Why Your Business Needs an Automated Phone Menu and How to Create One
There’s nothing more exciting than seeing your business finally take off. However, a rapidly growing business also tends to come with a high volume of phone calls.
As an entrepreneur or small team, you likely don’t have the time or resources to handle every call manually. This is especially true if they’re coming in at all hours of the day and night. Implementing an automated phone menu is a great way to make sure each customer gets the information they’re looking for, without sacrificing your valuable time.
However, not all phone menus are set up the same. To truly take advantage of this technology, you’ll need to make sure your phone menu is friendly, accessible, and easy to navigate. Here’s how to set up an automated phone menu that truly benefits your business.
What Is an Automated Phone Menu?
An automated phone menu is a service that directs a caller to specific people or departments within your business. They’re sometimes known as Interactive Voice Response systems, auto attendants, or phone trees. If you’ve called your doctor’s office or a utility company before and heard “press one to speak to an associate,” you’ve navigated an automated phone menu system.
When using a phone menu, callers will need to make choices by pressing specific buttons or saying specific phrases into the receiver. In some cases, callers may need to navigate through sub-menus before reaching their intended recipient. For example, a caller may press 1 for customer service then reach another phone menu that asks them to press a certain number for the type of issue they’re experiencing.
Many people associate these phone menus with government agencies, medical providers, or offices of large corporations. However, businesses of any size can benefit from using a well-constructed phone menu.
Benefits of Automated Phone Menus
Automated phone menus offer a huge range of benefits for businesses of all sizes. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a rapidly growing organization, a phone menu will help you stay on top of your incoming business calls.
An automated phone menu saves time for both parties involved when making a phone call. Without an automated menu, callers could end up waiting on hold for an extended period of time. Or, they might end up talking to multiple people to find what they’re looking for. The automated menu eliminates these problems by allowing callers to quickly select the option they’re looking for.
Keep Calls Organized
Businesses receive many different types of phone calls throughout the day, from customer service to sales to media inquiries. When all of these calls are routed to the same phone, it can be difficult to keep requests and accounts organized. Automated phone menus eliminate this confusion and ensure that each caller is directed where they need to go. Even if you are using a single phone, a phone menu can be used to categorize calls. This way, you can set up your call routing system to inform you of a caller’s intent before you answer.
Offer Night and Weekend Availability
If your business doesn’t have representatives available on nights and weekends, you could be missing out on potential customers. However, you also don’t want to sacrifice important work-life balance to make up for it. Implementing an automated phone menu allows customers to leave voicemails, even without 24/7 availability.
However, if you do offer a separate 24/7 phone line, a phone menu is essential. You can first inform callers of your business hours automatically and then offer an extension for a 24/7 support line when necessary. You can even customize specific phone menu recordings to play during certain hours.
For entrepreneurs and small businesses, automated phone menus are a good way to project a professional image. Even if you run your business all on your own, an automated phone menu projects the image of a large, competent team. When customers call your phone number and hear a professionally recorded, well-structured phone menu, this gives the impression of a larger, organized business. This can inspire confidence in clients with high expectations.
Reliability and Consistency
Automated phone menus standardize the customer experience for your callers. While customer service representatives can provide a warm, human touch to phone interactions, human error is always possible. Your reps may not be able to greet everyone with a cheery tone of voice. However, when someone calls and reaches a phone menu, you can guarantee they’ll receive the same professional greeting every time.
Types of Phone Menu Options
Automated phone menus are customizable, which means your business can adjust the greeting and phone tree options to suit your customer service flow. There are many different options to choose from to help your callers find exactly what they’re looking for, but they primarily break down into two categories:
Main Menus and Sub-Menus
Some phone menus also have self-service options for callers to access information without talking to an agent. This is particularly common among banks and utility services, where callers are likely to already have accounts set up.
With this feature, the caller might enter an account number and other identifying details via the keypad. Otherwise, they might speak the information directly into the phone for voice recognition. This is a great option to improve accessibility. The automated system would identify the caller and allow them to do things like check existing balances or make service requests. This kind of menu is incredibly efficient, since many callers can get what they need without ever interacting with an employee (saving your company several labor hours).
For larger teams or agencies, you might also use a dial-by-name directory. This setup allows customers to reach specific people within your organization by spelling out a name on the keypad. A message for this kind of self-service option might start with, “Please enter the first three letters of the last name of the person you are trying to reach.” This allows you to direct calls automatically without listing out every single extension in your phone menu recording. However, be mindful that each person in this kind of phone menu will need their own phone and extension.
Your phone menu isn’t limited to these options — there are endless ways to customize it to your business. For example, many healthcare organizations separate calls into ‘new patient’ and ‘existing patient’ categories.
When building your phone menu, think about the questions you get asked the most and what type of flow makes the most sense for your business.
What Makes a Bad Phone Menu?
Ideally, a phone menu should make life easier for both you and your customers. However, a bad phone menu could leave your customers feeling more confused or even frustrated.
To ensure your automated phone menu actually works for your callers, you’ll need to strike the right balance between technological efficiency and human touch. Research has indicated that 88% of people prefer to speak to a live customer service agent rather than navigating an automated menu.
Providing 24/7 customer service isn’t always possible for entrepreneurs or small businesses. But your phone menu also shouldn’t be entirely self-service. It’s all about striking the right balance. Your main menu should clearly include an option to talk directly to a representative when necessary. If there isn’t anyone currently available, callers should always have the option to leave a voicemail message.
You’ll also need to make sure that your phone options aren’t too vague or too long. Avoid using jargon and keep things simple. In today’s busy world, callers might hang up and call another business if they don’t hear the option they’re looking for within a few moments.
Setting Up a Phone Menu
Setting up your businesses’ phone menu doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some tips to help you set up a professional and engaging phone menu for callers:
Choose a Structure
First, think about the technical structure of your phone menu. Decide whether you’d like to have customers speak into the phone or press buttons to make their choices (or both). If many of your callers are repeat customers, you may also want to use caller ID and call recording features to streamline the process.
Then, think of the different phone numbers and departments you want to offer as extensions. Not every department will need to be linked to the primary customer-facing number in this way. For instance, you don’t need to provide every customer with a direct line to your C-suite executives. Think of the options that are most relevant to customers and list those options before setting up your phone menu.
Use Accessible Language
Word choice is key when building an accessible phone menu system. Give each menu option a short, simple name that clearly identifies what it is. Avoid using jargon that’s too specific to your industry or company, as this could intimidate or confuse callers. For instance, your extension should say “press one for sales” instead of “press one to speak to a sales development representative.” You might know what it means, but it’s unnecessarily complex for customers who aren’t involved in your world.
In a similar way, it’s best practice to offer multiple languages for your phone menu. Here an employee might receive options like “For English, press one” or “Para Español, oprima dos” or “Pour le Français, appuyez sur trois.” With these options, those who don’t speak English can still interact with your company in a language they can understand.
Keep Menu Options Limited
Keep your list of menu options short and sweet to avoid confusion. If you’re a larger company with a long list of departments, use submenus to break things down into categories. As a general rule, five menu options is a good maximum limit. You can add a sixth option of “zero” for general inquiries or request that the caller remain on the line for a representative. However, any more than this amount can be difficult for callers to track.
Provide a Human Option
In a 2019 Vonage study, 54% of respondents cited an inability to talk to a live customer service rep as a common frustration with phone menus. While phone menus are efficient for businesses, remember that customers often face complex problems. Sometimes, these problems can’t be solved with an automated menu. Provide the option to either talk to a representative directly or leave a voicemail early on in your phone menu to mitigate this problem.
Most businesses have a few questions they get asked over and over again. To speed things up for both you and the caller, have one menu option to address frequently asked questions. For example, brick-and-mortar restaurants and retail stores might have a menu option for “hours and location.” When selected, this option will state their business hours and location through a recorded message. If this is the reason people are calling, they can easily get an answer without talking to a real person. In fact, many people prefer this option over a live representative for basic inquiries.
Record a Professional Greeting
Don’t make the mistake of recording your phone menu greeting without a script. Writing a script for your automated phone menu ensures all of the right information is communicated to the caller and makes it easier to read without stumbling over your words.
When recording your phone menu greeting, use a friendly and calm tone of voice to make callers feel welcome. Enunciate your words fully and record in an area without distracting background noise. If there isn’t anyone in your organization that feels comfortable recording the phone menu, don’t be afraid to contact a voiceover artist.
Background music in your greeting may seem stylish, but it’s never a good idea. Make sure your greeting and menu options can be clear by eliminating all background noise (including music). If you opt to add music on hold or transfer, make sure it’s at an appropriate volume and isn’t jarring. You usually can’t go wrong with smooth jazz.
As a business leader, constantly juggling phone calls takes you away from important business operations. It can even infringe on your personal life. Setting up an automated phone menu for your business saves both you and your customers valuable time.
However, creating a polished phone menu can pose quite a challenge. Call forwarding can be complicated, and it often takes some time to set up properly. You might lack the necessary recording equipment. You might feel uncertain about crafting a professional greeting.
AccessDirect has a solution tailored just for you. We proudly offer custom phone menus and voicemail scripts with top-notch professional recordings to all our valued customers. Just tell us your ideas, and we’ll set up all the call forwarding settings on your behalf. We’ll also take care of the writing and recording process to provide you with an automated phone menu that informs and delights customers with every call.
When you choose AccessDirect for your virtual phone system, you also gain access to a wide array of valuable features, including voicemail transcription, music on transfer, find-me/follow-me call routing, and much more. Get back to doing what you do best: serving your customers. Get started today with a free trial of AccessDirect.