Market musings

How to Prioritize Business Phone Features

by Nina Quasebarth
September 27, 2017

Even in the age of email and the web, a lot of business is still conducted by telephone. Granted, more people are using email, instant messaging, social media, and other communications channels, but when a transaction is important or you want immediate service, the first thing you do is pick up the phone. No matter what the size or nature of your company, business phone features matter, especially if you want to stand out for superior customer service and if you want to promote better teamwork to ensure ongoing success.

Who Uses the Phone These Days?

Customers expect to have telephone access available to buy goods and services, and businesses spend a lot of money convincing customer to phone them. Forty-five percent of customers made purchases by telephone last year, which is why 94 percent of marketing budgets are spent trying to convince prospects to call. At the same time telephone customer support is getting worse. Seventy percent of consumers were placed on hold while trying to make a purchase, and 34 percent of callers who hang up do not call back.

The telephone can be your best customer service tool so it’s important to have the right business phone features to optimize the customer experience (CX).

The telephone also is a vital tool for internal communications. A survey of U.S. workers aged 18 to 74 shows that phone calls and text messages make up 75 percent of internal business communications. In fact, many still gauge professionalism by how available you are by telephone. In the age of “follow-me” phone systems and smartphones you should be reachable anywhere, especially if you are part of a collaborative team. And using the telephone is more efficient when it comes to decision-making. One survey shows that U.S. workers spend 6.3 hours each day dealing with email; consider how much faster business can be conducted with a simple phone call.

Choose the Right Business Phone Features

When considering essential business phone features, you need to assess what’s best for your customers and your employees. Here is a list of business phone features that you should consider essential because they promote greater customer satisfaction and improve employee efficiency:

Auto-attendant – Every organization, from the smallest startup to Fortune 500 companies, uses a telephone auto-attendant. An auto-attendant ensures that every call is routed and answered. Customers have come to expect encountering an auto-attendant, and many actually prefer using a self-service phone system to get the information they need quickly. However, there always should be a human agent available, even after hours. Eighty-seven percent of consumers say that a positive interaction will determine whether they continue to do business with a company. With today’s phone technology, it’s easy to set up a call-forwarding system so any call can be escalated to a service representative without having to use a call center.

Hunt groups – Being able to find the right resource quickly is important, both for internal communications and for customers. Hunt groups help route incoming calls, allowing users to access group directories to find the right department. Incoming calls are routed to the next open extension in the group, so you never miss an important call.

Call mobility – In order to be reachable you need to have mobile telephone support. More companies are embracing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategies, and 67 percent of workers report using their personal devices at work. With find-me/follow-me capabilities, these employees can use their personal smartphones for business calls so they are always available. Applications such as Spoke take that one step further by converting personal smartphones into fully provisioned extensions of the company phone system.

Voice mail – Voice mail is still an essential tool for business phone users. Callers can leave complex messages quickly—often more efficiently than sending an email. And voice mail is generally accessible from anywhere using remote dial-in. With more remote workers and telecommuters, it’s common to have voice mails transcribed to email that is routed to a computer or smartphone for faster response.

Presence and call priority – With adoption of voice over IP (VoIP), callers can take advantage of services such as presence, with which you can determine if the party you are calling is online. You also can use presence settings to make yourself unavailable when you are in a meeting or after hours. When used with hunt groups, presence and priority can make sure your business is always available to customers.

Conference calls and group calls – Real-time collaboration gets things done quickly, so being able to bring a group together on the fly to resolve an issue can be a powerful feature. You also want to make it easy for remote team members to dial in for regular meetings, and to participate using additional features such as messaging, file sharing, and even video. Smartphones offer many of these additional capabilities, but collaboration usually starts with a conference call.

Additional Business Phone Features to Consider

These are just a few of the important business phone features to consider to simplify communications for customers and collaboration for employees. There are other valuable features to think about as well, such as group calendaring, a company address book, and do not disturb. The business phone system is becoming more sophisticated all the time, and many of those new features help improve customer service and team productivity, though others are just bells and whistles you may not really need.

When shopping for business phone features, think about how your company conducts business and identify those features that are most useful. Smartphone integration, for example, can keep your team connected and give them more control over collaboration strategies. You also might want to give Spoke a try to see how empowering your employees with the same features as a mobile phone can improve your business communications.

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