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What it's Really Like Using a Call Answering Service

Calls will go unanswered when you're constantly on the road working in your business. Picking up the phone or returning the missed call within the first 15 minutes is crucial in order to win more jobs.


For my first five years in business, I carried around two cell phones in my pocket. One was my personal phone, and the other was my business phone. I wanted a professional feel, the ability to text and receive photos, and a real phone number (and not a Google line with a strange prompt when people called in). I couldn't opt for a landline at the time, because we had no real office space (just a parking lot), and I was always out and about working in the business.


I understood the importance of answering a call that came in the first time and as quickly as possible. As soon as I felt the buzz in my pocket, I'd respond immediately with much enthusiasm. Selling customers is fun, and it feels great knowing they found your number and called your business out of all the others out there. That feeling has never left me, even after almost a decade at it!


But as the business continued to grow and my responsibilities increased, I wasn't always able to get to the phone as quickly as I wanted, and worse still, I was driving a truck and needed to pull over somewhere in order to safely call them back. I needed a solution quickly, but couldn't afford a full-time admin assistant yet.


One day on the radio, I heard a commercial for a phone answering service. I went to their website and noticed they essentially took messages for businesses. You'd simply give them some basic information about your company, what information you'd like them to ask the caller, and you're good to go. The fees seemed reasonable and the service was helpful in my situation - so I gave it a shot.


The Importance Of Getting Calls Answered


Believe it or not, roughly 80% of business communications are conducted over the phone. Still, even with all this new technology and messaging apps, people ultimately want to hear a human voice. It makes people feel comfortable; they want to know who they're dealing with, they want to speak and hear the subtleties in your cadence, and it will in part help them make their decision. Especially if you're a home service provider and they're hiring someone to do work inside of their house. It's unlikely a customer will book your service without a phone call if they haven't used you before.


Is it really that big a deal if a call was missed? Well it depends on how quickly you can call them back. If they don't leave a message and called from a blocked number, you simply can't call back. Sorry, this lead may be gone forever. If they called and left a message, you're in better shape. If they called and didn't leave a message you can still return the call from the number they called in on. 85% of customers that call in will not call back again. It's not only important to call these missed calls back, it's even more important to call them back immediately and within the first 15-30 minutes of missing the call.


Why? Because they're as good as gone if you don't. When a customer is in the research mode and is needing to check this box off their to-do list, they're going to get it done by any means necessary. They took the time to search on Google and have an entire list of companies to choose from. The hauling industry is a commodity business and the quality of service from provider to provider isn't much different. Think about it for a moment: Company A, Company B, and Company C all haul away junk. They all will come to the location of the junk. They all will toss the junk in their truck. They all will quote the job based on how much junk there is to take. Why would a customer care who does it? I'll tell you why... CUSTOMER SERVICE! All the back end customer value your company provides is the real difference in the decision making process and answering the phone and speaking well helps your chances considerably.

So as my company grew, my daily responsibilities increased, when I was no longer in a position to grab calls on the second ring, and still couldn't quite afford that admin team member, I opted to try out a phone answering service.


Making Customers Feel Secure

When I started working with the call answering service I felt better knowing that if I couldn't answer a call, someone else would. When calls came in and I couldn't get them in three rings, it would roll over to the answering service and they would take a message for me. Once they were done with the call they would send out an email and a text to me with all of the permanent information. It worked well for the time being, and I was able to work without the fear of missing a call. I didn't have to drop a couch in the middle of the driveway on the way to loading it in my truck because my pocket was buzzing.


I used this service for about a year and then cancelled because I was able to scale the business and hire guys to fulfill the on-the-road aspect of the job. So I was now in the office, or at least available to always answer the phone.


Pros and Cons

With everything in life and business there's always some give and take, some positives and negatives.


Pros

  • Enhanced Customer Service: All calls are answered promptly and simple questions can be answered providing support for the overall customer experience.

  • 24/7 Availability and Accessibility: This is an option with some providers. Whether or not you'll need this is completely up to you.

  • Cost Efficiency: This could be the case for your situation. Like my situation, it worked for a specified period of time and then I no longer needed it when I was in the office full-time.

  • Scalability and Flexibility: As you grow or even as your company experiences your busy season and the call volume sky rockets, you wont need to worry about hiring additional support. And same for when business slows down, you wont need to worry about terminating anyone.


Cons

  • Lack of Personalization: It may not always come off this way but for the phone operators I've experienced it pretty clear that they're here only to take a message and have a very limited scope of what the business does. Some customer may become frustrated if their simplest of questions go unanswered.

  • Security and Data Privacy Concerns: Customers providing sensitive information over the phone like credit card info, or personal information may raise security and privacy concerns.

  • Communication Barriers and Language Issues: Depending on the outsourcing location, there may be language barriers or cultural differences that impact effective communication with your customers. This can lead to misunderstandings and may affect the quality of customer service provided.

  • Dependency: Relying on a third party to answer calls means the business is dependent on the provider's reliability. If the provider experiences downtime or technical issues, it can disrupt communication and may harm your reputation.


The price for the service was insignificant until you realize how often they're answering calls to solicitors and billing you for it. Which is fine by the way, it's just frustrating to know that a company like Yelp that doesn't stop calling is literally costing you a few dollars every single time they call in wanting to speak to you about your business listing. Multiply this time a hundred different online companies doing the same exact thing and you'll want to pull your hair out when the monthly invoice arrives.


Final Thoughts

Is a call answering service right for you? It really depends on your situation and where you're currently at in your business. For me at that specific time it made sense, but I quickly grew out of it and decided to instead use that money to help fund employees working in my own business. I was able to get out of the truck and in the office to take on the admin duties fully-time And then to hiring an admin team and stepping out of the office to work on the company's big picture full-time. Business growth is all about stages. I like to take methodically steps towards changes in my business. Big leaps and spending into the unknown make me queasy.


Are you in a similar situation right now? Shoot me an email and share your thoughts or concerns.

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