IVR Virtual Receptionists, whether they are cloud-based or on-site, are becoming standard operating procedure for many different types of businesses, both large and small. These automated phone attendants can greet callers, answer questions, and direct customers to the correct department or company representative. But not all virtual receptionists are created equal, and it is vital that your automated phone attendant makes a good first impression on the people calling in to your business offices.
We’ve all had experiences with poorly designed virtual receptionists, and we all know just how off putting they can be to the innocent caller. But getting it right isn’t as difficult as it seems, and with a few quick tips you too can have a virtual receptionist that is both efficient and reliable. More importantly, you can be sure that your IVR virtual receptionist makes the most out of that all important first impression.
The Power of the Human Voice
No one enjoys speaking to a robotic voice, and one of the cardinal errors business owners make is to use a computerized voice for their virtual receptionist. Remember, this may be the first contact the caller will have with your business, and if a live representative is not available you want your virtual receptionist to be as personable as possible. Use a human voice, either your own or a member of staff, to record a greeting and all of the subsequent menu prompts. Review the recordings, and re-record anything that sounds awkward or forced.
Good Manners Cost Nothing
When recording what will be your virtual receptionist’s automated responses remember to be courteous. Just because you are using an automated phone attendant doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be polite. For example, when asking for a customer’s account number say, “May I have your account number please” as opposed to “What is your account number”. If a caller’s response is misunderstood, don’t ask “What?”, say “I’m sorry, would you please repeat that?”.
Keep Your Menu Simple
Virtual receptionists can be beneficial to both your office workers and your customers, but they can also be annoying if not programmed properly. This is never more evident than with an overly complicated menu. Too many menu options tend to leave callers confused and frustrated, and if the prompts are not clear and to the point your caller may not know when, or how, to respond. Keep your menu simple, and always include a “speak with a live representative” option.
Touch-tone vs. Voice Recognition
Most IVR virtual receptionists offer a choice between touch-tone responses and voice recognition. Voice recognition is a great feature, but it is often less reliable than touch-tone responses. Ideally, your virtual receptionist should offer both. Either way, you should test your phone lines to ensure that there is no static or interference which may be mistaken for a caller’s response. This can lead to looping, which will only leave the caller frustrated.
Monitor Response Times
It is estimated that the average hold time for businesses using an IVR virtual receptionist is approximately 56 seconds. Business owners should monitor their automated phone attendants to ensure that they are not exceeding that amount of hold time. Ideally, your caller’s hold time should be much less.
Manners Still Cost Nothing
If for any reason your callers need to be put on hold for an extended period of time, for example waiting for an available representative or department head, don’t simply pipe in music and let the customer hang on the line. Record a polite, and friendly, message to be played at intervals while the caller is holding. Something simple like, “Thank you for holding, a representative will be with you shortly” or “Your call is very important to us, please hold for the next available representative” works wonders. It lets your caller know you are aware they are holding on the line, that you value their business, and that you appreciate their patience as they hold for an available member of staff.
Many business owners are finding that an IVR virtual receptionist makes a valuable addition to a smooth running office. But it is important to design your virtual receptionist carefully, and to fully consider how it will interact with your customers. These few simple tips, helpful reminders really, will make it easy for business owners to reap the full benefit of what an IVR virtual receptionist has to offer.