Steve Everts Directors Cut

“The intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” That's how David Ogilvy defined brand.

Part of protecting a brand means controlling the experiences that people have with your company, product or service. But the caller experience is sometimes overlooked by marketers.

To assess how well your caller experience marketing truly reflects your brand identity, consider the following.

Caller Experience and Your Brand1) Audio

Do the voice and music in your telephone audio share the same attitude as those in your digital and broadcast channels?

Does your telephone audio and content reinforce what people hear from you in those other channels? If they responded to the audio in your outbound marketing, they'll appreciate - and be comforted by - hearing the same when they call.

2) Structure

Are any automated greetings you use welcoming, logical, and simple to follow?

Is your call flow designed around the needs of your callers, rather than the self-serving interests of your organization?

3) Experience

What are your competitors’ caller experiences like, and what can you do to set yours apart while remaining true to your brand?

Does your front-line phone staff understand your organization’s brand identity and what’s required of them to perpetuate that identity?

Is the in-queue / On Hold Marketing content you’re utilizing engaging and beneficial to callers?

After addressing those questions, you may decide to develop an audio brand standards guide. It might take the same format as the guide you use to define the visual components of your brand.

People who call your company are already in a frame of mind to engage with you - whether that means buying something or asking questions - and they are essentially a captive audience. Take advantage of that opportunity to create an exceptional experience for them and reinforce your organization’s value to them.

Here’s a quick roundup of caller experience no-no’s that we’ve come across in our never-ending effort to improve the caller experience. These come from organizations of all shapes and sizes.

1) Ignoring your brand identity. While the number of companies that recognize the need to consider caller experience is growing, contact center and telephony-related initiatives don’t make it onto the radar of marketing departments in too many instances.

Bad Caller ExperienceIs your brand approachable, innovative, and professionally casual? Then your callers should experience something very different than when they call their buttoned-up, no-nonsense CPA firm (and vice versa).

2) Exposing callers to repetitive, generic phrases. “Thank you for holding.” “Your call is very important to us.” “Please continue to hold.” We’ve all heard those phrases more times than we can count. What’s worse, some companies expose their callers to them innumerable times in a single call.

That type of content actually increases the perceived amount of time your callers spend waiting. It’s a safe bet that the repetition of those three phrases led to the widespread idea that being on hold is usually a boring, tedious experience. (See how advertisers have played off this idea for laughs here and here.)

3) Settling for your phone system’s default music. Using your phone system's default music - by default - ensures that your caller experience will be indistinguishable from the thousands of other organizations that do the same. (Does this music sound familiar?)

4) Leaving your company’s name out of your automated or live greeting. Not confirming that your callers have reached the right place can leave them anxious that they've dialed the wrong number. A live receptionist should always state the name of the company when answering phones, so why shouldn't your pre-recorded message, especially since callers can't ask questions of your automated system?

5) Taking a “set it and forget it” approach to your content. We’ve helped companies that hadn’t changed their Caller Experience Marketing content for more than a decade before we stepped in. Yes, a decade! Very few marketing pieces can remain completely unchanged for long periods and still be effective. (Here’s one.) Assuming your content was a home run when it was implemented, how many times can your frequent callers hear it before they tune it out and it becomes no different than background noise?

Change is something marketers have to embrace regularly, whether in response to a more competitive landscape, shifts in organizational structure, or updates in product/service offerings. You'd update your TV spots and online ads in response to those types of changes. Treat the components that make up your caller experience the same.

Why We Don't Thank Your Callers for Holding

Every once in a while, we turn away business. Profitable business.

My inner accountant dies a little each time we do it, but we do it anyway.

Our agency has earned a good reputation, and that drives in-bound leads our way.

A prospect seeks us out, or was referred to us, or found us online and liked what she saw, so much so that she calls us to say, “Hey, I'd like to give you my business!”

We don't need to conduct research, send emails or make phone calls just to get her to notice us (and hope she's interested once she does).

Dont Set It and Forget ItSo, why don't we sign her as a client?

Sometimes, those people who reach out and are excited to work with us request something that we know won’t benefit them in the long run.

Most often, they want us to develop one On Hold Marketing production that they'll use indefinitely.

The rationale often goes like this: “We just need something other than silence or the canned music that comes with our phone system. Our products and services don’t really change.”

But we won’t do it.

While it might temporarily prop up their weak caller experience, delivering just one production would not provide them with long-lasting value.

Here are 3 reasons why.

1) Whether or not an organization’s products and services truly never change, you can bet external factors affecting their target audience do. Callers are more engaged by current information that’s focused on their changing needs. Nike has sold shoes and apparel for a long time, but they don’t do it with the exact same digital, print and TV spots for years at a time.

2) How long will it take before repeat callers tune out content that never changes? Forcing customers to listen to the same information and music negatively affects their perceived wait times and overall caller experience.

3) In-Queue / On Hold Marketing is not a channel that’s typically top-of-mind. While many marketers likely have the best intentions of updating content, our 25+ years of experience in this space has shown that, without a dedicated team, those changes rarely happen.

Updating content regularly and proactively ensures the channels we work in are more effective. That makes for happier clients and callers in the long run, even if it means we sacrifice a few dollars along the way.

A decade ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find a VP or Director of Customer Experience in even the largest companies, but today those titles are becoming common within organizations of all sizes.

That's because more and more people are seeking positive interactions with brands, and they’re willing to pay more for them.

The Caller ExperienceIn fact, as early as 2014, Neosperience reported that 64% of consumers rank the digital experience ahead of price when choosing a brand.

If you don’t compete only on price (and who would want to?) and your audience has no positive expectation of buying your product or service, how do you keep those customers coming back?

One answer: ensure that doing business with your company is easy, enjoyable and even special at every touchpoint.

It’s hard to imagine any competitive organization taking a hands-off approach to their store layouts or digital marketing. Yet, we’ve found that many companies use their telephone system’s default music and IVR template. That means the caller experience they’re providing every day is identical to countless other organizations using similar systems.

Creating a positive, branded caller experience means taking control of every aspect of your telephone environment, from your IVR and On Hold Marketing content to the type of service your contact center representatives provide.

The time your customers spend on the phone with your company - no matter how brief - is an opportunity to differentiate your brand, deliver value, and create a memorable experience.

Imagine if your callers actually asked to be put back on hold because they enjoyed your Caller Experience Marketing so much? (It happens!)

What if your customers looked forward to calling your company because your phone staff is enthusiastically pleasant? Or better yet, what if people who aren’t yet customers called because of your reputation for providing great service?

We can elevate the caller experience you provide. And we’re ready to talk with you about the possibilities. 

In the meantime, read a few of the questions to consider when evaluating your organization’s caller experience.

Don't Settle for Inside-the-Box Solutions
Unique Content and a Memorable Caller Experience
Writing On Hold Marketing Content: Creativity, Humor and Focus

Let's say that you love working with your digital marketing agency. They truly understand your audience, your positioning, and the shifts in your competitive landscape. They communicate flawlessly with you. Through regular analysis they proactively adjust your online copy, calls-to-action, and other aspects of your site, successfully driving relevant traffic and providing an online experience your customers love.

Now imagine that, one day, your IT director tells you she's found a new platform that's easy to use, and that she sold the CFO on how your company can save money by eliminating that digital marketing agency you love so much.

Considering VoIPRidiculous, right?

The digital marketing agency's value is in their expertise, the content they create, and the effectiveness of the changes they make, not simply in their ability to make changes.

Yet, it's not uncommon for marketers to experience that same type of upheaval when it comes to their organization’s Caller Experience Marketing.

I’ve fielded many calls and emails from despondent clients who say, “Our IT team implemented a new VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system / service that has built-in music and messaging capabilities, so we have to stop using your service.”

To be clear, IT professionals are not the bad guys. I mean, some of my best friends are IT people. They simply have a different set of priorities than marketers.

VoIP is an attractive proposition to IT because it offers reduced communication costs and simplified network management, especially for organizations with a multi-location footprint.

With that said, why might VoIP cause concerns for a marketer? Ultimately, it depends on the features of the on-premise or hosted VoIP system your organization is considering. Here are a few weaknesses found in some VoIP systems that can lessen the effectiveness of your Caller Experience Marketing.

1) Your content starts from the beginning. Every. Single. Time. You can almost sense the frustration of frequent callers or those callers placed on hold several times during a call when they can predict what they'll hear when placed on hold. The Aussies at Captivate On Hold illustrate the worst-case scenario perfectly in this short video.

2) You have to rely on IT staff to upload new productions. Because most VoIP set-ups don’t allow for an external audio source, most content needs to be sent to an IT staff member in the form of an mp3 or .wav file for loading into your system. Promoting the launch of your organization’s new product or service may be tops on your marketing agenda, but your IT team may not be as motivated to have that content telecasting by a particular date.

3) Your system isn’t friendly to produced media. VoIP systems use a ‘codec’ to determine how voices and other types of audio are transmitted. In order to save bandwidth, some systems have default codecs designed to strip out audio they don't recognize as a human voice.

4) You have to play the same content everywhere. Do your multiple locations need the flexibility to promote different branding, events, products, or services? Some hosted VoIP scenarios limit flexibility by allowing for only a single production across all your locations, divisions or lines.

VoIP isn’t going anywhere and, within the next decade, it will likely account for more than 90% of all telephone systems. So, as a marketer, your best defense is a good offense. Let the appropriate decision-makers at your organization know that when they explore switching to VoIP, they need to look for a system or service that avoids, or has workarounds for, the above pitfalls.

Click here for more questions to consider when designing your Caller Experience Marketing program.

VoIP: A Potential Problem to Consider
Why Does Some On Hold Marketing Sound Bad? 
3 Things to Look for When Switching to VoIP

“We found a company that has a menu of pre-written content for our industry that we can pick from to create our Caller Experience Marketing productions whenever we want, and we can add our name to the messages.”

While it may seem crazy, there are on hold service providers that essentially go to market with this message: “Partner with us, and we’ll make sure you deliver a completely generic call experience!”

Your target audiences are exposed to messaging of all kinds all day, every day. If what they hear from your organization is no different than what they’d expect, your Caller Experience Marketing will have the same impact as white noise.

Yet, the “generic messaging” model is quite lucrative for some of the biggest players in the On Hold space. Why? By simply repackaging the same content over and over for different clients, they're able to present themselves as the low-price option.

Unique Content and a Memorable ExperienceOver the years, marketing departments of all shapes and sizes have been forced to allocate more responsibilities to fewer and fewer team members (sometimes resulting in a ‘department’ of one).

Marketers know they need Caller Experience Marketing, though I’ve been told by many in the past few years that the time it would take to develop content on a regular basis gets sacrificed to higher-profile initiatives and projects.

Likewise, very few providers are set up to take on 100% of concept development and production, so shared content becomes the appealing path of least resistance.

No big revelations there, right? Creating valuable, unique content usually requires investments of time and/or money.

However, a one-size-fits-all approach to Caller Experience Marketing (or any other channel) suggests that there’s no problem with positioning your brand in the exact same way as the competition, whether across town or across the country.

While helping hundreds of organizations design their programs, I've encountered many who reflexively believe there is a need to include phrases such as “Thank you for holding” and “Your call is very important to us." Ultimately, those generic pleasantries serve no purpose other than to remind callers that they’re still on hold.

The ideal alternative includes thoughtfully executed custom content that encourages active listening, creates a memorable caller experience, and aims to accomplish defined program goals.

Whether entertaining callers with humor, bucking the traditional message-music-message format, or simply creating relevant copy that is 100% specific to your organization, Caller Experience Marketing will always be a more effective tool with unique content than with generic or shared content.

Listen to several different approaches to Caller Experience Marketing here.

Why We Don't Thank Your Callers for Holding
Why You Should Risk Being Funny
Why You Should Invest in a Better On Hold Experience 

Google "On Hold Marketing" or "On Hold Messaging" and you’ll find no shortage of providers.

However, you might notice that each of these websites includes much of the same information on why you need Caller Experience Marketing.

Dig a little deeper into these sites and you’ll likely see many other similarities as well. Advances in audio recording and production technology allow anyone with a laptop and the right software to create a mix of music and messaging, crowding the field with lots of amateur and professional audio engineers. But there are very few marketers in that group.

Understanding why you need Caller Experience Marketing is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to do anything more than simply let your callers know you didn’t hang up on them, how you implement a Caller Experience Marketing program makes all the difference.

Importance of Program Design

As with digital, broadcast and all other marketing channels, your Caller Experience Marketing should consistently and accurately reflect your organization’s brand identity.

So, when designing a Caller Experience Marketing program, consider the following.

1) Your audience. Who’s calling? Why? What is their caller experience like? Even a limited understanding of that data will help you flesh out choices for tone, voice talentmusic and production length.

2) Your goals. Are you trying to reduce call abandonment? Do you need to build awareness of ancillary products or services? Want to create a totally unique customer experience or promote events and other time-sensitive information? Your answers to those questions will help you map out content focus, frequency of changes and whether content will vary among your different locations.

3) Your marketing calendar and program ownership. What role can Caller Experience Marketing play alongside other channels in your campaigns? Who at your organization has responsibility for content? Who's responsible for ensuring that content is telecasting correctly (and on schedule)? A clear roadmap for those aspects of your program will reduce the likelihood of any hurdles.

You’ll miss out on an opportunity to make valuable impressions by giving less consideration to Caller Experience Marketing program design than you would the planning of your digital or broadcast marketing. In fact, I’ve started spirited conversations by asserting that impressions made with Caller Experience Marketing are more important than those made with traditional outbound marketing.