DON'T Answer the Phone: Why today's call handling systems are the smart way to build your take-out business

The Phone: The Original Interactive Mass Medium

Interactive mass media is the rage in today’s marketing. While businesses focus on Web sites, search engine optimization, and click-through rate, they mustn’t lose sight of the original interactive platform—the telephone. This is especially true for take-out restaurants that rely on Alexander Graham Bell’s trusty invention for the final critical step in the customer’s decision making process. All your marketing—ads, promotions, signage, direct mail, community relations—is devoted to that moment of truth: getting the phone to ring. It’s amazing how much of that effort and expense goes to waste as the phone call, that supreme interactive exchange, is mishandled.

Today we can marry the 19th century phone and 21st century technology to maximize the customer’s call-in experience and help ensure the following:

  • Creating an immediate positive impression of your restaurant
  • Keeping customers on the line until a sale is completed
  • Upselling customers with creative use of on-hold time to suggest additional purchases

Phone Time=Marketing Time

Phone time is a marketer’s dream. Your highly qualified sales prospect has you top-of-mind (he’s hungry and has dialed your number). The sales cycle is incredibly short (the shorter the better for all concerned). There are no competing messages. This last point reveals the problem. Usually, when a customer calls your restaurant, there are NO marketing messages, no suggestions, no reinforcement for a primed and captive prospect. Silent hold time is the deadliest phone sin. Canned music at least verifies a phone connection but quickly becomes a negative as the caller endures The Captain and Tennille’s greatest hits. Neither of these common scenarios is acceptable for a restaurant serious about growing its business.

Put Your Best Voice Forward

Like with any other marketing platform, consistency is crucial on the phone. An automated phone answering system ensures that your customer’s immediate phone contact is cordial and commanding. A recorded greeting lets the customer know that he has called the right place (your restaurant) and that his order will be taken promptly. Heavy phone traffic necessitates customers being placed on hold. A call handler system deals with caller surges efficiently. Even if a live person is available to answer a call right away, an automated call handling system is still a superior means to answer the phone. Hard-to-understand phone voices are a cliché of the restaurant business. Poor enunciation creates a poor impression of your establishment. An automated greeting creates the right impression every time.

Per-Average Sale: The Mark of Success

Per-average sale is the mark of success in every business. It is especially true in the restaurant business where it is a simple matter to upsell every customer. Simple, that is, if you plant the idea in the customer’s mind at the right time, in the right way. The right time is on-hold phone time, when the customer is just seconds away from making a transaction. The right way is a professionally executed marketing message broadcasted immediately before the order is taken. This is light years ahead of “would you like fries with that?” Your employees should focus on order execution and customer service. Your phone should do the upselling, with voiceover artists, professionally written scripts and background music.

Jill Lederer, owner of several pizza franchises in Ventura County, California, implemented an on-hold message system with excellent results. “We had an immediate response from our customers pushing our mix on the product from about 5% of orders to 20% of orders,” said Jill.  “This pushed our incremental sales up an average of about $100 per location per week.  This helped minimize some labor cost as well.”

Automated and Customized

A professional on-hold messaging company begins work like any other marketing company—with thorough consultation to learn your business, your customers, your competition and your goals. Through this process, the on-hold messaging company will determine your customers’ “hot buttons” and help you decide which products and offers to promote during on-hold time. Multiple on-hold messages can be rotated, giving the restaurant owner extreme flexibility in promotional strategies. The call handling system also serves as an after-hours message machine.

The on-hold messaging company creates messages at a studio using experienced writers, actors and technicians. The result is a high-quality audio production, custom-made for your restaurant.

Today’s on-hold messaging systems are truly “hands-off” for the restaurant owner. All recordings are digital files transmitted from a central location. A restaurant owner communicates with the on-hold messaging company by phone, fax or computer to set up and modify the on-hold messaging. It is possible to deploy a call handling system without having to purchase, emplace or operate specialized phone hardware at your site.

An Investment in Your Success

As a restaurant owner, you have plenty of places to spend your money—food, equipment, labor, insurance, real estate. It may be hard to consider putting extra money into your “phone.” Remember, that an on-hold messaging system is not a phone upgrade. It is a marketing program, like no other. It is an ad that doesn’t get tuned out. It is an incentive that doesn’t get thrown in the trash. It is a salesperson who never gets frustrated or tongue-tied. It is an investment in your success.

The record shows 140% improvement in callers staying on the line with a call handling system. The record shows immediate increases in per-average sales. On-hold time is YOUR time with the customer. Own it with a modern marketing program that creates the most potent and best-positioned communications available to the restaurant industry.

About the Author 

Peter J. Turpel is founder and president of Phone On-Hold Marketing, based in Newbury Park, California, an industry leader in on-hold messaging programs. Started in 1984, Phone On-Hold recently celebrated the recording of their 25,000th on-hold spot.