Although it might seem a bit old-fashioned in an increasingly digital world, the phone remains the key tool for converting prospects into customers.
What is the business cost of an unanswered phone?
Although it might seem a bit old-fashioned in an increasingly digital world, the phone remains the key tool for converting prospects into customers. Indeed, 92% of work interactions occur by telephone (source: Salesforce).
In the era of multi-channel communications, you cannot afford to ignore the phone because it remains the most personal channel with both your customers and your prospects. In common with your brand, your physical outlets and your website, the way you greet people on the phone speaks volumes about the importance you place on your relationship with them. It is a way of forging a relationship that, more than using any other channel of communication, is personal and individualized and, most importantly, it can have a very strong impact on your sales and your turnover.
What is the cost to your business for an unanswered phone call?
Do you really give the humble phone all the respect it deserves? If you want to achieve heavenly relationships with your customers, the following tips will help you get there. Also, discover your "call profile" by taking the test below. You’ll discover how much unanswered phones are costing your business.
On the phone, you are not anonymous and neither is your caller. On the phone, you exchange more than words. A voice-to-voice dialogue often carries far more weight than those written messages you send via email or text. More than through any other channel of communication, the phone is a human medium. It is, of course, entirely normal to have processes in place to respond in a consistent and efficient way but it would be very damaging to minimize the human dimension by transforming the people who answer the phone into nothing more than robots who can deliver a formulaic and scripted response.
In a multi-channel client relationship, the phone is king
"The telephone is the channel which gives the best ROI," according to Antoine Coubray, Director of CustUp, a Paris-based consultancy specialising in customer marketing and CRM. "It is the medium that has the best conversion rate, 5 to 10 times greater than that of other self-administered tools." However, this is only the case when it is used in combination with other media and not on "cold" calls – calls which have not previously been qualified via another source. As Antoine Coubray explains, “The phone is not used in isolation but, instead, in a cross-channel environment, with leads which have been scored in other ways.” It is vital to understand how the various parts of the communication jigsaw fit together.
The risk, even when there is a perfect seal between the different channels, is that the information emanating from these different channels are also split. ", says David Llanès, Head of Corporate Image Bonduelle & Director of AMARC.
Don’t leave me hanging on the telephone!
We all have, as consumers, suffered at the hands of businesses which do not pick up the phone, or they transfer you between numerous departments or leave you in “hold music hell”. "Just answer my call!" This heartfelt plea from Antoine Coubray is just common sense. The telephone is a synchronous and immediate communication tool which has enormous advantages but also significant constraints when it comes to incoming calls. "You have to be there at precisely the moment when the customer is there", says Antoine Coubray. He has identified the main performance factor as the ability of the organization to respond when a client calls.
The challenge is to organize the teams to be able to accept calls: "The most important thing is to have the resources available to handle calls," stresses Coubray. This is also the view of Christian Barbaray, CEO of INIT: "Reachability is the minimum requirement, it is the oxygen of business." Depending on the business and the market (B2B or B2C), the type and level of reachability can, of course, be different. However, if it is normal for a business’s customer service team to be unreachable by phone at any particular time, it is a good idea for the other channels to take over.
In a benchmarking exercise carried out by Easiware in 2015, 70% of organizations had a pick-up target of 90% or more and 52% achieved it. One way to maximize the call answering rate may be to prioritize requests so as to respond to high-value clients first. Despite a high rate of use of customer service management software (80%), only 32% of businesses have different response times based on client profiles.
"Often perceived as a lack of interest by clients, waiting on the line is likely to lead to tension right at the start of any phone conversation and it is likely to lead to arguments", said Frédéric Durand, founder and President of Diabolocom. For him, "waiting time impacts customer satisfaction as much as the quality of the answers given." Easiware found that 21% of customer services departments do not have a telephone response time target and, in organizations with teams of fewer than 20 employees, this rate was 27%.
According to the Easiware benchmark, 75% of organizations had a target response time of less than or equal to 30 seconds and this target was met in 48% of cases. This objective is very ambitious relative to the norm which suggests organizations answer 80% of calls in less than 1 minutes and 30 seconds. In addition, according to a BVA-Viséo Conseil survey carried out in 2015, "two-thirds of consumers consider it “acceptable” to wait between two and four minutes between the time they dial and when they speak to an adviser.”
APT (Average Processing Time) is often used as a major performance indicator of a customer service staff. The benchmarking exercise carried out by Easiware showed that half of businesses have an APT target of less than or equal to 10 minutes and that this achieved in 57% of the cases. But it is also vital that the answer given to the customer does not lead to yet more calls from the customer. Therefore, it is essential to measure not only the APT but also the relevance of the response. This implies optimizing the skills of customer service staff so that they are able to give the most effective information and help. The rate of one and done is at least as important as the APT. This one and done criteria is not part of the performance dashboards of 37% of organizations. In addition, according to the Easiware benchmark, on average, 2.75 calls are needed to resolve a customer issue.
Asked by Easiware, Marie-Paule Bayol, Deputy CEO of Ipsos Royalty CRM, noted that "the relevance of the information requested and the response given is as important, if not more so, than the speed of response." The thing is to limit - and ideally to remove - the irritants as much as possible. "It is not the product that makes the difference to the customer, it is the quality of service and the attention the customer receives," says CRM expert Christian Barbaray.
Quiz: How much does that phone, which no one picks up, cost your business?
In business, some people consider the phone as a friend, others as a foe. Do you have a love-hate relationship with your telephone? Take our quiz and you’ll discover how you feel about the phone and the impact your behavior is having on your business.
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