Why telephone answering is still key for customer service

Despite all the new technology customers and businesses have to communicate with each other, there’s nothing that replaces the personal touch of having a real person answer the phone when a customer calls.

There’s so much automation built into business communication now that it can be easy to overlook the importance of just being available on the phone when it rings. But customers still value it.

In fact 60% of customers still prefer picking up the phone to call a business when they have a question about a product or service. Especially when they’re calling a small business.

Other surveys have identified that as many as 88% of customers still prefer speaking with a human rep on the phone, rather than scrolling through a website or using other technology like a chat bot.

Why it’s so important to answer the phone

Talk to many businesses, and they’ll tell you the reason they like to use email, social media and web based technology like chatbots, is because they find them more efficient. Customers can leave an enquiry, and the business can respond when they’re able to with an answer.

But there’s a problem with this.

While it might be more convenient for the business, it’s not necessarily for the customer. For one, the responses are rarely immediate because the business will have to investigate the problem. Meanwhile the customer is in limbo about whether their issue is being dealt with at all, or what stage it’s at.

This gets worse if, after a few hours or even days, a business has to go back to the customer for more information. For any customer, this is incredibly frustrating and explains why 46% still prefer to speak about complicated issues over the phone, according to one study by American Express.

Then there’s the issue of picking up the phone when it rings. If you’re a small business this can be tricky. You’ve only got so many hours in the day and you’re already busy completing work so you can invoice for it, plus you’re running between meetings and calls and trying to find new business.

When the phone rings, it can be easy to let it go to voicemail thinking the customer will just leave a message or call you back. Except, it’s not guaranteed. In fact, it’s more likely they’ll just go somewhere else.

This is highlighted by the fact that UK businesses lose about £90m a year because of missed calls. That’s about £1,200 per missed call.

And given that 85% of customers say they won’t call a business back if their call isn’t answered on the first go, you can see why being available on the phone is so important.

The customer service challenge of call answering

It’s clear then that answering the phone is a key part of customer service. And it’s also clear that not answering the phone can lead to a substantial amount of lost revenue.

But how does answering the phone, and improving the customer service experience benefit a business? It helps if you understand first what customers value in the service they get.

According to research by Zendesk, it comes down to three things: speed of response, speed of resolution, friendliness of the customer service rep.

Achieving high levels of satisfaction in any one of these areas is enough to create a feeling of good service within a customer. And straight away, telephone answering can help with two of these.

The first is the speed of response. Answering the phone is an immediate response. A customer calls, you answer, the customer is instantly able to explain the problem or ask a question.

Second is the friendliness of the customer service rep. By having a friendly, professional voice on the end of your phone, you can defuse the angriest customer and de-escalate an issue before it becomes too big of a problem.

But telephone answering can also help with speed of resolution. Even if you can’t resolve the customer’s problem directly on the first phone call, that customer has spoken to someone and knows their issue has been logged and is being dealt with. That instantly creates a sense of reassurance and can improve the feeling they’ve received good customer service.

Compare that to sending an email or leaving a voice message. The customer isn’t just left wondering if their issue is being dealt with, they don’t even know if their initial enquiry has been logged.

Creating a level of uncertainty and anxiety in your customers isn’t going to create high levels of satisfaction, and it risks inflating the problem later on. So, when the phone rings, it needs to be answered.

Telephone answering is still king

When it comes to customer service, telephone answering is just as important as it’s always been. But as a business owner, especially a small business owner or solo contractor, you can’t always guarantee you’ll be available.

This is where a telephone answering service can help. With a team of PAs working remotely for your business, you’ll never need to worry about missing a call again. Your telephone answering service will ensure every call is answered professionally and all enquiries dealt with as you would handle them yourself.

Whether it’s taking messages, dealing with enquiries directly or even acting as a lead qualification resource, a telephone answering service can take call handling off your hands so you can grow your business, without worrying you’re missing out on sales by missing calls.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez