“If your customers can’t reach you, they won’t be YOUR customers for very long.”
Whether you call them patients, clients, prospects, subscribers or some other term of endearment, it’s the customers that make your business go ‘round. MRI machines and backhoes are important to doctors and ditch-diggers, respectively, but the one piece of equipment they both must have if they want their customers to reach them is a phone system.
“You don’t need all of your customers to be able to reach you.
Just the ones you want to keep.”
A voice processing system allows you to handle every call, and to act on it as immediately as you see fit. First, let’s get one thing straight - we call it a voice processing system because voicemail is merely a component (albeit a significant one) of the whole thing.
Let’s start at the end, here. The back-end of the voice-processing system – voice mail - is the part most folks are familiar with. It’s typically where a call ends when you’re not at your desk. It allows callers to leave personal messages, and allows individual users to receive (and retrieve) those personal messages. We’re sure you’re familiar with that feature. But there’s a whole bunch of other features you may not be familiar with. Would you like to have the system notify you via cell-phone when you’ve got a new message? And what about sending your voicemail to your e-mail as a .WAV file attachment? Or how about giving callers the option to be transferred to your cell-phone by pressing a button? Or automatically copying that message to your assistant? Playing a different greeting when you’re not in the office? Recording the call? Voicemail has come a long way, baby.
The front-end to the system is the automated attendant. Just what it sounds like, it allows callers to direct their own calls, dialing by extension, by department, by name – whatever you want. Although it is less expensive (and takes less potty breaks) than a live attendant, it may not completely replace her. (Or him.) So if you only want the automated attendant to come on after hours or as a last resort to “live answer”, it can certainly be configured that way. What’s more, a single voice processing has the capability to give callers as many front-ends as you’d like. This enables multiple companies under one roof (perhaps with employees-in-common) to share a phone system with ease, each maintaining their own unique identity to callers.
“To continue in English, press 1. Para espanol, oprima el numero ocho.”
There are variables in every business. Matching the needs of your customers to the skills of your staff can be a mind-numbing task. And the balancing act involved with handling the incoming call load with your limited resources – it could very possibly drive you nuts.
What if you could get the right call to the right destination in real time, every time, automatically? And what if you could optimize your call handling resources? Monitor the situation? Produce meaningful reports? That’d be bueno.
Customer retention, customer satisfaction, and efficiency are three intangible benefits you get with an ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) system. In your sales call center, it’s essential to minimize, or perhaps even eliminate hold time. (Thought you could market to them while they’re on hold.) You want to keep hold times short for calls to the customer service center, but you don’t want to pay for staff to play solitaire all day either.
As unexciting as it may sound to you, we’re experts in queuing theory. We’d be excited apply it to your business model. Call us today for answers about ACD.
PHONE SYSTEM BASICS 101
Look to your left. Look to your right. Two of three people in your office will have fallen asleep or gone home for the day by the time you finish reading this page.
The idea of a phone system is to allow many people to share a few phone lines, so that outside callers can be efficiently connected to who they need to speak with, and so that employees can efficiently make outgoing calls, and so that employees can efficiently communicate with each other. It all comes down to efficient communications.
The basic phone system consists of four components. The processor, the station interface(s), the line interface(s), and the telephones. there are a couple of prerequisite infrastructure items – the phone lines and the station cables. and then there are the myriad options – voice processing (which includes features like voicemail, automated attendant, and unified messaging), paging, music-on-hold or messaging-on-hold, headsets, and ACD.
PROCESSOR - This is the box that hangs on the wall in your phone room. It may also be referred to as the “brains”, the “CPU”, or “the box that hangs on the wall in your phone room”.
STATION INTERFACES - These may also be referred to as “station cards”, “phone cards”, or in rare instances the “World Champion St. Louis Cards”. (Our preference is for American League baseball, and we root for the Angels, wherever they may be “of”.)
LINE INTERFACES – Also known as “line cards”.
TELEPHONES – We’re sure you guessed this one. Communications industry snobs may refer to telephones as “stations”, “instruments”, or ”handsets”. We usually call them “phones” or when we’re feeling really pompous, we’ll call them “extensions”. In any case, this is what you pick up to make and receive calls, and slam down when that call doesn’t go so well. (They’ve got a two-year warranty by the way.) With our systems, you can combine “digital”, “VoIP”, or “analog” phones on the same system.
PHONE LINES - These are provided by your carrier, and give us something to plug into the aforementioned line interfaces. Also called “trunks”. (And you thought that word just applied to trees, swim wear, and elephants.) Lines come in various formats and have confusing terms and acronyms associated with them, like “analog”, “loop-start”, “ground start” “digital”, “T1”, “PRI”, “DID”, etc. On top of that, the various line formats may be bundled with data service and given different marketing names given by the carriers. It’s good for you that we know what all of these things mean and can translate them into English and help you understand what’s optimal for your business.
STATION CABLES – This is the internal wiring. Depending on where your office is, what kind of phones are presently in use or were last in use, existing station cabling may be usable. We can usually pop open your ceiling and run a few tests to see if your existing cabling will work for a new phone system. If not, we can run new cable for your phones, and while we’re at it, for your network. Pulling two or more cables at one time will save you money.
VOICEMAIL – “This is Jimbo. I’m away from my desk right now. Please leave a message at the tone and I’ll call you back.” That demonstrates just about everything you need to know about the basic function of voicemail: People call your extension, if you don’t answer, they leave you a private message, you retrieve that message and take action. But wait – there’s more. Lots more. Voicemail can notify you via cell phone that a new message is waiting. (You could add “I’ll be notified of your message and return your call promptly”.) You can give callers the option of being transferred off site. (You could add “Press 1 to be connected to my cell phone”.) You can have an alternate greeting (or six) that changes based on the time-of-day or the day-of-the-week. (You could add “Today is Saturday, and that means I’m shuttling my kids between athletic events”.) We could go on and on about the features associated with the basic voicemail, but the features get more and more trivial, and you’ll get sleepier and sleepier.
AUTOMATED ATTENDANT – “You’ve reached the Acme Walnut Company. If you know the extension of the person you’d like to reach, you may dial it at any time…” That’s automated attendant in a nutshell for you. (Not to be confused with ACD –see below.) Some companies want a live person to answer the phone during the work day no matter what; it is a simple matter of perception. Other companies don’t have a receptionist, have a part-time receptionist, re-deploy their receptionist to do other things on occasion, or have a receptionist who they allow to eat or use the restroom once in a while. This is where the automated attendant takes over, directing calls by department (“…for sales, press one…”), directing calls by name (“…dial the digits corresponding to the first few letters of the person’s first or last name…”), providing address and directions, etc. Just like the individual voicemail boxes, the outgoing message played for callers by the automated attendant can be changed, depending on the time-of-day and day-of-week.
UNIFIED MESSAGING – This is a highfalutin term for what amounts to getting all of your correspondence in one place. You can send voicemail-to-email, fax-to-email, and not surprisingly, you can still get your email through email. Voicemail-to-email is nice for forwarding messages to people outside your phone system. Fax-to-email is good for confidential faxes, and if you’re in the mortgage business, good for saving trees. Kind of like the hall closet that holds all of your tennis rackets, bowling balls, and other stuff, Unified Messaging is good for organizing your customer correspondence in one place.
PAGING – “Roxanne, you’ve got a customer holding on line 1”. The phone system can be used as a paging device, where a selected group of phones are used to employees who have an urgent call waiting and are not at their desks. There are also built-in jacks to connect the system to amplifiers, which in turn can be connected to overhead paging speakers in a ware house or other large or noisy open area.
MUSIC-ON-HOLD – Just what it sounds like, callers can enjoy tunes like “The Waiting is the Hardest Part” by Tom Petty or “Hold the Line” by Toto while waiting for you to located their folder. It also lets them know that they haven’t been disconnected – yet. Our systems come with a standard RCA jack for plugging in any player.
MESSAGING-ON-HOLD - It took evil marketing guys about two seconds to figure out that music-on-hold could alternatively be used to pelt waiting callers with subliminal suggestions to buy more stuff. (Sometimes it’s an innocent “…we value you business, please continue to hold..”, but it can be so much more than that. There are various players, and various services that we can hook you up with to accomplish your own marketing ends.
HEADSETS – Headsets allow you to multi-task. Type while you talk. Cordless headsets allow you to walk while you talk. There are many kinds of headsets - corded and cordless – over the head, over-the ear, behind the neck – it just depends on what you want. Either way, you’ll look like a wannabe fighter pilot is you forget to take it off when you leave the office. “How many MiGs did you shoot down today, captain?”
ACD – Typically used in call centers, an Automatic Call Distribution system will route callers to the appropriate destination based on a logical analysis, and if needed can place callers in a queue until the next available agent qualified to take their call is available. Suppose you’re a software company with products that work on multiple platforms, in multiple languages. You don’t necessarily want the Vietnamese-speaking Widows tech speaking to the Spanish-speaking Mac customer – unless he’s bilingual and has been trained on both operating systems. ACD can be used in conjunction with automated attendant and with messaging-on-hold systems to give customers a very professional perception of your business. Adding on monitoring and reporting modules to an ACD can give you a clear picture of exactly what’s going on in your call center and what you can to optimize your call center resources.