06/16/2016 04:09 EDT | Updated 06/16/2016 04:59 EDT

Beyond Voicemail: Call Centres Can Improve Your Business Operations

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If there's one thing I dread more than anything, it's picking up the phone and calling customer service. I can't tell if it's because of all the horror stories I've read online or if it's from personal experience, but something about calling a service representative fills me with anxiety. It's not particularly fun, and many customers would agree with me.

What many businesses and industries fail to recognize is call centres are crucial to successful business operations. Your call centre can be the first point of contact with any customer and first impressions matter. Instead of letting your customers go to voicemail or treating your call centre like an afterthought, it's important to view call centers as an extension of your overall marketing strategy.

Like any other marketing component, call centres must be properly aligned with your business operations and the identity of your brand. A properly managed call centre should feel like a seamlessly integrated on-brand experience for customers.

Your call centre should be treated like a first touchpoint for customer interaction, and a high stakes touchpoint at that -- how your business comes off in that first call could determine whether or not the caller becomes a customer. If your brand promises accuracy and excellent service then you need to make sure your call centre is held to that same standard.

Take, for example, a company like Zappos who has built a reputation for excellent customer service. The company operates a call centre 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All call centre staff receive weeks of training to ensure they communicate the Zappos brand identity on every call and are empowered to do whatever they can to keep customers happy.

On the other hand, companies like Comcast and AT&T have been working to regain the loyalty of their customers after having their reputations for customer service tarnished due to poor customer experiences and long wait times.

It's not hard to understand why so many companies put their call centres on the back burner. Businesses have so much to think about that it can be difficult to keep track of something that is seemingly trivial. But call centres can make a huge difference for companies' reputations, especially in customer-focused industries like health care.

Health care, just like retail and other industries, is an area where companies are promising high quality products. "Health care is changing, hospitals are consolidating into systems, systems are acquiring private practices, the Affordable Care Act is driving a new set of regulatory requirements," says Kathleen Peterson, founder and chief vision officer of PowerHouse Consulting. All of these conditions make call centres very attractive in terms of providing a consistent experience to customers and patients, in an environment that is both operationally efficient and scalable." And when you promise a high-quality product or experience, that quality must be maintained in every facet of your operations.

In this industry more than any other, customers look for things like access, availability, accuracy, and efficiency. By centralizing health care call centre systems all of these difficulties could be erased.

Historically, there has been a tendency in the health care industry to let customer calls go unanswered or to voicemail. It goes almost without saying that every unanswered call could lead to a loss in business. If you don't have representatives answering the phone, your caller will likely take their money somewhere else due to your company's poor customer service experience.

Thankfully, businesses in health care and other industries can hire specialists to get their call centres up to par with the standards of their brand. Companies like PowerHouse Consulting can help businesses simplify their call centres by offering services like assessments, consolidation, custom employee training programs and specialized health care consulting. These services can not only help you streamline your call centre operations, but improve your overall customer experience in the process.

Despite the Internet and other technologies, call centres are still a critical piece of the customer experience. With so many options for consumers, it is more important than ever that your call centres are not only assisting your customers, but that they align with your company's brand identity and mission. If you're noticing a decline in your customer base, you may need to reevaluate your first point of contact. More often than not, that is going to mean taking a critical look at your call centres.

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