No matter the size of your company, chances are good that you sometimes receive more incoming calls than you or your staff can handle. Sure, there’s always voicemail, but many potential customers will forego leaving a message in favor of finding a live person to talk to. With the yearly springtime increase in production approaching, now is the time to prepare for an increase in calls and inquiries.
When a customer calls, there’s only one chance to make a first impression. A dedicated answering service intercepts calls you miss and picks them up before they roll into your voicemail. Setting that process up is simple on most phone systems, whether landline or cellular. Once a call kicks over to the answering service a live person answers the phone and takes a message or provide basic information such as mailing address and hours of operation. More complicated calls are referred to you or your employees, but all callers at least know that they talked to a human being and that their message is in the system. When everything works smoothly the callers won’t even be aware that they didn’t talk to a full-time employee.
One nice feature of most answering services is the ability to have emergency calls routed directly to you, while more run-of-the-mill matters are sent via email. This is especially useful if you perform any kind of ‘on-call’ service.
Of course nothing is perfect, and answering services are no exception. Common complaints include dis-interested or rude operators, messages that somehow never get routed, and even mispronunciation of the company name. Performance naturally varies by company, but it also varies by operator. Answering service companies often have high turnover, and the quality of your call-takers can decline unexpectedly. It’s a good idea to do quality spot-checks, just as you would with any kind of sub-contractor.
One drawback of pure answering services is that for the most part, message taking is all they do. But the entire goal of an answering service is to serve the client’s need: does your customer need an estimate? It’s important to get their info and get them scheduled. Do they need to pay a bill? You definitely want to make that easy to do! For some contractors, the best answer may be a Virtual Assistant.
In an attempt to separate themselves from the “human voicemail” stigma, some answering service companies have adopted the label Virtual Assistant (VA’s). VA’s perform tasks such as scheduling and taking messages, as well as posting social media updates and customer surveys. While more expensive than pure answering services, Virtual Assistants are still far less than the cost of a full-time employee and you have the option to scale them up or down as needed.
The normal phone procedure for your company may be that your office manager answers it, or maybe it’s you digging for the phone while you balance on a ladder at a job site. Either way, an answering service or Virtual Assistant takes care of the necessary busy-work of your business while allowing your key players to stay focused on the higher-skilled, income-generating tasks you hired them for.
With over a decade of construction experience, Dan Stout writes articles that help demystify the industry for both contractors and customers. Visit him at www.DanStout.com.