Provide a Professional Image on the Telephone

By Guest Author: Jeremy Astin

After many hours spent deciding what business you would like to start; what it is going to be called; how you are going to finance your venture; and finally setting up the business you are ready to trade. All you have to do now is advertise and wait for the phone to ring. Once the phone rings you can get the money rolling in.

But wait…

Have you put the infrastructure in place, so that anyone who rings will see the professional image you want to portray? Have you made sure the phones will be answered, if you are out servicing your new customer base or trying to get someone to start doing business with you will they get through?

The simple answer is to put an answerphone on when you are out.

But think about it…

Do you always leave a message on an answerphone, or voicemail, when you’re asked to... ‘Please leave a message after the tone’? If you don’t always leave a message why do you hope your existing and prospective customers will? It is reported that over 70% of people who are presented with a recorded service will not leave a message. How many leads is that you could be losing. Remember, if someone wants to buy something and they can’t speak to your business they will buy from one of your competitors.

So you need more staff…

But maybe you can’t afford them yet, you have only just started out. To employ someone at say £4.50 per hour will cost you over £9,000 in wages, plus National Insurance and any other benefits and costs. Then you have to think about what you will do when they are at lunch, on holiday, off sick or have just nipped out of the office on that important task.

What you need is someone to answer the phones all the time.

One easy, and simple, solution to ensure the phone is answered promptly, professionally and by a real person is to use a ‘Telephone Answering Service’, sometimes referred to as a ‘Virtual Receptionist’.

Remember, if your business sounds Professional on the phone your customers will be more inclined to do business with you. First impressions really do matter, if they can’t see you it is what they hear that counts.

So how does a Virtual Reception service work?

The company you use will provide you with a dedicated number that all of your calls can be forwarded to. This enables them to recognise your incoming call; they will then answer the call with a script that you have agreed. It may be as simple as “Good morning, ABC Consultants. How can I help you?” Once the call has been answered and a message taken notification of the call can normally be forwarded to you by SMS, e-mail or Fax. You can then decide if you want to respond immediately. Some service providers will ‘patch’ calls through to you; this enables you to screen the calls.

How do I get my calls forwarded to the Virtual Receptionist?

You will, more than likely, have your business phone number already and won’t want to change it. The number will be supplied by one of the Telcos (BT, Telewest, NTL etc.) they have services that enable calls to be forwarded to another destination. The BT service ‘Call Diversion’ uses the ‘star’ and ‘hash’ keys on the phone to divert calls.

* code * phone number to divert to #

- code 21 diverts all calls
- code 61 diverts calls not answered in 15 seconds
- code 67 diverts calls when the phone is engaged

It’s as easy as that, you can divert, and un-divert, the calls whenever you require.

How much does it cost?

Most companies that provide services offer varying service levels, usually there is a monthly subscription fee (from £10 per month) and a sliding scale of charges for the calls answered, depending on the volume of calls (from £0.50 per call / message). There may also be service fees for sending sms, e-mail and Fax notification or for patching calls through.

What else does a Virtual Receptionist offer?

Look on the Telephone Answer Service as a virtual Receptionist and Personal Assistant for your business. Many service providers offer additional services including: providing callers with information; posting brochures and literature; diary management; taking sales orders; typing and secretarial services. If you are looking for a particular requirement or service ask if it can be provided. At the end of the day if you are going to sign-up for a service make sure it fits what you want. The service provider should be prepared to work with you not tell you how you will work.

The telephone answering service can be a valuable and indispensable asset to a small business or sole trader. When you are out they are always in, you can use them when you are busy on administrative tasks and don’t want to be disturbed, or you want to project that ‘larger company image’ and make it appear that you have additional staff.

Telephone answering services will not suit all businesses and all requirements, however, I would recommend everyone to at least look at the services on offer and maybe try some of them out. There are a number of companies that offer an introductory ‘no obligation’ month’s trial. The service can be switched on or off when you like, as you decide when the calls are forwarded to the answer service. Many companies don’t tie you into long contracts, they only ask for a monthly commitment.

What have you got to lose, other than valuable business if you can’t answer the phone and project a professional image.

One business that provides Telephone Answering Services is The Reception Desk. For more information on the services they offer please click here.

About the author:
Copyright © 2005 Jeremy Astin.
Jeremy Astin is a Director of Axiom Business Systems Limited, a business that provides Telephone Answering Services branded as The Reception Desk.

At The Reception Desk our Personal Assistants are dedicated to providing service excellence to all our customers. The Reception Desk is a flexible service that provides our customers with a high degree of customisation, whether that is through the initial call we answer, call screening, patch through, additional services or reporting. For more information click here.

The Reception Desk

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