What is call handling, and how to use it to create happier customer experiences

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To manage a business properly, good call handling is critical. How your business handles calls determines the customer’s experience with your organization. For this reason, handle all calls in a manner that will maximize the caller experience. In this guide, we will explore what call handling is, the benefits it offers businesses like yours, some software to consider, and best practices to implement into your processes. 

What is call handling?

Call handling is the system of call receipt your business uses to manage customers. When an inbound call arrives, the business decides whether to pick up or place the call on hold immediately. Managing how your customers are received is essential. You don’t want to keep customers on hold forever and you don’t want customers to think you don’t know who they are or that you’ve lost their previous interactions.

Based on research performed by Salesforce, about 80% of customers find customer engagement as important as product quality. Call handling keeps this firmly in mind with its design.  

How does call handling work?

Call handling works by propelling your inbound calls into your communications system. Not only does a call handling system help you manage inbound and outbound calls but it also helps route calls. Modern, software-based call handling systems use multiple technologies to manage calls. These include:

  • An auto attendant forwards callers to the right department using menus and number inputs.
  • An interactive voice response (IVR) system sends the customer to the right department or presents self-service options using number or voice inputs.
  • Forwarding the call to the right department based on the customer’s history
  • Call screening software that presents the call’s information within an app or the internet protocol (IP) phone’s display based on national caller ID name (CNAM) registries. This helps the business determine if the call is spam or if it should be addressed in another way before getting on the line.
  • Call parking puts the call on hold so that it can be tackled by an agent either as received or when a specialist is available.
  • Business hour answering rules allow the call to be forwarded to the company’s voicemail if made outside of business hours.

Not only is call handling a technology but, in some cases, it’s also a service. A call handling service receives calls as they flow into your business and sends them to the right department. These use live receptionists to manage inbound and outbound calling. This would be considered an external call handling solution while one working through a voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) system would be considered an internal call handling solution. 

Inbound call handling isn’t the only use of this technology. With outbound calls, call handling is also critical, especially if you need to execute large calling campaigns. With outbound call handling, you’re typically using a dialer. This manages where calls are sent when hundreds of calls are made in an hour. Here are a few types of dialers:

  • Predictive: Using machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), this solution dials from a large list and predicts when agents are available to speak to the customers who respond
  • Progressive or power: These dialers present numbers that an agent selects and dials
  • IVR dialer: This is an agentless dialer that plays prerecorded messages

How can VoIP software help with call handling?

At their core, every VoIP provider has call handling features. For example, most provide an auto attendant with a base-level subscription. A virtual receptionist tool greets customers and helps them get to the right department, usually through number-based prompts and extension dialing. 

A more advanced version of this is the IVR. IVRs provide self-service options and free up your agent’s time. Both augment how customers are received―replacing the need for a human receptionist and helping improve agent workloads and efficiency. Other tools like call forwarding, routing, and screening also save time, and you’ll find most at the cheapest tier for VoIP providers.

Which businesses need call handling?

Effectively, every type of business that has telephone-based communications with customers can use a call handling system. Here’s a breakdown of how a few types of businesses can best utilize a solution for call handling:

  • Banking: With banking, customers will call in periodically to check balances or set up payments. With a call handling system, this can be done with a self-service IVR. Also, setting things like business hours and routing calls to the correct branch is done easily.
  • Retail: With retail options, a person typically will answer the phone to direct the call to the correct department. For this, you’ll need to make sure that the individual picking up the line knows how to address the caller and transfer them to the correct extension. This ensures the customer isn’t bounced around while waiting to talk to someone.
  • Software support: When a customer faces issues with a piece of software, there might be frustration. Keeping customers on hold or sending them to the wrong department exacerbates this situation. With a call handling solution, customers are routed more efficiently to the right person with less time waiting. 
  • Utilities: Call handling includes IVR systems, which provide self-service options for bill pay, reminders, and scheduling. This frees agents to manage customers who require more than self-service. 

The takeaway 

Using a call handling solution to manage both inbound and outbound calls helps a business keep customers satisfied with customer service. A solopreneur or small or medium-sized business (SMB) can access several key features with minimal investment. This includes an auto attendant system, which routes calls effectively to where they need to go, and other features, such as business voicemail, call screening, and CRM integration. 

Put simply, there’s no reason not to incorporate a strong call handling system into your business’s communication profile. Are you not sure where to start? Most VoIP providers include a free trial to determine if their solution fits your business. Take one for a test drive and determine if it fits your inbound and outbound call handling needs.

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