I love all kinds of automation. It’s one of those geek-out things where even the simplest solution gives me such a feeling of satisfaction. Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about adding a messenger bot to your website to help answer questions… incorrectly. I am talking about the automation you implement into your business where your customer stays top of mind, their experience with your business is improved, and the pressure on your team is relieved.
Automation comes in many forms, but for us today, in how we are looking at it, it means creating pre-built systems that trigger automated actions by the user without needing help from someone on your team.
For me, I look at automation from more of a mindset perspective.
This means that, when implementing automation in your company, you should always think about how it will lower friction for your team and help them stand out even more in the eyes of your customers. Automation should never replace people. It should augment them even more.
The key to automation has and will always be about time. So you need to ask yourself three questions to justify if your time is even worth exploring:
Will this save my customers time?
Will this save my team time?
Will it save me time?
If you answer yes to all three, then implementing that solution is definitely worth exploring.
What I want to explore in more depth today is specific to Sales Automation. How can you design a frictionless funnel that ensures new leads contact the appropriate employee at your company, receive attentive care during onboarding, and convert to paying customers?
The Sales Funnel
The key to having a good sales funnel that will benefit from automation is determining what style of interaction you need with your customers that will result in the most success for your business. Once you know what that is, you build your funnel around it, and this is where automation comes into play.
Your funnel can be fully automated until that crucial interaction where the person steps in to seal the deal. This is exactly the flow I was talking about earlier, where the automation you have in place should make your team front and center.
These are the essential things you need to have in place to help build an automated sales funnel:
A Landing Page
You can make it as pretty as you like but focus on its functionality. Your landing page should effectively direct your customers to the actions you want them to take.
Online scheduling tool
Make sure the system you pick has a two-way sync with the personal calendar system you use. For example, I use Gmail, so my online scheduling tool syncs with it to ensure no double bookings happen.
Analytics: make sure the system you choose has a robust analytics tool that is customizable to fit your business and not a pre-built platform that you must cater to. Custom reporting is key to analyzing the success of your sales funnel.
For us at Smiledog, everything is about the phone call. It’s where we have the most success. This is what our high-level sales funnel looks like:
The Consultation Call (phone)
The Assessment Call (Zoom)
The Onboarding Call (Zoom)
The most important touch points are all handled by a specialist on our team. The rest is handled by automation on the back end to ensure the process is seamless and easy for the client.
The Consultation Call
Here is an example from our sales funnel highlighting the automation we have built around getting the initial consultation booked in.
The whole process of booking your initial consultation with us is frictionless and easy. In fact, 4 quick steps take 15-30 seconds to complete. This quick, efficient booking process results from hundreds of tests to ensure the automation works correctly. We noticed the following optimizations helped us reduce friction and increase conversions:
2-5 data points. We use: First & Last Name, Email, Number & Interested Service
2 call lengths options
It helps fit more personalities. The person who likes it short and sweet as well as the person who is more comfortable diving into the details.
Lots of available booking times
Potential customers want to choose the best time for them, not you. So make plenty of available options for them.
The Assessment Call
The assessment call is the second phase of our sales funnel. It’s a “two birds one stone” type of approach. It allows us to:
Establish more expertise to increase the potential customers’ confidence in us.
Audit the clients in-depth to determine if they are the right fit for our service.
The assessment call is not done every time as some clients want to move quickly, so we use this as a 2nd phase when clients need more data to help with their decision.
Here is how it works:
Once the initial consultation call is coming to a close and the prospect is still “on the fence,” we offer them a more in-depth free consultation via zoom. More often than not, they like how it sounds and ask how it works.
We explain the structure of the assessment.
We explain that it is a customized live two-way demo.
They will show/explain to us how reception currently works at their end.
We then show/explain how we can make that work for them virtually.
Follow up immediately post consultation.
They receive an email with information about the assessment and a booking link so they can choose a time to complete it right away.
You’re probably thinking, where is the automation?
Well, that comes into play in the follow-up stage. We use sequencing to follow up with prospects who have not yet had the chance to book their assessment.
Sequencing is a process that allows you to create automated flows, where each flow has a unique step that is strategically timed to happen based on the criteria you set. An entire sequence can be customized to do what you want when you want. They can automate task reminders, emails, and team notifications and really help you scale sales and marketing funnels.
Remember that email I mentioned that we send out after consultation calls? Well, that is an automated feature we added to optimize our sales funnel, and it has 5 automated check in’s attached to ensure we get the customer booked.
They are pre-built messages strategically timed to go at the highest open rate times of the day with a quick reminder and booking link to have the prospect schedule the free assessment they agreed to.
The best part about sequencing is that the flow continues until we get a reply or it ends. Meaning our team doesn’t have to manually remember to check in and only needs to act when the lead replies or the sequence stops.
The automations we built on the backend let us put the action into the customer’s hands so we can free up our team’s time to handle a higher volume of what matters and converts the most:the phone call.
The Onboarding Call
The onboarding process has the same approach as the assessment call, and we put the action into the customer’s hands with automated sequence follow-ups.
As soon as the assessment is finished, we send the customer everything they need to get started.
A quick clickable link to their intake questionnaire
Automated electronic agreement sent directly to their email
Direct link to book their full onboarding call
These steps are quick and easy for the customer as all it requires of them is to click the links we send and follow the steps. For us, it’s all pre-built, integrated with our CRM, and ready to send, saving time on both ends.
How can this help your business?
Really what I am trying to emphasize here is how the automations we have built are all focused around the interaction that gives us the most success with our clients: the phone call. For us the phone call highlights the best part of our business; our team, and that is why we have the most success with it.
So for your business, the key to owning your sales process is truly narrowing down what exchange with your customers will yield the highest return, then automating the funnel around it.
You are an expert at what you do, so you need to ensure that you give yourself the best chance to show off your knowledge to any prospect who comes through your doors. If you need help balancing your sales funnel, then our virtual reception service can help you catch leads so you can focus on closing them.
There’s an episode of Grey’s Anatomy where Dr. Amelia Shephered is about to do one of the most difficult surgeries in her career. She’s terrified because of how much the patient means to her and the fact that so many things can go wrong. Before entering the operating theater, she stands in the prep room in a superhero pose.
A medical resident walks in and asks, “What is happening?”
Amelia responds, “I’m being a superhero. There’s a scientific study that shows that if you stand in a superhero pose for five minutes before a really hard task, you’ll not only feel more confident, but you’ll also perform measurably better.”
The intern joins her, and, interestingly enough, the surgery goes well.
Amelia is right — there’s a study that highlights the benefits of the superhero pose, but it has been shrouded in controversy, and there have been calls for more detailed research. Regardless, there’s no denying the psychological impact of how adjusting your physical state can impact your mental state.
Similarly, smiling behind the phone can affect your attitude and, therefore, provide a better customer experience. In this article, we’re diving deeper into the science behind smiling so that you and your team can provide the best possible experience to your customers.
3 Benefits of Answering the Phone With a Smile
A study conducted by Microsoft shows that “90% of customers continue to place a high value on the quality of customer service when choosing or remaining loyal to a brand.” The same study shows that most customers continue to use phone interactions as their preferred channel to contact customer service.
Many factors impact customer experience, one of them being how team members respond to calls. Phone calls offer opportunities for more organic conversations, but they also make verbal cues, such as tone of voice, more prominent. Here are three ways science proves that smiling not only impacts your tone of voice but also improves the overall customer experience.
Smiling improves your mood
Smiling causes a chemical reaction in the brain that leads to the release of ‘feel good’ hormones such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. Having that ‘feel good’ vibe when talking to customers helps keep your team level-headed so that they can handle problems appropriately. They may even transfer that improved mood to your customer on the other end of the conversation. Remember that your ability to provide a great customer experience gives you a competitive advantage as a small business owner.
Smiling makes it easier to handle stress
Your receptionists are the first people your customers speak to when they call your office. They sometimes work with difficult customers and have to quickly resolve issues on their own where possible. Depending on how busy your office is, this situation can produce a lot of stress and present a greater risk of your receptionists taking out that stress in some way on your customers.
You can do many things to help your receptionists better manage the stress of their jobs. One possible solution comes from a study done by psychologists from the University of Kansas — smiling can help reduce stress. Sure, it’s not the cure for stress, but it can offer relief for “brief, acute stressors for short periods of time or as an antidote to a passing negative mood,” according to Sara Pressman, one of the psychologists involved in the research.
Smiling puts customers at ease
There’s a principle called emotive perception where we mimic the emotions we perceive. Although typically highlighted in face-to-face contexts, emotive perception can also occur during telephone conversations. Customers can’t see a receptionist’s smile, but their perception of a smile based on the receptionist’s tone can make them happier.
Smiledog’s Receptionists Answer Calls With a Smile
The three benefits of smiling on the phone help you and your team better connect with your customers. That’s why it’s so important to train your receptionists to answer the phone professionally and with a smile. Their smiles are just like the superhero pose giving them the drive they need to offer the best possible customer service.
Don’t have a virtual receptionist yet? Smiledog has a team of virtual receptionists who know how to answer calls with a smile and put your customers at ease. Connect with one of our virtual receptionists today.
In my experience, shifting your business to be more customer-focused is a tall order. Customers are demanding, and there isn’t one thing you can do that works for every client. Some will like it, and some will hate it. It is just the nature of people. However, the time and energy spent on developing a customer-focused system are all worth it when you get a message from a client who tells you they appreciate the effort made to create that experience for them. It is a rare moment but always worth it.
I want to share my (failed many times first) approach to creating a more customer-focused experience that we use in our business. This is not the answer, nor will it work for everyone, but we have found a good rhythm using these principles to improve our customer experience here at Smiledog.
Be Your Customer, Everywhere
Your business has more than one customer-focused experience, and you must constantly monitor them to ensure they reflect the experience you want to create. This is one thing I do regularly. All of these are customer experiences:
Landing page experience
Social media experience
Customer support experience
Client issue experience
The list could honestly be 10 times that length, but you get the picture. What I am trying to highlight here is that each moment a customer has with your business is an experience, and you need to consistently make sure they reflect your brand’s identity.
I enjoy doing this mainly because it’s my chance to play with our business. It keeps me creative and stimulates my mind to improve. I have finally accepted that these experiences will never be perfect. I find joy in discovering the missing piece because that is the chance for innovation and to improve the experience for our customers. Take pride in where you are now and be diligent in making sure you are always looking to improve.
Don’t Change It All for One Client
This scenario may hit home for a lot of business owners. That difficult client who is always the first to let you know you’re doing everything wrong, they try to tell you how to serve them because they “know” better than you. Don’t worry—they don’t.
The key to this is striking a balance between serving the client and your business. More often than not, these situations are more of a personality clash rather than a problem with how you’re delivering your service.
In my experience:
I let them unload and take the brunt of the issue head-on. It’s only personal if you choose it to be. It is you and your client working together vs the problem. Not you vs the client.
I try to listen and look for the true problem. Get underneath the complaining and try to narrow down where the frustration is coming from.
Get a solution that doesn’t compromise me or the business. If there is pain, people want it gone. The solution can certainly cater to that client but never upend your entire system to appease them. Confidently serve your clients, don’t be run by them.
The Customer Isn’t Always Right
I actually can’t stand it when people say the customer is always right. If the customer is always right, why did they come to you for help in the first place?
Most of the time, customers don’t know what they want and are looking to you for the answer. Solve their problem with ease, and you have a happy customer.
When is the customer right?
When the promise you made is no longer being kept. If your service or product quality has declined and is negatively affecting the customer, you need to make sure you do everything you can to turn that interaction into a positive experience.
When you make a mistake:
Find a fix.
This goes back to being your customer. Creating a positive experience around a negative event is a crucial part of your company’s reputation. The effort to make that customer happy now is always worth it in the long run.
Your customer experience is unique to your business, and certain things will work better for you than others. Be your customer whenever you can, stay disciplined and confident, don’t change it all for one client, and remember that you are the expert and the customer isn’t actually always right. And if you need some help managing the day-to-day with those clients, we’d love to help! find out how we can right here: Smiledog.
Only 7.5% of the world’s 7.75 billion people have chosen the path of entrepreneurship. Be confident in the fact that you are a rare breed, and you know what you’re doing!
Customers believe that phone calls are the fastest and most effective way to resolve their issues. But picture this…
You call a local healthcare practice expecting the assistant to swiftly resolve your issue. She’s pleasant and wants to find the best solution to your problem. So, she transfers you to someone who should be better able to help. The phone line connects, and the person on the other end is oblivious to your issue.
These situations are likely to move your frustration level from 6 to 10 instantly. According to the Northridge Group, 60% of customers are asked to repeat information as they’re moved from one customer service rep to the next during a call. This leads to slower resolution and, ultimately, frustrated customers.
In this article, we’re explaining how you can use warm transfers to help customers resolve their issues faster. But first, let’s look at the warm transfer definition.
What is a Warm Transfer in Customer Service?
A warm transfer occurs when information is shared about a customer’s issue with each point of contact involved in the call. This provides a swift resolution to a customer’s issue since each point of contact shares details about the issue with the other. This means the customer won’t start a conversation from scratch each time.
There should be a warm transfer system in place at your healthcare practice. Your virtual receptionist will use this system to:
Understand how to connect customers with the right person in your office
Clearly communicate issues to the next point of contact
Keep the customer calm so that tensions don’t rise
Cold Transfer VS. Warm Transfer: What’s the Difference?
In a cold transfer, the receiving point of contact isn’t provided with information about the customer’s issue. This new person has to hear the customers’ issues from beginning to end. Telephone answering services often use this approach.
But there are instances where cold transfers can be useful, including:
Answering a simple question that’s specific to a department. For instance, a customer may call and ask, “What’s the outstanding balance on my bill?” Your virtual receptionist may not have that information and would have to transfer the call to someone in your accounting/billing department.
Instances where a team member may be out of the office, and the call needs to be forwarded.
4 Benefits of a Warm Transfer
The most obvious benefits of a warm transfer are reducing customer frustration and resolving issues faster. But warm transfers also provide other benefits, some of which we’ve described below.
Customers get a positive impression of your brand
Any interaction with your customers shapes their opinion of your brand, so it’s crucial to make every interaction great. A study conducted by Khoros shows that “poor customer care experiences make customers feel disappointed, unhappy, and angry. Also, 65% of customers have switched to a different brand because of a poor experience.”
It may seem simple, but a customer may view not having a warm transfer process as poor customer care, even if the issue is eventually resolved. Always strive to provide the best possible customer care.
Brand loyalty increases
Using warm transfers show that you value your customers’ time and that resolving their issue is of utmost importance to you, which helps to build brand loyalty. In fact, the same study by Khoros reveals that 83% of customers feel more loyal to brands that respond to and resolve their complaints. Kudos to you if you respond to and resolve those complaints as quickly as possible! Customers will feel less anxious and trust your healthcare practice more.
Revenue is likely to increase
Warm transfers can also help boost your brand’s revenue because customers who have better experiences are more likely to book again. According to a study conducted by Emplifi, “Consumers place high importance on previous good CX with the brand and speed of availability/delivery as their top two criteria when considering a new purchase.” Happy customers will keep business coming through your doors.
It’s easier to screen calls
Let’s say you’re not ready to speak with a customer yet about an issue. Maybe you’re preparing for a delicate procedure with another patient or just unavailable for whatever reason. Warm transfers allow you to relay that information to your virtual receptionist so that a follow-up call can be scheduled for an appropriate time. Either that or you move mountains to take the call because of the time-sensitive nature of the issue.
The customer experience your healthcare practice provides keeps your business alive. Rather than your staff dealing with frustrated customers, why not make the issue resolution process easier using warm transfers? Your customers will thank you for it.
Creating a great connection with your customers over the phone involves a very nuanced skill set. It is about finding the right balance between being friendly, professional, and knowledgeable. This ensures the customer feels heard and confident that you’ll take care of them.
I want to share a quick story that happened to me this past week that highlights everything wrong with the customer service approach used over the phone today.
My fridge broke over the weekend, and it looked like I needed a technician to come and repair it. So, first things first, I whipped out my phone, did a quick Google search, found one of the higher-rated repair companies in my area, and gave them a call.
I knew something was off as soon as the phone was picked up. The advertisement I had seen and clicked on was for what seemed like a small local repair company. However, as soon as my call was answered, an agent in a loud call center picked up the line and began reciting, quite monotonously, what was clearly a preset worded script. The opening line was: “Hello, thank you for calling company XYZ. Can I please start with your postal/zip code?”
That’s when I hung up.
That experience is the reason I am writing this today. You see, this company did everything right to make sure I called them — high rankings on Google and lots of great online reviews. Then dropped the ball as soon as they picked up the phone.
So, what I want to share with you today are 3 techniques anyone or business can use to improve their customers’ experience over the phone.
1. Smile First
For me, this is an absolute must for every type of call in my life. Personal or professional. I smile before I pick up or start dialing the phone.
This tiny little action sets the entire tone of the call before it even starts. You see, when introducing yourself, your smile can literally be heard in the tone of your voice, which instantly creates trust and a welcoming feeling for whoever is on the other end.
I know it sounds a little cheesy, but this has really made an impact on the 5000+ sales calls I have made over the years. Smiling constantly helps you foster stronger relationships and creates a gravity-like effect that people are drawn to. It is the reason why our name is Smiledog. Everything quite literally starts with a smile! For us, it is the most important aspect of our company culture, and it’s ingrained into our DNA. It’s also our first and most important core value and sets the tone for our entire team. We honestly believe that you can hear a smile through the phone, and it’s why everyone goes through our culture training before ever jumping onto a live call.
A company’s phone experience is crucial to its success, and when it comes to the one I recently had, it was so obvious the person answering wasn’t smiling. I could literally feel it through the phone by the tone of their voice, and a simple smile could have shifted the entire conversation from the start.
2. Help Second
Really, one of the main reasons for answering the phone is to help the customer. Before every call, you should be asking yourself: “What will help this customer the most?”
When thinking about the experience I just had with the repair company, the first thing they did was ask something from me. They wanted my postal code, a piece of personal information before they even knew what I was calling for. I am happy to give a company my information once I know they have the solution to my problem.
Luckily, you can avoid this kind of problem in your business. It is very easy to initiate every call with a help first approach. All you have to do is end your greeting with the simple question: How can I help you?
This invites your customer to explain what is going on and will give you all the information you need to properly handle the situation. What is crucial after asking the question is that you listen completely and do not cut them off. The customer needs to feel heard first before you solve their problem.
I will admit this is still a work in progress for me. I sometimes find myself interrupting the customer as I think I already have the solution to what they need, and I go right into explaining why we can help. This has and still does sometimes bite me in the butt.
You need to let the client explain what their problem is in full. Prematurely interrupting them and jumping in with a solution to a half-explained problem will ultimately lead you to not truly understanding the entirety of what they need.
So, by offering to help initially and listening completely, you always give yourself the chance to react appropriately to the real problem and give the client the best possible advice you can.
3. Follow up Third
The last tip I have for you today is something you should be doing post-call to solidify the experience your customer just had with you. There must be a prompt follow-up after the call. Whether it is having your receptionist send you the details as soon as they finish the call or you sending over some post-call information for the customer to review, make sure you prep an email/text and have it sent out within 15 minutes of the call.
I know this isn’t feasible 100% of the time but do it as often as you can. My personal goal is to do this 95% of the time. I will have a post-call email sent out with the details we discussed and my contact information so they can reach me for anything else.
I know from personal experience that when I call a company to discuss services or book an appointment, there is a smaller chance of me continuing my search if the confirmation or info packet email is sent out quickly. The follow-up message solidifies that you care about them and value their time by wanting to make sure they promptly have all the information needed to be confident in your company. This is exactly why we recently published a quick “how-to” post on crafting an effective appointment confirmation message. So check it out right here if you have a minute!
When looking at the 3 techniques for creating a better connection with your clients over the phone, they are pretty simple, right?!
I know from our 15 years of experience at Smiledog that it is usually the simple little things that tend to be the most effective when it comes to dealing with customers. That is why we always smile first, help second, and follow up third. It’s an easy formula that consistently ensures a friendly and professional experience for our clients.
If there is one thing I have noticed trending amongst my customers right now, it would be; price sensitivity.
Prices have gone up everywhere and small business owners have been impacted the most. Business owners have had to deal with the highest inflation rate of the past 3 decades as well as meet the increased wage demand. So, it is not surprising business owners are looking to find ways to streamline their operational costs wherever they can.
To reduce costs and improve client satisfaction, we are focusing on the following three customer-facing solutions that any business owner can implement quickly.
Phone systems and why less is more.
Appointments and why you need software to manage them.
Virtual staff and why specialized off-site team members are better than hiring in-house.
These 3 solutions are quick and effective ways to help small business owners cut some of their costs and create improved systems to help them grow in 2022.
Get Rid of Your Landline
Physical office phones are no longer sustainable. They are a much bigger crutch than you realize. Landline phones:
Are less reliable.
More difficult to use.
Create friction for clients.
Can hinder your company’s growth.
VoIP-based phone systems are a quick and easy way to manage one of your business’s most important communication tools: your phone number. They can cost as little as $20 to $30 per month and provide far superior coverage as long as you have good internet. Most VoIP-based phone systems can be accessed through your smartphone and your settings can be updated on the go. Companies like Ooma, RingCentral, and Grasshopper have options for companies of any size.
A VoIP-based phone is a low-cost and effective way to have full control over your business’s phone system which is crucial for delivering great customer service.
Set Up Online Booking
It is now more crucial than ever to be available for appointments as customers want a guaranteed time and date that’s convenient for them to discuss your services. An online booking option gives them the freedom to pick a convenient time all within your schedule. The great thing about online booking is that you set your hours making it a win-win.
Online booking can have a huge impact on your revenue. In fact, service-based companies offering an option to book online can see a potential increase of 37% in revenue. It is an incredible option for small business owners dealing with the rising costs of inflation.
There are so many scheduling systems available, that it can be difficult to choose the right one. So, we have made a top 3 list to help you narrow down your choices and make life a little easier!
This system was designed from the ground up for healthcare professionals. It allows you to book, chart, schedule, invoice, process payments, and run your entire practice online. At Smiledog, we love Jane because:
It’s easy to view and mark off blocked time.
It has multiple schedules based on different locations.
The tagging feature allows you to link different appointments to different practitioners to ensure bookings are always done correctly.
This system is great for solopreneurs. It syncs two-way with Gmail, Outlook, and iMac making it easy to ensure your online schedule matches your calendar allowing clients to book when you’re available. Calendly is great because:
It takes 30 to 60 mins to set up.
It has all the right features without being overwhelming.
It’s free to start and upgraded plans are very cost-friendly.
Acuity is great because it integrates directly with Square for online payments and processing. Their system is easy to use because:
It is very cost-friendly.
It integrates with various other software.
Its search feature makes it easy to find available appointments.
Hire Virtual Staff
Now that you have full control over your phone system and schedule you’re ready to get help from a virtual assistant (VA) and/or receptionist (VR). What are VAs and VRs and why do you need them?
Virtual Assistants (VA)
VAs help you with your highly specialized needs and they will give you expertise in maintaining and developing workflows for complex tasks within your business. A VA can help you with:
Social Media Management.
Direct billing & Insurance claims.
Virtual Receptionists (VR)
A VRs focus is on the front lines. They are your customer service team managing your daily call flow. Your VR will make sure you book appointments while you’re in appointments. Your VR will:
Answer your phones with a smile.
Manage and book your schedule.
Help with customer service and FAQs.
For small business owners, hiring virtual team members can be more effective than hiring in-house staff. The average monthly costs are easily identifiable and the savings can be huge. The unseen added cost of in-house staff can hinder your business’s growth.
For business owners, hiring and training is a huge time investment without the guarantee that a person will stay long-term. Reliability is also crucial when you’re trying to grow your business. Not showing up or calling in sick can wreak havoc on your day’s productivity.
Highly specialized virtual staff can be a great option for small business owners who need some help. Find the area in your business that is causing you the most pain and have a virtual service solve that problem with less cost and time investment needed.
Growing a business and ensuring its success can be one of the hardest things someone can do. On the other hand, when you finally get over that hump and see your company start to succeed, I promise you it is one of the most rewarding things in life. It creates humble confidence in yourself that you know you can take on anything. Hopefully, some of the advice we provided today like getting rid of your landline, setting up online bookings, and hiring a virtual service can help give you that little extra lift you need to improve your customer service and experience.
We at Smiledog specialize in virtual reception and appointment setting services. We want to help you ensure that your customers always feel welcomed and taken care of the first time. If that sounds like it may be of help to you and your business, we would love to chat more and see if we could be a fit for what you need.