Answer the Phone and Increase Sales for Your Small Business - How to Inspire Confidence in Callers

When was the last time you called a local business and got a voicemail or automated attendant? I'm not talking about a mega corporation like the phone company or an airline. I'm talking about a local business of small to medium size providing a service for which you had a legitimate need and sincere interest. Was it easy to get the information you desired? Did you even leave a message at all or did you move on to the next service provider in the phone book? Maybe the phone was answered live, but in a way that lacked professionalism. How did that impact your confidence in that business?

Approach your business from the perspective of your customer. Invariably, the telephone is the lifeline for your business. And the experience your customers have when they call you will instantly and permanently shape their view of your company and its ability to perform. A single misstep
here can translate into lost revenue.

But don't fret. As a small business owner, there are a number of things you can do to project a more professional image for your company, improve your customer service, and manage your own workload more effectively. First off, treat the manner in which you answer your phone seriously. Live is always better than automated. For a while it was impressive to call a company and be greeted with a plethora of automated options. Those days are gone. Menu trees and voicemail systems are ubiquitous and the customer backlash has begun. How many times have you just hit the "0" key looking for a live person the minute the auto-attendant picks up?

When you do answer live, do so with professionalism and consistency. Sometimes in today's casual world, we feel silly using formalities in the language we choose. However, professionalism in a telephone greeting is as timeless as addressing your letters with Dear or signing them with Sincerely. Try something like, "Thank you for calling ABC Company, this is (your Name), how can I help you?" Make sure everyone who answers the phone does it the same way. It may feel silly at first, but you will soon see that whether it's a prospective client calling or a long-time customer, they will get the impression that you run a tight ship. Don't underestimate how that reflects on their perception of the quality of work your company does.

The greeting is just the start. To function as an effective telephone receptionist, one must be able to quickly assess to whom the caller needs to be directed and efficiently connect that call in a timely fashion. Furthermore, to help your people manage their own workload most effectively, callers should be announced. Think about it. When was the last time you were involved in a project only to have the phone ring and pull you off in an entirely different direction. By the time you got back to the project at hand, hours may have passed. With a receptionist to announce a call, you can choose to have them connect a call, relay a message back to your caller, or redirect the call to a colleague better suited to helping them all without disrupting your workflow.

So maybe you're thinking, "We can't even figure out how to transfer a call on our phone system without disconnecting it half the time, but we're a small business and can't afford to hire a receptionist." Relax, there are some other good options available. Outsourcing your telephone reception may be the best solution for your company. No, I'm not talking about having your bread and butter phone calls answered in India or by some anonymous, third-party answering service. I'm talking about a Remote Receptionist. These are companies that can offer you a live, professional receptionist with the technology to answer your business calls at their location, but still privately announce and seamlessly connect your calls back with you at your office or wherever you go throughout the day.

When choosing a Remote Receptionist service, it helps to consider one based local to your business. Unlike a call center, a receptionist service usually maintains just a small team of receptionists. The best ones will invite you to visit their office, meet the reception team, and train them just as you'd train your own employee. This is not a third party relationship like a traditional answering service. Your callers will feel as though they've reached your office, and calls are connected so seamlessly that callers don't even realize your calls are being answered at a different physical location. Furthermore, many Remote Receptionist companies will offer business services such as appointment scheduling, order taking, seminar registrations and a variety of other services customized to meet your needs.

Be careful when choosing. There a lots of companies out there eager to answer your phones. Not all will be equipped with the small team and personalized service necessary to deliver on the Remote Receptionist promise. Ask how many different people will be answering your calls, and if there are additional charges for connecting calls to you in real-time. If there are more than 4-5 different receptionists or extra charges for connecting calls, keep looking. A remote receptionist will cost you more than a traditional telephone answering service, but the level of personalization goes well beyond simply answering the phone in your company name, and the cost should still be a fraction of hiring even a part-time employee.

You can project a more professional image for your business, improve your customer service and enjoy the increased sales and stronger customers relationships that come with delivering an improved experience for your callers.


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