Why do you need an efficient VoIP dial plan? So your customers don’t hate calling into your business!
Even with all the other channels available to customers—like chat, email, and social media—they still overwhelmingly (92 percent) choose the phone when they need help. But it’s also true that only 28 percent of customers turn to the phone as a first resort. Why is that? Because customers hate it when they’re:
- Transferred more than three times.
- Forced to repeat their problem to more than one agent.
- Put on hold for more than five minutes.
- Subjected to repetitive hold music.
- Unable to reach a human being.
What is a VoIP Dial Plan?
A VoIP dial plan is the path an inbound call will take through your phone system. A dial plan is usually mapped out online using a dial plan editor on your VoIP service provider’s portal. Dial plans go by many names: call tree, call path, call flow, and call route to name a few.
The typical first step in a dial plan (what your customer first encounters when they dial your company’s help number) is an auto attendant. The auto attendant is an interactive menu where customers select from a set of options, usually by dialing a number. The auto attendant also goes by many names, including virtual attendant and interactive voice response (IVR).
Creating an Efficient Dial Plan
Creating an efficient, customer-friendly dial plan is all about keeping it simple, thereby giving customers fewer opportunities to get frustrated with you. In most cases (66 percent of the time) customers are already angry when they call in, so you’ll want to make their experience on the phone as painless as possible. Here’s how.
1. Keep your menus simple.
Don’t overdo it with menu items and levels. It’s easy to further frustrate a customer if they have to sort through a mountain of options and decide between multiple menu layers. The goal is to get them where they want to go in as few steps as possible. Each menu should have a lean selection of options (four or less, when possible), and you should limit menu levels to two (in some extreme cases, maybe three).
2. Provide intelligent call direction.
This is where a VoIP phone system really shines, with intelligent and automated call direction. You can set up call sequences using tools like Find Me/Follow Me, ring groups and mobile apps that effectively funnel customers to the person they need (even if that person is away from his or her desk or out of the office altogether).
3. Limit waiting and hold times.
One tactic to cut down on wait times—specifically for a VoIP system—is to limit the number of times your phone rings during a Find Me/Follow Me sequence. Nobody likes to wait and wait while the phone rings and rings, so keep the sequences short. For example, have the system ring your office phone three times (usually fifteen seconds), and then your mobile device three times, and then your home phone for the same amount of time, and so on. If you have more than three phone numbers (or steps) in your Find Me/Follow Me path, then it might work better if you set them all o ring simultaneously instead of sequentially.
4. Give callers an escape option.
Always give callers the opportunity to escape a call queue that’s kept them on hold for too long, or from a menu that doesn’t offer them the options they’re looking for. Make sure that escape option is listed in the auto attendant menu, and that custom messages and announcements regularly remind the customer that he or she can always escape back to a menu or voicemail.
5. Give them the chance to dial an extension.
If the customer already knows the extension of the person they want to reach, then give them an option in your primary menu to dial that extension. If they can get to where they want to go in one easy step, that’s a win for you and them.
6. Identify high-profile callers from the start.
Save your big clients from having to mess with menu options altogether. You can pre-program numbers or incoming caller ID information to trigger a call filter on your Hosted VoIP system. Set these filters to snag calls from your biggest clients and forward them to directly to their account manager.
7. Establish time-based routing.
Create alternate schedules that kick in during off-hours or holidays. That way, instead of having a customer sit on a line and listen to the phone ring over and over, only to eventually wind up a voicemail, the off-hours schedule can automatically forward the customer to voicemail, or to the number of whoever is taking after-hours calls.
8. Entertain callers with custom greetings and offers.
Break up the monotony of your hold music with regular announcements that advertise special offers, discount deals, or tips and tricks to getting the most out of your service or product.
9. Gather data.
Your VoIP dial plan should gather data on transferred or dropped calls. This information gives you a better chance to figure out what happened, why those calls had to be transferred, or why the caller abandoned the call. Discovering these patterns will aid in fine-tuning your dial plans to better serve your customers.
10. Call your own number.
Do some occasional undercover work. Call your business number and imagine how a customer would feel about his or her treatment on the phone. See if the menus are overwhelming, or if the hold music is off-putting. Check how long queue wait times last, and how many steps it takes to reach your objective. Then use that information to determine what updates your dial plan needs to be more customer friendly.
The ultimate purpose of a VoIP dial plan is to make life easier for your customers, and thereby make life easier for you.
Delivering a satisfactory interaction between customers and your company over the phone is difficult enough, with 75 percent of customers coming away frustrated after talking with customer service reps—even when the customer’s problem is solved! It’s easy for them to be frustrated by the process involved in receiving help, and this can lead to real-world consequences, especially when acquiring a new customer costs six or seven times more than it takes to retain an existing one.
In the end, your customer wants answers and solutions, and they want them yesterday. But more importantly, your customers want to feel like they’ve made the right choice when they chose your company. They want to feel like they’re in able hands. Every moment that customer is on hold, every time they’re transferred to a new department and have to tell their story all over again, is another mark against your company’s competence. That’s why it’s so important that you use the tools available with a VoIP dial plan to deliver an experience that your callers find both efficient and effective.
The dial plan isn’t the only tool available to you. See what other voice features GoToConnect offers to businesses like yours.