Co-founder of call handling and reception services specialist InTouchNow, Maxine Park recently explained to the readers of Glass Times, the benefits of never letting a customer go to voicemail, when you cannot answer their call.

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Call answering for sole traders and small businesses

Phone calls for many sole traders can be a nuisance, with the constant interruption affecting future orders and customer service quality. But the fear of missing out, ensures most traders reach for the ringing phone and stop what they’re doing.

There is a better way, explains Maxine Park, of call answering service providers InTouchNow: “It’s hard for micro businesses to justify a full time receptionist to answer calls, know how to deal with them and project a professional image.

“With businesses putting so much effort into appearing on the first page of Google, with their competitors just a click away, the phone and how it is answered is more important than ever.

“Many businesses, particularly sole traders still cling to the belief that voicemail is a good alternative when calls are not answered. It is not. Surveys indicate that 70% of people calling people or businesses they do not know will not leave a message.

“Like so many aspects of running a business these days, the answer for small businesses is to concentrate their efforts on what they are good and outsource everything else. So does it make a good impression to answer the phone to a future customer in the presence of an existing one?

“Answering a call when working can be impractical or even dangerous, with the risks of using a mobile phone when driving well-documented, even hands free. But how can you deal effectively with calls when driving? How do you take notes or answer questions when you should be concentrating on driving safely?

“But it’s not just about call answering. The best service providers will offer more, including reception and secretarial services, from customer service enquiries to marketing support, all delivered by experienced, UK-based professionals.

“Using these services also helps smaller businesses appear larger than they really are. It also identifies the business as one that is run efficiently and recognises the importance of every call into the business.

“When you outsource your needs to a professional reception team that understands your business, they can handle your customer service enquiries, working with information you have provided, to help answer simple questions or even progress sales calls.

“These teams understand they are an extension of your business and are concerned with your success. They are not just there to take messages. If that is all you need though, then the details of your calls can be emailed or texted to you, so you can take the appropriate action; when you are ready or it is safe to do so.

“Service providers will include an online portal to show the calls received and the actions taken, so you can see what is happening in real time. You may have decided to be unavailable, but keeping an eye on the call history allows you to return important calls or add information to help the reception team deal with calls more efficiently.

“You will not just have the numbers to call back, but any details relevant to the call, so you can return calls effectively, or importantly ignore calls that do not matter.

“Depending on call volume and services required, outsourcing call answering and reception services will range anywhere from 5%-50% of the cost of a full time employee, depending on the amount of receptionist time needed.

“If you just want your calls screened, announced and connected in real-time, your costs will be lower than if you want diary management, appointment scheduling and time intensive processes.

“With so many options, why are sole traders risking work and their reputation, or missing out on calls completely, by handling their calls themselves?