And when you’re spending half your day responding to telephone enquiries, it’s hard to get all the other stuff done.
So how do you reduce the number of phone calls you have to deal with on a daily basis in order to claim back your time and focus on what’s most important?
There are things you can do that don’t involve throwing all your communication devices out the window. We’ve broken it down into three major strategies: avoid, deflect and empower.
So hold the calls and let’s take a look.
The first strategy is to avoid.
Now, by avoiding calls we don’t mean sneaking out of the office and pretending you didn’t hear the phone ring. The idea is not to ignore calls: it’s to find ways for people to avoid having to call you in the first place.
Here are some ways to do that:
- Improve internal documentation. If team members are repeatedly calling to ask the same questions, it’s time to properly document the answers in a centralised place. This can prevent them from having to call you – or at minimum give you somewhere to direct them so you don’t have to explain things in detail over the phone.
- Rethink your phone messages. You probably know this common tactic employed by companies with high volumes of inbound calls: before you’re directed through, a voice recording reminds you that a lot of common answers can be found by visiting the company website. If you find that teammates still aren’t searching for information before calling you, you might employ a similar strategy. If you have voicemail, try setting a phone message that reminds people of where to go to find FAQs, policies, or other types of internal documentation.
- Invest in email canned responses. We say invest because there’s a small amount of time taken to set these up – but you’ll reap big rewards in terms of time savings. Email templates or canned responses not only help keep your inbox under control, but they can also give you a fast and easy way to respond to enquiries textually so that things are sorted out before people resort to picking up the phone.
- Employ a chatbot. Chatbots are great for cutting down on customer enquiries. But their use goes beyond that: plenty of businesses now use them for internal functions as well. For example, chatbots can be used for issue reporting, distributing training materials and onboarding documents, streamlining HR support, taking meeting room bookings, and so on.
Some calls simply can’t be avoided. Someone is freaking out because they’ve lost some important files, say, or they have a complex budget-related situation on their hands that no amount of FAQs can untangle.
What can you do about those calls? Deflect them! Here’s how:
- Improve your IT support. A lot of your day-to-day queries are IT-related. That’s a given, because these days IT underlies practically all your business-related tasks. Outsourcing your IT support to a trustworthy partner (we’re putting our own hands up, here! 😉) is the simplest and most effective way to deflect a huge volume of calls that you receive every day. Why is my document not printing? Is this email a scam? Help, my request for holiday leave didn’t go through! Which ad blocker should I install? Etc… Outsourcing your IT support means you no longer have to deal with most of those calls.
- Remove bottlenecks. Sometimes you just need to take yourself out the picture and create new processes that reroute enquiries direct to those who are responsible. Sure, it means you won’t be privy to every single question, request and complaint – but take that as a good thing. Sometimes it’s better to relinquish some control in order to gain back time and energy.
The last major strategy can be thought of not so much as avoiding or deflecting but as empowering others to take things into their own hands (no phonecalls needed).
Here are some ideas you can try:
- Give clear instructions. When you’re allocating tasks – for example, to junior employees – give clear guidelines and instructions. Sometimes we think we’re being clear, but the reality is that directing others is a skill we need to develop. Nail it, and you can cut down on the number of calls you receive asking for clarification or guidance.
- Create a collaborative knowledge base. Setting up a knowledge base means that the answers to questions are easily locatable. Making it collaborative empowers all team members to contribute their knowledge and record solutions to problems so everyone can benefit in the future.
- Centralise calendars and booking information. The easier it is for everyone to know what’s booked when and where, the fewer questions will be thrown your way. Make sure your shared calendars and booking systems are working smoothly and look to implement centralised systems for travel booking information (try travel booking apps like Kayak or Tripit, for example).
Putting It All Into Practice
So now you have some ideas to pursue that will lead to less phone ringing and more working 9 to 5.
How to put those ideas into practice?
A good exercise is to write down a list of the types of calls you regularly deal with. Then, for each one, brainstorm if there’s anything you could do to avoid it, deflect it, or empower people so that they no longer need your help.
Lastly, be proactive. Keep information, policies, documents and applications up to date in order to keep those strategies working for you.