Often businesses will have a receptionist or a dedicated person who is in charge of answering the phones; however it is your duty to specify how you want them to be answered and how you want calls dealt with. Incoming calls can be from existing and potential customers, business associates, suppliers and the list goes on. You will want to give callers a first impression that your business is professional and is able to assist them through outstanding customer service and hence the first point of contact needs to be valuable.
When handling an incoming call it is imperative to know what to do with that call. At times it may be necessary for the receptionist to manage it themselves while at other times they may not be qualified or capable of presenting the right or detailed enough information to the caller. You must signify to your receptionist which calls that they should take control of and which ones need to be forwarded onto other members of the team. For instance the receptionist might be able to take all general enquiries about the business – what they do, how they can help the customer, etc. Once the customer starts to enquire about particular products, events or services they must then be transferred to a salesperson. If no salesperson is available the receptionist must then take a message, as many details as possible and forward them onto the correct salesperson. You should structure your phone procedures so that there is little room for errors. These procedures should be well documented and appropriate training given.
All calls should be logged especially if it requires someone to call a customer, supplier etc. back. If there is no evidence of the call then it could lead to a disgruntled caller. The system that you set up for your business will completely depend on what departments you have in the business, how many staff and their capabilities. Your system should include some of the details below, plus anything else that is a necessity and is important to the efficient functioning of your business:
- Who answers the call/s
- Where the call goes from reception
- What calls should be answered by which people/departments
- When should calls be returned – same day, within 24 hours of receiving message, etc
- How are calls documented – manual or auto system
- At what point should calls be forwarded to other people – assistant to dept manager, etc.
- How and when should messages be forwarded to the right people
- Do departments have answering systems if unavailable that they are responsible for, etc
Remember first impressions are vitally important be they face to face or over the telephone. Ensure all calls are answered promptly, politely and efficiently. Who knows the person on the other end may just be the great customer you have been waiting for.