For a small business owner it is a balancing act. You need to answer your phone so that you don't miss potential business but there are times when the constant interruptions prevent you from doing the things that actually need to be done; like sending out quotes, producing invoices and sometimes even doing what the clients are paying you for ...
wouldn't it feel great if someone could answer the phones when you're really busy?
So a Telephone Answering Service seems like a good idea, or perhaps a Virtual Receptionist or do I need a Call Handler? So long as I'm not on the phone all day, does it matter what they are called? Well, on the face of it there doesn't seem to be much difference between the three. But when you look a little deeper, actually there are subtle differences between them all. And these differences could have a big impact on your business. So when looking to hire someone to answer your calls, what do you need to consider?
Telephone Answering Service ...
The bare minimum you should expect of any service is that your calls will be answered in your company name. All Telephone Answering Services should provide a prompt and professional service, taking messages and sending you those messages either via email or text.
This is a great service as 70% of callers will usually hang up if they reach an answering machine. Having your phone answered by a human being should at least provide you with the name and number of your caller so you can call them back, and if they are happy to leave the details you will get a heads up before making the call back.
Virtual Reception ...
The next step up would be a Virtual Reception service. There is some disparity as to what a Virtual Receptionist is. For some it means an Automated Attendant, you know the type "Thank you for calling xyz, if you would like sales please press 1, if you would like to talk to accounts please press 2". But that is not what I mean.
I mean a Receptionist that doesn't work on your site. Someone who answers calls in your company name and will take a message when they know you aren't available but will also transfer calls through to you if you wish. The joy of this service is that if you outsource any part of your business, you can have calls transferred directly to the relevant person. So any invoice queries for example could be patched through to the book keeper who can actually deal with the call. As with an on-site receptionist, if you wanted some time to focus on a particular project you could arrange to have only your most important clients patched through directly to you; providing, of course, you have identified in advance those clients who you wish to talk to.
Call Handling ...
Now some companies would describe the above services as Call Handling. But other companies (like The Office Genie) go a little bit further. They, of course, answer the call in your company name and take a message or transfer the call as necessary. But they will also hold information about your company and your procedures so that they can answer some of the most frequent enquiries you receive. They can offer a variety of services like:
Diary Management - booking appointments for you,
Order taking - taking the details of orders,
Sending Booking Confirmation Letters,
Guide people in/provide directions,
The benefit of a Call Handling Service is to reduce the number of messages that you will have to action yourself. So not only will it take away the pressure of the phone ringing, but it will also make your business more efficient and free up your time. Your business can continue smoothly whilst you are on conferences, busy with client meetings or even away on holiday.
As any Business Coach will tell you, working towards a business model that will function without you in it 24/7 is the key to creating a business that can grow and replicate to give you the retirement plan you are dreaming of.
I had a successful 20-year career as an office manager and personal assistant; however, my job was no longer focused on the customers and became all about the numbers. My customer-focused background began when I was 12 in my father's independent carpet showroom. I had a spell with Marks & Spencer before I moved into office-based jobs. I have worked as a training administrator, a PA and PA/office manager in a variety of industries from manufacturing to the IT education sector.
Meanwhile, my husband Ian, a successful Northampton based Master Decorator and owner of Rainbow Frost, was losing out on work due to missed phone calls. When he was busy, callers were getting his voicemail but weren't leaving messages. I knew how to fix that problem!
I quit my job and took on Ian as the first client of The Office Genie in November 2005. Word quickly spread with the second client coming on board just one week later. The majority of our clients since have come to us through word of mouth recommendations and networking referrals. Over the years, I have become well connected in Northampton and Milton Keynes.
Outside of work I enjoy swimming, roller skating, the theatre and my cats and dogs!
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