- Written by Scott Greggory
“We are craving [the] human voice.”
Amid a worldwide quarantine, that's a statement most of us can relate to.
It's a quote from FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel that's featured in the New York Times article "The Humble Phone Call Has Made a Comeback" by Cecilia Kang.
Kang's reporting confirms just how much we crave connection with familiar voices. She notes that Verizon now handles 800 million wireless calls each weekday. That's twice as many as the company typically sees on Mother's Day, historically the busiest calling day of the year. And callers are talking with each other 33% longer than they did prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. AT&T's cellular traffic is also way up - by 35% - and their number of Wi-Fi-based calls has almost doubled.
Before social distancing, "wireless calls typically peaked in the morning and evening rush hours," Kang wrote. "Once people got to their offices and schools, the call volumes fell. Now, voice calls are high throughout the day. While Zoom and Google Hangouts are a popular replacement for meetings with multiple colleagues, the phone is easier for one-on-one conversations and doesn’t buffer and break down like video."
Weekend phone calls have also jumped. "Even young adults who grew up with texting and messaging apps as a primary form of communication are embracing voice calls," wrote Kang.
Difficult situations often reveal hidden truths. This surge in telephone calls reminds us of what increasingly impersonal technology has covered up over the last twenty years - we yearn to talk with people, voice to voice. And that inherent desire won't recede once a COVID-19 vaccine is developed. It will always live within us.
So, as a business strategy, answer that call; address that human need. Pick up the phone to reach out to your customers and prospects. Make the effort to connect with them in that more personal and meaningful manner. Start a new conversation in an old, familiar way.
- Written by Scott Greggory
Did you see the video of "poor Jennifer," the woman who was caught using the bathroom while on a video conference for work? She forgot to turn off her laptop's camera while...umm...taking care of a different sort of business as her colleagues looked on.
Admittedly, that specific issue is not likely to reoccur too often, but a general lack of privacy is one of the potential drawbacks with video conferencing.
For example, people using streaming video to join meetings could unintentionally expose sensitive information on neighboring computer screens or white boards.
And what if a few of your staff members are - okay, I'll say it - slobs. Do you really want clients to associate your employees' messy or disorganized homes with your brand and the service those clients are paying top dollar for?
Marcia Yudkin is one of our favorite marketing writers. She posted recently that people working from home may also be "struggling to accommodate school-aged kids going stir crazy. Expecting them to put on appearances in such a stressful time is unreasonable. Telephone calls are less demanding in this respect."
She also noted that some workers may encounter technical challenges with video conferencing due to a lack of broadband Internet at their home.
During our own on-site meeting last week, a dozen of our team members joined in by video conferencing. From the start, there were connection issues and people at home who couldn't hear those of us in the office. The problems delayed the start of the meeting by 15 minutes, and we eventually switched to an audio-only option.
And let's face it - watching a lot of people on a screen at once can be distracting, whether you see them shuffling around their desktops and moving out of frame to re-fill their coffee cups or you notice their cute dogs walking back and forth behind them.
Want people in your meeting to focus? Want consistent control over the impression you leave with customers? Consider using the conference call feature of your telephone. The speaker phone option still works, too.
For years, you've likely heard people wonder about the need for meetings: "Can't we just take care of this with an email?"
Consider a similar question before gathering via video conferencing: "Will there be anything attendees actually need to see during this meeting?"
Yes, it's nice to connect face-to-face - even if it's only remotely - but is it necessary each time you get together? Remember to factor in the possible negatives of video conferencing when clients are involved.
Just because the tool exists doesn't mean it's right for every application. Re-think the telephone as perfectly appropriate technology for getting everyday business done.
- Written by Scott Greggory
COVID-19 has forced us to keep our distance from customers.
It's driven us out of our workplaces and back into our homes.
It's led to the cancellation of on-site meetings, client lunches and sales appointments.
And maybe it's left you feeling a bit disconnected.
But there is a solution: pick up the phone.
You might typically text or email clients, but if this week's face-to-face get-together was postponed over fears of coronavirus, set up a telephone conversation.
Studies show that younger professionals think talking on the phone is inefficient; that it takes too much time. But most solid relationships are built on an investment of time.
Doing business by phone allows you to interact in real time and gives you continual insight that non-verbal channels often don't. For instance, with telephone communication you can maintain an ongoing sense of the other person's mood and their interest in the topic. You can also hear red flags: does the person you’re talking with sound distracted? Rushed? Frustrated? If so, you can react appropriately. You’re not likely to get that type of feedback through an email.
So, sometime soon, call that long-time customer to ask if you can help with the big project he's working on.
Call to let her know you've got a couple of great ideas that could grow her business.
Call to update him about the new features on your website and how they'll make ordering easier. Then, walk him through the changes while he's on the phone with you.
Call all your clients to assure them that even though you're working from outside the office for the next few weeks, you're still available to serve them.
Or just call to personally thank them for their business. After all, they might be feeling disconnected, too.
Then, re-schedule that lunch once it's safe to shake hands again.
- Written by Scott Greggory
There are lots of moving parts to the caller experience. Nailing each of them with as many callers as possible can help customers remember your brand as detail-oriented and committed to delivering great service.
Here are a few steps you can take to provide a memorable experience for your callers.
1) Calculate your callers' longest hold times. Lengthy hold and queue times can lead to high caller abandonment rates, and lost callers are lost revenue. If your customers are waiting in queue or on hold too long, consider adding a call-back option that allows them to avoid holding and receive a return call from your next available agent.
Knowing your longest hold times will also tell you how long your On Hold Marketing productions should be. For instance, if your customers typically wait 8 minutes on hold, you should not be subjecting them to just four minutes of looping OHM content. (Find your annual hold time here.)
2) Question long hold times. If your hold or queue times are lengthy, figure out why. Does your team not prioritize connecting callers quickly? Are operational inefficiencies preventing calls from being answered promptly? Do you need to add more staff to handle your call volume? (The ability to take more calls and process more orders could justify the added labor costs.)
If you can’t fix the cause of your long hold times, caller-centric On Hold Marketing content that's updated frequently is even more important than normal. You can still deliver a positive experience by providing valuable information that callers can apply or any other type of engaging content. The goal is to help callers feel like their wait was worthwhile, not wasted time.
3) Commission a caller experience audit. It's the best way to get a thorough, honest assessment of how your company handles incoming (or even outbound) calls. Specifically, a reputable third-party auditor can provide unbiased feedback on your staff's skills, addressing important questions such as these:
- Is your brand represented accurately during calls?
- Are members of your phone team friendly with a heart for serving people?
- Are they efficient, attending to your callers' needs quickly but accurately?
- Can they speak knowledgeably about your products and services?
- Do they capitalize on opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell?
- Can they recognize the red flags of customer dissatisfaction?
- Are they empowered to "make things right" for angry customers?
- Would the experience they provide encourage people to call again or share positive word-of-mouth?
4) Update your automated content. IVR and call processing announcements (CPAs) are the recorded messages that guide callers through your phone system. (Example: "To reach our Service department, press 2.")
Nothing says "unprofessional" quicker than poorly executed automated content. If one of your employees recorded your company's announcements directly into the handset of a phone, there's a good chance you have room for an improved presentation.
Expertly written scripts and professional voiceover will immediately elevate the perception callers have of your company. Those elements can also improve customer interaction with your automated attendant, interactive voice response system and other call processing systems by making navigation quicker and more intuitive.
- Written by Scott Greggory
“We get people who call all the time and WANT to be put on hold. Vendors and customers call us and just laugh. The feedback has been absolutely fantastic.”
That's a quote from Chris Hamann, president of Lakeland Auto and Marine in Port Clinton, Ohio. Chris has been an enthusiastic supporter of our Humor On Hold™ ever since he became a BusinessVoice client in early 2017. (Listen to a Lakeland sample here.)
Steve Eaton, CEO of Florida-based Med-Line Express Services, feels the same way about the humorous content we create for his company. “My customers love it,” he said. “Most have stated they would like to hear more.” (Hear it here.)
Using Humor On Hold™ is all about turning a negative into a positive. No one wants to be placed on hold, but it's often unavoidable. Humor can surprise and delight callers, though, and show them you care about their experience on hold.
And there are other benefits, too. “Humor On Hold™ works well for my business,” wrote Matt Hartzog, president of Dixie Restoration Depot in Manchester, Connecticut, “because it differentiates us from our competitors.” (Listen here.)
Bill Cusick is an author and customer experience expert. "Messages on hold are often one of the most painful of customer ordeals," Bill wrote. "But when done right by Scott Greggory and crew with actual humor, it takes a customer hassle and elevates it to a customer experience you tell others about. Click through to check out a couple samples. They're addictive, and brilliant marketing."
Jim Hausfeld agrees. He's an advertising agency Creative Director. After hearing a sample of our Humor On Hold™ while judging a marketing awards show, Jim wrote, “Superbly written copy and extremely dry humor that was a perfect match for what could've been a dull subject. I laughed out loud at points, and when a caller starts with that reaction, it's a great way to start a conversation.”
When our clients tell us they laugh out loud at our content, or that they pick up the phone and hear their callers laughing, that’s tremendously rewarding. It’s very gratifying to know that we’re encouraging that kind of joyful response on behalf of our clients.
But our Humor On Hold™ isn't all fun and games. It's designed to work on a marketing level, too.
“I feel [humor] is a perfect fit for our business,” said Hamann. “These productions convey pertinent information in a humorous manner, and they just click with our callers. Four to five times a week we get compliments on how creative and humorous they are.”
“The On Hold Marketing scripts BusinessVoice creates are not only funny, but also informative,” wrote Eaton. “They provide valuable information about specific aspects of my operation that some may not be aware of. In the 15+ years I’ve been in business, this is by far the best marketing [money] I have spent.”
You can listen to many quick samples of our humor, as well as entire productions on the Humor On Hold™ page of our website.
- Written by Scott Greggory
A few of our clients write their own On Hold Marketing copy. Some need to follow very strict compliance standards, while others have an in-house Creative team that generates all their content.
To be as effective as possible, On Hold Marketing copy must be updated regularly. It usually should be concise. And it needs to focus on moving the audience to the next step in the relationship, whether that means encouraging callers to ask for more information or make a purchase.
For those reasons and others, we don’t recommend that our clients take on the challenge of writing their own OHM copy. But, if you’d still like to, consider these tips.
Who Cares? - Whenever you’re creating content for callers (or any audience), always review it with that question in mind. Ask yourself if the audience will likely care about what you’ve written. Is it information that benefits them? Will it motivate them to action? Will it help them make a buying decision in your favor? This can be tricky because you need to put yourself in the listener's place. And you can’t fall so deeply in love with your own words and ideas that you’re reluctant to cut them when necessary.
Get to the Point - We never know how long callers will be on hold. Yes, your company has an average hold time, but the difference between your shortest and longest hold times may vary greatly. So, we err on the side of caution, keeping each message brief - 45 words max, typically. That allows more callers to hear complete thoughts. And because much of today’s media is delivered in shorter bursts (Tweets, 10-second commercials, 5-second pre-roll videos, etc.), we’re meeting the audience’s expectation of brevity. For each message, focus on just one idea; use strong, impactful words; and take a brutal approach to trimming any fat.
Three Questions - After writing each On Hold Marketing message, ask yourself these three questions: 1) What do I WANT this message to accomplish, 2) What is this message LIKELY to accomplish, and 3) How can I measure the results of this message? If the answer to #2 differs too much from the answer to #1, consider re-writing the content so both answers are more aligned. Then, what specific call-to-action can you include that will let you gauge the effectiveness of your copy?
For more insight into how we approach writing On Hold Marketing copy, read these other BusinessVoice Blog posts: