During a recession or economic downturn, many businesses find cost-cutting a necessary activity. Unfortunately, this often results in employee redundancies and a reduction in resources. The impact of this can have a detrimental effect on business operations if not correctly managed. Staff layoffs may include ‘front-of-house’ employees such as receptionists, secretaries and customer service personnel. In this instance, who answers the phones? A solution could be to install an answering service.
Customer service is one of the most important elements of any successful business. A customer’s first impression is lasting; therefore, the first interaction must be a positive one. If telephone calls are not answered this may result in a disgruntled customer, who may decide to buy from a competitor instead.
A negative customer experience can impact the wider business through the power of word of mouth. One unhappy customer can influence many others and directly affect the company’s reputation and profits. Each time a potential customer contacts your business; this is an opportunity to make a sale, promote the company and establish a customer base of loyal consumers that may repeat purchase.
There are many benefits to a telephone answering service. In addition to cutting costs, these services also maintain a quality interaction.
Call Screening & Live Answering
Screening services provide a useful way in which to effectively manage incoming calls. The service takes the initial call, provides company-specific information to the customer and forwards the call appropriately for further action. This provides a professional ‘first contact’ experience for the customer while the business can save on employee costs.
Screening services are often supplemented with call centre services, which provide a fully staffed and affordable resource. Many call centres operate with free phone numbers. Again, this provides a professional ‘face’ for the business before any follow-up action is required.
An automated answering service is another way in which to manage large volumes of calls. Features include; call transfer, call screening and forwarding, voicemail and hold functions. The disadvantage of an automated system is the lack of personal contact. Some companies pride themselves on human interaction and their employees’ ability to provide excellent customer service. In order to maintain this company value, live answering services are a better option.
Hiring a full-time receptionist can be an expensive outlay. Not only does it require a salary to be paid, you also have to consider the workplace environment, location and hardware such as telephone, computer and desk. A low-cost alternative is to hire a virtual office assistant. This form of service is often provided by a self-employed person.
A virtual assistant can deal with administrative duties such as answering telephone calls, screening and forwarding and booking appointments. Virtual office staff work remotely, ensuring that the business does not have to directly incur the overhead costs of an office worker. A self-employed contractor is responsible for their own tax returns; another cost savings for businesses.
Surviving a recession relies on a business strategy that carefully balances cost-cutting with maintaining a quality service. The use of answering services can be a significant contributor in achieving both objectives.