseen customer needs may not have been addressed.
For instance, a brief discussion with Sales before the survey was created could reveal important aspects of the sales process that drafts of the survey don’t talk about. This new information could lead to a redesign of the survey itself.
Iteration is important because it invites new information as a pathway to a better sprint. However, it’s important to stay focused and think continuously about the scope of your sprint’s results.
Sprint Planning is a Learning Experience
Overall, you will want to use your sprints as a learning experience. You won’t be able to get everything correct in your first sprint, but that’s no reason not to try your best.
We’ll cover two more examples of sprint planning in follow-up blogs this month. Stay tuned for a detailed look at the monthly goals of calling your own phone tree and surveying your departments about communication styles. In those breakdowns, we’ll consider what it looks like to create a specific goal and see a sprint’s process take shape.
In the meantime, you can check out our Summer Cleanup Sale to save $2-5 per user on new Dash Phone Plans. Click the banner below to learn more.
Posted on September 4, 2019 by Casey Houser
Are you ready for a months-long sale? We’re certainly ready to bring you one. Our End of Summer Cleanup is here!
Each of the coming Fall months will have their own deals related to our Dash Business Phone System and its accessories.
Begin this month with discounts at all levels of our phone system. Save in October on our integration with Zapier. And close out the season with special pricing on desk phones, conference phones, and other essential hardware.
Starting in September
Save on Business Phone Plans
We’ve hit the ground running by offering discounts on all our Dash Business Phone Plans.
When you sign up for a new plan, you’ll save $2 on Basic, $3 on Essentials, $4 on Advanced, and $5 on Essentials for every user on your account, every month, for the life of your account. It can save you hundreds in the months and years you stick with VirtualPBX.
Dash offers many useful features businesses of all sizes:
- Automated Attendant lets incoming callers easily reach your employees
- Ring Groups help you link individuals in separate departments and give groups their own extensions
- Enterprise add-ons like Call Recording and CRM Integration give you the power to capture important customer conversations and essential information
Save on Polycom Phones
Choose your plan and choose your discount. Then take advantage of the Polycom Rebate Program that offers a rebate from $10-60 per phone when you upgrade five or more phones.
Anyone is eligible for the Polycom Rebate Program. But Dash customers will save even more with their discount in the VirtualPBX Store.
Don’t wait. Discounts on our Dash Plans last only through September. And rebates for Polycom phones are only issued through Dec. 31, 2019.
End of Summer Cleanup in Oct. & Nov.
Our End of Summer Cleanup lets you first get Dash at a reduced rate. Don’t wait to sign up!
Once you’re settled in, we want to give you the opportunity to improve your office automation through Zapier and extend your office phone access through savings on additional VoIP hardware. Stay tuned to our blog for upcoming details about the deals you can expect in October and November.
The next few months will see many businesses picking up steam as they head into the biggest sales months of the year. It’s no different for us. We’re just starting the sales season a bit early.
Posted on August 27, 2019 by Casey Houser
The defining question for all live receptionists is this: What do I say when transferring a call?
The question brings up ideas about phrasing, pacing, and connections to callers and fellow employees, all of which we’ve discussed at length in a previous blog post.
Today’s follow-up blog offers you some actual scripts to use in a variety of situations. Whether or not your phones are linked to our Dash Phone System, you can use these short scripts to address your customers and co-workers.
#1. Speak to the Person Who Will Answer the Transfer
As the caller’s initial point of contact, you have heard their initial request for information. You know why they’re calling. However, the person to whom you’ll transfer a call won’t know. This can be frustrating for your caller, so do them a favor and warm up the transfer by first speaking to your business contact.
- Situation: You want to let your colleague know that they’ll be transferred a call, and you want to let them know what the caller has requested.
- What you can say (to your colleague): “Hi, [colleague’s name]. I have [caller’s name] on the other line. They’re asking about our [product] and want to know about the [product feature]. Thanks. I’ll transfer them right now.”
#2. Explain to the Caller Why You’re Transferring Them
A common type of call in any business is a general, information-seeking call. You may, for instance, answer a call from a customer who’s looking for details about your product or service. Though you might not have the technical resources or knowledge necessary to respond, you know exactly who has those qualifications.
You can use this script in tandem with #1 in this list. If you speak to your colleague first, you can inform the caller that you’ve warmed up the call. Furthermore, if your colleague is unavailable, you can let the caller know to leave a voicemail after being transferred.
- Situation: The caller wants more information about your quarterly product sale. You need to transfer them to your Sales department lead.
- What you can say (to the caller): “Hi, [caller’s name]. The best person to answer your question is our Sales VP, [colleague’s name]. Their extension is [x123]. I already spoke to them, and they’re ready to receive your call.”
#3. Ask For the Caller’s Permission
Receptionists can let callers control their own destiny. When callers are asked permission to initiate a transfer, it gives them control over the situation and lets them define the pace of the call. You can easily ask for permission with any other script you use. Just remember to be sincere with the caller about their choice in the matter. This is a great way to clear up any confusion and make sure you and the caller are on the same page.
- Situation: You wish to ask the caller’s permission to initiate a call transfer.
- What you can say (to the caller): “Our Sales VP, [colleague name], is the best person to answer your question. They’re ready to receive your call. Can I transfer you now?”
Transferring a Call Needs Personal Connection
Personal connections hold the key to effective interactions with customers. The scripts shown here help you build quick, meaningful connections in the seconds between call pickup and initiating the transfer on your phone system.
As the receptionist, you’re the first contact a caller has in their journey through the company. You develop brief relationships with every caller by being personable through your etiquette. Transferring a call with an ask for permission and with extra explanation, like the recipient’s extension, builds trust from the moment the call begins.
Take these scripts and modify them to your own needs, always remembering to give the caller all the information they’ll need for smooth problem resolution. We hope they serve you well.
Posted on August 22, 2019 by Casey Houser
Of all the elements that are part of our relationships with businesses, our phone system reliability and usability are often deemed the most important.
We can impress clients with advanced Dash Phone System Features like Call Recording and CRM Integration, and make no mistake, we’re proud of those advancements. Before any of that becomes a focus, however, our system must function well as a carrier of voice calls. It must perform as expected when clients dial an office extension or when customer service agents wait for inbound calls from customers.
Phone system reliability and usability are paramount. It’s what makes our service stand out among the competition and gives our clients, like CML Security, reason to speak positively about their time with us.
Switching to Dash
We recently completed an interview with Scott Moore, the IT Generalist at CML. He handles all functions of information technology at the company – from customer support to printer installation to adding new phone system users.
Moore had used our legacy phone system, vConsole, and witnessed the switch from that system to our new platform, Dash. This is an upgrade many customers are making. His reaction to the process?
“I like the Dash interface better,” he said. “It’s more visual and laid out a lot better.”
While this is great news, we wanted to also know the ways in which CML uses its phones most often. And that response?
They complete and receive hundreds of inbound and outbound calls every day.
The Ordinary as Extraordinary
On the surface, that use is anything but extraordinary. Yet that exterior necessarily leads to something deeper. It leads to a phone system reliability that keeps each one of the hundreds of calls accessible and clear.
“We set it up,” Moore remarked about the switch to Dash, “and it just goes. I have no problems with the system. The call quality is clear, and the system works well.”
Moore continued by comparing our system to other voice services he’d used in the past.
“We’ve had no issues like ‘the phones sound awful’ or ‘the system isn’t working like it should.’”
Striving for Phone System Reliability
What we strive for at VirtualPBX is a phone system reliability that’s measurable to 99.999%. This means we reach the gold standard of only 5 minutes per year of downtime.
This does more than put us at the top of our class. We pass along the benefits of reliability to every one of our customers. Enterprises can expect their call centers to remain functional during peak hours. Entrepreneurs will have a consistent lifeline to their early supporters. And midsize operations like CML can keep in touch with their own business customers, which you can read more about here in the full CML case study.
It’s great to hear that our system is working as expected. Although that isn’t the usual, flashy talking point heard in the industry, there’s honestly not much more exciting in the business community than “it just works.”