Monthly Archives: February 2011


What is a virtual receptionist?

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

The definition of a virtual receptionist is an outsourced call handling operative trained to manage your calls exactly as an in-house member of staff would, but from another office.

We define a virtual receptionist as a highly-skilled telephone agent trained in a full range of receptionist skills including message taking, switchboard call forwarding or call patching, diary management, order taking, emergency call response and much more.

Modern virtual receptionists are usually based in a call centre or contact centre and work in a team of operatives who treat their role as a profession, appreciating the vital first impression it plays in the public face and reputation of a business. Business clients rarely select virtual receptionists who work alone or from home due to their inability to answer more than one call at once, or provide guaranteed, break-free receptionist cover throughout the working day and at weekends.

Call centre virtual receptionists are regularly and thoroughly trained in advanced call handling techniques such as coping with emotionally distressed callers, handling angry callers and communicating with callers who have a hearing or speech impediment.

Latest call handling technology facilitates transfer of calls from your existing telephone number or telephone line out to the call centre virtual receptionist without any indication to the caller. The result is completely seamless, to your customer our virtual receptionist appears to be sitting in your office, with access to all the information your own employee would have, and able to handle any enquiry you wish them to be trained in.

View the complete range of virtual receptionist services available here.

Or for more information on virtual receptionist services call 01273 741 400 or 0800 849 3990.

Coastguard Call Handling Assessment Embarrasses Minister

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Following controversial plans to close 10 Coastguard stations around the UK, Shipping Minister Mike Penning caved to backbench pressure and released a Call Handling Risk assessment conducted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The Assessment, released last week, includes a last minute chapter entitled “Emergency Call Handling: Risk of Missed Calls” after concerns there was a risk 999 calls may be left unanswered.

While the Call Handling Risk Assessment came under fire for its hurried inclusion in the report, the results show consistent volumes of calls year on year, with clearly trackable seasonal peaks in the summer months. BT demonstrated a peak daily volume of less than 90 calls in July and August.

BT, Global Crossing and Cable and Wireless could provide no evidence of a Coastguard 999 call going unanswered.

The document details layered call handling provisions, with both Primary and Secondary Emergency Call Handling Agents, thirty-eight dedicated 999 lines, nineteen alternate numbers with overflow to flank stations. Call handling staff are ‘rostered for duty to meet the anticipated load, with surge capacity available at sub Centres.’

The Call Handling Risk Assessment concluded that ‘sufficient Primary/Secondary 999 lines and alternate telephone numbers are currently available to ensure that all 999/112 calls are answered.’

Spikes in call volumes can be managed with overflow call handling provisions.

Call Handling Techniques – Top 5 Tips

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Call handling techniques vary depending on the purpose of the call, be it outbound or inbound call handling, support, sales or emergency response, but below are our Top 5 Tips which apply across the board:

Call Handling Technique 1: Identify yourself.

People need to know who they’re speaking to. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people think it’s acceptable to answer an inbound call with just “Service Department” or worse “Hello?” The latter is often true of business mobile phones, but the same call handling techniques apply to answering your business mobile as your landline.

If you are handling an inbound call, make sure you greet the caller with your business name when you answer the phone. Knowing they have reached the correct business will avoid unnecessary confusion and instil confidence in the caller from the outset. This call handling technique also reinforces branding and provides a sense of unity, so even if staff are used to answering their direct dials or mobiles with just their name, using your business name first creates a better impression.

For outbound call handling it is just as important to identify yourself properly. You have an opportunity to give a good impression of your business, so train all staff to provide their name and business name when making outbound calls. This will again increase brand awareness, create an impression of professionalism and efficiency, avoid any confusion with the person answering and ensure that they do not have to prompt you for basic information to connect you to the person you wish to speak to. Compare the below transcripts, it’s obvious which caller gives the best impression:

CSnotepad Virtual Receptionist ServicesReceptionist: “Good Morning, ABC Media, how may I help?”

You: “Hi, is John available please?”

Receptionist: “Certainly. May I ask who is calling please?”

You: “Steve.”

Receptionist: “May I take your surname please Steve?”

You: “Smith.”

Receptionist: “Thank you. And may I take your business name?”

You: “XYZ Advertising.”

Receptionist: “Thank you. If you would like to hold the line I will put you through.”

Vs

Receptionist: “Good Morning, ABC Media, how may I help?”

You: “Hello, this is Steve Smith from XYZ Advertising, may I speak to John please?”

Receptionist: “Certainly. If you would like to hold the line I will put you through.”

Call Handling Technique 2: Speak clearly.

All too often we need to repeat the same information over the telephone and with our own familiarity comes laziness. We deteriorate into mumbling, jargon or rattling information off at top speed.

Inbound call handling staff should be trained to deliver information slowly and clearly, while taking time to spell any product names, websites or industry specific jargon. The phonetic alphabet is a very useful call handling tool; even if the person at the other end does not know it well enough to use it themselves, they can usually understand it if their information is repeated back to them using that technique.

When making an outbound call, using the above call handling transcript as a good example, make sure you identify yourself slowly and clearly. Allow the person you are calling enough time to digest and remember your name before launching into the purpose of your call.

Call Handling Technique 3: Listen to the other person.

This is a crucial call handling technique aimed at facilitating the swiftest resolution to the enquiry. At school it is drummed into us that we must answer the question asked. When we enter the world of employment, if we do not answer the question asked it leads to irate callers, repetition of work and wasted resources.

An inbound call handling operative who pays proper attention will make the caller feel valued, resolve the enquiry fully and in the most expedient manner, consequently representing your business in the best possible light.

An outbound call handling operative who focuses on this technique will gain valuable information, allowing him or her to work more efficiently and effectively towards the conclusion of the call. Particularly in areas such as technical support or telesales the person at the other end of the telephone line may mention a key detail in passing, but an effective call handling operator who understands the value of listening carefully will identify the point and use it to resolve the support query or close the sale.

Call Handling Technique 4: Make notes.

Chances are, if you execute call handling technique number 3 well, then you will automatically advance to this one.

Making notes during outbound and inbound call handling ensures you:

  • follow what the caller is saying
  • capture key details first time
  • make the caller feel valued by giving the impression you are focused
  • make them confident in your capabilities if you can easily recall everything they say
  • have a log after the conversation, if need be.

The best tip is, wherever possible, to provide staff access to a computer system integrated with your customer database to facilitate making of notes against a central record.

Call Handling Technique 5: Remain professional.

No matter how well you know someone, or how they behave towards you, where business call handling is concerned the best technique is to favour professionalism over familiarity and always remember that you are being paid to do a job.

If a customer makes a joke you may of course laugh politely, but remember that senses of humour vary greatly, and avoid making any comment yourself. Additionally, if a caller becomes irate, remain calm and keep your tone of voice even. As an inbound call handling operator on a complaints line you may find callers become abusive, so it is important to remember they are not annoyed with you personally, just the situation, and draw on your call handling techniques to conduct your job without taking their comments personally.

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What is Call Handling?

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Call handling is the management of inbound or outbound telephone calls. It’s usually used by businesses for sales and customer service, but can also be a useful service for charities, private clients and other types of organisation.

There are two types of call handling services. Inbound call handling services involve the management of communications from customers to your business. Outbound call handling services are those which help manage telephone calls from your business to its customers, supplier or other contacts.

Most companies that utilise inbound call handling do so in order to:CSnotepad Telephone Answering

  • Offer a better customer experience
  • Improve sales capabilities
  • Save time for other tasks

Continued reading >

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