If you work in an office, then you’re familiar with the daily grind. Your 9-5 is mostly responding to emails, talking up Netflix by the coffee machine, and going to the third floor to use the lavatory. With the exception of the bathroom bit, did you know that most of the jobs you’re tasked with every day can be replaced by an answering service leaving you more time to focus on more important things? Below is a list of 18 every day office tasks and whether or not an answering service can be used as a replacement instead of hiring more employees.
#1. Answer phones
Can an answering service do it? Yes!
It’s no surprise that “answer phones” would be on the top of our list. Not only do businesses deal with ringing phones on the daily, but answering those phone calls is what answering services excel at! As long as your company has people calling, you need people answering. An answering service can help take some of the load off by answering calls that might otherwise reach a voicemail or sit on hold, and help convert them into more business.
#2. Transfer calls
Can an answering service do it? Yes!
In addition to answering calls, answering services can take messages or transfer calls as needed, just as your regular in-house receptionist would. Usually services will be able to set up specific protocols depending on the type of call which would help determine how that call is handled. For example, a call from a new client might result in a warm transfer to your sales team, whereas a call from an existing client might just result in a message.
#3. Make outbound calls
Can an answering service do it? Yes!
Making calls is just as important as taking calls, and answering services can help with this, too. Depending on the type of outbound calling you need, from telemarketing and market research to simple follow up calls and reminders, doing this in house may be cost prohibitive. However, answering services use smart call center technology like predictive dialing, which helps reduce time in between phone calls and increases agent productivity. So, having someone tasked with this will be worthwhile!
#4. Greet visitors
Can an answering service do it? No
Virtual receptionists are great at greeting people on the phone, but not so good at doing it in person. While a regular receptionist would be able to greet visitors all day long, virtual receptionists at an answering service would not be able to greet visitors who may come into your establishment. If your business has a lot of foot traffic, you may want to keep an in-house receptionist on staff to make sure your customers are greeted with a friendly face each time they visit.
#5. Generate reports
Can an answering service do it? Maybe
Unless your answering service agents can access your internal system and are trained on how to generate specific reports, they most likely won’t be able to help you with this. However, many answering services offer dedicated agents that are specifically trained on your account and your account only. Taking advantage of a dedicated agent could be a more cost effective alternative than hiring more staff.
#6. File paperwork
Can an answering service do it? Maybe
Your answering service would not be able to file paperwork for you. However, if your business uses a CRM (customer relationship management) platform like Salesforce to manage customer data, an answering service could potentially update records through a simple integration each time they take a new call.
#7. Respond to emails
Can an answering service do it? Maybe
Depending on their capabilities, it’s possible that your answering service could help you respond to emails. Typically this would be done through the use of a dedicated agent service, where operators would be handling your account only, and would therefore be able to access your specific software and learn your protocols. Other services may be able to receive incoming emails and then dispatch calls accordingly based on the service request or need.
#8. Make sales
Can an answering service do it? Yes!
Hot tip – virtual receptionists can be a great addition to your sales team! Agents that are trained in sales are able to use up-sell and cross-sell techniques at the time of check out which will help drive up your numbers and save you some green in the office budget.
#9. Handle bookkeeping duties
Can an answering service do it? Maybe
Unless your answering service has access to your billing systems and are trained directly on your particular policies and procedures, then they probably won’t be able to help handle accounting duties like creating and processing invoices. However, they could help triage billing calls, create support tickets, process payments and transfer urgent calls on your behalf.
#10. Provide IT support
Can an answering service do it? Yes!
While an answering service won’t be able to fix computers or re-wire routers, they can definitely act as your tier 1 help desk on behalf of your IT team. By following a scripted workflow, they can troubleshoot basic issues and escalate any errors that are out of their realm of expertise. By having your answering service triage calls first, your IT team won’t be bogged down with calls that aren’t priority.
#11. Manage social media platforms
Can an answering service do it? Maybe
Keeping up with the latest trends on Twitter is not always as easy as it sounds, especially for busy employees. Unless you have a marketing or public relations team specifically designated to stay on top of your social media pages every day, it’s possible you could be missing out on what’s hot. In our current day in age where being present on social media is crucial for a business to prosper among their competition, an answering service with a dedicated team of agents designated to your account would be a great way to stay on top of your social platforms while keeping your employees focused on other tasks.
#12. Handle live chats
Can an answering service do it? Maybe
Many businesses have live chat as an additional channel to funnel customer support and sales requests. Through a dedicated agent service level, an answering service should be able to help you manage this channel as well. As long as they are able to work with the software you are already using and are trained on your specific procedures, outsourcing your live chat support to your answering service is another great way to alleviate the work load on your in-house staff and keep great customer service at the forefront of your operations.
#13. Schedule, cancel, and reschedule appointments
Can an answering service do it? Yes!
As long as you’re not scheduling with a desk calendar and with a pencil, answering services can usually help you schedule, reschedule and cancel appointments. Through web-based software like Google Calendar, answering services can usually integrate with systems you are already using to create a seamless transition. Some services may even offer advanced features like appointment confirmation emails, appointment reminders, and payment processing.
#14. Provide customer support
Can an answering service do it? Yes!
Answering services are great at providing additional customer support to your patrons, since they can usually be available 24/7. Whether you’re using your answering service during business hours alongside your own staff, after hours when you close up shop for the day or both, your virtual agents can help your callers by answering questions, dispatching urgent messages, scheduling appointments and creating support tickets around the clock. Do your customers a favor and ditch your voicemail and opt for live support instead!
#15. Meet with clients
Can an answering service do it? No
While an answering service can help get new customers through your doors, they won’t be able to meet with them personally.
#16. Process orders
Can an answering service do it? Maybe
As long as your answering service is PCI compliant and have the correct systems in place, then they would be able to help your business process orders. By implementing custom FAQs catered to your product catalog, they should also be able to answer questions to assist customers who may be on the fence about buying that new lawn mower.
#17. Water plants
Can an answering service do it? No
Taking care of the office foliage is always someone’s job, but unfortunately it’s one you won’t be able to pass off to your answering service. Unless your operators are located in the same building you are, Nancy from accounting is just going to have to suck it up and keep watering those plants!
#18. Perform HR duties
Can an answering service do it? Yes!
For anyone not familiar with office lingo, HR stands for Human Resources, which is the department that handles hiring, firing, and office complaints, among other tasks. While your answering service won’t be able to hire or fire anyone, they can certainly serve as various hotlines. For example, you could have one line designated as a whistleblower hotline and another line designated as an absence reporting line for employees to use when they need to call out for the day.
Phones aren’t always made of plastic and metal – sometimes they’re made from paper. But that’s not a bad thing when the phone is Origami, and you made it! Using an Origami phone as your business phone makes for really bad conversations, but for a really amazing conversation starter. While we are no experts in Origami, we are experts in the telephone answering business, so we tried our hand at combining the two.
In the Origami tutorial below, you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to create your very own Origami phone. Scroll a bit further and you’ll see our SAS staff making their own phones.
A predictive dialer is a system that is programmed to dial multiple phone numbers at the same time, and is used by many businesses for things like telemarketing, appointment reminders and follow up calls. Predictive dialers increase call center agent efficiency by automatically recognizing things like busy signals, voicemails, and disconnected numbers and following the appropriate disposition.
For example, a user may set disconnected numbers to be automatically purged from the database. If a prospect’s voicemail is reached, the system may keep the line open to drop a voicemail message while simultaneously dialing the next number on the list. Keep reading to learn more about the predictive dialing software.
<img title=”Predictive Dialing Infographic” alt=”Predictive Dialing Infographic” src=”https://www.specialtyansweringservice.net/wp-content/uploads/predictive-dialing-infogaphic.jpg” width=”710″ />
<pre><em>Image originally posted on <a href=”https://www.specialtyansweringservice.net/learn-predictive-dialing-infographic/”>The SAS Blog</a></em>
What is a Predictive Dialer?
A predictive dialer is a computerized system that is programmed to dial multiple telephone numbers simultaneously.
Dialers can be hardware-based or software-based.
The dialer dials calls to numbers listed in a database.
The call is connected to an agent only when there is a live human response.
If the number is busy, no answer, or out of service, the system will discard or reschedule the call.
Most predictive dialers record the response received from each number dialed for later analysis.
Time saved using predictive dialers directly translates to higher revenues and reduced costs.
Selling to customers using automated systems increases agent productivity.
Types of Dialers
Dialers can be classified into five basic types:
Preview Dialer: Provides account information and potential customer’s phone number on agent’s PC screen. The agent can then decide whether or not to manually dial the number.
Power Dialer: A bulk dialer service that uses a list of numbers to place calls on outgoing phone lines, and connects calls only if they receive a live “hello” response. If all agents are busy when a live “hello” response is received, the dialer abandons the call or plays a pre-recorded message.
Anticipatory Dialer: Uses statistical methods to anticipate when an agent is likely to be free, then dials the number. A major flaw with this method is that one unexpectedly long call can result in a spiral of abandoned calls.
Progressive Dialer: Will dial a number only after making sure than an agent is available to answer the call. This method is typically less productive than a power dialer.
Predictive Dialer: The most advanced and sophisticated outbound calling method.
The key differentiating factor between different dialers is the time savings that each one can provide. For example:
In manual dialing, time spent on the actual call is only 15 to 20 minutes per hour.
Power dialers enhance productivity to about 30 minutes per hour.
With predictive dialers, agents can achieve productivity as high as 57 minutes per hour.
How Does a Predictive Dialer Work?
Predictive dialing works on the principle of “dialing ahead.” A typical dialer will dial twice as many calls as the number of agents connected to the system. Complex algorithms are used to predict the probability of getting a live “hello” as a response. Call patterns are automatically adjusted based on 5 factors:
Percentage of dialed calls that are answered by a live human.
Average talk time. The shorter the phone call, the faster agents will be free.
Number of agents logged on. The more agents connected, the greater the dialing frequency.
Average number of rings before a call is answered.
Acceptable abandonment rate. When a live person answers the call, but hangs up before the dialer transfers the call to a live agent.
The main advantage of a predictive dialer is that it helps to minimize manual dialing delays, increasing agent utilization to as high as 95%.
Predictive dialers fall into two categories:
Hard dialers: Stand alone hardware devices.
Soft dialers: Software-based dialing algorithms integrated with existing contact center software.
Add-On Features of Predictive Dialers
The most popular predictive dialers in the market today offer several add-on features:
They interface with do-not-call lists and cell phone suppression services.
They perform skills-based routing.
They offer answering machine detection to recognize answering machines and voicemail.
They have the ability to display sales scripts and customer information on agents’ monitors when the call is transferred.
The have the ability to conference between multiple parties.
They interface with digital voice recording to enable recording of live calls.
Benefits of Predictive Dialers
Predictive dialers offer several benefits to a contact center, such as:
Better management of client information.
Improves sales-per-hour per agent.
Saves agent time and improves productivity.
Aids regulatory compliance comparing numbers against the Do Not Call registry before calling.
Easy integration with other software and hardware devices.
Contact centers or businesses that make a high number of continuous outbound calls
Reminders and notifications
Surveys and opinion polls
Customer service calls
B2B and B2C telemarketing
Tracking Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with a predictive dialer will help contact centers continuously improve telemarketing efforts through:
Right party connect times
A predictive dialer is an ideal tool for any business that needs to call a large number of customers within a short time span. The predictive dialer eliminates all forms of live agent productivity lags by ensuring that agent’s don’t waste time on the tedious process of dialing a number. Greater productivity helps businesses remain competitive by increasing sales and customer reach!
Being a virtual receptionist is an important job. As the first live point of contact for customer support, you are the person responsible for the first impression, and sometimes the only voice the customers will ever hear from the company you’re representing. And while you’ll leave most calls feeling great, not every interaction is going to be filled with sunshine. There are aspects of being a virtual receptionist that definitely aren’t for everyone. The job takes patience, understanding, and the ability to adapt quickly to address the callers needs. To thrive in a call center environment, it takes the right tools – and by tools, we mean you need to turn your cubicles into your happy place. To that end, we’ve road-mapped virtual receptionist happiness into 5 parts of tricking out your cube: relieve your stress, use post it notes and posters, get cozy, know your time-zones, and have written goals.
#1. Don’t stress! Keep some items at your desk to stay calm
The hardest aspect of being a customer service rep is having to deal with upset customers. A customer service rep’s job is to diffuse a situation so that they can take down the caller’s information to get the message into the right hands. However, when someone is yelling at you for circumstances beyond your control, it can be hard not to take it personally.
Keeping calm in these types of situations can sometimes feel impossible. Luckily, we’ve found 14 products to help you stay calm. Check out the list below broken down by noise level:
Quiet: These products are safe to use when the caller is on the phone.
Stress Balls: Unless you’re throwing them, stress balls make no sound, so they’re great to use while you are on the phone! They come in many different colors, styles and levels of squishiness so you have a lot of options. This one is one of our favorites (but it might make you hungry).
Zen Garden: These zen gardens are affordable, quiet, and great to use for both men and women. They even come in different sizes in case you don’t have a lot of desk space.
Fitness Hand Gripper: Work on your hand strength and relieve stress all at the same time with these fitness hand grippers.
Lava Lamps: Chill out with these vintage lava lamps that will send you straight back to the 60’s and make you forget all about that nasty caller.
Baoding Balls: Much like stress balls, baoding balls are a great tool to use to when you’re feeling wound up. Simply maneuvering these balls around in your hand will help stimulate acupressure points, which in turn will help loosen muscles and promote better circulation.
Be Careful: These products should be used with caution when you have a live caller on the line.
Fidget Toys: Stress relievers like fidget spinners or other fidget toys don’t make a ton of noise, but they’re also not totally silent so you’ll want to air on the side of caution when using them while speaking to a customer.
Relaxation Fountain: This fountain is great for the days you wish you could be next to a real waterfall some place far away. Just don’t keep it right next to your phone or your callers will probably think you’re in a bathroom.
Magnetic Sculptures: Whether you’re on a long phone call, a difficult phone call, or both, these magnetic sculptures can help relieve stress and keep you occupied (especially if you’ve been sitting on hold). However, try and keep the clinking to a minimum so as not to disrupt your phone call.
Sound Machines: Listening to white noise like ocean waves and falling rain can help soothe your mind and keep you focused on the task at hand. As long as you keep the volume turned low, these sound machines are a great addition to any work space.
Newton’s Cradle: Watching Newton’s Cradle swing back and forth will be able to relax any stressed out CSR. Just be careful not to have it right next to your phone as the clinging spheres will be sure to annoy your caller.
Only When You’re Not on the Phone: These products are super loud. Definitely don’t use them when someone is on the line.
3D Pin Art: Remember going to the doctor’s office as a kid and playing with 3D pin art? It was soothing, fun, and ultimately kept your mind off that needle you were coming to get (even though your mom said it wouldn’t hurt). Just be careful flipping the thing over as the pins will make a bit of noise when they drop.
Desk Vacuum: Many people find that white noise and clean spaces is calming, which is why we recommend this cute little desk vacuum. However, you definitely shouldn’t use it while you (or your neighbors) are on the phone.
Desktop Punching Bag: If cleaning doesn’t help calm you, maybe punching something will. This desktop punching bag is great for relieving stress, but just wait until you’re off the phone.
Mini NEOGEO: Blow off some steam in between taking phone calls with this mini NEOGEO. Nothing beats stress more than beating your high score.
#2. Trouble remembering protocol? Phone numbers? Post It!
Forgetting stuff? There’s a post-it for that. Having the written reminder in front of you not only helps you in the moment, but looking at the reminder every day will help register the instructions in your mind. In addition to instructions for certain accounts, CSR’s can use their Post Its to help them remember things like:
Important phone numbers: Supervisors’ names and phone numbers, HR contacts, and various extension lists are all important pieces of information to have readily available. Stick your Post It right to your phone or on the bottom of your monitor so you always have those numbers handy.
Reminders to smile and breathe: Reminding yourself to smile and breathe is sometimes necessary. We all need a quick refresher here and there, especially when we are dealing with stressful situations.
Transitional phrases: Knowing when to use transitional phrases when speaking with a customer can help keep the conversation moving in the right direction, and can eliminate any awkward pauses. You can also download and print out our poster here for a quick reference guide.
And if you’re looking for a ready made custom sticky note for your own cubicle, check out the downloads below that are sure to ‘stick up’ for you when you need a smile. See the 5 sticky notes below and download the original vector (Adobe Illustrator) file here to make changes or print them up on your own!
#3. Make it cozy and comfortable
CSRs are going to spend 99% of their jobs in their cubicle or behind a desk, so it’s important to take the time to make your work space your own. Just like you jazz up your home to make it cozy, tricking out your cubicle is just as important. Just like the Spice Girls said – spice up your life!
Having pictures of family and friends is a must. Other decorations like plants or souvenirs from a favorite vacation can help a CSR channel their happy place. If your office is a bit chilly, keeping a warm fuzzy blanket around can also help. Believe it or not, when you smile while on the phone, your positive energy radiates through and can help create a successful interaction.
Here are some of our favorite desk decor:
Desktop Planter Vase: This desktop planter vase is affordable, adorable, and will help liven up any dull work area.
Motivational Signs: Sometimes we all need a reminder of how awesome we are. Etsy has a great collection of fun, customizable signs that may help give you that extra push.
Desk Organizer: This organizer will help keep all of your pens, pencils and notepads organized in one place. It’s also gender neutral and goes with everything.
Salt Lamp: Salt lamps are the best. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they also give off a warm, calm vibe that will be sure to soothe your tired soul.
Neck Massager: Who said you can’t get a massage at your job? You can use this neck massager right at your desk, and it even comes with a heat setting to help loosen up tight muscles.
Foot Rest: Kick your feet up and relax with these foot rests, guaranteed to help alleviate any extra back pressure put on by stress. These foot rests come in different animal shapes, and even double as a storage unit.
Heated Blanket: Working while you’re cold is the worst. You can’t concentrate, your muscles tighten up, and you basically just wish you were back in bed. This heated blanket will warm you up and make you feel nice and cozy.
Oil Diffuser: Essential oils like lavender and vanilla have been known to help reduce stress and promote calmness, while other oils like peppermint and rosemary help create focus and concentration. An essential oil diffuser is a great addition to any stressful work environment, just be mindful of your neighbors. Aromatherapy for the win!
Gel Seat Cushion: Protect your derrierre with the comfort of these gel seat cushions. You won’t mind sitting all day since you’ll basically be sitting on a cloud.
#4. Time zone map or area code list
As an operator, you’re answering for thousands of calls a day. One minute you could be answering calls from a business in Ohio and the next call could be from California. Having a time zone map readily available at your desk can help you determine what time zone callers are located in from a quick glance, which could help save you from saying “good morning” to a caller who has already eaten lunch.
For businesses that don’t want their customers to know they are outsourcing calls to an answering service, something as simple as saying “good morning” when they should be saying “good afternoon” can be the mistake that gives them away. Being knowledgeable about where customers are calling from can help a virtual receptionist blend into their environment to give off a more localized presence.
We’ve created a beautiful Time Zone map of the United States that you can feel free to use online, or print to use at work or at your own cubicle. The map shows the 6 time zones for the United States and is available to download in .PDF format, .JPG format, and .AI (vector) format. The 6 time zones are Hawaii (UTC -10:00), Alaska (UTC-09:00), Pacific (UTC-08:00), Mountain (UTC-07:00), Central (UTC-06:00), and Eastern (UTC-05:00).
#5. Written goals
Everyone is always working towards something. Whether you’re trying to save up to purchase that new car, or maybe you’d like to win employee of the month, setting goals can be a great motivator. People who give themselves short term and long term goals that are posted in a visible place will be more encouraged to continue working hard even when the going gets tough. Seeing these goals every day can give you something to work toward and, overall, will make you want to push harder. Plus, just like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, the reward at the end is always worth it!
Here are some recommendations for setting up a goal attributed work atmosphere:
Goal Planners:Progress planners are great to use to not only keep yourself organized, but also to set daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly goals. When you’re able to write down and cross off goals as you attain them, you become more motivated to reach that next tier!
White/Chalk Boards: Whether you’re working towards a personal goal or a group goal with your co-workers, using a white or chalk board is a great way for everyone to get involved. Through tally marks, stickers, or drawings, everyone can have fun while working towards their ultimate goals. This 3-in-1 white board can help you get the job done, or, depending on how big your goals are, this cute chalkboard easel.
Wrong numbers stink, and in some cases, can be a straight up nightmare. Below are 16 seriously funny examples of wrong numbers from movies and television. Stop letting wrong numbers get the upper hand and wreak havoc on your day!
#1. Specialty Answering Service: Real Video of a Threatening Wrong Number
Specialty Answering Service Thinks Wrong Numbers Suck - YouTube
Watch as this small business owner gets harassed by a threatening wrong number.
#2. The Simpsons: The Lottery
The Lottery - The Simpsons - YouTube
Homer could have won the lottery had Bart given him the right numbers. Doh!
#3 The Simpsons: Don’t Interrupt Mr. Burns
The Simpsons Mr Burns Call Say No You Got Wrong Number - YouTube
Mr. Burns was interrupted from his meeting with Homer to answer a wrong number call. How dare they call the wrong number!
#4. Seinfeld: Vandelay Industries
Vandelay Industries | Seinfeld | TBS - YouTube
As a ploy to extend his unemployment, George makes up a fake company under the name of Vandelay Industries and tells the unemployment office he’s close to a job with them. In order to follow through with the ploy, he gives them Jerry’s apartment phone number as their main office number so he can intercept the impending call. However, Kramer answers instead and tells them they have the wrong number.
#5. The Carol Burnett Show: Was That a Sign?
Due to a “wrong number” call in the middle of the night, Martha assumed that her husband was having an affair. Turns out he was!
#6. The Simpsons: Wrong Number
The Simpsons: Wrong Number - YouTube
After Homer receives a seemingly urgent phone call, he brushes it off to Marge as a wrong number. Hmm..
#7. The Amanda Show: Prank Call
Mr. Oldman - Moofin Doofin Wrecking Company - YouTube
Mr. Oldman, the victim of countless wrong number pranks is again at the mercy of Moofin Doofin Wrecking Company. Will his house be spared this time?
#8. Family Guy: Wrong Numbers in the Early Days
Wrong numbers in the days of early telephones - YouTube
Peter receives a wrong number in the early days of telephones. The caller meant to reach number “7”, but accidentally dialed “3”.
#9. Family Guy: 401-555-1125
Family guy - number to housekeeper - YouTube
Expecting an important package, Peter expresses his concern about giving his cell phone number to his housekeeper due to the language barrier.
#10. Spongebob Squarepants: Not the Navy!
Spongebob dials the wrong number - YouTube
Chaos ensues at the Krusty Krab and Spongebob is ordered to call the Navy, only to find out that they may have been overrun by robots.
#11. Friends: I’m Looking for Bob
Friends HD | Chandler and Jade from the phone - YouTube
After Chandler gets a wrong number call from a woman looking for her ex-lover, Bob, he pretends to be the woman’s love interest in hopes of getting lucky.
#12. Hey Arnold: Stop Calling Me!
2 Funny Moments from Hey Arnold! - YouTube
Helga tries to enlist the help of Phoebe only to discover she’s called a restaurant instead. Later on, Harold also tries to call his mother and accidentally calls the same restaurant.
#13. Mr. Bean: Wrong Number
Wrong Number | Funny Clips | Mr Bean Official - YouTube
Mr. Bean helps a lost child search for his father. However, since they are missing the last digits of his phone number, Mr. Bean decides to write out and try every possible option.
#14. SNL: Wrong Number Breakup
Pete tries to break up with his girlfriend, Paula, but accidentally calls Carleen instead.
#15. Kids in the Hall: Is Frank There?
Wrong Number - YouTube
In an attempt to locate the man that has stolen his woman, Steve “2 phones” Macabee keeps dialing the wrong number and insists that he speak with Frank.
#16. Barnyard: Hello Motto
Barnyard (2/10) Movie CLIP - Wrong Number (2006) HD - YouTube
Otis accepts a call from the gopher gang leader during an important meeting, but blames it on a wrong number.
CTI, or Computer Telephony Integration, is a general term used to describe technology that allows computers and telephones to communicate with each other. For example, if you call your bank and press 1 for balance information, it’s CTI interpreting the phone action and returning the database information. In the call center world, the technology is to make call handling more efficient. For example, CTI helps by popping caller information on the operators screen at the moment the call is connected – like the callers telephone number (ANI) or number dialed to reach the call center (SDNIS). Find out more about how CTI can turn your computer into a seriously powerful communications tool!
What is Computer Telephony Integration?
CTI is the exchange of commands and messages between computers and telephone equipment. The ultimate goal of CTI is efficient handling of incoming and outgoing telephone calls. CTI bridges the telecommunications and computer industries, and introduces new, integrated applications such as:
Automated call management and routing
CTI can turn a desktop computer into a powerful communications tool that can combine sight, sound, text, animation, video and graphics. CTI helps improve customer service and employee productivity and will eventually evolve to be a building block in the overall IT and network architecture of enterprises across many industries.
Use in Contact Centers
First generation CTI applications focused on “screen pops”, bringing up Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data, based on the number from which the call originated. Second generation CTI applications focus on the following areas:
Creating better ways to collect, store and interpret caller data
Enriching interactions between Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems
Improving call routing
How it works
CTI involved a connection between a computer and a telephone switch. When a call center receives a call, it carries some form of identification – either ANI (automatic number identification) or CLID (calling line ID). The switch interprets this data and sends it to a computer that looks up the information in a database and provides instructions to the switch as to where the call should be routed.
Simultaneously, the customer’s database record is routed to the agent’s desktop. Routing can be either skills-based or productivity-based, and is done through an ACD system. There are two ways to enable CTI within a CRM environment – CTI Adapters and Open CTI
CTI Adapters: A CTI Adapter is a middleware software that runs on the agent’s desktop and acts as an intermediary between the telephone equipment and the CRM software.
Open CTI: Open CTI is a framework introduced by Salesforce.com. It allows companies to embed third party web apps directly into Salesforce.
CTI’s Practical Applications
Screen Pops: The change in the computer display that occurs simultaneously with the arrival of a new call.
Contact Management: Dialing directly from the contact record is possible, as are screen pops of the appropriate record based on incoming caller ID.
Screen-Based Telephony: Also called softphone; the process of using the PC keyboard and mouse to answer, transfer, conference, and manage telephone calls.
Auto Dialers: Electronic device or software that automatically dials telephone numbers
Simultaneous Voice-Data (SVD): Sharing computer screens, Windows applications, and whiteboards while conducting a voice conversation.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR): Gives callers specific information based on the unique details the callers enter (usually via touch-tone dialing)
Benefits of CTI for Contact Centers
The job of a CTI system is to improve the process of handling incoming and outgoing calls in terms of both speed and efficiency. The main benefits include:
Productivity Enhancement: Less time gathering customer information reduces call time. Dialing, answering, transferring and placing calls on hold can all be managed on-screen for increased productivity.
Better Customer Service: Agents can address callers by name and have all their details in front of them before the call is connected, thus increasing customer service levels.
Cost Reduction: Integrating standalone hardware and software is an important element of achieving maximum benefit from CTI, and greater efficiency enhances cost-effectiveness.
As strong technologies evolve, the future of CTI in enterprise will continue to grow!
Copy the code below to use this infographic:
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If you’re using an answering service, it can be challenging to make sure each caller gets as personalized an experience as when they reach your own office. One of the ways answering services can help maintain continuity is through an upfront, customized recorded greeting. Customized greetings, or auto attendants, can help bridge the gap between a business and their answering service, and can make for a seamless transition from one to the other. Here are 5 reasons why we think custom recorded greetings rock.
#1. They give stellar first impressions.
Unless it’s Groundhogs Day, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Having a customized recorded greeting on your business line will help give callers lasting first impression that you’ve been missing by outsourcing.
Fact: Virtual receptionists answer for hundreds of different businesses each day. When operators answer calls live, it can be hard for them to get your company name 100% correct every single time. While answering the phone for Smith Plumbing may be easy and effortless, they may stumble when answering the phone for Sheila’s Sea Shells. Instead of having the operators say your company name, a custom recorded greeting would completely eliminate the chance of error. The automated greeting announces the company name, and the live operator greeting is kept to a generic ‘Thanks for calling. How can I help you?’
#2. Racking up those minutes? A custom greeting can help!
Unless you’re taking advantage of a free trial, answering services are going to charge a fee to answer your calls. Some bill by the call, some bill by the minute, some bill by the agent – but all do eventually bill for something. If your answering service bills by the minute, you can waste a lot of time and money in just your live greeting alone. Here are some ways a custom recorded greeting can help keep extra cash in your pocket:
While answering services will charge you for the time the operator is on the phone, most services won’t charge you extra to add a custom recorded greeting on your line.
Having a custom recording that clearly states your company name can help deter wrong number calls, which you could otherwise be charged for.
Auto attendant features like IVR can help cut down on the amount of automated phone calls getting through to an operator. Since robots can’t press 1 to be connected, they won’t eat up your bill. Eureka! A solution to a super annoying problem.
#3. They can provide service information.
As long as you provide your answering service with basic FAQs like where you’re located, your business hours, your website, etc, your virtual receptionists can easily help answer callers’ questions. However, an upfront greeting can also do this, which could help cut down on operator time. For example:
Greetings are a great tool for providing information that your callers NEED to know.
Using your service solely after hours? Use the greeting to state your business hours.
Temporarily located somewhere else? Let the recording tell all your callers!
Do you have a common question that eats up your minutes? Your greeting can give callers the answer before even getting to an operator.
#4. They can relay different messages.
Sometimes, life happens. You may have to turn on your answering service at a time you wouldn’t normally, and your callers may be surprised to get someone other than Rachel at the front desk. However, you can use a feature like a customized greeting to your advantage in situations just like this. For example, you can have your greeting updated to say something like: “The office is closed due to inclement weather” or “The office is currently experiencing an outage. Please hold for an operator.”
Being able to have your greeting customized and updated whenever you need it can help avoid confusion for the callers and awkward conversations with the operator. Many times callers will know they’ve reached an answering service and ask the operator why the office isn’t answering. Having a statement in your upfront recording can help answer these questions.
Pro tip: Some answering services may even be able to add different custom greetings to your line depending on the day or time. For example, you may want one greeting played during business hours, and another played for after hours.
#5. They can show your company’s personality
Every business is different, and your personalized greeting can help set you apart from the competition. Let’s say a potential customer calls two restoration companies. The first offers a bland, generic greeting, which is fine, but boring. The second includes a quirky, bubbly introduction that grasps the caller’s attention right from the beginning. From this interaction alone, the caller decides to go with business #2 simply because their greeting made them smile. Other examples include:
Use the upfront recording to reflect how your company is run. Are you a fun start up tech company? Are you a suit and tie business? You can easily show your style through your custom greeting alone.
Does your company have a motto or slogan that is well known to consumers? Put it in your custom greeting!
Many people may want their operators to open the call with “It’s a great day at ___”, but it doesn’t always come off as natural as it would from someone in your own office. You won’t have this problem with a recorded greeting since it is said with the same tone and enthusiasm every time.
Download 15 Professional Business Voicemail Greetings
While custom greetings are great, we created some generic short voicemail greetings in .MP3 and .WAV format you can download to use in your own business voicemail system.
Greeting: Thank you for calling. We will be with you in just a moment.
Greeting: You have reached the after hours emergency line. If you are experiencing a true medical emergency, please hang up and dial 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. For all other calls, please stay on the line and someone will be with you momentarily.
Turn on any news channel, and you’re bound to hear at least one story where drug and alcohol addiction plays a starring, nefarious role. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted by SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2014, 21.5 million American adults battled substance abuse. And DrugAbuse.gov indicates that synthetic opioid-related drug overdose deaths are increasing at an alarming rate, jumping from 14% in 2010 to almost 50% in 2016. With statistics like these, it’s no wonder that SAMHSA’s National Helpline received approximately 70,000 calls per month in the first quarter of 2018.
No family is immune to the ravages of alcohol abuse and drug addiction. And if you run an answering service with addiction medicine or rehab centers on your client roster, then you and your customer service representatives know just how challenging it can be to cater to this ballooning population. While the ideal call center scenario for a drug or alcohol abuse hotline would be one with specially-trained staff and medical personnel manning the phones, the majority of call centers cannot boast this level of expertise. So, how can your answering service be a viable option for drug and alcohol treatment centers? We’ll take you through a 4-point plan with the tools you need to succeed.
#1. When it comes to manning an addiction hotline, empathy is everything.
If you teach your call center staff nothing else, be sure that empathy is at the forefront of their classroom training. Whether you receive calls from concerned family members and friends of people suffering from the disease of addiction, or you are speaking directly with someone who may be ready to check themselves into rehab, your listening skills and compassion have to be second to none. If an addict does not feel that you are truly ready and able to assist them, they won’t stay on the line long enough to wait for you to transfer them to the rehab’s on-call staff. A CSR’s phone etiquette may just be the make-it-or-break-it moment for an addict on the fence. So, help them to refine it and create an atmosphere of support and sensitivity.
#2. A well-planned and well-written call script will account for every type of call and will offer appropriate phrasing to navigate challenging situations.
Answering services that offer scripted, personalized call handling gives you the ability to write empathy and compassion directly into the CSRs’ dialogue. Phrases such as, “We are here to help,” “It’s good that you called in today,” “We will certainly get you the information you need,” and “Let me connect you with one of our experienced counselors,” are all strong transitions that will steer the conversation down the right road.
In addition, it’s important to ensure that the script is clearly laid out and starts off with an opening question that will lead to a specific path. Something along the lines of, “Hello, my name is James. Are you calling for drug and alcohol treatment?” would work. The path to follow might be labeled “Yes – Calling for Treatment.” Continue by asking if the individual is calling for themselves or someone else, and probe further by checking to see if this is a life-threatening emergency, and if the caller is experiencing suicidal ideation. Anything that helps the CSR quickly choose the best path and get the caller transferred to an on-call counselor or an emergency helpline, or easily answer questions, is ideal.
Below we’ve included some sample answering service scripts for drug addiction centers. Feel free to use any of them as inspiration when setting up your own call handling:
Script Sample 1: This script sample offers pretty straightforward call handling. We are asking the caller if they are having an emergency or not, but gathering the same information and submitting the call to the same person no matter the answer.
Script Sample 2: This script sample is a bit more involved. After determining if the caller is having an emergency, we ask if they would like for us to contact the on-call employee or just send a routine message. Here we can either go out to the rotating on-call schedule to reach out, or we can just send a standard message. If the caller is not having an emergency we are just gathering information as normal and sending an email through.
Script Sample 3: This script sample is the most complex of the three as there are multiple calls paths to choose from. The caller could be calling to check in for treatment, they could have questions about the program, or they could be calling to speak with someone specific from the residential facility. Each path has us gathering the same information, but if the caller is calling to check in or if they have questions, we are attempting to transfer the caller. If they want to speak to someone specific we are just sending a message through.
#3. Advanced study of the call script is necessary to maintain call flow and effortless communication.
In most call centers, customer service representatives may never see a script until the first time it pops on their screen with a pending call. While that is fine for straightforward accounts where a simple message is all that is needed, that approach can be detrimental when fielding inbound calls for an account where a certain level of finesse is essential to proper call handling. For medical offices, treatment centers, counseling offices, and the like, taking the time to talk through the script and role play difficult scenarios, such as a caller who is crying or mentions self-harm, will go a long way to ensuring that CSRs are prepared for any situation, know exactly which call path to take, and complete the interaction with the utmost professionalism and care.
#4. Include several key pieces of information in the account’s FAQs, and organize them into categories for faster response time.
When your ability to quickly answer callers’ questions is as strong as your ability to empathize with their concerns, it will improve call quality and lend itself to the impression that operators work directly for the treatment center. That is why a strong Frequently Asked Questions section should be a point of focus during initial account programming. Nearly every FAQs section includes typical details, such as the type of account, the business address, website, etc. This will need to be amplified with questions about the facility and programs offered. For example, consider adding information regarding accepted insurance plans, the counselor-to-patient ratio, types of therapies offered, inpatient accommodations and lengths of stay, outpatient treatment programs, and crisis hotline numbers.
Answering calls for any addiction treatment center will present its own set of challenges, and this is one type of account that may prove to be emotionally draining for call center staff. But there is nothing that thorough scripting and comprehensive training cannot overcome. In a perfect world, no one would need drug and alcohol rehab. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world; however, as call center professionals, we can do our part to take what is likely an incredibly uncomfortable experience for the caller and turn it into a positive first step down the road to recovery.
Picture this. You’re a landlord for a small apartment complex. For emergencies, all of your tenants have your personal cell phone number. However, you’re finding that your tenants are reaching out all hours of the night for every little issue that comes up. You keep telling them to contact you after hours for emergencies only, but to them, their issues are emergencies. You can’t sleep. You’re irritable. You’re overwhelmed because you can’t get anything else done with the distraction of your constantly buzzing phone. What do you do? You hire an answering service to screen and dispatch calls.
Answering services are great at handling after hours dispatching for a ton of different industries. They can screen callers to find out what the issue is, determine what needs immediate attention, and what can wait until the morning. To help you select the right company for your needs, we created a 7 point guide to make sure you are asking the right questions on your quest to find the perfect dispatching service.
#1. Are they available 24/7/365?
Many businesses need to use a dispatching service because they can’t stay open 24/7, but have customers, tenants or patients that rely on them around the clock. So, having a dispatching service that is always available is mega important. Some businesses choose to use their dispatching service to handle after hours emergencies, while others choose to use their service throughout the day as an overflow line. However you choose to use your service, there are some questions you should be asking to get the most out of your partnership:
Do you charge extra to answer after hours, on weekends, or holidays?: While many dispatching services say they are 24/7, they may fail to elaborate that they’re going to charge you extra to use them 24/7. So, it’s important to ask this question beforehand so you’re not surprised when you see a bunch of overage charges on your bill. A dispatching service that does not charge extra to answer your calls is usually the ideal route to go, unless you like throwing cash out the window.
Can the ways in which you reach out to me change depending on what day or time it is?: If you’re using your service during the day to handle emergencies, you could probably just have them text or email you with the message. However, you’d probably want to receive phone calls after hours as you may not be near a computer checking emails, and you may miss the sound of an incoming text. Your dispatching service should be able to work with you to set up different protocols based on the day and/or time.
What are the different ways you can dispatch messages?: A true dispatching service will be able to reach out to you in many different ways. Not only should there be options to text and email you messages, but there should be options in calling out as well. For example, SAS can warm or cold transfer callers to you, we can disconnect from the caller and continue reaching out to your staff until someone answers, or we can do a combination of attempted transfers and reaches. If you’re still using alpha-pagers, some older services may still offer this as a dispatch option – you just need to ask.
#2. Can they follow your on-call procedure?
Obviously a huge factor that goes into choosing a dispatching service is if they can follow your on-call protocol or not. Otherwise, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Some services may only be able to handle simple call out procedures while others may be able to follow a more advanced procedure. For example, calling the same person in an event of an emergency is a pretty easy task. However, calling different people depending on the situation, day, or even time may prove to be a task only an OG disptaching service can take on.
An answering service that specializes in emergency dispatching will usually be able to handle both simple and more complicated procedures. However, before you sign up for a paid service it’s always a good idea to see if they offer a free trial. Taking the service for a spin before leaving the lot will give you a better idea if it’s going to be a good fit or not.
#3. Are you able to update your schedule in advance?
As a business owner, you probably have a lot on your plate, so it can be easy for some things to fall through the cracks. While you may stay on top of updating your on-call schedule in your own office, you may forget to keep your dispatching service in the loop. Unfortunately, this could result in the wrong person being contacted, or no one at all. Some helpful questions to ask include:
How far in advance can I update my schedule?: Some services may only allow you to update your schedule weekly, while others may allow you to keep it updated for months or even a year in advance. If your schedule generally rotates between the same people, it’s a good idea to work with a dispatching service that doesn’t require you to call in every week to update the schedule.
Do I have to submit my changes to customer service or can I make them myself?: Usually programming or customer service departments are only available during certain hours of the day, so a dispatching service that requires you to submit updates may not be that efficient as last minute changes may pop up every now and then. A good dispatching service will give you the option to work with customer service, or to make the changes yourself online.
How long does it take to update my schedule?: If you’re submitting your updates to your answering service, it’s important to know how long the changes will take so you can plan accordingly. For example, if you know it takes them 24-48 hours, you don’t want to wait last minute to send them over. If they usually can make updates quickly, you have more leeway in when you need to submit them.
Is there a charge to update my schedule?: Many answering services charge programming fees whenever you submit updates, while others may only charge them if your updates will take longer than an hour. If your dispatching service charges you every time you submit your on-call schedule, you may wind up spending a lot of extra money for something you could potentially do yourself.
I have my schedule online. Can you use that?: If your schedule is updated online instead of on a calendar in your office, you may be able to upload what you already have created right to your answering service’s portal. If your calendar is on a shared drive like Google, your dispatching service may be able to access it without you having to do any extra work.
#4. Is there a mobile app to make changes on the go?
There’s no doubt that keeping your schedule updated in advance helps keep you organized and allows you to focus on other tasks, but sometimes things come up that may throw a wrench in the plans. Employees may get sick, quit, or go on vacation unexpectedly, which would require you to make changes at a moment’s notice. An answering service that specializes in dispatching will allow you to make updates to your on-call protocol at any time, not just during normal business hours.
Either by logging into an online portal, a mobile app, or both, you should have access to your schedule 24/7. Additionally, the system should be straightforward and user friendly. After all, what’s the point in allowing clients to update their own schedules if the platform is too complicated to figure out?
#5. Can they work with your industry?
Aside from the usual medical offices and HVAC companies, many different types of industries can benefit from using a dispatching service, so there’s a good chance your service can cater to your specific needs. Some examples of industries that dispatching services specialize in include:
However, before you sign up with any old dispatching service, you will want to make sure they do in fact cater to your industry, as some services specifically cater only to medical accounts, HVAC accounts, etc.
#6. Are they HIPAA compliant?
While this doesn’t apply to every business in search of a dispatching service, it’s definitely important for medical professionals, as keeping your patient information safe is critical. To be HIPAA compliant, your dispatching service should not send any patient information via text, email, or voicemail. Any text or email that gets sent through should be a static message that alerts you of a new call which directs you to your secure messaging portal, and any voicemail left should simply include a call back number or instructions on how to contact your service back to retrieve the message.
Pro tip: Once you’ve found a HIPAA compliant dispatching service, the next step you’ll want to take to secure the deal is to have them sign a Business Associates Agreement (BAA) with you. A BAA bonds the two business entities and ensures liability if there are any violations. To put it simply, having a BAA in place is just an extra means of precaution when partnering with a third party business like an answering service.
#7. Do they offer other services?
Of course you want your dispatching service to dispatch urgent messages, but you may also want them to do more than the status quo. It may be helpful if they can screen callers to determine why they are calling, and handle accordingly. For example, perhaps they can schedule appointments for non-urgent issues via a shared calendar, instead of just telling callers to call back during normal business hours for assistance. Many services can also help answer questions via customizable FAQs or help solve problems by following a scripted troubleshooting workflow for simple HVAC or technical issues.
Answering the phone. It’s easy, right? Maybe for a seasoned receptionist. But for someone who is new to the working world, there is a rhythm and rhyme to expert phone answering. Everyone at your business needs to know how to answer the phone professionally. Whether you’re working the front desk of a small office or answering phones at a call center, we’ve put together an infographic with the top 13 tips and tricks that will help you create a seamless reception desk.
13 Tips on How to Answer Your Business Phone Professionally
#1. Smile before you dial, and perk up when you pick up
Yes, you really can hear a smile through the phone. And callers will appreciate a receptionist with a buoyant personality. So, get to grinning!
Rushing to pick up a line will make it sound like you’re, well, rushing to pick up a line. So, pause for a quick second, and take a breath before you answer. And if you tend to take shallow breaths, it’s probably because you need to…
#3. Sit up straight
When you sit up straight, it properly aligns your abdominal muscles, diaphragm, rib cage and airway so that your body is ready to help you push out your words.
#4. Be prepared to take a message
That means 1) have your notepad handy, or open the computer’s notepad, and 2) if you’re writing, put a pen or pencil right by the phone so that you’ll have what you need right at your fingertips.
#5. Speak clearly
There’s nothing worse than a mumbler. Be sure that you enunciate when you speak so that people will understand you the first time.
#6. Speak at a reasonable volume
Don’t whisper and don’t blast someone’s ears out. This also applies to receptionists who are wearing headsets. Keep the microphone at an appropriate distance from your mouth, or the caller could wind up hearing a lot more than they bargained for.
#7. Know where the mute button is
We are only human, and there may be times when you can’t hold back a cough or a sneeze while you’re on the phone. In those cases, or if someone is making a bunch of racket in the background, it is imperative that you know where the mute button is. The last thing that you want is to “ah-choo” in the middle of a sentence or have the UPS driver drown out your conversation.
#8. Always put someone on hold if you need to confer with a colleague
In a similar fashion to the mute button, know where the hold button is. Every now and again, you’ll turn to your coworker to ask a question, and you don’t want the caller to hear your discourse. Use a simple phrase such as, “Let me see if I can find that out for you. Would you mind holding a moment?” And, always ask before you place someone on hold.
#9. Don’t chew gum
It’s simply bad form to chew gum while you’re on the phone. Not only will it get in the way of clear speech, but no one wants to be on the receiving end of chewing noises.
#10. Try not to yawn
If you’ve come in to work after pulling an all-nighter, chances are that you’ll be exhausted. Unless you’ve pumped yourself up with 3 triple-shot espressos and a case of Mountain Dew, yawning is bound to happen. So, if you can’t stop yourself from yawning, refer to #7.
#11. Don’t make background noise, such as tapping on the desk
If you’re the one making annoying background noise, putting yourself on mute isn’t going to cross your mind. Therefore, keep the fidgeting to a minimum, and give the caller the most professional experience possible.
#12. Know the answer phrase
This seems like a no-brainer. However, if you’re new to a workplace, especially one with a name that even Webster would struggle with, write out the answer phrase, include a little phonetics cheat sheet, and practice saying it out loud until it’s as easy as saying eggs and toast.
#13. Have a staff directory at your disposal
Just think of how awkward it would be for someone to ask for Mr. Kopfgeschlagen, and you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, I don’t even know how to say that name let alone figure out if he works here. That’s why you need a staff list in front of you. Be sure to highlight executives’ names, as people will likely ask for them more frequently.