Wot d’ya want m8? How to nail your company’s caller experience

5 Minute Read

customer service

When working for a former employer, I used to phone through to our head office from my satellite depot and ask to speak to certain colleagues. The person on the switchboard would often start transferring my call before I had even finished speaking, and would never retrieve the call to take a message if the person I asked for didn't answer. It was infuriating.

One time I even said that I wanted to speak to a particular individual and was about to ask her to check if they were available before releasing the call. Even then, I was too late and before I knew it I was back at another answerphone. This call handler worked for the same company as me, but I knew that many of our customers and other valued callers were no doubt getting the same bad experience.

The way your staff conduct themselves when answering your business calls speaks volumes about the way you value the interactions with your stakeholders. Get this right, and that positive caller experience can be the start of a wonderful new relationship. Get it wrong, and the caller is just one or two clicks away from a poor Google or Trustpilot review of your business.

So what does take to delight your callers? How can you make sure that every caller receives a first-class experience and becomes an advocate of your business rather than a critic?

1) It all starts with good planning

Consider the kinds of calls you're likely to get. Think carefully about the reasons people call you, the information you need to ask them for, what you want to say to them, and who to transfer their call to. Are your calls mainly new sales enquiries? Make sure your call staff know how to qualify those callers. What contact details will your teams need to follow up on your caller's request? What response times can the caller expect?

Also think carefully about your brand and your values. Consider the tone and style of your business and what you want callers to remember about their interaction with your company. A lot of differentiation can be achieved here. What works for the booking line of a cool wine bar won't necessarily resonate for callers to a high-end tailors on Saville Row. Think about whether you want your staff to answer calls with a friendly and casual "Hey, what's up?" or a traditional and professional "Good afternoon, how can I help?"

2) Set a clear protocol

This includes everything from determining who's answering calls and when, through to whether callers are being transferred to the intended person or messages taken and passed along. This will depend to some extent on your phone system capabilities.

Make sure your phones are adequately staffed for the volume of calls you receive and make sure you have some part of the protocol that deals with the unexpected. For example, have an escalation process so your call handlers know who to contact if some kind of emergency comes through on the phones that they're not clear on how to handle.

3) Equip your call staff

There's nothing worse than giving outdated information, especially when the people answering your phones can be your greatest ambassadors if they're equipped to convey helpful and current information. New staff recently joined? Make sure your call staff have their extension numbers. Got a new offer people might phone about? Let your handlers know how to direct those calls. Server down? Make sure they know what to say about possible delays. The better the flow of information you can give to the front-end of your business, the better the caller experience will be.

4) Set out to help

It may seem obvious, but it's in your interest to help people who call your business, whoever they are and whatever they want. Provide as much helpful information as you can without being overwhelming. Sometimes people just need a little more information to fix a problem, and being forthcoming with the right details always leaves a better taste in the mouth for your callers than if you're reserved or coy.

Ask questions to help the caller solve their problem before providing any solution. It's natural for people to feel frustrated when they're calling a business, and any inquisitive questions can make them feel like you care about their problem and that you're going to do your best to help them out.

Asking your callers if they agree with what you've suggested is a great way to show that you're listening. It's also an opportunity for them to give feedback about what kind of help they need, so make sure your staff take the time to confirm their agreement before moving on in your conversation with them.

5) Instil a culture of ownership

For me, this is the make-or-break part of any caller experience. Just like with my former employer, I hate phoning any company where it isn't clear if the person on the other end of the phone is taking personal responsibility for my need.

At Mushroombiz, we've hammered home the message of ownership for this exact reason. Let's be honest, which would you prefer - an individual who listens carefully to your enquiry or concern and commits to personally helping you to connect to the right person, or someone so keen to get off the phone that they don't care that you're going to have to call back anyway?!!

Train your call teams to take ownership of the needs and problems of people who call. If they can't reach the right person through the switchboard and the caller's need is urgent, empower staff to find an answer by phoning another colleague or sending an urgent message. Callers should go off the phone feeling confident they won't just be forgotten as soon as the line goes dead. Call staff should go off the phone and do exactly as they committed they would. This is what cements the perfect caller experience.

Nailing your customer experience can be the difference between winning new customers and alienating people from your brand. The way in which calls are answered, transferred or directed is all part of a bigger picture that tells people if your organisation is worth doing business with. The tips we've provided should give you a starting point for delighting every caller and leveraging the value of your brand to turn them into loyal customers.

If you're looking for more ways to improve your caller-experience, we've got plenty of know-how to help! From maximising new business from phone calls to dealing with difficult customers, get in touch today to get help from Mushroombiz.