Category Archives: Customer Service

How To Get Positive Reviews In Two Steps.

…or “Do the Two-Step and See Your Reviews and Sales Funnel Grow!”

We’re seeing great results from positive reviews from our customers.

We’ve always known that positive testimonials and reviews were an important slice in our overall marketing pie. They appear in every brochure, our FaceBook page, “Google My Business” page…and they’ve been on our testimonial web page for over 20 years.

Confirmation that positive reviews bring new business comes from prospective customers telling us how the reviews convinced them choose us.  Since any business or practice can benefit from sharing their own positive testimonials, we wanted to share what we’ve learned about how to get positive review.

The two main keys for more positive reviews are:

1)  Do great work

2)  Ask for positive reviews with an easy way to post them for the greatest exposure.

Do great work.

A.    Be pro-active in everything you do, and whenever possible, anticipate your client’s needs, before he or she even knows what those needs are.

B.     Be flexible and accommodate reasonable requests that might be outside of the normal scope of work.

C.     Exceed expectations, in our case, delivering a script or a finished program before the anticipated due date.

Give the client time to use your product or service before you ask for a review, but don’t wait too long. Enthusiasm is highest while their experience is new. For us, the right time is within the first month or two of receiving their new On Hold program.

Ask, making it easy for them to post positive reviews.

Get Positive Reviews

A.    Send an email asking “How Did We Do?”

B.     In your email, provide them a links to any web page that allows them to post their positive comments such as your FaceBook page or Google My Business review page.

C.     Make it clear that contributing a review is strictly voluntary and that if they have a company policy against online testimonials, that there’s no problem.

D.    From the e-mail the client receives to where he/she types in his/her thoughts should be no more than two mouse-clicks, making it just about as easy as it can be.

E.     Some customers will want to give you a testimonial, but don’t want to deal with your links, so make it easy to simply email their positive comments back to you.

Get The Most From Your Positive Reviews.

Thank those that post or contribute positive reviews. Send a “thank you” email or personal note so they know you noticed their kind words…and that it was appreciated.

Visibility to potential buyers is the key, so consider which review sites to provide links. When good reviews are acquired, replicate them across all your marketing when possible.  Keep reviews archived in email and desktop folders for later use.

Use a niche market approach to leveraging reviews.  When corresponding with a prospective client, include a glowing review from a customer in a similar business.  Even better, ask for permission from the contributing reviewer to provide their contact information so they can be contacted, turning your review into a reference.

Employing this practice will not only put you on your way to providing superior service to your new prospects, you’ll have new glowing reviews in no time!

Brian Illes

                      Brian Illes – VP/Operations

About Brian

Brian joined On Hold Marketing after a 20-year career as radio station program director and on air personality in markets in the eastern United States. Not only skilled as a writer, producer and voice talent for On Hold Marketing, Brian is a true wizard at overseeing our studio production and tending to Customer Service.

Do’s & Don’t in Call Handling… How Call Handling Loses Business

by Rich Moncure

My inspiration to create this article is based on a series of experiences I recently had over a short 2 day period as I made telephone calls to several businesses.  It is important to describe the nature and purpose of my phone calls to these businesses.  The calls were a combination of:

1. Sales calls. So maybe you don’t want these calls anyway? A salesperson is also a business professional that is impressionable.   And many of their products are critical to the operation of the businesses they call.

2. Attempts to make an appointment as a paying customer (revenue)

3. Attempts to locate a particular individual so I could provide a business referral (revenue)

Being On Hold Takes Time. . . . . .

As an introductory summary, I marveled at the time consuming and negative experience I had in navigating through the automation tools presented throughout my below described journey. The automation tools were supposed to help direct me to where I needed to be……..or were they?  It moreover made me feel like I wasn’t welcome to call them.

I shook my head in disbelief at the poor attempts to sensibly use technology as an aid.   I have concluded that many businesses fall into the trap of focusing exclusively on what technology can do to help their business as opposed to how the technology can help the client of that same business.

Music & Sound Marketing Solutions

All too often, a business, small or large, will deploy a technology solution that while it may be designed and deployed to reduce costs by reducing human resource expenditures, the design and programming often creates roadblocks along the way that can result in negative consequences.  I’m becoming more convinced that senior executives are not considering the following.

The Call Handling Don’t List:

  • Serious levels of frustration to clients, patients and business partners. The inability to cleanly measure lost business does not mean it doesn’t happen.  Consider the possibility that the “Publishers Clearinghouse Guy” just knocked on your door to deliver good news, but you chose not to answer the door.
  • The perception that is created by the offending company that they are disorganized and insensitive to the needs of their clients and partners. Upon questioning a company’s poor communication efforts, the next natural tendency is to ask oneself whether or not the company is competent with their service offering.

Let’s get right to the most glaring experience I had which is specific to item 3 (attempt to provide a referral) noted above (the call to the Fortune 500 company), followed by a few helpful tips.

THE FORTUNE 500 PHONE CALL:   This may have been the single worst experience I’ve had in over a decade, though I consistently experience elements of the following phone call on a regular basis.  I laughed out loud at this particular experience.  My objective was to locate a particular individual in the Fortune 500 company in order to provide a highly qualified referral.

I had a name of my party at the Fortune 500 company and his physical address.  Email / chat was not an option in this situation.  It needed to be a conversation for sure, which is becoming a lost art-form.  So……I use a search engine (Google in this case) to seek a main phone number.  NO PHONE NUMBER WAS LISTED, nor was it included on the HOME PAGE of their internet site.  Are you kidding me?

And while I’m now convinced that this was intentional, I can only venture that they were not aware of how horrible the experience would be for a fresh new caller.  While on the Fortune 500 company’s website, there was an option for me as a caller was to fill out a form…….yes an electronic form on their website and they would call me back.  I’ve seen that trend emerge and can’t seem to grasp the rationale.  I refused to fill out the form.  I eventually found a main phone number using clever investigative techniques and called it.

This building houses over 500 people by the way.  An automated attendant answered (acceptable solution in my book) and it offered 8 options (not a prudent decision), none of which satisfied my need.  I attempted to ‘zero out’ to a warm body, not caring if it was a security guard or lobby receptionist.  What I heard was “ring no answer” for 6 rings, and then the initial automated attendant all over again.  I decided to be more patient and listened more closely all the way down to Option 8, which suggested if I knew the caller’s extension I could enter it, or press # for a company directory.

Yeah I know, I should have listened to all options closely on the first time through, but “zero out” seemed simpler and turns out would have been WAY simpler had I been answered.  As directed, I spell a name and find my party, JOHN DOE.  The system tells me JOHN DOE’S extension number.  I enter all requested digits properly and hear a recorded name that announces the name “DORIS TAYLOR” and then I’m transferred.  I hear three rings and voice mail answers with JEFF SMITH’s personal greeting.  I decide to “zero out”.  I then hear “An operator is not available”, followed by the main Automated Attendant.

You get the picture.  A laughable quagmire reeking of system abuse.  I attributed this to system mismanagement and poor training for employees.  I made my way back to the Directory and just made up a name and eventually found an unsuspecting human to answer the phone.  By this time, I’m just plain curious.  The referral could wait or go elsewhere.  The unsuspecting human that eventually answered me had NO INTERNAL DIRECTORY of the company, yet knew the person’s name (JOHN DOE).    This person struggled to figure out how to transfer me anywhere.

In an effort to keep this rant to a dull roar, I’ll spare the reader from the multiple other experiences I had over the next two days.  The same elements of mismanagement and poor design were present.

Proper On Hold Marketing Can Save Your Customers

Here’s the point.  Technology can be very good.  And let’s all be fully aware the younger generations (I’m 54) prefer data touch over personal touch, and I’m fine with that.    But when technology takes on the role of proactively blocking communication rather than enhancing it, don’t blame the technology.  Blame the decisions made in its deployment.   These decisions rest squarely on the shoulders of the company IT / Telecom department and moreover the executives above them.   Unfortunately, they rarely call their own company and sample the caller or new client experience.  If they do call their own company, they get red carpet treatment naturally and just assume all is well.

My recommendations to all of us as business owners, large and small include.

The Call Handling Do List:

  • Calling your company. Do it anonymously so nobody knows the caller is a company executive. Pretend you have never engaged your company and you chose to use the telephone to contact your company.  It may feel awkward but play it out.  Try to buy something or inquire about your product or service.  If you are placed ‘on hold’ or are put ‘in queue’, see if you are OK with that experience.  If you hear SILENCE while on hold, make note of that.   If you heard an out of date on hold message or music not in keeping with what you envision your audio brand should be, make note of that.  Though you may have direct lines to all individuals and fewer phone calls than you had 10 years ago, ….you do still have callers on hold throughout the day.  The most likely caller to be on hold is the caller that is brand new to your company.   I certainly don’t need to write anything about “First Impressions”.
  • How do your folks ‘sound’?. If you have a live person answering calls, see if you like the way they are greeting your callers.  Are they too fast (quite common)?  Harried sounding? Do they say the company name so fast it is not even discernible?  Is there too much noise in the background?
  • Ask to be routed to another party. Ask to be transferred to a particular employee or department and see what happens after a successful transfer?  Do this 5 or more times and see who is answering calls and who might be hiding behind voice mail on a consistent basis.    Listen to the voice mail greetings.  How do the employees sound?  Professional?  Rushed?  Have they recorded their personal greetings or does their greeting sound canned, akin to “Extension 1001…….is unavailable….please leave… Etc.”    Do not allow this to happen unless you have some security reason to do so.  It is somewhat rude in a sense to not confirm to a caller that they are leaving voice mail in the right place.
  • Publish an internal “Company phone etiquette” guide on your internal website. Post it in the lunchroom.  One page should do it.  Include your expectations in terms of how the company name is stated, how voice greetings are recorded and expected time until a call might be returned.  Have your IT / Telephone folks include directions on how to manage their phone programming.
  • My guess is that your company has spent some serious $’s on how the lobby looks to visitors.  For a mere fraction of those $’s, you can clean up the phone lobby also.  You’ve paid for the technology, so make it work for you in a positive way instead of allowing it to produce frustration for your callers.  The good news is that your technology platform already has options built in to allow you to design a friendly experience.  Most likely, the cleaning up of your system will not require an upgrade or significant time or dollar investment.  It will most likely boil down to design, programming, and training to employees.

This also goes for websites!  I also marvel at the serious amount of content I see on a website that is out of date, unclear and obsolete.  I think I’ll check ours right now!

Las Vegas hospital’s on hold messaging saves a life

How effective is your on hold messaging? If you’ve read this blog, you know that it should be engaging, entertaining and educational — providing valuable information to your callers as they wait on hold to speak with a live person. In at least one hospital’s case, its on hold messaging meant so much more to one caller: it saved his life.

Fred Bedient, a retired police officer originally from Detroit, knows the value of his own life, having been in several dangerous situations during his 31 years patrolling the motor city in the 60s, 70s and 80s. But it was during his seemingly less-dangerous second career — security and communications director of the Valley Health System in Las Vegas — when his life was seriously put into jeopardy. In fact, he recalls that he probably would have died if it wasn’t for the on hold messages at the Valley Health System.

Three years ago, Bedient was suffering from a toothache and felt substantial jaw pain, so he went to the dentist. Assuming that was the end of it, he went about his business, continuing to work at the medical facility. That’s when the jaw pain came back and didn’t go away. In fact, it became increasingly worse, so he called the hospital he was working at, but was put on hold. The hospital’s on hold messaging at the time was about heart attacks and it used its message to detail potential signs of having a heart attack, particularly those that aren’t well known to the general public. Tooth pain is one of those signs, and it was then that Bedient knew what was happening.

“That may have been the first time I was put on hold at Valley,” Bedient told the Las Vegas Review Journal in an interview conducted earlier this month “I’m glad I was. I never knew pain in the jaw could be a sign of a heart attack.”

Instead of waiting through silence until he could speak with a physician and then realize what his jaw pain meant, Bedient was able to take care of the situation right away. Today, he is happily and healthily retired, mainly due to his quick thinking and the quality of Valley Health System’s on hold messages.

The number one rule of customer service: Solve problems quickly

Ultimately, your customers are going to judge you on how quickly you are able to solve their problems. Yes, there’s much to be said about service with a smile and your attitude during the process can go a long way toward enhancing (or hurting) the customer’s experience. However, all the smiles and pleasantries in the world won’t help if you can’t answer your customers’ questions in an efficient manner.

Your Customers On Hold

A recent article in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel titled “Customer Service Matters” featured a response to an incident where a disgruntled caller did not receive the answers they were seeking in a timely manner. Not only did they have to wait on hold for an extended period of time, once they finally got through to a customer service representative they were bounced around to other departments and had to endure a frustrating experience before finally receiving any real answers.

Karen Hickman, the article’s author, responded to this incident with her thoughts on adequate customer service.

“Your complaint is not uncommon, and most of us have had the experience of being on hold for long periods of time and wanting to hang up,” she wrote. “Many businesses outsource their customer service departments, and the people answering their phones aren’t even in the U.S. However, I don’t believe that’s a good excuse for not being able to train and prepare people to handle problems that come up with their customers or consumers.”

The Benefits of On Hold Messaging

It’s important to understand the benefits of proper on hold messaging. Companies that implement effective messages can answer questions and solve problems while customers wait on hold, which reduces the amount of work required by the live representative. At the very least, companies should remember that customer service calls typically take place when the consumer is angry about a particular aspect of their service or have an immediate need that can’t be resolved in any manner other than an in-person conversation.

In these instances, any amount of time waiting on hold can seem like an eternity to the caller. On hold messages that are entertaining and engaging will at least alleviate their stress by reducing the amount of time the caller feels like they are waiting. While the article is correct in its claim that training and development of customer service representatives will improve the in-person conversation process, enhancing your on hold message will make a significant difference in the level of service your callers receive.

How on hold messaging can improve a patient’s experience

The medical and dental industries are testing out new digital marketing tools, but despite these changes customer service is still the most important consideration, according to  an IBM study. These findings were released during the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas.

"We have to think about customers more: not just the customer experience, but whether something moves the dial on customer consideration metrics," Matthew Young, chief information officer of Travelodge said in the report.

Even in today's world of smartphones, tablets and other gadgets, it has become clear to doctors and dentists that all staff members need to do their part to provide excellent customer service, even if they aren't looking at them face-to-face.

For example, on hold messaging can provide information for prospective and current patients before they reach the receptionist, physician or dentist. These on hold systems offer the flexibility to play music to engage the patient, explain hours of operation or redirect them to a more relevant phone number or website.

Dental and doctor offices that offer such a solution are one step ahead in offering a "customer-centric" environment, according to Paradigm Productions. Any investment toward enhancing a customer's experience can make the ultimate difference. Otherwise, practitioners may be causing more pain to their patients without even noticing it. Unexplained wait times on the phone may prompt them to negatively react and hang up.

Practitioners who take the time to create a high-quality customer journey are more likely to see their patients return for a follow up visit or annual check up. Working with an OHMA on hold messaging services provider will allow you develop messaging that resonates.

Can you combine fun and good service?

Being fun and being serious seem to be polar opposites, but can this apparent difference be bridged by a good custom on hold system? It seems to be a problem for many areas of business: entertaining while still providing real value.

James Chase, writing in Medical Marketing & Media, uses the phrase "shiny objects with meaning" to describe the ideal proportion of fun and seriousness present in care situations. In his case, he quotes Michael Fergusson, the CEO of a "gamification" company, to describe the impact that a black-or-white point of view has on healthcare.

"There's this sense within the health field that if something is important, it has to be dreary, as if fun detracts from the seriousness of it," he said.

It might be a little bit of a balancing act to get this exactly right, but with some effort your company can do it. It's just like what retail or hospitality industries sometimes do, as evidenced in this post from one of its 5 tips for developing a good atmosphere within your kind of establishment is using live events and coordinated entertainment options to entice new customers in.

Within the context of the bar or restaurant setting, this is the same thing as offering fun elements to a customer service approach. No restaurant would give up on their normal level of performance just to feature a special game or competition that gets everyone involved, and your company's particular approach to hold messaging should seek to heed this. Custom phone on hold music might be a good first step in this direction.

How to manage sensitive callers’ emergencies with on hold messaging

Consider this scenario. You are running an elderly care facility and multiple residents experience health-related emergencies. You contact their families and explain the situation, but because they live far away from the facility, they have to rely on phone communication until they are able to travel to see their loved ones. You contact three different families and tell them you will be in touch with any updates.

Naturally, they will be worried and, rather than wait for you to call them,frequently call your facility for any news. In fact, these calls are all coming at the same time. One individual is calling about their mother who, while at your facility, broke a bone and might need surgery. Another is constantly calling about their sick father because your facility is responsible for taking care of him . Any information you provide is extremely important to them, but there's a problem — you only have so many resources at your disposal, which means these callers are going to have to wait on hold to receive the information they are looking for.

Here's where it gets tricky. Someone's calling about their sick father at your elderly care center? That's important and, to them, it's an emergency. That's perfectly reasonable. The individual calling about their injured mother? That's just as urgent. But if you can only take one call at a time, how do you prioritize? More importantly, how do you tell the caller that their emergency is not as important as another?

The bottom line is, you can't. In any health-related situation, managing customer concerns is a major challenge. Each caller is going to say their issue is more important than any other, and in many ways, they are correct. The gap between expectations and reality needs to be carefully managed, and it can be done so with on hold messaging.

With engaging and informative on hold messages, callers will not only feel as if their wait time is shorter than it actually is, you might be able to alleviate their tension with the right content that lets them know how much you care about their needs and that you're doing everything you can to help them. 

Not only can this ease tensions when your patients' family members get in touch with you, it could limit the constant calls, which ultimately allow you more time to provide the care your patients need.

Why it’s more important than ever to show your patients you care

The health care industry is in a state of flux. The way we receive and pay for health care is changing, which means questions are going to become increasingly common in doctor's offices around the country. And, regardless of their stance on the ACA, patients are going to be upset if their respective providers can't give them the information they seek. 

That's why it's more important now than ever to show them how much you care about them, their questions and providing them with the answers they need as quickly as possible. As this blog has mentioned in the past, silence or poor on hold messages can show suggest to your patients that you don't care, even if you do.

You may think to yourself that your relationship with your patients will ultimately rule the day. If you have a positive and close connection with the individuals you have been servicing for a number of years, they will be willing to sit through silence before speaking to someone at your office. That might be true in some cases, but it won't help your practice grow because it will be difficult to bring on new patients. Moreover, thinking about the old ways of patient engagement may be a mistake in a reformed environment.

Ultimately, communication will be what maintains relationships with well-known patients and develops new ones. Working with an OHMA on hold messaging provider will allow you to create powerful content that alleviates concerns and, more importantly, shows your patients that you care about their questions.

Use on hold messages to show your customers you care

In any industry, it's important to show your customers just how much you care. You never want them to develop the attitude of "they don't care about me, so why should I care about them?" If this does occur, you will likely run into problems pertaining to communication, which can become a significant issue when it's time to be paid. 

Let's run down an imaginary scenario: Your customer thinks you don't care about them, even after you provide them with the service they bought. As long as payment isn't required up-front, it's important to alleviate any chances of your customers detaching themselves from your organization. If your customers believe helping them isn't in your best interest and your billing due date is approaching, chances are ensuring you get paid on time won't be high on their list of priorities. 

So how does an organization give off the impression that it doesn't care about its customers? Unfortunately, this sentiment can develop even after the sale of a great product or service. It typically comes from a lack of communication and transparency, often during customer service interactions. This can result from poor or non-existent on hold messaging.

When customers call your organization, they want to be engaged throughout the experience. If they have to wait in silence for an extended period of time, their immediate thought will be that you aren't all that interested in helping them. Imagine a customer calling with an urgent issue and then having to wait for five, ten or fifteen minutes (or even longer) in complete silence. They're likely going to assume you just don't care about their problem.

This is obviously untrue. It's always in your best interest to ensure your customers are satisfied and that their issues, regardless of their nature, are being handled quickly. Customers are obtained with the intention that they are there for the long term, so you should always care about their needs. The key is to show this, which can be done with effective on hold messages.

Working with an OHMA messages on hold provider will help create powerful content that engages, entertains and educates your audience, which will show your callers just how much you care about them. Ultimately, this will only improve your relationships with your customers.

Elder care facilities can alleviate family member stress with on hold messages

Managing customer calls regarding the quality of your product or the timeliness of your service is one thing, but when those calls pertain to the health and safety of loved ones, the importance of fast answers—and above all else, transparency—is paramount. 

As an elder care facility, you know that your number one priority is ensuring that all of your patients receive the best possible service and treatment and that you and your staff are dedicated to making that happen. However, the administrative side of your organization must be properly managed as well, and this can often be easier said than done.

It's difficult not to sympathize with the family members of your patients. They certainly care a great deal about them and they want to make sure that you are caring for their elderly family members with the best nurses and medicine and that you are always following best practices. Even though you are doing all these things, it can be difficult to relay that information to anxious family members on a consistent basis. This becomes increasingly challenging as your facility grows in size and clientele. 

Anxiety can be alleviated, however, with transparency. If your patients' family members know what's going on outside of visiting hours, you can reduce their tension. Of course, you likely don't have the resources to communicate on a consistent basis with your patients' respective families, so it is best to streamline the process with on hold messaging

Our Care and Comfort On Hold program allows you to reduce family member stress by generating on hold messages that detail the level of care your patients are receiving. Identifying the questions you are usually asked and integrating answers into your messages on hold will improve your relationship with families and enhance the level of care you offer your patients.