Find Another 30K with Your Phone System

Bruce Gibbs, President of ServiceMark Telecom wrote an article about how to find another $30K and improve customer service with your phone system. The article addresses principles that we have discovered during thousands of meetings with Kansas City area customers for over three decades. The title of the article comes from input from customers with as few as 15 employees. The principles of the article can be applied to businesses of all sizes. We hope this article is helpful to begin a process of discovery regarding which technologies are relevant or not relevant related to your telephone system.

By Bruce Gibbs, President ServiceMark Telecom
816-478-2000, ext. 302
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Many businesses are paying $30,000 or more a year for a live attendant to answer and transfer calls, or at least someone that’s divided between other tasks and answering the phone. It’s easy to see how an automated attendant can be a time saving technology that reduces cost. However, is it possible to realize cost savings by utilizing an automated attendant and actually improve customer service?

We’ve all been through the frustration of voice mail jail. You know the routine. You call a company with an automated menu that’s too long and you’re in voice mail jail with no easy way to get to a real person. An automated attendant built into your phone system is not something that just anyone can program and keep incoming callers happy. However, if a few basic principles are applied and if all participants in the phone project tend to call routing details prior to implementation, it is possible to realize a significant savings in personnel costs and/or utilize existing employees in new and additional productive ways, and provide more efficient call routing and better customer service.

Principle One: A few automated attendant menu choices are a lot better than lots of menu choices.

Callers get frustrated by automated attendant greetings that are too long! Instead of creating a lengthy automated greeting that addresses every possible reason people call your business, limit your automated greeting to five items or less. Make it like the express line at the supermarket. You may not be able to address every reason people call you in five items or less. However, it’s likely that you could address the call routing of over 80% of your callers by giving the caller no more than five menu choices. For all other matters, instruct the caller to press zero and get them out of voice mail jail. This leads to principle two.

Principle Two: Ideally, when the caller presses zero during normal business hours, they always get a person.

Whether the caller is listening to the automated attendant greeting, a personal greeting of an individual employee, or any other greeting, zero should always connect the caller to a “real” person. There is nothing more frustrating to callers than reaching an automated greeting with no way out. This principle, especially for small offices can present a challenge. However, by utilizing the flexible call routing options of current telephone systems that have the ability to find a person on or off premise, this ability to get the caller to a live person can usually be achieved.

Principle Three: Pre-planning is essential.

Many telephone system installations have little chance for success due to lack of planning prior to installation. An NEC application engineer once made the comment, “the devil is in the details”. There are a plethora of details that need to be discussed, analyzed, and documented in order for expectations to be clearly understood by all participants in order to complete an installation that is a pleasant experience beginning the first day of installation.

If these principles are adhered to throughout the design of the telephone system, it is probable that a time saving automated telephone system can be deployed that increases efficiency and customer service.

These principles set the stage for a more in depth conversation specific to your business. An initial consultation with ServiceMark will cost you nothing more than 1 hour of your time, and you are under no obligation. To investigate how you can realize significant cost savings and improve customer service, call ServiceMark at 816-478-2000 and press 2, or contact us via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Is there a standard automated attendant greeting that fits most businesses?

While there are elements that most automated attendant greetings have in common, ServiceMark has not discovered a “cookie cutter” to address call routing that fits most businesses. Every business is unique, and therefore the installation and programming details of each telephone system is a well thought out custom design.

ServiceMark’s automated attendant greeting incorporates several elements worth exploring as you begin considering how to design a more efficient way to route calls for your business. Please call ServiceMark at 816-478-2000 and feel free to dial as instructed to experience our automated attendant greeting which says the following:

“Thank you for calling ServiceMark Telecom. If you know your party’s extension dial it anytime, or to dial by entering the person’s first name press 1. If you’re interested in installation a new telephone system or upgrading your computer network, press 2. To place an order for adds, moves, or changes or to place a service call, press 4. For the accounting department press 5. For all other matters dial 0 or hold the line.

So what happens when callers dial digits as instructed in ServiceMark’s automated greeting?

• Caller Dials extension or presses 1 to dial by first name
• In many cases, the caller simply rings an extension. If there is no answer the caller is connected to a personal greeting. During (or after) personal greetings, callers can press 0 for immediate assistance or leave a message.
• If you call my extension 302 or press 1 and enter the first three digits of my first name (Bruce), several things happen to give you the best possible opportunity to reach me.
• My office phone rings.
• I also have a “Voice over Internet Protocol” (VoIP) phone in my work at home office that is connected to our office building via the internet. This VoIP phone in my house mirrors the same high end functionality as the phone in my office and it also rings.
• My mobile phone can also ring by enabling a unique phone system feature called “mobile extension” which extends office phone functionality to my cell phone.
• Caller presses 2 to install a new system
• Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) with skills based routing enables us to automatically route the caller to a person that is most qualified to discuss a new telephone system installation. If the caller isn’t answered within a brief period of time, we ring several phones simultaneously to insure that someone answers the caller quickly!
• Caller presses 4 for adds, moves, or changes or to place a service call, or presses 0
• Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) enables us to automatically route the caller to a customer service representative. If all are busy, the caller hears a brief announcement and is automatically placed on hold for the next available customer service representative.
• In order to insure that hold times are brief, after a brief hold time we overflow the call to a larger group of people.
• Caller presses 5 for accounting
• This department does not receive a high volume of incoming calls. Therefore, we simply ring all phones in accounting simultaneously. If the call is not answered, the caller is connected to an accounting departmental mailbox, and each phone in accounting receives a visual indication of the message.

As previously mentioned, every business is unique, and therefore call routing for your business will look different than ours. There are a myriad of ways to direct calls to departments within your company. A partial list of call routing possibilities are as follows:

• Ring all phones in a department simultaneously.
• Ring multiple phones in a department immediately and ring other phones in the department in a delayed fashion. Departmental ringing can also include cell phones via a mobile extension feature.
• Ring a single phone in the department based on which telephone has been idle the longest by utilizing Automatic Call Distribution (ACD).
• Ring a single phone in the department based on Skills Based Routing.
• Identify a few key people within a department as primary answering positions and distribute calls evenly among these key people. If the primary phone answerers are unavailable, expand call routing to additional people within the department.

To investigate in further detail how an office telephone system can work for you, please call 816-478-2000 and press 2, or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Are there additional alternatives to route calls to the proper person or department without a live receptionist?

Direct Inward Dialing (DID) provides the ability to create a unique telephone number for every telephone in the business. Therefore, Direct Inward Dialing provides the ability of outside callers to dial the person or department directly without the intervention of a live or automated attendant. Direct Inward Dialing historically was marketed to large companies. However, due to additional competition in the telecom industry and cost reduction technology, direct dial telephone numbers are affordable for businesses of any size. Direct Inward Dialing is worth exploring as it may provide both time saving efficiency and great customer service for your organization.

What is Voice over IP?

If you have looked into any type of telecom product or service, undoubtedly you have heard the phrase “Voice over IP” which is commonly abbreviated “VoIP”. Both of these phrases are short for “Voice over Internet Protocol”. In some applications the technology involves talking over the public internet. However, VoIP is not limited to the public internet, but also includes talking over a private data network (WAN) that connects multiple office buildings, or connecting IP telephones to a local area data network (LAN) inside a single building.

The applications of VoIP technology are numerous. VoIP technology can allow a reduction of long distance charges on national or international calls. VoIP may be the technology to deliver the most robust telephone and internet services to a business. VoIP can also provide the ability for telephones in multiple offices to work together as one telephone system, as well as extend the high end functionality of a business telephone to a person that chooses to work from their home.

What is Computer Telephony Integration?

Simply stated, computer telephony integration is the ability for telephone applications and computer applications to work together. Some of the most common computer telephony applications are as follows:

• Voice mail messages can appear as emails. Users can easily see the name and telephone number in the email subject line and click on an audio attachment to listen to a voice mail message from a computer or smart phone.
• Faxes can be delivered via e-mail.
• Unified Communications is software that appears on a computer that interacts with the business telephone system. Unified Communications works like a Smartphone from your desktop computer which provides an improved end user experience and provides productive collaboration between employees. Capabilities such as click to dial, drag and drop phone calls, presence, quick message, IM or instant message for employees working in or out of the office is now commonplace and affordable for most businesses.

Do I need to deploy Voice over IP telephones in order to deploy Computer Telephony Integration?

By their very nature, soft phones or attendant positions that reside as software on the computer are VoIP applications to the workstation. Other computer telephony applications have more to do with the telephone system server in the equipment room residing on the data network, and whether the telephone is a VoIP phone or not has little bearing on the computer/telephony application. Therefore, most computer/telephony applications are not dependent on VoIP telephones to every workstation.

When I buy a phone system, should I configure the system with all VoIP phones?

Why VoIP?” should be discussed and debated. It’s worthwhile to discuss what a company hopes to achieve now and in the future by the deployment of VoIP handsets as opposed to digital handsets.

At ServiceMark, we are not advocates of technology for technology sake. We advocate the technology that is the best fit. We help our customers explore which technologies are relevant for their business and which ones may not matter. We are enthusiastic about applying technology for our customers in a meaningful way that produces greater profitability and better customer service.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss in further detail how you can realize cost savings, improve customer service, and help discover which technologies are relevant for your business. Please call us at 816-478-2000 and press 2, or e-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a free, no obligation consultation.