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Cross-Selling Systems

Building Cross-Selling Systems

Cross-selling Systems On-HoldResearch shows that on-hold messages do more than keep callers on the line. Cross-selling is often overlooked. An On-Hold Messaging Association survey revealed 24% of the respondents attributed specific sales directly to their hold messages.

Are you part of the 24% using On-Hold to cross-sell? If not, you are missing additional revenue! Too often, small business owners lose sight of creative ways to augment sales. So, here are a few things to optimize your messages on-hold ROI:

1. KEEP your hold message content UPDATED

The survey said businesses should change content more often. Those that change their on-hold messages 6 times or more per year are more likely to attribute an increase in sales to their hold messages and describe it as a useful marketing tool they recommend to other businesses.

Also, companies that keep content updated are more likely to utilize their messaging effectively and the more creative you can be with your content, the better. A good on-hold provider will help you craft content that really lets your customer know you care.

2. KEEP your representatives INFORMED

Anyone responsible for answering the phone should be aware of what’s being played for callers while on-hold. When customers ask about a product they heard on-hold, your staff should be able to answer any questions they have with ease. This also helps execute the whole cross-selling system more effectively.

Properly answering every call is key for setting up the cross-selling system. Train your staff to instinctively ask this question, "Would you mind holding for a few seconds while I get your information pulled up on my screen?" Callers don't mind being put on-hold, but they despise being forgotten on-hold. After 20 or 30 seconds, retrieve the call and answer their questions. Before disconnecting, read on...

3. KEEP your sales team EQUIPPED

This is where the rubber hits the road and requires training your staff to CROSS-SELL!

After the caller's questions are handled, your staff uses transition phrases that introduce a new line of conversation. Gently guide the caller into conversation that presents cross-selling opportunities!

Let's say you're in the insurance business and that you are focusing on increasing Life Insurance sales; your on-hold message playlist should include “Life Insurance” messages. Next, provide your staff with lead-in questions to work into the flow of conversation.  Something like, “ the way, while you were holding, you may have heard about our Life Insurance options. When was the last time you evaluated your coverage?” or “While holding, did you hear we are offering free life insurance helpful would it be to know for sure your family would be protected like you desire?”

Make sure your support staff understands the goal: Utilize messages-on-hold to steer the discussion toward your desired cross-selling initiative.

4. KEEP your intro greeting ON POINT

Many phone systems, especially VoIP solutions, offer greeting features that can be used in creative ways. Using an 'Auto-Attendant' is sometimes frowned upon, but typically when they are too long. A well planned greeting will actually  speed up your caller experience and improve customer service.

During promotional periods, introductory greetings should be updated along with on-hold messages, to include to topic du jour. Here is one appropriate to the Life Insurance example referenced earlier.

"Thank you for calling Allstate, Rykman Insurance and Financial. Do you have Life Insurance? Do you own a business?

Ask us how we can protect you, your family, and your business from life's Mayhem."

Now KEEP it going! Once you’ve got a plan that your staff executes, it’s a matter of repetition. Sales is a game-of-numbers after all. The more lead-in questions that get asked, the greater the opportunities for cross-selling additional items.



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The Sweet Scent of Success

Marketing through scent can create an emotional bond between brands and customers.

(If you missed out on the previous installment, here is the link to Audio Sensory Marketing)

From the aroma in boutique hotel chains to the scent of brand-new Apple products, smell plays a major part in establishing a brand’s identity. We’re used to visual and auditory marketing, but scent marketing is a burgeoning field that has room for great emotional impact on your customers. Our sense of smell directly connects to our memory. The hint of a familiar aroma can trigger specific memories, good and bad, of smelling that scent. For example, the scent of hamburgers cooking on the grill could prompt the happy memory of family cookouts from childhood. Customers’ pleasant memories can be evoked through successful use of scent, forging a positive emotional connection to your brand. Our ability to recognize a smell after elapsed time is greater than our ability to recall information from sight. Studies have found that people are able to recall a scent with 65% accuracy one year after first being exposed to it, while they were able to recall an image with only 58% accuracy a mere four months after seeing the image. Are these stats making you reconsider your visual marketing efforts yet? In-Store Aroma Incorporating scent at your place of business can happen in a variety of ways. Signature scents are created to go hand-in-hand with a brand, like Singapore Airlines’ aroma Stefan Floridian Waters, which is infused into their towels. A brand’s signature scent should be just as unique and impactful as the brand itself! Aroma is used in businesses to create a pleasant environment. They’re not meant to overwhelm customers, but to make a customer’s in-store experience pleasant. Whether a business wants customers to be relaxed and calm or energized enough to shop for a long period of time, scent provides a unique opportunity to connect with your clientele. Marketing with Scent If scent is a major part of your brand or products, utilize it in unique ways! Dunkin Donuts ran a scent marketing campaign in Seoul, South Korea in 2012. Public buses were equipped with machines that released the scent of coffee each time a Dunkin Donuts radio commercial played. The results were speak for themselves: Dunkin Donuts shops near bus stops saw a 29% increase in sales and a 16% increase in visitors to shops throughout the city. Keep It Clean The modern world is full of manufactured odors: shampoos, perfumes, air fresheners, chemical cleaners. Some people have scent sensitivities or allergies that cause a range of symptoms when exposed to these scents, from debilitating headaches to rashes. Work with fragrance dealers that are in good standing with the International Fragrance Association to ensure you’re not introducing harmful chemicals into your business. Our next installment will focus on the marketing power of taste.
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Improve the Mood by Marketing through Sound

Improve the Mood by Marketing through Sound

Considering your business's sound is crucial to marketing to the senses.
Considering your business's soundscape is crucial when marketing to the senses.

(If you missed out on the previous installment, here is the link to Visual Sensory Marketing)

Marketing through traditional means like signage and print ads affects how businesses look, but how many businesses consider how they sound?

One great aspect of using sound in marketing is that there are so many different ways to implement it! There are signature sounds, which immediately trigger the memory of a specific brand or product when they’re heard - think about the iPhone and its iconic “Marimba” ringtone or the McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle. On-hold music and messaging also market through sound as well as present a cohesive brand image. Overhead music and messaging that play in-store or in the office contribute to the overall feeling of the room.

Creating a soundscape for a space influences the mood of a customer and can affect how long the customer stays in the store or office, as well as their inclination to spend money. For example, if a store is designed to feel comfortable and welcoming, customers are more likely to take their time while shopping and spend more.

From the tone of the voice talent in your radio ads to selecting music to play on-hold, we’ve got several suggestions for getting the most out of marketing with sound.

Voiceover Choosing a voice talent to use with your marketing campaigns is all about invoking personality! The sound of your voice talent creates a human image for your business. A faint, unsure voice may not encourage the most confidence and trust from potential clients, while a clear, authoritative voice would. From on-hold messaging to radio advertisements, select voice talent that represents your brand’s personality and fits the type of message you’re trying to communicate.

On-Hold Messaging Putting callers on hold may seem like a necessary evil, but it’s easy to make the most of it. Play personalized, branded messages about your business on hold. Depending on your on-hold provider, your messages can be updated and changed throughout the year, making it easy to spread the word about upcoming events, new products or seasonal specials. Not only do these messages promote events and products but they also present a cohesive image of your business through sound.

Overhead Music and Messaging What customers hear while they’re in your place of business is another critical component of audio marketing. Do they hear noise or conversation from other cubicles? Do they hear radio advertisements for your competition? All of these situations can create a negative customer experience or sub-par work environment, but using an overhead music service eliminates these issues.

Overhead music choices should be aligned with your brand identity and the tastes of your clientele. For example, classical music makes a better score for an upscale jewelry store while kid-friendly Top 40 songs fit better for a dentist office. Custom overhead messages are yet another creative way to integrate sound with your marketing efforts. Keep customers informed and engaged with your own custom messages instead of blasting radio spots for your competition!

Quality Would you find a radio advertisement compelling if it sounds like it was recorded on a smartphone? Probably not. Even if you’ve selected the perfect voice talent and the most fitting background music, your sound production will totally lose its impact if it’s rendered in poor quality. If you’re broadcasting the radio in your place of business, there’s the added risk of broadcasting a unpredictably weak or fuzzy signal.

Make sure you’re producing voiceovers and music with clarity and precision. A cautionary tale comes from one of our own on-hold clients. When the client switched to a new VoIP provider, the provider asked the client to put them on hold so they could record our production and put it on the new phone system. Not only was their recording fuzzy and unclear, but it also caught someone picking up the phone, interrupting the whole production! Needless to say, a shoddy recording does not project a professional image to your customers.

When creating a sound plan for your business, it’s vital to keep both your brand identity and your clientele’s taste in mind. And, of course, make sure your work is of the best quality possible!

Our next installment will focus on the marketing power of scent.

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Can Colors and Shapes Control Emotions?

Vision(If you missed out on the previous installment, here is the link to Sensory Marketing 101)

Visual marketing is the most common form of marketing because our vision is usually how we first perceive our environment. From the color of packaging to in-store lighting to the shape of a logo, mindful use of colors and shapes sends a powerful, emotional message without saying a word. While seeing certain colors and shapes might not have the same affect on everyone, their use in marketing can heavily influence our emotions and how we feel about a brand or a product. Logos and marketing designs package personality and feeling into iconic images, but it takes a lot more than a tricky design to establish a strong brand identity! Colors Color holds a lot of power in marketing. Did you know that people are up to 78% more likely to remember something written in color than something written in black and white? Use that power to your advantage when designing marketing campaigns and materials. Beware of tying too much meaning to a specific color! While colors do hold some symbolism, there's no guarantee that seeing a certain color will inspire a specific feeling. Instead, our personal experiences influence our color preferences.  
Image by The Logo Company
Image by The Logo Company
According to the study “Impact of color on marketing,” color affects up to 90% of the judgments a consumer makes about products. For example, the memory of wearing a particularly hideous yellow t-shirt for school could influence how you feel about the color yellow and your decisions to buy products of that color as an adult. Yet seeing yellow will not inspire the same feelings among others. Rather than relying on a supposed color-emotion connection, choose colors that communicate the personality of your brand and improve the in-store experience. Find a color that’s fitting for your company and your products or services, instead of a color you think will bring in customers. If your company creates rugged outdoor equipment, using a neon color palette on your packaging may not convey the same brand identity that using neutral colors would. Consider the logos and colors used by other companies in your industry. Find a color that not only sets you apart from your competitors but also aligns with the brand you want to be. Shapes Logos are synonymous with their brands. If someone refers to the “Golden Arches,” most people know that they’re talking about McDonald’s. Even if your logo isn’t the next Golden Arches, it’s still important to design something with impact! Below are some common shapes and their implied messages: Circles, ovals, curves, and rounded shapes suggest positive emotions. A complete circle or oval can imply unity, community and completeness. Squares, rectangles and triangles suggest efficiency and strength.  Keep in mind: angular shapes can appear harsh or boring when used with certain colors. Curved shapes are often associated with femininity while angular shapes are often associated with masculinity. Remember: these ideas about shapes can easily apply to choosing fonts for your logo or marketing materials. Don’t just stick to regular geometric shapes -- incorporate personality into your logo design! Take the UPS shield. This logo communicates that the company is reliable, safe and protective through its shape. Transform something ordinary into something not only unique, but relevant to your product. Our next installment will focus on the marketing power of sound.
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Sensory Marketing 101

Creating a sensory marketing plan requires detailed attention to how the five senses influence purchasing habits.
Creating a sensory marketing plan requires detailed attention to how the five senses influence purchasing habits.

Think of how the outdoors smell after rain.

Did you smile, reminiscing about the moment the clouds begin to clear? Or did your face sour as you recalled the scent? No matter your particular emotional response, that knee-jerk reaction you had is what forms the basis of sensory marketing. Our five senses connect to our emotions and help us form memories. Sensory marketing uses this connection to influence and appeal to a customer. When used properly, sensory marketing sparks an emotional connection between a brand and a consumer. Sensory marketing can help your customers see (and smell...and taste!) your brand in a whole new way.
  • Vision: Visuals include everything from stills, motion video and logos to websites to the color scheme of a print ad. Traditional marketing campaigns often use visuals to reach their audience. Colors and shapes convey a message about your brand without words.
  • Sound: Sound is also used frequently in traditional marketing. Auditory marketing includes the background music to a television commercial, on-hold messaging and in-office overhead music. Sounds emphasize a point and heighten emotions, just as the theme from “Jaws” makes you feel suspense as you await an appearance of the shark itself.
  • Scent: Scent is a powerful marketing tool if used correctly! An excellent use of scent marketing comes from a Dunkin Donuts campaign in Seoul, South Korea. Public buses were outfitted with machines that released the scent of coffee each time a Dunkin Donuts radio commercial played. As for the campaign’s success, the proof is in the coffee - er, pudding. Dunkin Donuts shops near bus stops saw a 29% increase in sales and a 16% increase in visitors to shops throughout the city.
  • Taste: Unless you’re in the food business, you don’t need to take marketing through “taste” literally (and if you are in the food biz, then yes, your product should be delicious!). Taste could mean the overall feel of your brand or simply someone’s first experience with your product. Don’t leave a bad taste in your customer’s mouth, whether they’re a loyal subscriber or they’re just reading a print ad for your newest product.
  • Feel: Touch can apply to your marketing strategy both literally and figuratively. Allow customers to touch the merchandise, or at least a sample of it. Figuratively speaking, reach out to your customers! Make an appropriate emotional appeal through your marketing strategy while keeping your brand open and accessible for communication.
Approach customers on a personal level! Evoke positive feelings and create a new, fascinating experience through sensory marketing. Over time, your brand’s immersive marketing can create a strong connection between you and your customers. This article is the first installment in our series on sensory marketing. Stay tuned for our next installment, focusing on visual marketing and the impact of colors and shapes on emotion.
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Choosing a Phone System Part 4: Deciding What’s Best for your Business

Your new phone system has arrived!
Your new phone system has arrived! Illustration by Infograpps.

Part 4: Deciding What's Best for your Business

(If you missed out on the previous installment here is the link to Part 3: Telephone System Features)

When you’re armed with a stronger understanding of how each telephone system differs, it’s easier to decide which type is ideal for your office. A small startup that needs to control costs may look to VoIP because it requires minimal hardware investment, and it offers features like voicemail, conference calling and call-forwarding. Other small businesses may prefer the long-term savings of a premise-based PBX system. In either case, it’s always a good practice to figure the cost of ownership over a three, five and seven-year period, so you have a better understanding of long-term expenses. Remember to factor in the cost of monthly service, calling plans, long distance, toll-free number usage, upgrades, expansion, maintenance and technical support. There are two schools of thought on monthly pricing. One is to charge by the line, the other is to charge by the phone, or “per seat.” There’s no hard-and-fast recommendation when it comes to choosing between these pricing models. If you’re charged per line, you’re charged by the number of simultaneous calls you need to be able to take. This is the most familiar approach, because it’s the traditional method used by POTS and PBX systems. The provider doesn’t care how many phones you have connected; it’s charging by the number of lines you have (i.e. the concurrent-calls capacity). Most Hosted PBX VoIP solutions charge per user (seat, phone, etc.). Therefore each phone represents a line that can make and receive calls. Usually, a line to phone ratio of 1:1 is overkill, so be cautious entering into this type of arrangement with more than five or six phones, unless you’re absolutely certain you need the capability of handling simultaneous calls for each and every phone. As you determine which pricing method is best for your situation, be certain your vendor is fully disclosing all of your monthly charges, and provides a sample monthly bill. Don’t rule out plans that charge by the minute. You may find that a good per-minute price saves much more than some so-called “unlimited” calling plans. Certainly, there are situations where an unlimited calling plan is best, but don’t assume it’s going to be cheaper. Remember: it’s the right combination of hardware and service that will ultimately create the value you receive for the dollars you spend. Contract Fine Print
As with any contract, make sure to read the fine print when purchasing a new phone system. Illustration by Infograpps.
As with any contract, make sure to read the fine print when purchasing a new phone system. Illustration by Infograpps.
Before signing any agreement, pay close attention to contract termination fees. The cost of terminating a long-term contract with a VoIP provider may bear heavily on the overall cost-effectiveness of the transition. Also be sure to inquire about the customer-support options of each provider. Access to tech support may be well worth the extra financial investment. Make sure you have a clear understanding of any limits contained in “unlimited” calling plans. Selecting a telephone solution that meets your business' current and future needs is a powerful tool for setting yourself apart from your competition. Creating an enjoyable, low-frustration phone experience for your customers builds loyalty and gives your business a professional edge. Remember that the key to picking the right system is finding the optimum combination of telephone hardware and service plan that is dynamic enough for your business now, and for where it will be in five years. Take time to understand the technology; make careful, informed decisions; don't lock yourself into a long-term service plan without fully understanding the commitment; and when in doubt, ask questions. Your telephone system is an integral part of your business, and it’s well worth your while to choose one that will benefit your practice now and in the long run.
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Choosing a Phone System Part 3: Telephone System Features

The ability to upload customer on-hold content is a great telephone feature with the potential to increase profits and improve customer experience. Illustration by Infograpps.
The ability to upload customer on-hold content is a great telephone feature with the potential to increase profits and improve customer experience. Illustration by Infograpps.

Part 3: Telephone System Features

(If you missed out on the previous installment here is the link to Part 2: Business Telephone System Technology)

Business leaders are notorious for stepping over dollars to pick up dimes. Leveraging phone system features is probably one of the most overlooked and underutilized small business tools. It is usually considered a necessary cost of doing business rather than a means to strategically drive profit to the bottom-line. Most of the time, we only think about the phone system when it is not working right. We seldom give thought to how we can leverage it to our advantage. Developing a thorough understanding of telephone system features is the only way to use a phone system strategically within your business. Using features strategically is the only way to optimize your telephony ROI. If you have already given thought to how your phone system enables your staff to generate revenue, streamline processes, save time, impact customer experience, cross-sell, or reinforce your brand, then congratulations! That puts you a step ahead of most of your competition. The list below highlights the top (in our opinion), Must Have Telephone System Features for SMBs. Note: We have left out very basic features such as call transfer, conferencing, forwarding, and others that are deemed standard with any business-class system.
  • Outbound Caller ID Control - The number displayed by your outbound calls may be a non-published number assigned the particular extension (or line) being used. Unless you have a good reason for this, it shouldn’t be done. The way your business name is displayed is critical. Both the name and number are part of maintaining brand consistency.
  • Custom Message/Music On-Hold - Call your business and have them put you on-hold for 60 seconds. Are you impressed by what you hear or ready to hang up? This is an often under-utilized communication platform and your chance to inform, educate or even entertain. Hold time feels dramatically shorter with relevant, quality content.
    A well-designed auto-attendant can increase customer satisfaction with their on-hold experience. Illustration by Infograpps.
    A well-designed auto-attendant can increase customer satisfaction with the on-hold experience. Illustration by Infograpps.
  • Auto-Attendant (Virtual Receptionist) - Live Answer is the traditional favorite, but well designed prompt recordings can actually increase customer satisfaction. Optimizing call handling with the customer in mind is paramount. Avoid lengthy introductions or “commercials”. And for crying out loud, skip the “our menu has changed” nonsense!
  • Voicemail to Email - Retrieving and managing voicemail through your telephone keypad is ‘old-school’. Having them emailed to you instantly as a recorded attachment is where it’s at!. Assuming sufficient email storage, you’ve got a built-in searchable voicemail archive. No more skipping through dozens of saved messages to hear the one you’re looking for!
  • Call Detail Reporting - Are your telemarketers making the number of calls you expect? What’s the average length of your support calls? All of this data, and so much more, is easily queried and readily available with most modern telephone solutions. If you don’t have your arms around this one, you could be leaking dollars through your phone system.
These features represent our favorites for any small business. Depending on the nature of your model, you will likely benefit from several others, such as Mobility Integration, Call Monitoring, CRM Integration, Remote Users and more.
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Choosing a Phone System Part 2: Business Telephone System Technology

There are many options available for business phone systems, but don't let them overwhelm you! Illustration by Infograpps.
There are many options available for business phone systems, but don't let them overwhelm you! Illustration by Infograpps.

Part 2: Business Telephone System Technology (If you missed out on the first installment here is the link to Part 1: Plan and Research)

Telephone technology is rapidly changing and increasingly complex. At the same time, systems are becoming more user-friendly, easier to set up, and more compatible for integration with existing technologies. Knowing the differences between each platform and understanding the benefits and drawbacks as they relate to your business form the basis for choosing the right telephone solution for your office. Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS): This is the type most familiar to many people. Calls are made and received over copper telephone wiring--the same kind you’d use to hook up a home telephone. Many small businesses simply visit the local office supply store, pick up a two- or four-line business phone (see Multi-Line Business Phone below). Basic integrated features like conference calling, voicemail, and transferring calls between phones make the POTS approach acceptable for some small office and home office situations, though it’s not the favored business option. If your phones are an integral part of customer contact, we suggest you consider newer, scalable approaches geared toward business needs such as PBX and VoIP. Multi-Line Business Phones (Analog): Two and four-line business phones available at office-supply or electronics retailers used with POTS. Distinguished by the user's need to select a line on which to place a call (e.g, “Line 1,” “Line 2”), as opposed to PBX and VoIP phone systems that automatically choose an available line to place a call. CAUTION: Feature limitations imposed by the design of these types of systems make them undesirable in most business situations. Speaking from experience and tons of feedback, businesses that start with this type of system usually upgrade within a year to a legitimate business telephone system. Private Branch Exchange (PBX): This refers to a system with a central unit or “brain” that manages your lines, phones and calls. PBX solutions can be hosted by a third-party provider or managed on-site. These two approaches are referred to as Hosted PBX (see VoIP below) and Premise-Based PBX, respectively. A Hosted PBX system will have a lower up-front cost, because there’s little to no equipment expense. A premise-based PBX requires a greater initial investment, but can save money in the long run because you can add extensions (phones) without necessarily adding to your monthly service expense, which is likely when using a hosted solution.
VoIP is the phone of the future.
VoIP phones offer a wide variety of features. Illustration by Infograpps.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP): VoIP is projected to be the future of telecommunication. Instead of using copper wire, a high-speed internet connection is used to make and receive calls. Hosted PBX services have an abundance of VoIP providers that offer a way to lower the up-front costs (of having a hosted service) over purchasing a Premise-based PBX. Keep in mind, the lower the initial hardware cost, the more likely your VoIP provider will require a long-term commitment of three to five years or more. VoIP service can also be used with many premise-based PBX systems. IP Telephone or Internet Protocol Telephone: Unlike its Analog ancestor, the IP Phone is essentially a computer designed for the sole purpose of making and receiving telephone calls. It connects with an Ethernet cable rather than telephone line over your network either to a PBX or the Cloud. They can be powered with an AC Adapter or using Power over Ethernet (PoE) to minimize cabling. IP Phones convert your voice to digital information and then transport that data using SIP technology over your network and internet connection to the person you are talking to (endpoint), where it then decodes the data and reproduces your voice. Sounds pretty tech-y, right? Even that explanation is oversimplified! The coolest thing is that it can work great! Hybrid PBX Solutions: Several newer premise-based PBX systems are geared particularly toward meeting the needs of small business. They are gaining popularity, especially among the “D-I-Y” crowd, because of their reasonably simple setup and ability to work with either or both analog lines and VoIP. These Hybrid PBX systems deliver many, if not all, of the same features as a larger PBX system at a much lower cost. Examples of Hybrid PBX systems include Altigen, Allworx, XBlue, and Cisco UC320. There’s also an open-source code project for PBX called Asterisk. The software code is free and customizable, but will require technical expertise and build-it-yourself hardware. That covers the major categories at a very high level, just enough to get you thinking. Next week, we’ll provide a primer on telephone system features so you’ll be prepared to shop with a bit more confidence.   GLOSSARY OF TERMS POTS: Plain Old Telephone Service. The oldest type of telephone service. If you have ever used a home telephone with a standard telephone jack, you have used a POTS system. PSTN: Public Switched Telephone Network. A collective term for the network of analog and digital telephone systems used by the entire world to make and receive phone calls. VoIP: Voice Over Internet Protocol. Also called IP telephony, broadband phone, internet phone, or voice over internet. VoIP uses a high-speed Internet connection, rather than a traditional phone line connection, to make and receive phone calls. PBX: Private Branch Exchange. A system used to interconnect multiple phones (and other devices that use phone lines) to each other, and to connect them to outside telephone lines on the Public Switched Telephone Network. Although not exactly the same, the term Key System Unit (KSU) is sometimes used interchangeably. Hosted PBX: A software PBX hosted and maintained by a phone or Internet provider, rather than purchased by the business and installed in-house. Typically managed by the end-user through an online portal. Premise PBX: The opposite of hosted PBX systems, PBX equipment is purchased or leased by the business and maintained in-house by the business itself. Hybrid PBX: Hybrid PBX can have several different meanings. In today’s world of telephone technology, it’s mostly used to describe a premise-based PBX that has the capability of integrating POTS and VoIP service, as well as analog and digital (IP) phones.
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How to Choose a Phone System That’s Right for Your Business and Your Budget

Seek advice from other business owners when considering a new phone system.
Seek advice from other business owners when considering a new phone system. Illustration by Infograpps.

Part 1: Plan and Research

Even Alexander Graham Bell would be amazed at how telephony technology continues to transform business communication. At today’s rapid pace of continuous feature improvements, every growing business owes it to themselves and their stakeholders to review optimization opportunities every 12 to 18 months. “Whaaat? Every 12 to 18 months?” you say? Yep! You may decide to not make a change in systems, but if you buzz through the next five or seven years with the same old dial-tone, you’ll miss opportunities and run the risk of your callers hearing “the number you have reached has been disconnected.” How then do you minimize the review process and maximize the benefits for your business? Since your telephone system affects your professional image and ability to provide excellent customer service, it’s worth every effort to ensure you choose wisely.
Plan and research before you commit to a new phone system.
Plan and research before you commit to a new phone system. Illustration by Infograpps.
This four-part Blog Series is the culmination of our own experiences over the last 15 years with just as many phone systems! We’ve distilled the salient points and organized the key components for choosing a telephone system into the acrostic below:
  • Prioritize features – Caller ID, conferencing, auto-attendant, messages-on-hold, voicemail, voicemail to email, find-me follow-me. Determine which ones you’ll use immediately and which ones you’re likely to implement in the future. Distinguish between need-to-haves and nice-to-haves.
  • Homework – Spend some time studying available phone system options. Learn about current technology and the range of prices in the market. Expect 5-7 hours of research, just to get your bearings. We will explain phone system options in next week’s blog.
  • Over-budget – Don’t under-invest! Too often, “penny-wise and pound-foolish” proves true: we try to save a few bucks and end up owning equipment that will not grow with us. The actual per-user cost of newer technology like VoIP or PBX phones is similar to traditional analog multi-line phones. Consider the benefits of investing in a system that will meet your needs now and for several years to come.
  • New or used – One way to leverage your up-front investment is to purchase a used or refurbished phone system. It’s not unusual to find a used PBX for 10 or 20 cents on the dollar. Though used systems may save money, many people still decide to purchase a new system because newer technology is always emerging, and there’s always the risk of purchasing a “lemon.”
  • Equipment – Keep in mind that some PBX units are able to support regular analog telephones with limited features and most IP telephone sets can be re-provisioned to work with different providers. So, utilizing phones you already own could save money but could also limit the potential of a new system.
  • Seek advice – Ask at least 10 other small businesses (yes, 10!) about their telecommunications solutions. If you’re lucky, you may find a few that have “been there and done that,” and can prove to be an invaluable resource, saving you research time and the headache of sifting through vendors. Locating your telephone vendor by referral is always preferable.
Next week, we’ll explain the different business phone solutions such as VoIP, Analog, and PBX. In the meantime, if you have any questions, we’d be happy to get answers for you.
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Benefits of keeping your on-hold messages updated

Not the Same Old Song and Dance: The Importance of Updating your On-Hold Content

Changing your on-hold messaging on a frequent basis may seem like another administrative task you can afford to put off. Sure, it’s easiest to set your messages and forget them, but you might be missing out on improving customer satisfaction and additional revenue.

Set an Expiration Date

Let’s face it - nobody enjoys hearing the same song over and over. The same holds true with on-hold messaging. Part of the issue is that small business owners don’t regularly call their own business and ask to be put on hold, so they tend to forget about the customer experience side of the equation. Playing the same thing every time someone calls your business may give your customers the distinct impression you don’t have anything new to say. Be strategic and set a reminder or “expiration date” to change out your on-hold playlist.

Mix it up!

Even if you’d like to keep some of the messages in rotation, change up the background music or voicing to keep things interesting. Mixing up on-hold content keeps customers updated on the latest and most accurate information available on your business. We suggest monthly updates to your content, giving you the opportunity to try out new messages and highlight the current happenings at the company. If monthly updates seem too high maintenance, then make them quarterly at a minimum, to stay in touch with the seasons. Some on-hold providers offer the benefit of Automatic Updates where your on-hold provider takes this “to-do” item off of your list and ensures you always have the latest, greatest messages.

Frequent Changes = Higher ROI

Survey statistics from the On-Hold Messaging Association show that small businesses that change their on-hold messages 6 times or more per year are more likely to attribute an increase in sales to hold messaging and describe it as a useful marketing tool they’d recommend to other businesses. Companies that keep content updated were also more likely to utilize their messaging in a variety of ways. The more creative you can be with your content, the better. A good on-hold provider should be able to help you craft content in ways that really let your customer know you care. Incidentally, even companies that don’t change messages on a regular basis experience a sales bump over not having a solution in place: 24% of survey respondents said they could attribute specific sales directly to hold message marketing.
Source: Online survey to OHMA and AMA (Europe) clients, April 2012