Ring, ring. Do you answer? Do you let it go to voicemail? Are you even home? Something as simple as the telephone ringing can pose several dilemmas for a small business owner. Sure, making the phone ring IS our goal, but how do you handle it after that?
1. Set Hours: For many people, their office line is IN their home. For others, its their cell number. You can still set regular hours to answer the phone. For example, don’t pick up after 6pm if you want family time. Don’t answer on weekends. The choice is yours. Many customers don’t know “where” your phone is and will just assume you are closed, like any other business.
2. Check for Messages: While letting the voicemail get your calls is important, checking voicemail is CRUCIAL. Return those calls within 24 hours. PERIOD. I just tried to hire a lawn service and not one, not two, but THREE guys had full voicemail boxes at 9am. One had a recording that stated the day was 2 months ago. That is just a sin in my book. In fact, one person didn’t return my call for days. DAYS! Why even bother to have a phone? Why even bother to say you RUN a business.
3. Consider a Service: While calling around for lawn service, I was reminded how frustrating it can be to GET voicemail. You want a live person to pick. We ALL want a live person to pick up. Think about it. You HATE calling the phone company or the cable company because you have to push all those little buttons before you can hear a real voice. Now, I know lawn guys are just as busy in the spring as window cleaners. I do not expect them to run right out, but one guy returned my call within an hour. He said that he takes 10 minute breaks throughout the day to return calls. I was impressed. I am not suggesting that you have to do this. I am not even suggesting that you have an office staff. You can, however, hire an answering service. A real voice that simply answers your line during certain hours that you are unavailable and takes a message for you. You can even have emergencies forwarded to you. Its a nice touch for not a lot of money.