Phone Numbers and Virtual Phone Services for Small Businesses

Phone Numbers and Virtual Phone Services for Small Businesses

We can help with Phone Numbers and Virtual Phone Services for Small Businesses here at Bigfoot.Marketing.

Poor Phone Answering Habits Make You Lose Money

What is Phone Etiquette?

Etiquette is defined as "the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group."

At Bigfoot.Marketing, we work with lots of small businesses and many that are start-ups.  We are always working with some new businesses here.

If you are serious about business, in most cases you will either need to be answering your phone or having someone answer it for you.  Or, you may choose to hire a service and outsource your phone answering services.

Your Business Phone Priorities

You will be spending money and time trying to get your phone to ring.  If you don't have your phone policies created and your phone number properly setup to follow those policies, you are going to miss some opportunities for new business.

As a fledgling new business, you may opt to use your existing mobile number.  As your business grows, you should be growing in your lead management program, which includes how your phone is answered routinely as a part of following up on leads for new business as well as taking good care of your current clients.

Priority 1: Make sure your phone number works.

This may sound silly to list, but if you were to ask me if I have ever worked with clients that had published business phone numbers and were even actively marketing their businesses with those published (and not working) numbers, sadly, the answer is "YES."

I have used many phone numbers for my varying business ventures and brands and I have been HORRIFIED more than once myself to discover that I've had a number published that was no longer working.  Someone found an old web page that had a number that I had used in the past via a search engine query and it didn't work.

So, the more numbers you use, the more likely you are to have this problem.

Regardless, start by calling your own number using a different phone or have someone else call the number as a favor and make sure it works.

Priority 2: Answer your Phone Professionally

If using Your Personal Phone for Business

If you are using your personal phone for business, I strongly suggest that you do one of the following:

  1. Answer using your business name
  2. Get a unique number with a call announcement (details about this phone service follow in Priority 4 below)

Your friends and family will recognize your voice and they will usually be aware of your business enterprise.  If they are not, they will be when you answer your phone in the name of your business!

Write a Phone Answering Script

Take a few moments to whip out a script that you can follow until it becomes a habit.  This is especially important if your business enterprise is brand new.

Something like: "Thank for calling BUSINESS NAME, this is MY NAME.  How may I help you?"

Priority 3: Setup your voicemail to reflect your business.

Once you know the phone number that you intend to use for your business is working, be sure to properly setup your voice mail.

Record a Personal Greeting

If you leave the generic greeting, it will be a computer generated voice telling callers that number --- --- ---- is not available and then "leave a message after the tone."

MOST PEOPLE will simply hang up and NOT leave a message.  Is that what you want?

They will be afraid they have reached the wrong number.  Most often, they won't call again.  Some may double-check your phone number and call again and then discover that your business means so little to you that you have not even taken the time to record a personal greeting.

If using Your Personal Phone for Business

If you are using your personal phone for business, record your personal greeting telling callers something like this: "Thank you for calling BUSINESS NAME and MY NAME.  Please leave a brief message and include your phone number and I will call you back as soon as I can, usually within 24 hours."

Priority 4: Get a Dedicated Business Phone Number

Option 1: You can get a dedicated VIRTUAL business phone number and POINT it to your existing personal number.  Service providers will typically have an option that will alert you that your business phone number is being called when you answer the call.

This alert is AUDIBLE, so when you answer your phone, you know what business the phone call is intended for.  This is called a "call alert", "number ID" or a "call announcement".

For example, you get a number to use for your business and POINT it (or set the ring-to number) to be your mobile phone.  When the call comes in, you hear your selected greeting first, announcing the call is for your business.  This way, you can use your existing phone and number to answer your business calls professionally.

When someone calls your personal number, you do not hear this recording or announcement, so you can simply answer "hello" or "this is NAME" as you ordinarily would answer any of your personal phone calls.

We are now using a sophisticated phone system for the corporation, but I have used another provider (and still do) for Bigfoot.Marketing and other brands that are independent of the corporation.

You may use the link below to get a toll free number for your business (as low as $2/mo) or local numbers (as low as $5/mo).

Option 2: Hire a company (call services provider) to professionally answer your phone for you.  Services can range from simple answering services to full customer sales and support.  Bigfoot.Marketing can provide complete phone answering services for you.

We can answer your phone in your name, have the calls recorded, answer your client's questions, schedule your appointments, provide webmaster support, chat support and more.

Option 3: Get a physical phone number / line for your business.  This is only being done by larger companies that typically have several on-site employees answering the phone.

We Can Setup For You

We will do a complete, custom setup for you for $100.  Get in touch.

TEN PHONE ETIQUETTE RULES

RULE #1: Answer your phone using the name of your business and then identify yourself by name.

Like this, for example: "Good morning, this is Doug with Bigfoot.Marketing.  How may I help you?"

Be sure to clearly communicate that your company (Brand) and your personal name.  You don't want them to hang up because they think they must have mis-dialed.

RULE #2: Answer your phone as quickly as possible.

If you are able, answer the call on the first ring!  The person that is calling is either an existing customer, a prospect, ... or a junk call.

If it is a junk call, tell them "no thanks" and if you can BLOCK the number.

If it is a customer, then remember that everything is marketing!  Providing GREAT customer service for your existing clients is MARKETING!  Give them OVER THE TOP service and they just might refer others to you!

If it is a prospect, be sure and LISTEN to them and make notes of their concerns and expectations.  (Here at Bigfoot.Marketing), we have our own digital call log.

We make a note of all calls.  The note automatically gets a time and date stamp and we've got a drop-down list to note the purpose of the call as well as type a few notes about the content of the call.

If we need to call them back, we've got a calendar function in the same console so we can schedule it.

The likelihood of you being able to get more business rises EXPONENTIALLY when you talk to someone on the phone!


RULE #3: Avoid using your speakerphone. This may influence a tendency to appear to be shouting at them.

I have a bad habit here that I confess to.  I am in my sixties as I write this article, and I can remember the first "speaker phones" that were sitting in the center of the conference table BEFORE THE INTERNET EXISTED!

These devices were a great concept with poor performance.

You practically had to "YELL" at them or the parties on the other end would say, "I'm sorry, I cannot heaer you."

So, I developed a habit of talking way too loudly when using my speaker phone.

I have operated from a home office (in addition to public offices) from the very beginning of my business enterprises.

My wife would sometimes hear me speaking to clients or prospects on my speaker phone and would ask me "Why are you shouting at them?"

Speaker Phones are Now GREATLY improved.

But I could NOT break this terrible habit.  I NEVER answer the phone using my speaker phone anymore.  I may move to it AFTER in the process of the call.  I often need to get my hands free to use while I am talking.

I will ALWAYS tell them, I'd like to use my speaker phone now, Is it OK for me to put you on speaker?  They practically always say yes.

Immediately upon making the transition to speaker phone, I ask them, can you hear me clearly now?  They will answer YES and then I'll tell them about my bad habit of speaking too loudly while using the speaker phone and apologize up front if it starts to sound to them like I am shouting ...

Maybe someday I will overcome this ...

RULE #4: Speak with a smile on your face, it will come out in your voice.

I think I was at a manager's meeting when I was working for a large company in Seattle when this was explained to me for the first time.

I believe this to be true, but I am NOT a habitual "smiler", so I am admitting that I am NOT the best at this, but I am trying to improve!

RULE #5: Speak purposefully and clearly.

I'm not saying that we need to speak slowly, but that we must speak deliberately.  If you have a tendency to talk to fast, then you will need to slow down.

I was born and reared in Texas, so by nature I am a "slow talker" anyway.

This can also have a bearing on not being so easy to understand, but I have not lived in Texas now since the mid 1980s, so much of that charming Texas drawl has been moderately subdued.

I do try to make it a point to myself to clearly enunciate my words.  

RULE #6: LISTEN carefully and be prepared to jot down a few notes.

I ALWAYS have a notepad on my desk by my phone, so I am ALWAYS READY to take notes.  I will jot down their name, phone number, reason they called and etc.

LISTEN and ask questions.

Repeat what they have said, by restating a bit to make sure that you fully understand what they want and what their concerns are.

RULE #7: Try to AVOID putting them on hold.

Putting people on hold can easily be perceived as a put off and will likely make people feel put out!  How a person FEELS will impact how they FEEL about you and can cause you to LOSE opportunities.

If you really have some crisis that presents itself, I think it is better to ask if you may call them later.  Offer to call them back when it is convenient for THEM.

If you really need to place them on hold, ask them for permission to do so FIRST and tell them how long they will be on hold.

RULE #8: If you need to transfer their call, or put them on hold, request their permission FIRST.

I've got a TEAM working with me and each team member has unique roles and responsibilities  connected to those roles.

I may not answer the phone myself, but for this particular business, I ALWAYS try to since my clients for this company work directly with me.

In some cases, another team member should be working with this person.  If that is the case, I get their permission FIRST before I transfer them.

RULE #9: Honesty is the ONLY policy. Don't make guesses!

Learn how to answer "I DON'T KNOW."  No one knows everything.  BS stinks.  If you don't know, say so!  Make a note and try to get an answer for them or TRANSFER them to someone that can answer their questions.

Most often, they will respect you for this.

RULE #10: Check voicemails daily and respond to them.

We have communication priorities for the operations of my businesses, and they are:

  1. Phone
  2. Text
  3. Email

I added TEXT and then struck it out on purpose.  I have chosen to NOT do business via TEXT messages.  It is simply too difficult for my businesses.

I am now using (and have been for years) a VOIP phone service.  It has some great advantages and features that you cannot get from a convention phone system.

HOWEVER, I also REFUSED to use it when it was first introduced (albeit, we tried it) because of the priorities that it demanded.  It gave priority to INTERNET bandwidth by default (which could not be changed) and thereby put voice in subjected position.

The result was CRAPPY phone service, which I could not away with, so I cancelled the service (which was MUCH cheaper) and went back to spending a few hundred dollars each money like I had been doing.

WHY?  Because of my business priorities.  Talking clearly to people on the phone was more important to me than internet traffic.

Keep in mind that ALL of my businesses relied HEAVILY on the internet, but it was my decision that one form of communication MUST remain the top priority - phone.

Now, this problem has been solved and we use VOIP phones without issue.  I'm not sure why, but I expect the huge leaps in bandwith simply made the conflict between voice and data go away.

DAILY BUSINESS TASKS

This is what I (we) do:

  1. Check voicemail first thing in the morning.
  2. Make call backs right away.
  3. Check emails.  (This is usually via one of our "ticket systems")
  4. Reply to emails and/or tickets.
  5. If a call comes in while performing the above, ANSWER IT!
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