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What To Look For in a Telephone System

5 Great Tips for What You Should Be Evaluating in a New Phone System

There comes a point in every business
when you'll need to consider acquiring a
business telephone system. In this chap-
ter, you’ll discover 5 great tips for what you
should be evaluating in a new phone sys-

Before we dive into the specifics I want to
review some phone system basics.

Most business telephone systems have
two parts, the phone server, a piece of
hardware that receives inbound calls and
routes the calls to the appropriate extension, and the telephones themselves which allow your
staff to accept calls, transfer calls and conduct conference calls.

While names like Nortel and Avaya come to mind, there are more cost-effective solutions that
do the job just as well, such as the TalkSwitch phone systems. Regardless of the brand, there
are 5 standard criteria to consider when evaluating a business telephone system.


First and foremost, you want a phone system that is easy to operate. The telephones
themselves should have a familiar feel with the ability to complete everyday functions such as
placing a call on-hold, muting a call, and increasing and/or decreasing the volume level. You'll
also want to ensure that the phones themselves have both a handset as well as a jack for a

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Rich Feature Set

Most businesses will require a main menu, call routing, and voicemail. Each member on
staff will be equipped with their own extension and voicemail box. Your IT guy or gal should be
able to set-up a new phone line or make any adjustments to the system settings by logging
into the telephone system software. The software should be mature, and again, easy to use.
Read reviews from other business owners or IT people about how the software performs and
which features are included. By IT, I mean Information Technology.


Regular business hours are from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. That means that the office is closed for
16 hours per day. If you receive calls from multiple time zones, it's likely a lot of calls will end
up going to voicemail. With this knowledge, invest in extra storage for voicemail.


Give your callers a strong first impression with a customized telephone system greet-
ing. The auto-attendant is the technical name for the voice you hear during the main menu.
You should hire a professional to record the auto-attendant and deliver an MP3 or WAV file to
you that you'll then upload into the telephone system. While you’re at it, have the voice talent
record a general voicemail message, office is closed message, holiday hours message and
most importantly on-hold messages.

Upgradable / Expandable

A basic phone system will include two phone lines. Before long, you'll want to expand to four
lines. If your business continues to grow, you'll want the flexibility to easily add another four

Be sure that the phone system you select has the ability to expand the number of phone
lines. I'd also include the ability to plug in a CD player in your "expandable" requirements. The
TalkSwitch lets you either upload on-hold messages or simply play the on-hold messages from

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a CD player that's plugged in. Having your on-hold messages on CD lets you easily update
your messages, play current promotions or share timely news relating to your business.


By jotting down your requirements, you'll be armed with a list of specific needs. Your re-
quirements list will also help you avoid getting bogged down in technical specifications and de-
tailed feature lists keeping you focused when you're doing research on which phone system to
go with.

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When you are writing your telephone voice-over script, there are several key elements that
you’ll want to include, the first element being an auto-attendant.

1. Auto Attendant

An auto attendant is the first voice that a caller will hear when they dial through to your
company phone line. The auto attendant greets the caller and establishes trust while branding
your company. For instance, your auto attendant may be scripted to say something like this:

Thank you for calling XYZ Company, the leading provider of whatever-it-is-you-do services.

2. Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

After the caller has heard the auto attendant, the same voice usually guides them through
their options, you know, press 1 for this and press 2 for that. This element of your voice over
script is called an IVR or Interactive Voice Response.

Why is it there?

You may want your announcer or voice talent to direct callers to specific offices or to lis-
ten to pre-recorded messages that share useful information such as your regular office
hours, what’s on the menu, and so on.

One popular option with callers is the ability to dial zero to reach a representative at any time.
Be sure to make that option available to them at the end of your IVR prompts. Phone systems
that offer this feature often relieve customers who are becoming agitated or simply don’t
have time to listen to the entire menu of options. Surveys across the board have shown that
many callers detest having to wait and appreciate the option to press zero to exit the menu and
speak directly with a “real” person.

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Once your caller has picked the option that best meets their needs, they will then be directed
to the extension associated with their request. Be sure to map this out when you are setting
up your telephone system. Know which extensions are paired with the numbers and symbols
you ask the caller to press so there are no hiccups in the process for your caller.

3. On-Hold Messaging

Now, while all of this is happening, you have an excellent opportunity to market to your
caller while they are waiting on hold.

You can turn waiting time into selling time, so here we go. It’s quite simple.

When you are scripting your telephone voice over prompts, be sure to include some on-hold
messaging. The on-hold messaging follows the Interactive Voice Response.

For best results, write three or four courtesy messages and an equal number of market-
ing messages that will alternate while a caller is waiting to be served. When your callers
are on hold, you can gently remind them that you appreciate their time and their business.
Courtesy messages are meant to soothe callers while they are waiting.

On the flip side, you can also up-sell your customer through a marketing message. After all,
you do have a captive audience! There’s no better time to let the caller know about a special
that is going on, an update to your service, or anything relevant to your organization. Include
some persuasive messaging and the caller will have a newly inspired reason to do more busi-
ness with you if interested.

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4. Voicemail

Something else that you will want to have is a company voicemail message. This voice mail
will act as a generic greeting for any messages that are left outside of personal voice-
mail. Along those lines, consider having specific personal voicemail greetings recorded in the
event that you or your staff would prefer the voice talent to do so instead of recording it your-

Let’s pretend that your caller has phoned after hours and there is no one available to take their

At this point, you have a couple of options to consider:

   • Just let them sit on the line until they eventually navigate their way to a voice mail box

   • Or, you can set up an after hours message that will thank the caller for phoning and pro-
     vide instructions to leave a message or phone back on the next business day.

The same goes for holidays. If you’d like to have a special message prepared for statutory
holidays, you can customize the message for your customers and present it to them at the ap-
propriate time.

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Do you know what kind of voice you want? Picking the right voice is of great importance as
that voice will brand your company and likely be the first point of human contact for
your customers. The majority of all telephone system recordings are recorded by female
voice talents, however, you may find that a male voice is more suited to your industry or or-
ganization, especially if you represent an industry traditionally associated with men.

Remember to think about the gender, age, accent, style, when selecting a voice. Write down
what you know about your customers and select a voice that best reflects their demographic
and meets their specific needs.

If you are serving an older customer set, think of casting a middle aged or senior voice for your
voice talent. If you serve predominantly young adults or thirty-somethings, select a voice
geared to their age group. Depending on what your company offers, you’ll want to match the
voice with your services. For instance, if your messaging is for a church or religious center,
consider a comforting voice over style with mild authoritativeness. Alternatively, if you are a
ticket hub for sports events, pick an upbeat, energetic voice style that best exudes your brand
and speaks directly to your caller.

Consider the accent that you want your callers to hear. If you work with people locally or
within a certain region, consider hiring a voice actor who has the same accent as the custom-
ers you serve. Be sure that the talent you hire has met all of your voice casting requirements
including gender, style, accent and age for best results.

You might want someone to record who has a different accent altogether who sounds exotic or
foreign. A foreign accented voice over may give your callers the impression that you are a
global entity. While this may sound attractive, it could also confuse people if you serve a mainly
local customer base. Your customers, should they all be from the city you are located in or the
surrounding area, would likely expect to hear someone with the same accent or regional dia-
lect that they have.

Your voice over will only be as effective as the voice talent that you cast, so script and
choose wisely.

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Abigail Jane’s Flowers
Auto Attendant
Thank you for calling Abigail Jane’s Flowers, your friendly neighborhood florist for weddings
and all of your special occasions.

To speak with a floral consultant, press 1
To place an order, press 2
To speak with Genevieve Thompson in arranging, press 3
To speak with Abigail Jane Frailey, press 4
To leave a message in the company mail box, press 5

Are you getting married this year? Let our consultants sweep you off your feet and create the
bridal bouquet of your dreams.
Thank you for holding. We appreciate your business.
It’s almost Valentine’s day... Does your lady love have a dozen roses ordered for her already?
There’s still time, so make sure you ask your floral consultant when we return on the line.

Voice Mail
Hi, you’ve reached the private voice mail for Abigail Jane Frailey. I’m not in the office at the
moment, but please leave your name, phone number, and your request, and I will return your
call as soon as I can. Talk to you soon!

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The Herculean Fitness Club
Auto Attendant
Thank you for calling The Herculean, the fitness club that goes the extra mile for you.

To learn about our club memberships, press 1
To start your fitness experience at The Herculean, press 2
To book a personal trainer, press 3
To listen to our contact information, press 4
To return to the main menu, press the pound key

Need a place to go to get away from it all? The Herculean is your destination to build muscles,
tone up, and keep your fitness in check.

Thank you for holding on the line. A representative will be with you shortly.
With warmer weather comes outdoor activity, and not to mention shorts and summer clothes.
Keep up appearances on the golf course, at the office ( or the beach! ) by joining the number
one fitness club, The Herculean.

Greetings, you have reached the corporate voice mail for The Herculean team of fitness pro-
fessionals. Please leave your name, phone number or email address and we will get back to
you within twenty-four hours.

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Grimsby Developments
Auto Attendant
Thank you for calling Grimsby Developments, developers of strikingly beautiful heritage homes
at remarkably reasonable prices.

To setup a meeting with a member of the Grimsby Developments team, press 1
To listen to homeowner testimonials, press 2
To speak with Mike Grimsby, press 3
To speak with the billing department, press 4
To leave a message in the company voice mail box, press 5
To review your options, press 6

Looking to build a new home in desirable Mountain’s Peak? We have 6 lots still available to
build your family dream home on. Come visit us today to explore the possibilities.

Thank you for holding. We appreciate your business.

Hard wood flooring, cathedral ceilings, open concept living spaces... you can have it all with a
home designed and built by Grimsby Developments. Inquire about our model homes when we
return on the line.

Thank you for calling Grimsby Developments, the leader in heritage home development. All of
our lines are busy, so please leave your name, phone number, and your request, and a repre-
sentative will return your call as soon as they can. Thank you, and have a nice day.

Evening message
Thank you for calling Grimsby Developments, the leader in heritage home development. The
office is currently closed, so please leave your name, phone number, and your request, and a
representative will return your call as soon as they can tomorrow morning. Thank you, and we
look forward to serving you.

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Murphy’s Bakery
Auto Attendant
Thank you for calling Murphy’s Bakery, home of Murphy’s Mile High Pies and the Murphy Culi-
nary Institute.

To place an order, press 1
To learn about our specialty pastry classes, press 2
To speak with an instructor, press 3
To leave a message in the company mail box, press 4
To review your options, press 5

Welcome to Murphy’s Bakery and Culinary Institute. We specialize in catering, with a focus on
baked goods and pastries. We appreciate your call, so please hold on the line until a repre-
sentative can serve you.

Are you an aspiring chef? Need to learn the tools of the trade? Register for our classes and
be instructed by world renowned pastry chef Anastasia Murphy.

Thank you for holding. Your call has been placed in a priority sequence. A representative will
speak with you shortly.

You have reached Murphy’s Bakery and Culinary Institute. All of our lines are busy, so please
leave your name, phone number, and your request, and a representative will return your call as
soon as they can. Thank you, and have a nice day.

Evening message
Thank you for calling Murphy’s Bakery and Culinary Institute. The office is currently closed, so
please leave your name, phone number, and your request, and a representative will return
your call as soon as they can early tomorrow morning. Thank you, and we look forward to
serving you.

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Business in the 21st Century...

More than ever before your business is faced with tough challenges. Your costs are in-
creasing. Competition within the marketplace is tightening. Profits are becoming more limited,
and your vendors are providing less and less marketing support. Customers have grown more
cautious of how and where they spend their money.

Then, of course, there are all the advertising issues. Do people read the newspaper anymore?
Which of your customers watch television? Is cable a wise investment? Are the yellow pages
an effective use of your budget?

   • Will anyone see your outdoor ad -- and act on it? Will people respond to direct mail?

   • Every advertising or marketing dollar you spend has to produce results.

   • Results are dependent upon reaching a qualified audience with the right message.

Who is Your Qualified Audience?

People who call your business are your best prospects -- your most qualified audience. Adver-
tising, your reputation, and even your 800 numbers are all designed to make your phone ring.

Call volume and heavy phone traffic are the natural by-products of your marketing effort. Your
customers and prospects call to conduct business or obtain information about specific products
and services. When they dial your number, you have their undivided attention.

Callers currently spend more time on hold than ever before. According to industry statis-
tics, 70% of all business telephone calls are placed on hold or in a call center queue for an av-
erage of 45-60 seconds. That's an average of 7 out of every 10 calls. For many businesses,

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that adds up to hundreds of hours of advertising time per year. (Calculate your call volume to
determine your on hold marketing potential.)

Reaching the Right Audience with The Right Message

The most popular rationale for developing an on hold marketing program is a desire to provide
callers with relevant information regarding the nature of their call. The key word is rele-
vant. Your message on hold program can be a sales message, customer service message, an
informational message -- or any combination you choose. On hold marketing is designed to
turn telephone 'hold time' into a vital public relations tool.

A message on hold program functions as an extension of your existing advertising strategies
by taking advantage of every customer contact.

A message on hold program is the most cost effective marketing tool available today.
Compared to other forms of media, on hold marketing is a sound investment for your business.
Presenting unified marketing announcements to your best prospects. 24 hours a day. 7 days a

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FACT: On-Hold Messaging Reduces Hang-ups.

Callers don't want to wait and will hang up if left on hold too long. 60 percent of business call-
ers placed on-hold will hang up if left in silence.

FACT: On-Hold Messaging is Preferred by Most Callers.

Callers want assistance. 80 percent of callers appreciate hearing information about a company
while waiting, rather than hearing a radio station, sleepy music or silence. On-hold messaging
provides helpful information.

FACT: On-Hold Messaging Can Influence Buying Decisions.

Don't miss out on the opportunity to sell your product or service through custom-produced on-
hold messaging: 16 to 20 percent of callers have made purchases based on information they
heard while on hold.

FACT: Most Business Callers Are Placed On-Hold.

83 percent of business callers experience some hold time. Two-thirds will be on-hold for 43
seconds or longer (long enough to hear worthwhile information or a pleasant greeting from on-
hold messaging).

FACT: Silence Makes On-Hold Time Seem Longer Than It Is!

Callers who are subjected to silence while on-hold perceive their on-hold time to be three times
longer than it actually is.

FACT: Callers Who Hang Up While On-Hold May Never Call Back.

More than a third of all first-time callers who hang up while on-hold will never call back.

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AT&T Study

More than 70% of business calls are placed on hold for an average of 45 to 60 seconds
each. 60% of the callers placed on hold hang up, and 30% of those that hang up never call

94% of advertising budgets are spent to induce a call and only 6% is spent to handle the call
once it comes in.

North American Telecom

   • Callers with silence on hold will abandon their calls in less than one minute. Ninety
     percent hang up within forty seconds. Callers with music on hold will stay on the line thirty
     seconds longer than with silence.

   • Callers with information on hold will stay on the line for up to three minutes longer.

US West Communications Study

Providing information on hold results in:

   • A 40% increase in retention of callers on hold

   • A 15% increase in inquiries

   • A 12% direct increase in requests for products and services mentioned on hold.

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More On Hold Facts

  • The average executive spends 17 minutes per day on hold. Office Team Survey

  • The average person spends 60 hours per year on hold. CNN Survey

  • 55 seconds is the national average hold time for companies with more than two tele-
   phone lines. CNN Survey

  • Over 85% of callers prefer on hold messages over silence. Cellular Marketing Maga-

  • 1 in 5 respondents made a purchase or a decision based on information they heard while
   on hold. Telemarketing Magazine Survey

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If you need help at anytime, you can reach us toll-free at 1-888-359-3472.

To post a job FREE, create your account at

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