- 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:
- Written by Scott Greggory
Most on hold messaging providers have something in common: their websites feature audio samples of their work categorized by industry. For instance, they might label their OHM demos as being for the automotive, medical or financial verticals.
We don’t do that.
Years ago - during conversations about content ideas - our clients would occasionally ask, “What are other companies in my industry talking about on hold?”
Our response was, “Respectfully, why does that matter?”
Yes, it’s important to know what your competitors are doing, but when creating your On Hold Marketing content, it’s just as important to showcase what’s unique about your business, not how you may be similar to those who serve the same consumers.
On Hold Marketing - as opposed to generic on hold messages - is a tool you can use to separate yourself, communicate your added value, and even build the trust necessary to begin new customer relationships.
We don’t group our demos by vertical markets because - unlike many OHM providers - we don’t think of your brand as just one in a crowd. Lumping it in with “all the others” would be a disservice not only to you but to your callers who want information that helps them make informed buying decisions.
You can listen to many samples of our work and read a short story about each production in our On Hold Marketing of the Month blog. Or check out our Humor On Hold™ page to hear how we create positive caller experiences with a humorous approach.
- Written by Scott Greggory
Have you ever considered the cost of a lost customer? Not a customer you once had who’s left you; a customer you never won due to an employee’s apathy, a lack of urgency or long hold times.
In his post “The True Cost of Customer Service,” Seth Godin details how the $600 you paid for digital ads that attracted one actual caller can be wasted if your receptionist or CSR doesn’t handle that call with care.
And that’s not even the worst part. The truly sickening sensation comes when you start imagining what all your lost callers would have spent with your company over the lifetime of your relationship with them. And then there’s the value of the positive word-of-mouth they might have spread on your behalf if you’d only given them a reason to.
We’ve addressed this topic before with the posts “Are Poor Phone Skills Costing Your Company Money,” and “A Phone Call Like This Should Be a Real Eye Opener.” Give them a quick read if you want to reinforce for yourself or someone else in your organization just how important friendly, efficient telephone representatives are - or could be - to your bottom line.
If you're serious about making the most of every inbound phone call, begin with a third-party evaluation of how your company handles those calls. We refer to it as a Caller Experience Audit.
We've uncovered many weaknesses for several companies, from a lack of basic etiquette and communication skills, to CSRs who don't take advantage of opportunities to close sales, cross-sell or upsell.