Maxine Park, co-founder of call handling and reception services specialist InTouchNow, recently explained to the readers of Professional Electrician & Installer (PE), the advantages of outsourcing your call answering to professionals whilst you get on with the job at hand.

Professional Electrician is the leading magazine for the UK electrical contracting trade.

Covering all aspects of electrical installation, business management and current affairs, the publication provides trade news and product advice to on-the-job electricians.

Copies of the May issue are currently available at a number of electrical wholesale stores across the UK, or you can view the article online here. Alternatively, scroll down to discover why handling your own calls is a risky business.ProfElectricianInstaller

Sole traders and small businesses can stay in touch with professionalism

Phone calls can be such a nuisance. If the telephone rings when you are in the middle of an important job, can you afford not to answer? If you ignore the call, what impression does that give your existing client?

Although the interruption is unwelcome, the risk of missing out on potential work ensures most contractors, installers and sole traders will ‘pick up.’ But there is a better way. Many electricians still think voicemail is a good option when calls they receive cannot be answered. It is not.

In the current economic climate where productivity and efficiency are central to business success, there is little room for error. It is hard for micro-businesses to justify a full time receptionist to answer calls and deal with them in a manner which reflects the desired professional image of the business.

My advice is simple; concentrate on what you are good at and outsource everything else. Answering a call when working can be impractical and even dangerous. You are unlikely to deal with calls effectively while driving to a job. It is also difficult to take clear and ordered notes or answer questions when you should be concentrating on the task in hand.

Service providers will often offer more than just a call-answering service; they will provide reception and secretarial services to manage customer service enquiries or offer marketing support, all delivered by experienced UK-based professionals.

Using these services can help sole traders and independents appear larger than they are. It will also identify the business as one that is run efficiently and recognises the importance of every call into the business.

The service

When you outsource to a professional reception team which understands your business, not only can they can handle your customer service enquiries, they will also answer simple questions about your availability, cost and experience. This can help progress sales calls.

These teams understand they are an extension of your business, so they are concerned with your success and are not there just to take messages.

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

Most service providers will also offer access to an online portal which will itemise the number of calls you have received, from whom and what action was taken in dealing with them. You may be busy on a job and decided to be ‘unavailable’ but keeping one eye on this 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 ignore calls that do not matter.

Depending on call volume and services required, outsourcing call-answering and reception services will range anywhere from 5 to 50% of the cost of a full time employee. This depends on the amount of receptionist time you determine is 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.

For most sole-traders the decision to outsource is down to the flexibility it offers. You can concentrate on the job in hand and, when you are busy, you leave calls to be answered professionally by experts. You buy the services you need, when you need them and turn them on and off at the swipe of an app.

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