Think about the last time you were looking for a new service provider. Maybe you needed someone to repair your washing machine so that you could get back to doing the pile of laundry that has built up while you were busy running your business.
What would you do if you got a recorded message? If you decided to leave a message, would you wait for a return call before moving on to call another business? What would you think if no one even answered the phone?
Studies show that the cost of not having a live person answer the phone can be serious for small business owners.
- Up to 80% of callers who reach a voicemail system will not leave a message and will move on to another business. (Fortune Magazine, 2006)
- Another study found that 70% of people never leave a message when they get a voice answering service. (Alex Drumheller, 2010)
- When consumers make phone calls in response to print or media marketing, they are 8 times more likely to speak with a live person than leave their information in a voice bank. (Sales Digest, 2007)
- In one survey of 10,000 customers, 68% said they would most likely NOT leave their name and phone number on an answering machine when responding to radio or print advertising. Only 21% said they would. (ABC Advertising via the New York Times, 2008)
What does this mean? Well, unless you are offering a totally unique service, YOUR business is not the only choice that consumers have and whether it's fair or not, the business who answers the phone first WILL be the one who gets the first chance with this new customer.
According to research, the average small business misses approximately 14 calls per week and 12.5% of those missed calls are actually lost potential sales.
Yes, as small business owners, our time is precious and we are often spread so thin that it may be hard to answer the phone every time it rings. But every missed call is a missed opportunity for new business! Many do understand this and in fact another recent study found that 70% of small owners admit to having taken a business call in the toilet, 18% say they have answered business calls while at a funeral and 13% while at a wedding.
If you absolutely must use an answering machine, make sure that that the message your customers get is cheerful, friendly and personal. You want them to know that even though they did not reach you directly, you value them. Include a time frame for when you will get back to them and STICK TO IT. Remember – the longer you take to return their call, the more likely it is for someone else to get their business.
Solution 1: Hire Someone
Depending upon your budget, a much better solution to using voice mail is hiring someone to answer the phone for you (or sharing this responsibility among existing employees). You could even hire a student – or check with the local schools to see if you can set up an internship program.
Solution 2: Outsource Your Calls
Can’t afford having a person in your actual business to handle phone calls? That’s okay because today there are many affordable telephone answering services that will provide a real person who can. If you go this route, the best option is to choose a call centre based in Australia (or your home country).
Business Phone Call Etiquette
Whichever way you go, follow these basic guidelines to make sure phone calls aren't causing your business to lose customers.
- Answer the phone between the 2nd and 3rd ring. Answering on the 1st ring does not give the caller time to collect his or her thoughts, but letting the phone ring too many times makes a caller angry.
- Answer with a scripted greeting for professionalism and consistency. For example: “Good afternoon — Successful Interactions Company. This is Suzanne. How can I help you today?”
- Ask for the caller’s name and use it at least once in the conversation.
- Remember to say “please” and “thank you.”
- Speak in a pleasant tone of voice. Smile and sit up straight – this improves your tone. Customers can “hear” a smile over the telephone line.
- ALWAYS ask before putting a customer on hold.
From: 13 Tips to Make a Great First Impression
Whatever option you choose to handle incoming phone calls, always remember that you only get one chance a first impression. Every phone call is an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with potential prospects, clients and customers – don't give them a reason to call your competitors!