There is little that frustrates a customer or prospect more than not being able to reach a business when they need to. It doesn’t matter if they’re calling to get an update on a shipment, lodge a complaint, give a compliment, request support, or request information in support of an eventual purchase – if they can’t reach someone in your company, easily, then you might as well not be in business.
Realities of many small businesses are that someone can’t be right next to a phone or computer 24/7. Some days, having someone in the office 8-5 is a challenge. But if you don’t respond quickly, you run the risk of directing a customer elsewhere… to a competitor.
More important than answering a call on the first ring or immediately reply to an email is setting expectations when you can. If people know you’re out of the office or away for the afternoon, it makes it easier to wait a bit for a reply… it doesn’t make it acceptable in all cases, but it makes it easier.
Here are 8 ideas to handle inquiries when it’s impossible to answer the phone or immediately reply:
1. Have voicemail. As part of your answer message, let the caller know your current day’s availability.
2. Have a plan. If you’re out of the office, leave a message on your voicemail stating so, say when you’ll return, and redirect them to others in your business for an immediate need.
3. Use web forms. Direct some inquiries and requests to your web, it’s a low cost 24/7 way to accept input. Have a web form send the input to a distribution list, this way someone in your office is sure to get the message in a timely manner and reply. Establish a system to update everyone on the distribution list when one of you takes action on the request.
4. Place your hours of operation and complete contact information on your website. Let people know how to contact you and when you expect to be in the office.
5. Indoctrinate new customers. As part of bringing a new customer aboard, educate them on how to contact and interact with your business. Make sure every customer and qualified prospect has more than one telephone number, extension, and email address to reach you or someone in your company.
6. Forward your calls to your mobile phone. Dependent upon your business, using some kind of find-me follow-me service is appropriate.
7. Broadcast important telephone calls. Related to the tip above, have a special number just for service requests, then use a find-me follow-me service to relay an incoming call to a number of people in you office at the same time, or in a hunt group where one person is called after another. The first person that answers takes the call.
8. Establish separate email address to direct requests. Have an email address attached to distribution lists for sales, support, updates, etc.
There are 8 ideas to handle incoming calls or electronic messages to your business when you just can’t be there to take the request as it happens. What things have you done to take requests 24/7?