Let’s talk about the dreaded Automated Attendant for a minute. Every time you call a larger business you get the “Thank you for calling xxxx, please press 1 for sales, 2 for……” message and curse under your breath waiting to finally get to the option you want.
Honestly, I used to hate them, until I participated in a networking event and overheard some people talking about the pesky automated attendant, multi-message, digital receptionist, or whatever your favorite term may be. The conversation was about how much time was wasted talking to the wrong people, and everyone agreed with the point the person made after he explained his case, which went something like this:
You call company XYZ, simply wanting to inquire about a problem you are having, and a receptionist or switchboard operator answers the phone with their sing-song, cheerful greeting and asks who you need. You explain that you have a widget that is not working and she mistakenly sends you to the wrong department, where you describe your issue again, and they say, “oh, you need the doohickey support person, I’m the widget guy, let me transfer you”… So you just told your story twice to people who don’t matter. Then they went on to discuss smaller businesses who only have a handful of people working there, and the phone rings, and whoever is handy gets it, where you tell the person you were talking to someone earlier about an issue but can’t remember their name. So they go through the names one at a time and finally you recognize the right one and are connected.
Sure, you got the “human touch”, but you also were delayed.
So, should *your* business use an automated attendant? I’ve stuck to my guns that if you have only a handful of employees, you don’t need it, it will only cause you to be out of touch with your customers and potential clients, until now. Now I am seeing that a well structured, easy to maneuver automated attendant could serve your customer’s better. I’m considering using it at our office right now.
Most VoIP (Voice over IP) phone systems support interactive automated attendants which allow you to program them fairly easily, you don’t even pay for this feature in most cases, it is built right in!
The first thing you have to do is to determine if the AA is for you, and if it is, then draw up a flow chart of how it would work, for instance, you have two main departments, sales & service… You could simply have it answer with a greeting, followed by “Press 1 for sales, 2 for service”. Then it would ring the appropriate department, totally bypassing the inexperienced receptionist and causing the caller to only hit one additional button to go exactly where they want. You can, of course, expand upon that and add key persons to the menu, “3 for John Hoyt, 4 for Greg Varner”… Then what to do if they don’t press a button or give them the option to find someone to answer a different question… “Press 0 or stay on the line for assistance”.
All these things are possible, and I believe a small business needs to evaluate what will serve them and their customer’s best. If you are using an automated attendant to save manpower, then be considerate of the caller… If I think a better approach is to look at it from the start as a way to better serve your client base, instead of what it can do for you.
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