Do You Hear What I Hear? (More on First Impressions)
November 03, 2011 9:12:36 AM
When a potential customer contacts your company via telephone, what is the first impression received? Is the caller warmly welcomed by a live operator or receptionist, or does he get dumped into a frustrating, endless cycle of automated voice commands?
Sometimes the obvious is the most easily overlooked. A business owner has only one chance to make a first impression. Today, it’s common for a potential customer’s first visit to your company to be made by telephone, so make that initial contact a positive experience for your caller.
The first time a potential customer visits your company (whether in person, via telephone or through the Internet), he should immediately feel comfortable and confident about doing business with you.
Think about the image presented to someone who phones your organization for the first (or 50th) time. Will the caller feel welcomed and important? Is he likely to remain on the line to finish the transaction or call again for products and services in the future?
Telephone Doctor recently commissioned a survey that discovered the following:
• 85% of consumers indicated that telephone courtesy makes a difference when choosing which business they will patronize
• 65% prefer doing business with companies who have real people answering calls versus those that use an automated attendant
• 65% stated they are frustrated when placed on hold immediately after calling a company
• 48% refuse to conduct business with a company if they receive poor customer service over the phone
• The most frequently noted complaint: being placed on hold
The nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization Public Agenda discovered that a whopping 94% of its survey sample indicated it was “very frustrating” to phone a business and be greeted with a recorded voice rather than one of a live person.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, telephone operators are one of the top ten positions expected to decline within the next twelve months. Today’s voice recognition systems continue to improve dramatically, and the increase of electronic communication has considerably reduced reliance on the telephone.
Although many companies have made the transition from live operators to automated attendants for a variety of reasons (most notably to reduce overhead), the survey findings discussed in this blog should be carefully considered. Business owners may wish to ensure callers have a way to reach a live operator, and all employees interacting with customers on the telephone should be professional and courteous. Operators should be able to listen and really comprehend what the caller is requesting, so they can answer the question and fulfill the order or get the customer to someone who can.
Here's hoping you hear what your customers do!
Entrepreneurs: Trim the Fat and Boost your Profits!
February 03, 2011 3:38:57 AM
Now more than ever, individuals are looking for ways to cut costs -- personally and professionally. This is especially true for entrepreneurs preparing to sell their businesses. Higher profit margins naturally make a company much more attractive to potential buyers, and increased seller’s discretionary earnings generally equate to reaching the closing table faster and with a better selling price.
Most business owners today are using tried-and-true cost-cutting methods, as well as employing more creative techniques in order to reach their goals sooner.
Here are some suggestions you may wish to consider in the continuing quest to lower expenses:
Enjoy the electronic age
Try a voice mail system for your office and use email whenever possible. This may help reduce the hours needed for a receptionist or secretarial staff and could allow these employees to contribute in other areas. There is a variety of affordable software for businesses, which can help increase productivity within the office. Don’t forget to take advantage of the sales and marketing opportunities the Internet provides at little or no cost.
Deal directly with the source
Establish relationships with the manufacturer of products you frequently use. This may help avoid surplus charges added by third parties.
Makes vendors competitive
Sometimes business relationships can become too complacent. Check out current pricing by requesting multiple bids – especially on larger projects. Remember that sometimes the lowest-price offer may actually cost more in the long run, so be sure to examine the fine print and associated details.
Be rewarded for loyalty
For those vendors you patronize, ask about any loyalty programs they may offer. Even if none are publicly promoted, you may find a vendor will express thanks with special savings.
Outsource when appropriate
Both in terms of employees and leasing space, this is an attractive option for business owners. Outsourcing continues to grow in popularity on many levels. Temporary employees or contract workers make sense for seasonal jobs and short-term projects. Try renting or subletting space when it is needed only occasionally (such as a conference room or large space for presentations).
These are only a few of the many ways savvy business owners are making a direct, and positive, impact on their bottom lines. We’d love to hear what suggestions you might have for other entrepreneurs!