As companies get bigger and they have more customers, sometimes having the single receptionist answering and filtering calls becomes unrealistic. Can you imagine back in the day with operators in the basement transferring calls? I would assume with the minimum wage at $10.25 now, having operators would be very costly.
Automated answering system filters calls to different departments, which help elevate the calls that come in to one person. Today when I call insurance companies, the system offers two options to begin with: if the extension of the party is known, punch it immediately, or use their directory – both of which will connect the call directly. When that option has passed, you can choose different options to be directed to a specific department. They also usually offer an option to find out the mailing address and fax number, which can be a common question. Instead of tying up lines, or receptionist’s time, this option can be very valuable.
Sure some people are irritated by the long message of the automated answering system, and probably will always press 0 to be connected to an operator, but for those who don’t mind, will listen to the whole message and press the appropriate extension to be connected. We tried this feature for a month and we got too many complaints about it, and ended up that many of our clients just pressed 0 to be connected to our Director of First Impressions. This automated telephone service did not work too well for us during office hours, but for the after hour calls, it works well. This is where clients can find our employee’s extension via last name and leave a message in their mail box, or press 1 to be connected to our emergency afterhour’s satellite service. Any after hour claims get sent to our on-call employee’s Blackberry who then make arrangements for emergency services around the clock.
Insurance companies are also able to connect callers to different locations as if it was one location. We have three different locations with various employees across the three locations, and we wanted all three of our locations to be connected seamlessly. During office hours we have our Director of First Impressions who takes the calls, either to answer inquiries, take new claims or transfer calls.
Technology is advancing and last year our company purchased Nortel’s voice over IP, a phone system which uses the Internet to connect our telephone calls. It also allows us to connect and transfer calls to two other locations of ours as “one number”. When I say one number, it is because technically we have 12 lines. Callers can either use our toll-free or local number which connects to our head office, and it allows us to receive up to 12 simultaneous calls.
I know that insurance companies are able to transfer my calls to different offices, and for us to have three locations, this option is convenient. Prior to having voice over IP, to transfer calls to our other locations we had to direct them to the individual’s mailbox, which meant our employees could not directly take calls unless we gave our clients, insurance adjusters or brokers and agents their direct landline number. This looked unprofessional and just plain messy.
Another option we added to our voice over IP phones are our customized commercials which comes on air when we have to put clients on a brief hold. Instead of having dead air and having clients worried the call has been dropped (creating confusion), we have the commercial playing that gives our clients information about our company, including information such as our website address. This option also allows us to advertise our services and give quick information about our company while ensuring our callers that the call has not been dropped.
I really like the idea of utilizing technology (if it applies) to its full potential. But does that mean we lose a sense of personal interaction?
I think the voice over IP phones really helps us because it allows us to direct callers to our employees whose offices are at different locations without disruption. Having commercial come on air when callers are on hold prevents phone calls being dropped. Satellite services and use of Blackberries allows our administrative employees to leave the office at 5 pm but still operate for after hour emergency calls. These little things help us operate our business more efficiently and be available 24/7, but can the uses of technology go too far?
Do you have any examples of businesses using technology and you feeling like you are just one of the many?