One Chance for a First Impression

We’ve all heard variations of that truism, “You can’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”  In our fast paced digital society, it is more true than it ever was. Email, text messaging, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and social media in general have siphoned some usage away from the good old telephone, but if you are a business owner, that line of communication is not going away any time soon.

Marketing, promotion, and branding consultants focus intently on things like your website, your logo, your employee’s treatment of customers, and many other ways that your company is portrayed to the public. The perception and reputation of your business with your customers and those you hope to become customers hinges on the sum total of all these elements.

One impression that often falls through the cracks is that first moment when your business phone is answered. Whether it is answered by a live person or an automated attendant, a seed is planted in the caller’s subconscious that can grow into a lovely tree or a noxious weed.  And weeds can be very hard to uproot later.

The first choice is live vs recorded. Live is perhaps more personable, but it is more costly if an individual is dedicated exclusively to this duty, or disruptive to the efficiency of a person who must answer the phone while performing other duties. The frustration of interruption frequently reflects in the voice of the one answering, tarnishing that first impression. Each caller should get the immediate impression that their call and their needs are that business’s most important mission at that moment. That consistency is difficult if not almost impossible to achieve with a live person or persons answering the telephone.

Many businesses have transitioned to a recorded auto attendant who directs calls to the appropriate destinations. However there is not one of us who has not heard the complaints about these systems, and the ill will that they generate  Dropped calls, dead end paths, awful music that repeats endlessly, trite insincere platitudes (“Your call is very important to us”), and mechanical sounding voices are just a few from a seemingly endless list.  I’m convinced that most of these complaints can be avoided with careful planning of the call paths and the appropriate selection of the recorded voice and the text.

Yes, before you dismiss the idea of an IVR (interactive voice response) system, consider how such an approach could create a more consistent and positive first impression of your business. You may need to think outside the box created by many bad systems in the past, but the potential is there to create a welcoming environment at this crucial entry portal.

The first step is to put yourself in the mindset of someone calling your business  to determine what are their most likely desired outcomes of that call.  Then think through the minimum number of steps necessary for them to reach that goal.  Next consider the personality of your business that you’d  you’d like to project to your callers. Then  use this information to plan the call routing options, deciding on a male or female voice, selecting you music on hold, and writing the scripts.  Use the minimum necessary verbiage to convey the information the caller needs

If your callers might need to spend 15 seconds or more on hold, consider delivering a series of short messages about your business over the hold music.

Once the planning is complete, selecting the voice artist is crucial.  He or she should convey the personality of your business, whether it is serious or humorous, professional or personal.  After the scripts are recorded, review them carefully for both content and inflection.  A professional voice artist will be happy to work with you to hone the final product to meet your needs

A little advance planning and a professional voice can insure that the critical first impression received by callers to your business will be a positive one, supporting the perception that you are crafting through coordinated efforts in design and promotion.  Make certain you don’t neglect this essential point of contact with regular and potential customers.

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