The role of the telephone has changed over recent years but today it remains a vital instrument in any successful modern business. Whilst there may be alternative methods of communication available none has the reliability nor guaranteed response that the telephone provides. How would you choose to contact the emergency services for instance?

The telephone provides an immediate connection with a real time response. It is due to the mounting pressure for immediate response that has driven everyone who may at any time be away from their office to carry a mobile phone. The mobile telephone however has its downsides, for example how many times do you find yourself in an area with no coverage or call someone on their mobile and not get an answer.

The telephone in the office is always reliable and inevitably your backup to your mobile phone "...for urgent inquires please call my office on...".

The telephone today is used for inquiries requiring an immediate answer therefore effective use of the phone is mission critical if you are not to lose your customers to a competitor. If you are selling a product and they cannot find out if product X has feature Y they will find your competitor and ask the same of them, the result being that a sale is lost. After sales care is just as important if you have a customer with one of your products that has a problem and they can not get an answer from you when they call, you can expect no repeat business from them especially if this is their first experience of your level of customer support.

When a customer calls you for whatever reason they expect an immediate answer to their enquiry. It is therefore extremely important that you handle the call efficiently. There are a number of problems that you need to overcome to do this. The first is to know who is calling so you can have any relevant information about the customer available. You may know this from their Caller ID however you can not know what the enquiry is regarding and this presents another problem. You must answer the call quickly and find out what the caller needs from your organisation. However, statistically more than 70% of calls can not be handled at the first point of contact and need to be held for more than 45 seconds before being connected (Source: Network Magazine December 2006), so the chances are that you are going to hold the caller while you find someone able to help. If you dump the call into a telephonic abyss of silence callers have been shown to hang up typically within 45 seconds so you will lose the call.

With a competitive commercial market in today's business environment losing calls is something which is vital to avoid. The solution to these logistical problems is to provide music on hold on your business telephone system as this will reassure the caller that they have not been cut off and to keep them on the line while you try to find someone to help. This may be a member of staff on their mobile but due to the foibles of mobile phones this may not be successful, for example if they are in an area of poor coverage or have their phone switched off because they are with a client. For guaranteed availability and speed of response it is better to transfer the call to someone in the office where at all possible.

Until we have a technology as reliable and robust as the telephone it will remain a mission critical part of today's successful modern business.

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Paul White