Essential Online Tools for Small Businesses Part 4: Answer!
If you’re like me and still instruct and lead trips (at the coalface!), then you can’t always be at the end of the line to answer calls. Half-way up a mountain you get your call of the year – a group of 20 wanting a bespoke trip to Alaska…but you miss it, because you’re with your group and don’t want to seem unprofessional in front of clients.
This is perfectly understandable, and is a battle many business owners face, particularly when they can’t afford or don’t need to employ a full-time secretary or PA.
I did some research into what annoys people about phoning a company or business. I found that people are most annoyed at being received by an answer machine (there’s also a frightening amount of people that will never leave a message on an answer machine, no matter how lovely your message is!), being put on hold for excessive times, and not having a real-live person to talk to.
When I set up More Adventure, I felt that having a landline number was a good way of getting the phone ringing, primarily because most calls now from a mobile phone, and also because people want their calls to be included within their free minutes. Aside from this, having a local number (even though the business is not location-specific) gives a more professional look to a company.
We used Skype at first, and chose an area code that was close to where our business was first registered. For a time, we used Skype as a means of answering calls (particularly good when travelling), but found it to be rather frustrating as a strong Wifi connection is needed for it to work. So after some time of crackly calls and annoying cut-offs, I set it up to forward automatically to my mobile phone – suddenly I was back to square one, plus this plan failed completely when I was living overseas.
When I set up my second business, I didn’t want my mobile phone as a contact number for a marketing plan we were implementing, so I began digging around for alternative options.
Then I found online answer services…bingo!!!
At the time, there were only a few of these services, with AllDayPA being one of the pioneers. After an amount of research into a few, we settled on www.answer.co.uk.
We paid an upfront setup fee (£160), then we pay a small amount for each call taken. It has given us a landline number (we chose an 030 number this time) and means that the phone will always be answered by a person, 24/7.
We have a standard message that is delivered by whoever answers the phone, they take a message, then a text and email is sent with the caller’s details to us.
This system is not perfect, as it would be great for the answerer of any call to be able to deal with every query that arises. However, we usually call the caller back within minutes of them calling in, so we think this is too much of a problem. The main thing is that someone answers the call with the company name, which is undoubtedly superior to just an answer machine, and that we have a landline number.
I hope you’ve found this useful, please like and share if you did, and if you have any questions, please leave comments below.