Your phone answering service is almost always the first point of contact with new potential customers.
I’m sure that you heard the old saying, “First Impressions Are Everything.” If a potential client’s first point of contact is with your phone answering service, you will want to make sure that you hire a company with a top notch reputation. Because, if the answering service they provide is less than stellar, you may end up losing potential business.
Nothing will make a caller run to your competitor faster than getting bad customer service, even if your competitor’s prices are higher. Nothing will frustrate a potential customer more than getting the phone runaround before they even have the chance to talk to anyone.
If a potential customer becomes frustrated before they can ask about pricing, their business could be lost to you. As it is impossible to be in the office 24 hours a day 7 days a week, using a phone answering service becomes a contact focal point of your business, and proper handling of all incoming calls is paramount. Mishandling a call can be worse than missing a call. It is not only the fact that you could lose a client, but you are putting your reputation on the line.
For the sake of your business, you want all calls to be handled courteously, efficiently and accurately. Phone enquiries must be routed to the proper person or department. The ultimate in customer service would be if you were personally available to answer all calls yourself. Reality is though, that as your business grows, you simply won’t have the time to do this.
Short of hiring staff to handle phone calls, the answer might well be to hire an off-location service to take care of this important part of your business.
When you are looking to hire a phone answering company you will have several options to choose from. Most service providers offer a live call-answer service virtual (computerized) receptionist. This service will also let you forward the call to another number to be answered directly. Some service providers have become savvy enough to use technology that provides their customers with the option to have their calls answered live and/or be directed to their computers. If your inbound calls are directed to your computer, you will be able to check your email and phone messages at the same time. Your local phone company phone answering service is often used by small business.
Another option is an online answering machine. With the continued growth of technology, telephones and computers are now linked closer than ever. Several companies have created downloadable software that will record all incoming calls. The software will allow you to listen to your messages as they are being recorded. The one negative aspect with having your computers answer calls is that you would have to leave your computer on 24 hours.
Interactive voice response (IVR) works extremely well for large companies with multiple departments receiving multiple incoming calls at the same time. This computerized phone answering service will have a computerized voice ask and direct incoming caller to the correct department. The computer asks for a verbal response and is supposed to understand exactly what the caller is saying. These systems can be frustrating to callers when their request is not understood immediately. You may have had the experience, as I have, when calling my electric company, that the computer didn’t understand me and offered me the wrong options. I personally don’t like talking to a computer and want to talk to a live person. Most people want direct feedback over the phone line.
The ideal phone answering system is to use a knowledgeable live phone operator. This eliminates the uncomfortable feelings that some callers get when they reach a computerized answering service. A live operator will be able to ask potential customers questions in their own language, and are able to forward them to the correct department or extension. High-end services can also act as receptionists, making appointments and doing more than just directing calls. Talking to a live operator will help keep you from getting lost in the voice mail black hole.
It doesn’t matter if you run a small or large business, bad communications with potential and existing customers will be detrimental. In order to keep this from happening, you need to make sure that all incoming calls are handled quickly and professionally.