Since all the different dimensions of the Internet; websites, email, social media, etc. are having an increasing impact on how customers perceive your company, a lot of small business owners may be overlooking some old technology that is still very important. The plain old telephone. I recently read Handling phone messages is a key part of your business in USA Today that starts with the idea that how your company handles phone calls may be one of the first impressions that prospective customers get about your company.
The article continues with some ideas for how to handle phone calls even if you don’t have the money or need for a full-time receptionist. Here are the 13 tips in the article:
- Assign someone to be the receptionist.
- Train everyone in your office on basic phone etiquette.
- Ask callers to spell their name and repeat their phone number or email address.
- Get a phone system with separate voice mail boxes.
- Train everyone on how to use the phone system.
- Write every message down as you take it, then give or send the message immediately.
- Keep a list handy of answers for frequently asked questions and routine inquiries.
- Create a template or form for taking messages specific for your business.
- Learn how to screen calls.
- Use your voice-mail message to inform callers of your hours.
- Put answers to routine questions on your website, such as hours, contact info, or directions, reducing unnecessary and redundant incoming calls.
- Define your company tone.
- Be certain to call people back or respond to their email in a timely manner.
Some of these tips will probably not be applicable for your particular business, such as the tips for voice mail for those companies with no money or need for such a system, but there should be a few that would be helpful for your business.
One last totally fun thing inspired by the article if you have just a few minutes. The article has a picture of Lily Tomlin reprising her role as Ernestine the telephone operator on Saturday Night Live at the 2008 Emmy Awards. I got curious and found this great YouTube link to a hilarious segment from a time way before the Internet.