Most businesses are concerned about the management of their outbound calls - the size of their phone bill, which phone system to install etc. But what about managing your inbound calls - the calls that your customers make to you ?
Inbound call management is all about making it as easy as possible for your customers to contact you and establishing services to monitor how efficiently these calls are handled.
There is now a range of products and services which help maximise the impact of your advertising, publicity and mail shots by ensuring that the response calls are efficiently and effectively routed into your business and managed accordingly.
Non Geographic Numbers (NGNs) - 0800, 0845 and 0870 numbers - are becoming more and more commonplace in the UK business marketplace. Whether as line of business contact numbers or as response numbers for direct marketing activities, NGNs are used for encouraging telephone enquiries, effectively managing inbound traffic and eliminating regional identity - these telephone numbers can really work to a company's advantage.
New businesses and start up companies find NGNs especially useful as a means of providing and promoting contact numbers to their customers. Different NGNs can be used for Sales, Admin and Support functions and are then delivered to any specified 'geographic' telephone number - this provides a number of advantages.
0800, 0845 and 0870 numbers eliminate regional identity and allow businesses to gain a nationwide customer reach and presence
A growing company or a business that needs to relocate never needs to update customers or printed material with new contact numbers (the existing NGN is simply re-directed to the new 'geographic' telephone number)
The business can analyse the nature of its inbound calls - how many sales calls, how many support calls... even how many customer complaints are received
By using NGNs effectively and monitoring the calls that your business receives, companies can aim to grow their business through knowledge... not guesswork !
NGNs are quickly becoming a popular promotional tool for marketing campaigns. By using individual numbers for each advert, promotion and marketing channel, marketers can immediately gain a view of the effectiveness of each campaign.
Accessing information regarding how many calls a particular marketing activity generates, what time of day the call arrives, the duration of each call, the geographic area from where the call was placed all results in an increased understanding of your potential customers and provides the ability to target market more effectively.
By working with a supplier that can provide real time access to this kind of information it is easy to develop 'accountability' on your marketing spend.
Businesses can eliminate the unproductive channels and increase advertising spend in the marketing activities that generate the most response, thereby gaining the most return on investment from your marketing budget.
Once you have implemented your NGN strategy and are gaining essential operational and marketing feedback, the next step is to look at how you can improve the way you manage your inbound calls. Through using NGNs you will now have a range of information at your fingertips - how many calls are answered, unanswered or simply receive an engaged tone... your average time to answer, average call duration and busy hour analysis.
From this feedback you can start to look at the various intelligent routing and network-level call handling options that are now available to you.
If you find that one of your telephone numbers is often engaged, why not make use of a 'divert on busy' option to a secondary number ?
Perhaps using a network-level queue would be appropriate if you find a large number of callers simply can't get through first time ?
Or you could look at Interactive Voice Response to allow your customers to choose and be connected to the right department directly - without having to go through an operator.
All of these options are open to your business once you are utilising NGNs and available at a fraction of the cost of the equivalent physical infrastructure.
The following case studies show some examples of how companies can use NGNs to improve their inbound call management and enhance their direct marketing effectiveness.
A new business start-up providing IT network consultancy services needed contact numbers for prospective and existing clients to promote on their website and on all their other promotional material. With limited budget and attempting to gain a nationwide audience, they selected two 0870 National Rate numbers - one for inbound telephone enquiries and one for inbound faxes.
The company immediately gained a picture of their inbound calls and subsequently implemented a 'divert on busy' option to ensure that as many calls as possible were answered. They are able to access web-based, real time statistics on all their inbound calls allowing them to plan staff resource and reduce business overheads. Company A is yet to pay a single penny for their 0870 NGN usage and are due to relocate to bigger premises in the coming months - they are relieved to know that they will not have to inform their customers or update existing documentation with their new telephone numbers...
An established company, with a nationwide customer base, undertaking a number of promotional activities including direct mail, press and poster advertising. The marketing director explained 'I know 50% of my marketing is effective... I just don't know which 50%... how can you help ?'
The answer was to allocate individual NGNs to each of their marketing activities. The marketing director is now able to sit at his desktop PC and track, in real time, how many inbound calls each of his campaigns is generating. By analysing the statistical feedback he can now make quick and informed decisions regarding his advertising spend. The marketing department regularly reviews their strategy by eliminating those channels that are not performing well and increasing their exposure in those channels that are offering the best return on investment.
The company is also very interested in the geographic location of where calls are being made. They will often run a nationwide campaign and review the geographic response... using this information to carry out a number of follow up campaigns in the local press of those geographic hotspots which produce a high level of response.
The marketing feedback now available to Company B allows them to understand their audience and target market more effectively as a result.
Company C is a well known travel operator with their own inbound call centre operation. They previously used geographic phone numbers to receive inbound calls and were amazed to discover, when switching to NGNs, that over 60% of their callers received an engaged tone during busy hours of the day.
They immediately implemented a network-level queue to combat this serious customer services issue and were overjoyed to see their percentage of missed calls drop to below 5%.
Following this success the company then went on to utilise Interactive Voice Response to allow callers to select from a range of options and connect directly to the appropriate resource.
Company C regularly reviews the operational feedback available through using NGNs and is able to optimise hours of work, equipment and staffing levels with complete confidence.