Twitter, Facebook, email, websites and texting - there are many ways to keep in contact with your customers. But did you know that your office phone system can improve customer service, increase sales and boost profits? Rachel Miller reports
Communications technology moves fast. Social media and smartphones are transforming the way we do business. But while you're running to catch up with the latest trends, it can be easy to neglect the desktop phone.
"Desktop phone systems have moved on quickly too. They are not just about making and taking calls," says Hayley Stovold, PR executive at Pioneer Business Systems. "A small business can get a good return on investment if they use their phone system to its full potential.
"As much as we are living in an online era, people want personal interaction," continues Stovold. "Phone systems are often an early point of contact for customers. They might check out a website first but the next thing they do is pick up the phone."
The cost of a good desktop phone system varies, says Stovold, depending on the number of extensions and features you need. However, it is easy to add new features as and when you need them.
A useful tool is a system that integrates your phones with your on-screen customer database, such as 4Sight CTI. "So when a customer rings in, their details pop up on-screen along with information about recent calls or orders," stresses Stovold.
"You can greet a customer by name when they call in - their order history is in front of you," she explains. "You don't have to scribble down notes on post-its. These features can help you beat the competition."
One feature that can help boost sales is call recording. You can use the recording to analyse the best sales approach, for staff training and also to ensure that calls are followed up correctly. "And you can always switch it off at any point, even during a call," she explains.
A similar feature is silent intrude. This allows you to listen in on a call and if a salesperson is struggling or has become tongue-tied, you can guide them without the caller knowing you are there. It's useful for turning around difficult sales situations as well as for staff training. However, you should be aware of data protection and privacy rules if you want to monitor calls.
Small businesses can find it hard to man the phones and get on with the job. A good on-hold system stop people hanging up, says Stovold.
"If you put a customer through and they have to hold in silence they often don't know if they are being connected and are more likely to put the phone down," she says. "You can use on-hold marketing to convey information about opening times or special offers."
Investing in a Call Monitoring service could increase productivity. It allows you to print out detailed daily reports on caller response rates and how quickly the phone gets picked up. This in turn can help you to analyse busy times to ensure you have right staffing levels.
If you advertise, using different telephone numbers in each ad can help you to pinpoint which one has brought in the highest number of enquiries. In turn, you can target your marketing budget more precisely and maximise response levels.
"You don't need to be a big company to have a good system like this," she concludes.