Market musings

It Ends Here: Take a Stand Against Office Phone Tag

by Sasha Viasasha
July 25, 2017

Don’t accept office phone tag as just another cost of doing business. It’s wrong, it’s expensive, and it's relatively easy to fix. There's no reason this modern blight has to follow you into 2018.

Missed connections eat away at your precious time and money. A report from Nasdaq found that workers lose an average of 1.25 hours of productive worktime per employee per day due to ineffective communications, especially phone messages that are never answered or returned.

For the average SMB, productivity losses add up to around $11,000 per employee per year.

Now we can ignore each other online

Workers surveyed ranked “time spent on mobile calls” as more efficient than “time spent on desk phone” due to the nature of mobile itself. First of all, you can’t always be at your desk and you can’t immediately tell if the call is for you – and that’s how phone tag begins. 

Messaging apps don't improve the situation. Workers ranked Text/IM/Chat as much less efficient than mobile calling (75.5% to 81.3%). That 5.8% loss in productivity per employee per day amounts to thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses for the average SMB. Don't cut your costs in essential areas until you plug up these productivity holes first.

Waiting for information

In a related study by Siemens, the data showed that the average SMB loses $26,041 annually per knowledge worker due to inefficient communication. That’s an average across eight industries and similar communications problems plague all companies surveyed, from SMBs to large enterprises.

“Waiting for information,” can be a pleasant euphemism for phone tag. This was the number one communications breakdown identified by workers in the survey, costing their businesses $5,320 per knowledge worker per year (kw/yr) for SMBs.

The good news is that costs have dropped significantly from $9,970 per kw/yr two years earlier. The rapid adoption of mobile for business played a significant role in that drop.

Missed connections 

“Inefficient coordination” was the No. 2 communication breakdown, described as “difficulty coordinating communications between team members.” Lurking in that definition, you see clearly see the shadow of the time vampire known as phone tag.

Two-thirds of employees have to deal with those two breakdowns regularly, with all communications problems combined generating roughly 7.2 hours of delays per week. For many businesses, practically one business day every five is wasted on not being able to talk to the person you need to complete your task. 

Office phone tag may be costing you more than just hours and dollars, though. It could be costing you customers.

Are you going to let it ring? 

Here’s how insidious the problem is. Recently, a business leader on Twitter said he was advised to delete his VMaaS (voicemail as a service) account, primarily to  escape the ravages of phone tag.

He was told that it was inefficient for customers to leave messages that couldn't be answered in a reasonalbe amount of time. Instead, customers would just hear endless ringing. Supposedly, this would train customers to contact the company by email or a messaging app, giving them time to respond.

Apparently, this kind of advice is common because many online businesses don’t even have a customer service phone number anymore. For these customer-avoiding companies, email is the often only way to contact someone.

A great way to drive away customers

It's true that some customers might stop calling and decide to email instead if they were angry enough or motivated enough. It’s more likely, though, that customers will just go away. The following two statistics are reported by many VMaaS companies and on-demand call centers: 

  • 75% of customers say they don’t leave a voicemail when they called a business
  • 85% of customers who call a business that doesn’t answer won’t call that business again 

Harvard Business Review delved into these issues in their report on the relationship between customer service and loyalty. They verified that (no surprise here) customers resent contacting a company repeatedly on the same issue, being transferred to get an issue resolved, having to repeat the same information all over again, and being forced to switch from one service channel to another to resolve an issue.

Though most companies are aware of these basic facts about customer experience, well over 50% of customers continue to be relegated to this special region adjacent to phone tag hell. 

HBR concluded “Two critical findings emerged that should affect every company’s customer service strategy. First, delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does. Second, acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn.”

The point is that phone tag exists because sometimes people need to straighten things out on the phone, but too many people have been burnt by sales calls and unproductive exchanges to simply pick up the phone.

Don’t drive customers away by not answering their calls and don’t passively accept the inevitability of office phone tag.  

Don't let phone tag happen to you

Stand up to office phone tag. Put a phone system in place that:

  • Answers every call with a person or an AI receptionist
  • Auto-routes the call to exactly the right team member
  • Goes everywhere your team goes with no complicated forwarding routine
  • Handles calls over voice not VoIP for better sound quality that doesn't eat up your data
  • Let's you up front who’s calling, what they are calling about, and when they will be free if you have to call them back (the true tag killer)
  • Can be set up in the time it took you to read these bullet points 

Technology has finally made it practical and affordable for SMBs to get more done in less time and treat your customers to a better experience than they can find at your competitors.

The only thing you have to fear is office phone tag 

Spoke offers a solution that can end phone tag by enabling an enterprise level phone system on the devices workers are already using, with no loss of security or control, making it easier for employees to answer and make calls, while integrating with other UC functions such as chat, video, file sharing and messaging.

Spoke is more than a phone service. It's designed to get employees and customers talking in real time, so problems are solved faster and your business can grow. 

Can it help you end phone tag and in your business, saving you thousands of dollars each year and  many hours each week? Come visit our FAQ page to find out. We want to help your company communicate better, and leave phone tag behind you. 

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