Conversational - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog Page 9
Where do you look for helpful customer service tips? Well, when you want to know how to make an omelette, you ask a chef. When you want to find out how to get in shape, you ask a personal trainer.
And when you want to learn how to offer amazing customer service, you ask a virtual receptionist.
Our virtual receptionists have mastered the art of being friendly and offering great customer service over the phone and computer through both real-world experience and formal education.
We compiled some of their advice for offering the best customer service and support online, in person, and via telephone.
Check out these helpful customer service tips from our virtual receptionists!
6 Helpful Customer Service Tips from Our Receptionists
Nobody gets customer service right like a friendly receptionist. Feel free to steal these tips for your customer service department and upgrade the level of service you’re offering your clients!
- Physically put a smile on your face – not metaphorically. Smiling helps you keep in touch with positive feelings while conveying a friendly, jovial tone to anyone you speak to, even on the phone. Studies show that smiling while feeling down can actually ‘trick’ your brain into making you feel happier. It really does make all the difference. Don’t skip the smile!
- Keep a notebook next to your desk to jot down little reminders and notes about people you’ll speak to again – for example, you might write down nicknames people prefer, call scripts, notes about a call, common solutions to customer problems, etc.
- It’s not enough to stay calm and collected during customer interactions. Being too calm without showing friendliness can come across as detached. You have to stay positive and upbeat- no matter what happens on the phone. Personal problems, crazy callers, bad days, and all. It’s your job to do it!
- Learn how to graciously avoid long-winded conversations irrelevant to your job. Develop strategies for bowing out early when someone seems to be veering into the long-winded zone. Certain callers are known to keep you on the phone as long as possible, but this guide is handy for learning to handle these types of callers. You can also check out Part 2 of the guide for handling difficult callers here. If you’re facing any type of abuse or uncontrolled anger from a caller, you should refer to the 5 Steps to Follow If a Customer Insults You.
- Never, ever badmouth clients on the job. No matter how much they may (or may not) have deserved it, and no matter if you think there’s no way it will get back to them. The risk of being overheard by that client or another is too high to warrant this harmful kind of ‘venting.’ Would you continue to use a business after you heard their receptionist talking about you?
- Play a little music when you put someone on hold. We’ve run some internal studies and found that most of the callers we handle prefer music to silence or listening to on-hold promotions. Music keeps the caller entertained and helps them accurately judge how much time has passed while they’ve been on hold, while silence or listening to the same promotions on a loop can make the caller feel they’ve been on hold longer than they have.
If you can implement just a few of these helpful customer service tips in your business, you’ll get a positive reaction from your customers and increase their level of satisfaction. Have any other customer service tips that should be on this list? Please let us know!
Want to learn more about our talented team of virtual receptionists? Click here for price information and monthly plan details.
Publish Date: June 7, 2016 5:00 AM
How important is customer service to your business? Is it more important than sales? That’s a tough question to answer. Because your company relies on sales to stay in business, you might be tempted to say that sales are more important than customer service.
But as successful brands like Zappos have proven and multiple studies have shown, delivering great customer service leads to increased sales and more loyal customers. Likewise, delivering a bad customer service experience leads to decreased sales and causes customer trust to plummet.
Upselling is a tried-and-true tactic that involves selling an existing customer more than they originally came for. The upselling tactic is used all over the business world, sometimes with great success, and sometimes with bad results.
From the movie rental industry disrupter RedBox’s friendly notification that for $.50 more, you can take home an additional movie to a waiter in a restaurant asking if anyone has room for dessert before bringing the check, companies everywhere rely on the classic upsell to increase their bottom line.
But that’s not always a good decision. Upselling can make for a bad customer service experience if you don’t manage it properly. Here’s why.
Upselling makes for a bad customer service experience when…
Upselling can be the boon or bane of your business – it all depends on how you and your team approach it. Below are three ways ineffective upselling can create a bad customer service experience.
…The customer just needed help
There’s no doubt about it – customer service interactions can be a great time to offer additional services or products to customers. Shep Hyken, a respected speaker and customer service expert, supplies an example of such a scenario:
“…If a customer is at an Ace Hardware store buying a can of paint, it is perfectly logical, and many times appreciated by the customer, to ask if he or she needs brushes or other items to complete a paint project.”
But when customers call or visit a business with a genuine problem and are met with a sales pitch instead of working solutions, it will be remembered as a bad customer service experience, even if you are able to eventually fix the problem they called with.
Here’s an example of an upsell that was intrusive because the rep pitched the sale before helping the customer:
Customer – I’ve had my steam cleaner for 2 years. The light turns on when I plug it in, but the water jet won’t turn on. Can you help me with this?
Representative – Sure, we can get that figured out. Which model of steam cleaner do you own – the Generic 123 or Generic Pro? I ask because the water jet on the 123 model is designed to be replaced every 2 years or so, but the Generic Pro model is made with higher quality materials that are guaranteed to never need replacing. I always recommend that 123 model owners switch to the Pro – if you’re using your steam cleaner more than once a year, it’s the only way to go.
Customer – No, I don’t want to buy another, more expensive steam cleaner from you – I just want the one I have to work properly! I paid good money for it less than 2 years ago. I’ll just look for a replacement jet on Amazon.
When a customer considers their problem solved and feels they’ve established some trust with the representative, they’ll be much more receptive to your sales pitch.
…Customer service staff is asked to sell
Asking your customer service staff to begin upselling without training them properly is a recipe for disaster. It will result in stressed-out customer service agents, frustrated customers, and little to no increase in sales.
There’s a reason sales is a department in and of itself – selling effectively requires serious, continually developed skills and adequate training.
Asking your customer service staff to upsell to the people they’re supposed to be helping without training them to do so puts them in a bad situation when they interact with customers and sets them up to deliver a bad customer service experience.
It’s the equivalent of a restaurant asking a hostess to seat the guests and also man the grill (which he or she isn’t trained to use) to cook their order. The patrons would leave dissatisfied because a hostess (trained in customer service and interaction) who is pulling double duty as a inexperienced cook can’t possibly deliver a great dining experience.
…It takes precedence over customer service
Be careful with upselling and where it falls on your priority list. If it takes precedence over customer service, you’re sure to create a bad customer service experience. At their core, sales and customer service seem to be at odds with each other: Sales is about your company. Customer service is about your customers. But there is a way to balance the two and create a positive customer experience.
To make sure your customer service takes precedence over sales, don’t teach your customer service reps to pitch product features and sell solutions. Instead, teach them to listen well and ask the right questions. If your reps take the time to learn about the customer, know what problems they’re trying to solve, and only “pitch” products or services that they truly feel would benefit them, you’re on your way to providing a great customer service experience.
The less you focus on upselling and the more you focus on supporting your customer through a purchase or problem, the more likely they are to trust you and become loyal customers.
Publish Date: June 6, 2016 5:00 AM
The salon industry is one of many that regularly employ front desk receptionists to take calls and manage appointments. If you own a beauty salon or barber shop or are in the process of opening one, you’re probably concerned about cutting costs wherever possible without sacrificing the quality of your services.
You might have assumed that hiring a receptionist is the only way to consistently manage your calls and appointments – the cornerstones of your business.
In a way, you’d be right. Managing your own appointments and answering calls yourself (as well as having your other stylists answer their own calls) is undeniably an inefficient way to run your salon.
If going without a receptionist isn’t a smart decision for salon owners to make, but hiring one is too expensive to make financial sense right now, what is the solution? We’ll outline how you can avoid this conundrum below.
Can a beauty salon survive without a receptionist?
The idea of a receptionist-less beauty salon brings up some important questions. We’ll go into more detail below.
Without a receptionist, who will greet your customers?
Salons have an interesting advantage that many other businesses that typically employ receptionists may not – most salons have an open design that allows customers to enter without requiring them to be “buzzed in” or directed to the proper hallway or room number. In a salon setting, customers can walk in, take a seat in the waiting area at the front of the salon, and simply wait for the stylist to signal them over or lead them to their chair without ever thinking, “This place needs a receptionist.”
So, to answer the question of who will greet your customers if you don’t have a receptionist – anyone in the salon can. It only takes seconds to call out a friendly hello when someone enters and invite them to take a seat in the waiting area.
Without a receptionist, who will answer the phone and manage appointments?
If you don’t have a receptionist, you’ll be on phone duty. Even if you and your stylists share the duty by answering calls whenever one of you isn’t busy (answering the phone is tough when you’re elbows deep in shampoo), every second spent on the phone acting as your own receptionist is time stolen from your work.
It’s also a disorganized arrangement.
Think of this scenario: The phone rings in your salon and there are 4 stylists working, all busy at the moment. Everyone glances around, waiting for one of the other stylists to stop what they’re doing and answer the phone. By this time, the phone has rung 5 or 6 times. Finally, you shut off your blow dryer and hurriedly grab the phone to answer, only to realize the caller just hung up.
Without a receptionist, this would be your situation every day. We think that’s frustrating and that’s one of the reasons we started this business. If you’re not familiar with Conversational, we offer virtual receptionist and call answering services for small businesses, like salons and doctor’s offices.
Our solution to the receptionist conundrum (they’re too expensive to hire, but too valuable to forgo) is simple:
- Go to our virtual receptionist plans and pricing page here
- Select one of our three monthly plan options (We offer tiered pricing & no contracts so every business can afford to use our receptionists without locking themselves into a plan)
- Take advantage of our limited time free trial offer to give your new virtual receptionist a test drive
- Give your virtual receptionist instructions on greeting callers, what appointment scheduling software you use, who and what number to transfer calls to, your cancellation process, etc.
- Focus on your work while your virtual receptionist fields all the calls and either books an appointment, cancels an appointment, transfers them to the appropriate person, or delivers basic business information like business hours, stylist names and services, etc.
Yes, a beauty salon can survive without a traditional receptionist – in fact, it can thrive. But skipping a receptionist altogether isn’t the way to make your salon thrive. Instead, opt for a virtual receptionist that costs around $4/day and aptly handles your calls and appointments. Your clients will thank you!
Publish Date: June 3, 2016 5:00 AM
When it’s time to create journey maps for your customer base, the different approaches may seem overwhelming. You can look online for advice and variations of the task, but you’ll end up wondering why they’re all so different, where you should start, and how to know which approach would be the most effective. Where do you even get a journey map template to begin with? Take a look at these tips that will help you create an excellent customer journey map for your business.
Where to begin
The first thing you should do is to decide what type of customer you’re targeting. Is there a certain type of customer that your journey map would best be suited for, or is it for potential customers? Is it for a segment of customers?
Clarifying who it’s for is step one, and you can do this by looking at your overall business goals. For some, it may be that you need to establish a journey guideline that would apply to all of your customers in order to build a common understanding of customer stages and goals. From there you could also focus more on the planning of how you will invest in customer experience-driven growth, optimizing the customer experience, understanding how one customer segment differs from another particular buyer persona, or targeting a new customer to grow the business.
Think of personas as the archetypes of your customers with different expectations, behaviors, and needs. Now you can link your customer journey map to the personas you’ve defined or start to develop new ones.
Next you’ll want to build your journey map through defined stages in your customer’s perspective. Organizing by stages or phases helps to determine major goals that your customers want to achieve. Rather than focusing on your internal process, use this step to focus on your customer’s goal or journey. These stages can be broader or narrower. Put your stages in order of one after the other to look at how your customer’s behaviors flow.
After that you can look at your customer’s wants, needs, and expectations. The customer be: “I want to pay a fair price” or “I want all of the options.” Understanding your customer’s goals at each stage of the journey helps you figure out if you are delivering at each step or if an area is neglected. It’s a great tool when it comes to your business decisions because it helps you to evaluate things.
Look at how your customer interacts with your brand
Now you’ll want to look at the various ways your customer is interacting with your brand to determine if all of these “touchpoints” are meeting your customer’s goal or expectation. Gaining insight on the various touchpoints of your customer’s journey is going to help you tremendously. Examine these touchpoints by exploring the ways your customer interacts with your company–such at through your online presence or by phone.
If you want to skip this stage, you can create a map with the inventory of tools or resources you offer — but most likely you’ll want to see how your customer engages with your company to achieve a goal. If you ignore these touchpoints, you will miss important pieces of your customer experience.
Tracking customer emotion
You’ll want to be sure to capture your customer’s emotion during the journey to better understand their experience. How does your customer feel at each stage of interacting with your brand? If there are positive emotions at each stage, you’ll create a memorable experience and end up retaining old customers and gaining new ones. You can track emotion by paying attention to words like “frustrated” and “delighted” or through phrases, icons, and visual symbols that represent emotion.
How would your customer evaluate their experience? Assess your customer experience by listening to emotional cues, assessing company touchpoints, finding what the customer values, and evaluating the time and effort it takes for your customers to reach their goals.
Finally, look at which areas are worth highlighting and which moments were unnecessary or problematic. Where can you grow to improve the experience? Where did you make a low impact and where did you excel? After this thorough evaluation, you can look at your internal processes–including the people involved in delivering the journey, the processes it required, and all of the systems involved.
By creating a great customer journey map, you’ll gain the information you need to take action on improving your business and customer experience.
Publish Date: June 3, 2016 5:00 AM
How many times have you walked into a business building or office and immediately felt welcome? Can you remember what the environment was like? If you’d like to recreate that feeling at your business, all you have to do is follow a few “best practices” for reception areas that are proven to invoke a welcoming vibe in visitors.
We’ll show you how to do that – along with what to avoid in your reception area- below!
How to Create a Welcoming Reception Area
Making your business entrance a welcoming place involves making purposeful decisions in the colors, materials, and decor of your reception area.
While there is no concrete formula for creating spaces that others will perceive as appealing, welcoming, or peaceful, there are best practices you can follow to help achieve that welcoming vibe – even if you’re working with a virtual receptionist or don’t have a receptionist at all. Keep reading to find out how!
Pick the right lighting
Lighting is a powerful tool for managing and creating moods. You’ve probably heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that sets in during the winter months when sunlight is less direct and days are shorter. The same concept applies indoors – adequate lighting is a must for any reception area that strives to give off a welcoming vibe.
But not just any lighting will do. Harsh, fluorescent lighting has been linked with serious dips in employee productivity and mood because it just doesn’t mimic the warmth and color of natural light. Opt for warm colored light bulbs instead of bright white, utilize as much natural light as possible, and steer clear of fluorescent lighting to create a welcoming reception area.
Mind your materials
The materials in your reception area are very important in creating the vibe visitors experience when they enter the door. While sleek, modern-looking metals are common in many offices and create the popular minimalist look, they’re not the best materials for creating a welcoming reception area.
Instead, the material you should focus on incorporating into your reception area is wood. When we enter a building and see lots of wood, we’re reminded of places that are cozy or that we feel comfortable in: Our home, a rustic cabin, the forest, etc. Not only does wood offer a less “intimidating” look than metal, but it’s also warmer to the touch (see the ‘Don’t chill your visitors’ section below) and can be stained in any color you choose. If the traditional light brown hue shown above just wouldn’t fit with your office decor, opt for darker woods or stains, or a lighter wood like oak.
Incorporate some color
Now that we know incorporating wood materials into your welcoming reception area is one way to make it a cozier and more enjoyable place, let’s talk about color. Your color choices in the reception area are important in creating your visitors’ initial impression of your business building and determining how welcome they feel. Generally, the consensus is to avoid loud or “polarizing” colors that tend to be either loved or hated (Person 1: “Don’t you love these bright lime green walls? It’s my favorite color!” Person 2: “No, I can’t stand it – gives me a headache.”).
But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be bold in your color choices. You should choose a color – one color, though you can use as many shades of that color as you’d like – to consistently pepper throughout the reception area. An easy way to incorporate a new color into your welcoming reception area is by painting one wall that color and adding coordinating pillows, paintings, flowers, plant pots, etc.
Don’t chill your visitors
You don’t have to be even slightly creepy to ‘chill’ your visitors – your thermostat can do that all on its own. Studies have shown that colder offices, those that set the thermostat around 68 degrees Fahrenheit, have lower levels of employee productivity, disrupt concentration, and make visitors feel uncomfortable.
Why? Think about any uncomfortable place you’ve ever been to – examples might include hospitals, funeral homes, doctor’s offices, and courtrooms. Now, imagine yourself back in that place. What’s the temperature like? Probably quite chilly. The last thing you want to do is have visitors associate your reception area with an unpleasant place or the unpleasant sensation of feeling cold.
Publish Date: June 3, 2016 5:00 AM
Do you feel confidence about how well your customer support department performs? You typically can resolve issues with customers pretty quickly and you don’t receive too many complaints. Sometimes you chalk up an unhappy customer to what’s inevitable and not being able to please them all.
On the other hand, if your competitor isn’t pleasing customers and their customers come crawling to you, then you are getting the chance at gaining new customers at the expense of your competitor’s poor business practices. Are you taking the time to see what your competition did wrong to avoid making the same mistake with your customers?
You can have customers will out feedback forms and surveys but sometimes companies have to dig a little to see what people are saying about the competition. Rather than potentially making the mistakes or losing customers to your competitors, learn from your competition to make sure your customer support is doing a great job.
Resolving the issue
In more than half of cases, customers feel like their issue wasn’t really resolved. An unhappy customer won’t usually tell you they are unhappy, they will tell everyone else online by encouraging others to avoid your company. You’ll end up with bad reviews of your company on social media, forums, and independent review sites.
This is where you can find out what you’re doing wrong and how much of an impact it’s having. In addition, you can look at what people are saying about your competition to see where they may have failed at resolving a customer problem. If you are hearing that a company failed to resolve the problem, didn’t even respond to a complaint, or wouldn’t make any special accommodations for a customer, you know exactly where you can get ahead of the curve with your customer support department.
In almost half of cases, the customer simply felt that their customer service interaction was with a rude or unhelpful staff member. In half of cases, customers simply felt unappreciated when seeking help. Look online at reviews that make statements about a rude interaction, unhelpful customer support departments, or simply feeling unappreciated. When customers feel valued, respected, and that a staff member shows patience, they want to continue working with that company in the future knowing that if an issue comes up they will receive the treatment they deserve.
Why customers simply leave a competitor
You need to determine, in addition to feeling their issues were resolved, why a customer would actually leave a competitor completely. Acquiring a new customer is much more expensive than retaining a customer which means you don’t want to find yourself losing customers you’ve already acquired.
Ask your customers directly or look online to see what made people leave your competitors and do everything in your power to avoid the same mistakes they made. The reasons your customer left your customer will not only show you what to avoid, but it will show you what your customer’s expectations are. Don’t be afraid to ask why and make sure you learn from their mistakes by improving your own practices and product quality.
Being more available
Sometimes customers leave a competitor because it’s just too hard to reach them. Sometimes calling on the phone isn’t convenient and it’s important to have other ways to reach support. Be sure to get a leg up on your competition by offering contact through social media, web chat, email, and other channels.
Some businesses avoid social media because they don’t want to risk having negative feedback on a public channel, but it typically turns into a great opportunity to show your whole audience how well you solve problems. Offering a website with a FAQ page and community forum may also help your customer from needing to contact you at all; their answer may already be available right on your site.
Always be innovating
Sometimes your competitor just isn’t doing anything new and their customers want to work with someone who is always evaluating their product in order to be innovative in future endeavors. Be a company that is always coming up with a better way to do things, a new product, or new improvements on your current offerings.
Your competitor’s customers may be content with your competitor but simply feel that they want to work with someone who isn’t afraid to try something new. Whether it’s a product update, a new product or service, or an update in handling claims or complaints, make sure you are being innovative.
While you are looking up what customers are saying about your competition, be sure to see what people are saying about you. Do your best to improve your customer satisfaction ratings and to avoid making the mistakes your competition has made by paying attention to what they do and learning from their mistakes.
Publish Date: June 1, 2016 5:00 AM
Do you feel confident in the performance of your customer support department? Do they resolve issues with customers quickly and have minimal complaints? Occasionally, you will receive an unhappy customer that can’t be pleased, but are these incidents few and far between?
What about your competitor? If your competitor isn’t pleasing customers and their customers come knocking at your door, you get a fresh opportunity to win them over at the expense of your competitor’s poor business practices. Are you taking the time to see what your competition did wrong to avoid making the same mistakes?
One way to answer these questions is to have new customers fill out feedback forms and surveys–but sometimes companies have to dig a little deeper to see what people are saying about the competition. Rather than making mistakes or losing customers, learn from your competition to ensure your customer support is doing a great job.
Resolving the issue
For many companies, more than half of customers feel like their issue wasn’t really resolved. An unhappy customer won’t usually tell you they are unhappy, but they will tell everyone else online by encouraging others to avoid your company. You’ll end up with bad reviews of your company on social media, forums, and independent review sites.
This is where you can find out what you’re doing wrong and how much of an impact it’s having. In addition, you can look at what people are saying about your competition to see where they failed at resolving a customer problem. If you learn that a company failed to resolve a problem, didn’t respond to a complaint, or wouldn’t make any special accommodations for a customer, you know exactly where you can get ahead of the curve with your customer support department.
In almost half of cases, the customer simply felt that their customer service interaction was with a rude or unhelpful staff member. Another common complaint is that customers simply feel unappreciated when seeking help. Look online at reviews about rude interactions, unhelpful customer support departments, or complaints about customer value. When customers feel valued and respected (or when they see that a customer support representative is willing to assist until the problem is resolved) they will continue working with the company in the future. They’ll have the reassurance of knowing that if an issue comes up they can find the treatment they deserve.
Why customers simply leave a competitor
Leaving a company can be a big decision, so you should determine exactly why new customers are leaving your competition and coming to you. Acquiring a new customer is an expensive process, even more expensive than retaining an old one. Make sure you’re not losing customers who have already chosen you by doing everything in your power to avoid making the same mistakes your competition made.
By understanding the complaints against your competitor, you also receive an additional bonus to avoiding the same mistakes–You can get an understanding of your customer’s expectations.
Being more available
Sometimes customers leave a competitor because it’s just too hard to reach them. Sometimes calling on the phone isn’t convenient and it’s important to have other ways to reach support. Be sure to get a leg up on your competition by offering contact through social media, web chat, email, and other channels.
Some businesses avoid social media because they don’t want to risk having negative feedback on a public channel, but it normally turns into a great opportunity to show your whole audience how well you solve problems. Offering a website with a FAQ page and community forum may also help save your customer time; their answer may already be available right on your site.
Always be innovating
Sometimes your competitor just isn’t doing anything new and their customers want to work with someone who is more innovative. Be a company that is always coming up with a better way to do things, a new product, or new improvements on your current products.
While you are looking up what customers are saying about your competition, be sure to see what people are saying about you. Do your best to improve your customer satisfaction ratings and to avoid making the mistakes your competition has made.
Publish Date: June 1, 2016 5:00 AM
Ask a Receptionist: What Do Virtual Receptionists Do?
“I’ve been hearing about virtual receptionists a lot lately. I know that they answer phones for small businesses, but there must be more to it if so many businesses are skipping the ‘traditional’ receptionists in favor of virtual receptionists. Can you tell me or give an example of what a virtual receptionist does on an average day?”
-Kevin G. of Harris, LA
Kevin’s question is a common one. While most people know what receptionists do, the term ‘virtual receptionist’ can be unfamiliar to some. Don’t worry – one of our virtual receptionists volunteered to give an example of her daily duties at Conversational. It will give you a better idea of what a virtual receptionist finds herself working on throughout the average day and what a virtual receptionist could accomplish for your business in just one day.
If you have a question you’d like to ask a receptionist, please send it over to Debra@Conversational.com and we’ll have a receptionist answer it in an upcoming blog post!
Ask a Receptionist: A Day in the Life of a Virtual Receptionist
8:00am Time to get to work! After grabbing a quick breakfast on the way, I arrive at the Conversational office at 8:00am each weekday and make my way to my desk. I turn on my computer, put on my headset, and get ready to take some calls.
8:04am First call of the day comes through – a customer calls to find out the business hours of one of our law office clients. It might seem like an easy question, but I love answering those! Bonus: She decided to make an appointment for a consultation after learning more about the law office and availability!
9:50am Now that I’ve got several calls under my belt this morning, I compile any messages callers have left for our clients throughout the morning and start sending them out – unless they’re urgent and need a response very quickly.
In that case, I immediately type and email the message to the proper person and offer to forward the caller to their voicemail so they can leave a quick message as well.
11:58am I answer about 12 more calls before it’s time for me to take my lunch break. Today was my turn to bring lunch to share with my coworkers (an awesome, talented group of ladies!). Had an idea to start hosting themed lunches each week – we love anything with a good theme. Check us out as flappers at our 1920’s themed party (below right)!
12:31pm After a big lunch, I get my “second wind” of the day and get back to answering calls and scheduling appointments.
1:10pm Just got off the phone with a man who called to cancel his appointment with a doctor’s office we work with. At Conversational, we are taught to immediately offer to reschedule appointments when someone calls to cancel. I told the man I appreciated him letting us know he couldn’t make it and offered to reschedule the appointment for the following week, same day, same time.
He agreed and was so thankful that we could reschedule him quickly – even asked for my name so he could let the office know about his great experience on the phone. These are the calls that make me so proud to be a virtual receptionist.
2:00pm I’ve been sitting down for most of the day and my legs start to get crampy. I take a break, pull up some ‘deskercise’ videos on YouTube, and do them at my desk. I try to do this once a day. I stop before I’m out of breath because answering calls when…you’re…talking….like….this doesn’t exactly come across as professional.
2:44pm I successfully fight the urge to answer the phone as Bridget Jones (the way Kelly from The Office did). Potential crisis averted.
3:17pm One of our clients, an independently owned beauty salon, gets a call from a woman who has experienced a terrible hair catastrophe after attempting to do her own hair color. She wants to schedule an appointment to have a stylist check out the damage and come up with a plan to fix it.
Since I answer calls for the same small business clients each day, I know this beauty salon well and am familiar with the process the owner uses to handle customers that need serious hair repair. I’m able to calm the woman down, let her know that we can work her in for an appointment the very next morning, and send a special note to the owner to give her background info on the color issue (as she requested when we first started working together). Score.
4:25pm Calls slow down and one of our virtual assistants (they’re a bit different from virtual receptionists – we handle calls, messages, and appointments while virtual assistants handle a wider range of tasks, including social media scheduling, blog posts and editorial calendars, event planning tasks, etc.) comes to my desk and asks if I have time to help her find and schedule social media content for a new client.
We work together to find content under the topics the client specified and start scheduling. We don’t mind helping each other out when our schedule allows because you never know when you’re going to be the one who needs some assistance!
5:00pm After wrapping up by sending the last of today’s messages to their proper recipients, my workday has come to a close. I think back to this morning as I drove to work, scarfing down an Egg McMuffin and it seems like a long time ago.
I think about the dozens of people I’ve spoken to on the phone today and remember the sweet compliment I got from the man who simply needed to reschedule an appointment. I mildly panic when I remember the worried woman who was in the midst of a hair disaster and hope that she gets it taken care of tomorrow at her appointment. It’s been a good day, I decide. I’m ready to come back and do it again tomorrow.
Publish Date: June 1, 2016 5:00 AM
Attention, entrepreneurs: Offering better customer service may be the key to growing your business, regardless of the industry you’re in.
When you’re working to start your business and get it off the ground, offering excellent customer service might be a big part of your strategy, officially or not. In the early days, when you’re so personally involved and invested in your business, offering great customer service comes naturally.
You reply to every tweet, are thrilled to spend time on the phone with customers to answer questions and forge relationships, and watch your Google mentions like a hawk.
But that level of involvement isn’t sustainable for very long, as you’ll see in the following example.
Growing your business is a lot like parenting
It’s a lot like becoming a parent. The first few months of your child’s life are spent with you constantly peering over their shoulder, making sure they eat as often as needed, turning them over as they sleep, and monitoring the state of their diaper affairs.
It’s an involved job, but one that you do happily because the baby is new, you’re very proud, and oh my gosh, do you love them. It’s not exactly sustainable, this level of involvement, because eventually, you’ll need to sleep more than 2 hours at a time and take a shower.
Your doting, love, and care ensure that your baby can grow properly and without extra difficulties. They start becoming more independent. Now, they’re eating solid foods and throwing things at you. Crawling. Walking. Beginning to talk. Potty training.
You find yourself less and less involved with their everyday functions while still remaining totally invested in the health and happiness of your baby.
This is similar to what happens when you start and begin growing your business.
At first, you’re heavily involved in every aspect of the company and absolutely loving it – you wouldn’t have it any other way. You go above and beyond in your business efforts, including offering great customer service, because you’re passionate and excited about the venture.
But that level of involvement can’t be sustained forever. As the business grows, it’s natural to take a step back from the heavy involvement and begin focusing on the priorities that matter most to your business (just like when you potty train your child and begin focusing more on the heavy-hitter parenting priorities like teaching them right from wrong).
And just like the parent example, you remain totally invested in the success of your business even while taking a step back and becoming less involved in the everyday function.
Growing your business means offering better customer service
One mistake we see entrepreneurs making in this critical juncture of growth is letting customer service slide into the background.
That’s problematic, because offering lower-quality customer service when you’re trying to grow can actually cause the opposite to happen. Even if everything else is spot-on at your company – competitive prices, smart industry placement, cutting-edge marketing, generous investors – bad customer service has the power to stop business growth in its tracks and undo the progress you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Great customer service allows you to grow
But just like bad customer service can stop or reverse business growth, offering better customer service can foster more stable business growth.
In industries where great customer service is rare, you have the opportunity to set yourself apart from your competitors by offering better customer service than customers in the industry are used to receiving. In the ever-churning Buffer vs. Hootsuite battle, Buffer usually comes out on top, despite offering fewer features than Hootsuite, because of its amazing customer service.
And in industries where great customer service is the norm, you won’t be able to tread water very long without meeting or exceeding the level of customer service your competitors are offering. There is no circumstance that makes customer service an unimportant factor of business growth – in every industry and sector, customer service is a deciding factor in how successful your business can be.
The limiting factor
Sometimes growth doesn’t happen when you expect it to. You might pore over your pricing models, industry trends, and marketing strategies in an attempt to figure out what’s stopping you from growing. The limiting factor for your business might be customer service. It doesn’t have to be hideously bad customer service to keep your business from reaching its potential.
One thing you can do to get your business over the hump and leave the plateau behind is upgrade your customer service. Surprise them! Offer something you haven’t before. Make your company more available by offering new channels of customer service.
Whatever you decide to do with your customer service, this is the most important thing: Stay involved.
You won’t necessarily be handling the day to day execution of customer service as you’re growing your business, but you need to consider yourself the parent that lovingly ‘stalks’ their teenager to keep them out of trouble. Know what’s happening in your customer service. Monitor all exchanges. Track and analyze any changes you make. Make changes to your strategy in response to what you learn.
Publish Date: May 24, 2016 5:00 AM
Using customer experience journey maps is the best way to understand where you stand as a company. Your customer experience is what can make or break your brand, so it’s really important to make sure it’s performing at the best it can.
These tools used by customer service experts are a great way to gather information before utilizing them for other purposes.
For example, you can now use your customer experience journey maps to understand your customers’ emotions regarding your products or as a way to show a proof of your brand’s concept.
Take a look at 7 ways companies are starting to use their customer experience journey maps for other purposes outside of their original purpose.
To communicate better
While your customer experience journey may be mapped for tracking an interaction, you can also utilize this journey map to further analyze how a customer is experiencing your brand through multiple channels of communication. Whether the information is sent to the team member, the manager, or the executive of the company, this information is a quick way to understand what a customer experienced.
This means that if it’s clear a problem took place that could have been avoided, a decision can be made to take action regarding a roadblock or an area that has been neglected. You can be the customer in that moment and see where the brand failed the customer in one way or another in order to improve this for the future.
Once you’ve completed a customer experience journey map, you can start to understand the emotions the customer experienced during the interaction.
Understanding your customer’s emotions, whether it’s through the buying process of your product or a concern that came up after the purchase, this is useful information to correct this problem before it happens to someone else.
It’s also great to understand the joys and frustrations experienced by customers when it comes to shopping with your brand so that you can correct problems causing frustrations. Mapping the experience is the best way to understand your customer’s expectations, disappointments, and to see how the experience was different for the customer from your competitors.
Innovating your brand
Another way to use the map is to determine how you could be innovating the experience. Knowing what your customer experiences and how they are affected during the journey is valuable information.
You could even plant a few customers in the store or on the phone as fake customers to see how your team interacts with the customer and to see where you’re not meeting the mark. Use this information to find ways to improve the journey for your customers and improve their experience.
Success with teamwork
You could also use a customer experience journey map to get the 411 on how your team is working together. Since your customer is likely going to interact with several employees, it’s a great way to understand how the journey went from start to finish.
Was the experience more or less smooth with different departments or personalities? Did everyone work together well? How was the experience overall and did everyone do their best to help your customer?
For feedback purposes
Sometimes feedback is the best way to figure out how you are performing as a brand. Collect feedback through interviews, surveys, and other methods to make sure you are performing well for your customers.
Proof of concept
Sometimes a customer experience journey map is the best way to prove your concept.
When customers are happy with their experience and you’ve covered all of your bases, you’ll have proof that your service or product works. Capture the journey carefully to make sure you can show how well your concept is working from point A to Z.
To better train your staff
Use your customer experience journey maps to better educate your staff. Sometimes being able to show your staff how things worked well or poorly with proper mapping is the best way to explain something.
It’s difficult to explain how a situation went awry when you have no visuals to explain the problem with the actions that took place. Your staff will feel more involved with improving the experience compared to feeling too separated to care.
Lastly, you can utilize your customer experience journey maps in planning your next projects, as a way to encourage vendors to work with you, and as a way to illustrate ROI.
What may have started as a tracking method for your customer experience could turn into a guide to improve your business.
Publish Date: May 24, 2016 5:00 AM
If you’re finding success freelancing, you’ve probably considered scaling up and turning your freelance career into a small business.
Most people start freelancing because they’re keen on working for themselves, excel at time and self management, enjoy a customizable schedule, or possess a diverse skill set that doesn’t always get put to use in full-time roles. These traits are all indicators that you’d make a good business owner.
How to Turn a Freelance Career into a Small Business
To effectively turn your freelance career into a small business, you need to consider and plan for the following things: Scale-ability, demand for your work, and profitability.
Can you scale up without slipping?
So far, you’ve been freelancing alone. It’s worked well for you at the current scale, but can you scale up successfully? The type of work you do is a major factor in determining your scalability, as some work is easier to scale than others. Writing, for example, takes a time investment and can’t be automated. Once you’ve taken on your max number of clients or writing projects, you’re tapped out unless you hire more writers.
If your customers are used to your writing, hiring other writers to help you scale your business can have negative consequences. If your customers notice a difference in the writing or are dissatisfied with the work they receive, you’re not scaling, you’re slipping.
But if you’re confident you can find skilled writers or collaborators to help you generate a larger volume of content or freelance work, it’s safe to consider your freelance idea scalable.
How much demand is there for work like yours?
If you’ve been freelancing successfully so far, you know about the demand for your work. One reason many freelancers consider turning their freelance career into a small business is consistently receiving work requests that they are forced to turn down due to time constraints.
If you’ve been turning down work because you don’t have enough time to complete it all, there’s likely plenty of demand for work like yours, meaning it would make a viable small business. But if you struggle to find clients or don’t get requests for your work often, it may mean there’s not enough demand for your services to warrant turning it into a small business.
How profitable will it be as a small business?
Once again, let your experience as a freelancer so far guide you here. You know the profits you’ve been making as a freelancer, but consider that doing the same tasks on a larger scale as a small business may not net the same profits.
Anytime you’re planning for growth, costs will increase.
You might hire new staff, outsource tasks, purchase new equipment and supplies, spend more on marketing and advertising, and incur miscellaneous costs like creating and hosting a website, professional memberships, and attending industry conferences.
At the end of the day, will you still be profitable?
Publish Date: May 24, 2016 5:00 AM
In the world of business, the art of persuasion is a valuable skill to possess. Not only can you close more sales, increase followers and engagement on social media, and make solid partnerships with other companies – with the right persuasion techniques, you can learn to connect more deeply with every person you come into contact with.
Swing the odds in your favor and learn to persuade anyone with these 4 tips taken from psychology theories.
Learn to Persuade Anyone With These 4 Tips
Ever wish you just knew the magic words to say to make someone agree with you or do what you want them to do? There are no magic words, but if you follow the tips below, you’ll tap into the human psyche and know how to touch on all the right points to persuade someone.
1. The majority will always listen to a vocal minority
When you’re trying to persuade others, it can feel pointless when the majority doesn’t seem to agree with you. But the Conversion Theory states that a confident, vocal minority is more effective at changing hearts and minds than a complacent majority.
If you’re championing an idea or action that doesn’t seem widely accepted at first, just be vocal about it, educate others as much as possible, and be consistent. Your ideas will be heard by the majority, increasing your persuasion power!
2. Bend the truth when appropriate
Before we talk about why telling white lies or omitting some small truth from your statements will make you more persuasive, we have to talk about the general, social rules of what we expect in an average conversation.
These are called the four conversational maxims in the world of psychology.
The 4 Conversational Maxims
Quantity: Information given is complete and full.
Quality: Information given is truthful and accurate.
Relation: Information given is relevant to the conversation.
Manner: Information given is expressed in an easy-to-understand way and non-verbal actions support the tone of the statement
How does this help you learn to persuade others?
Building on this information, when we communicate with others, we follow certain rules that help us trust each other and the information exchanged. We assume, for the most part, that the other person is going to give us complete, accurate, relevant, and easy-to-understand information when we communicate.
But when you’re trying to achieve a goal or result through communicating with someone, following these 4 maxims can actually keep you from effectively persuading the other person.
That’s right – in order to most effectively persuade someone, you have to break one of these 4 maxims.
You might break rule 1 and omit information that doesn’t help your cause, or break rule 2 and give untruthful information. Breaking rule 3 would mean giving information that isn’t really relevant to the conversation, but helps your cause anyway – think mudslinging politicians. And breaking rule 4 might mean giving information in a confusing or rushed manner. Any of these can make you more persuasive, although many feel uncomfortable using dishonest tactics to persuade others.
3. Seem unsure, not overly confident
The Amplification Hypothesis says that when you seem certain or confident in an idea or attitude, it tends to ‘harden’ those you’re communicating with against the idea. But when you express uncertainty and don’t show complete confidence in a decision or idea, others soften or warm to the idea.
Why? Think back to a recent argument or disagreement you’ve had with someone. You might have spoken surely and confidently about why you were right and they were wrong in an attempt to get that person to agree with you. But did it work? Probably not. Confidence is usually a wonderful thing to have and show to the world, but if you want to learn to persuade others effectively, you need to be able to show a little vulnerability.
If you can express your own ideas with a hint of uncertainty, you say to the other person that you really value their input and make yourself seem less intimidating by asking for their input. For a business owner who wants to persuade employees, this can be an excellent tactic to try as you learn to persuade others more effectively.
4. Say these persuasive words
Words don’t all carry the same persuasion power – some words ‘convert’ more than others when it comes to persuasion. Saying the right words can help you persuade someone without changing the original message or idea you wanted to discuss.
The Ultimate Terms theory found that there are 3 general types of persuasive words:
God terms: Words that demand sacrifice or obedience, like power or progress
Devil terms: Words that we associate with disgust or hatred like pedophile or narcissist
Charismatic terms: Words that describe intangible concepts like freedom or happiness
Using any of these 3 types of persuasive words can help your words carry more power. In different scenarios, God, Devil, and Charismatic terms can be appropriate to tip the odds in your favor.
Bonus words that help persuade others:
Publish Date: May 23, 2016 5:00 AM
Are you starting to think the phone is no longer useful when it comes to your customer service needs? Believe it or not, the phone is still the king of customer support. People are starting to love interacting with customer service reps on social media, web chat, and email, but it wouldn’t be the same without the ability to call.
That is because the phone is often an easy way to turn a frustrating situation into a nice interaction. While a text or an email can be quick and efficient, you can’t convey tone as well without the phone. You also lose the ability to make friendly small talk that may be what brightens a person’s day.
No other forms of communication can quite compete with the phone, even if they have their perks too. Take a look at why this is still the king of customer support.
It’s the quickest way to get help
You may have thought that sending a text, email, or web chat message was the quickest way to get help from customer service. Think again. As soon as an emergency comes up, people grab the phone and make a phone call, whether that’s to an emergency operator, a car repair shop, their cell phone provider, or even to a friend.
Depending on the urgent situation, you can’t beat the fast ability to make a phone call compared to typing out a message. Some people will try to search online for an answer to their problems, but it’s never going to be as quick as a phone call to someone that can help.
Many times, customers just have to go through a few prompts to get assistance, which inevitably helps speed up the process. When you enter your account number, your name, your phone number, or select the option on the recording that suits your need, you’ll be directed to the right department quicker and your information will likely already be pulled up on a computer.
When a customer calls a company angry and has to sit through many prompts, this will likely fuel the situation, but a quick menu screen and a smiling customer service representative will likely diffuse the situation. A customer that is frustrated about something will likely be harder to help, but the right representative will be able to calm down the customer with a desire to help, an apologetic tone, and a friendly demeanor.
Being reassured on the phone that a customer is important and that their problem is going to be resolved right away will calm down a customer who may have been considering stopping business with this company due to an unpleasant situation that occurred.
Why other modes of communication don’t compare
Many times a customer service rep will be able to use any hold times on the phone to improve a customer’s monthly plan, promote a discount that may be beneficial to the customer, or provide information that may have been missed had it been an email exchange. When you email back and forth, handle things on web chat, or reply to a comment on social media, there is likely no follow-up and the phone gives you the opportunity to call back later to make sure the situation was resolved adequately.
Chat support is a great option for those that aren’t a fan of calling on the phone, but it’s not faster than a phone call. You have to wait for the agent to type back and forth to understand your problem and try to resolve it based on your typed messages.
A phone call is much quicker to try to explain something in multiple ways or offer different solutions. You also miss those opportunities to help with other issues that may brighten the customer’s day or to show your tone of voice is sympathetic and apologetic. The delay back and forth on a chat will likely frustrate a customer more and taken longer.
Why not a visit to the store to resolve the issue? While that may be even faster than the phone once a person reaches the store, the drive to the store is not only time-consuming but forces the customer to deal with this during their already busy schedule. Some companies don’t even offer a store or building to visit and only handle their business online.
The key to making sure you are using the king of customer support and doing it well is to ensure you have highly trained professionals answering the calls, a short menu screen to increase the speed of talking to a representative, and to make sure your customer service reps are making use of the calls by improving customer’s days. Offer extended hours to make sure customers can reach you at their convenience and make sure you have empathetic voices on the other end.
Use the king of support as your primary form of communication with your customers while still offering multi-channel options, and be sure to handle your phones in the best way possible to avoid making the phone calls a burden to your customers.
Publish Date: May 19, 2016 5:00 AM
Foreign call centers are frustrating. Foreign customer service representatives don’t usually speak the same language as you, may have trouble understanding you, communicating with you, and resolving the issue you called about. That brings us to a recent claim that’s been floating around online.
The claim says that foreign call centers must transfer you to an American representative if you request it–a “secret password” for getting better customer service, if you will.
Have you seen a message like this on Facebook or in your inbox? Here’s one of the most recent versions of the message:
That’s all fine and well, but is it true that foreign call centers must transfer you to an American representative upon request? Is that even possible? We did some research to find out.
True or False?
Snopes.com is the ultimate authority when it comes to internet hoaxes. We turned to them to find out if this claim is true or false.
Not surprisingly, the claim that foreign call centers must transfer callers to American representatives if asked turned out to be FALSE.
Unfortunately, American companies aren’t legally required to transfer American callers to a customer service representative from their own country. Because foreign call centers have historically been cheaper than domestic call centers for large companies, many corporations opted for overseas customer service to save a little money. Big mistake!
That money-motivated decision ended up coming back to bite most of those companies when customer satisfaction dropped to abysmal levels, call times rose (efficiency dropped), and complaints skyrocketed.
Legally requiring that foreign call centers must transfer you
In fact, so many people stand against foreign call centers handling American companies’ customer service that legislation intended to stop the transfer of jobs from the U.S. to overseas call centers has been gaining ground.
In 2009, the Call Center Consumer’s Right to Know Act (HR 3621) was introduced to Congress. The bill would require call center employees to disclose their physical location. After being referred to a House subcommittee, no further action has been taken.
In 2010, legislation that would require call centers to inform callers when they were being transferred to representatives in a foreign country was described by Senator Charles Schumer of New York. It was never introduced to Congress, unfortunately.
So – no, there is currently no legislation stating that foreign call centers must transfer American callers to representatives from their own country. In most cases, requesting an American representative is futile if you’re already on the line with a foreign representative.
Conclusion: The claim is FALSE.
If you’re a business owner who is sick of foreign call centers and bad customer service, check out our call answering pricing plans for small businesses. All our representatives are native English speakers in North America. Your callers will never have to ask to be transferred to an American representative when you use Conversational.
Publish Date: May 16, 2016 5:00 AM
Call answering service providers are notorious for plugging their own products and blindly recommending them to everyone. That’s not Conversational. We want to help you make sure you’ve chosen the right option for your small business–call answering service or not–because if it’s not working for you, it’s not working for us.
Take a look at the call answering service pros and cons for small businesses. These are all factors you should consider as you get closer to making a decision.
Already know you’d like to use a call answering service? Get started now by browsing our call answering plans with the lowest per-minute pricing in the call answering industry.
Call Answering Service Pros
There’s no question about it–call answering services provide a lot of value for small businesses. What we want to help you determine is if an answering service will be a good fit for your business. Here are the pros of using a call answering service.
Pro 1: Never miss a call
When you work with a reputable answering service, you may never miss a business call again. Whether you’re out of the office running errands, busy with work, taking a sick day, or receiving calls after business hours, an answering service can make sure those calls are never missed.
Not missing calls means not missing leads, and we all know how important that is to small businesses. Every call counts!
Pro 2: Appointment management
Keeping up with appointments is a serious hassle for many business owners. If your business regularly books appointments and manages cancellations, a good answering service can handle that for you.
Our remote call answering specialists work one-on-one with your business to take, make, and handle cancelled appointments. We can use the appointment scheduling software you prefer, making the process a cinch to get started.
Pro 3: Customer service improves
When every call is politely answered and handled efficiently, you better believe your customers take notice! Answering services help you complete the customer service experience by making sure there are no major gaps in the service you offer.
Since our call answering specialists never identify themselves as Conversational employees or mention that they’re not in the same location as you, your customers are free to believe that they are actually in your office.
Pro 4: Cheaper than a receptionist
This is an easy one, but important to understand nonetheless: Answering services are a LOT cheaper than hiring a full- or even part-time receptionist to work in-house. Payscale says $30,026 is the average yearly salary for a receptionist in 2016.
Compare that to using Conversational’s call answering service for a year–total cost, $1500–take advantage of our free trial and it’s as low as $1375. It’s clear that answering services are cheaper than a receptionist.
If your business is strapped for cash, you’re better off going with a trusted answering service that offers all the benefits of an in-house receptionist without the cost or need for additional office space.
Call Answering Service Cons
Con 1: Not your employees
While call answering specialists are trained in the art of customer service and answering calls for your business, they aren’t actually employed by you. Depending on your needs, that could be a con for your business, or it could be another tally in the column of call answering service pros.
If your business has extremely complicated products or services and that knowledge is required for your receptionist and staff to deliver a good customer experience, a call answering service may not be right for you. But if you’re simply looking for someone to reliably field your calls and direct customers to the right person for complex matters, working with call answering service pros could be a great fit.
Con 2: Where are they?
We’ve been in the call answering business for years, and we’ve heard it all. One question our call answering specialists get often: “Where are you?”
That might sound like a silly or even intrusive question, but it’s a common one in the call answering industry and one that seeks to find out if the person answering the phone is located in North America or elsewhere in the world. We don’t mind answering honestly because our entire staff is located in North America.
Why? Customers in the U.S. don’t want to talk to customer service overseas these days. They get frustrated with companies that outsource their calls to international call centers instead of domestic call centers.
That’s why Conversational only works with North American call answering specialists who speak clear, fluent English and handle every call directly from our domestic office.
Con 3: Follow up problems
What if a customer calls your business, receives help from a call answering specialist, and then needs further assistance the following day? If you’re working with an answering service that doesn’t prioritize your business, it can be very difficult for customers to get back in touch with the person they spoke to just the day before.
That’s why Conversational matches call answering specialists to every business we work with–your specialist will work with you one-on-one for as long as you use our services. That ensures the same friendly voice greets all your callers and ensures it’s easy for customers to reconnect with “That girl I spoke to on the phone yesterday, she was so nice, but I can’t remember her name….” Once again, Conversational turns industry “cons” into call answering service pros.
Who uses call answering services?
The benefits of an answering service are strongest for startups, solopreneurs, and small businesses–anyone without a colossal hiring budget. Here are some examples of the types of businesses that use answering services.
- Companies that take a lot of phone orders
- Businesses that manage daily, weekly, or monthly appointments
- Entrepreneurs, speakers, solopreneurs with busy calendars
- Businesses that receive low, medium, or high call volume
- Growing companies that can’t afford to hire full-time yet
- Entrepreneurs who work from home and don’t have an office
The call answering service pros usually outweigh the cons simply because you will save money, save time and have better handling of your incoming calls.
Finding the right call answering provider for your needs is the next step. We hope you’ll consider us in your search for the best and most cost-effective call answering services available!
Publish Date: May 16, 2016 5:00 AM