Business owners, we need to talk. And so do potential clients. They are trying to reach you because they have a problem, and you may be able to provide them with a solution.
So today we are going to discuss why answering your phone every time it rings is one of the simplest and most effective ways to increase your business revenue.
What’s the Point of Digital Marketing?
Let’s start with the basics: what does digital marketing aim to do? As digital marketers, one of our main goals is to increase qualified traffic to our clients websites.
We accomplish this goal using a variety of tactics, including search engine optimization (SEO), paid media (such as ad placement in search results), and conversion rate optimization.
Visitors Don’t Really Matter - But Conversions Do
Increasing traffic to your site can be valuable by helping build brand awareness.
But the real value lies in getting those visitors to convert - to move from the “I’m just researching” phase to the “I’m interested in learning more about what you can offer” phase.
Once visitors cross that conversion threshold, the onus is now on your business - usually your sales team - to respond and nurture those prospects until they become customers.
Why Many People Still Prefer Phone Calls
When a prospect is ready to speak to a representative from your company, there are myriad channels they can choose from: online forms, chatbots, chat with live representatives, email, apps, and social media. And then there’s the trusty old phone.
As old-school as phone calls may seem, they remain one of your greatest opportunities to leave a lasting first impression on potential customers.
There are many reasons why prospects may opt to pick up the phone rather than email you or submit a form online. Let’s look at why that is.
Some things just don’t translate well to text.
Humans are remarkably adept at interpreting emotion based on phrasing, volume, and tone. You can often even tell when someone is smiling based on the way their voice sounds.
A phone call also allows you to dispense with some of the formality that often accompanies written communication. This gives you a chance to convey warmth and understanding, engage in small talk, and even inject some humor (when appropriate).
First Impressions and Relationship Building
Let’s say someone is researching accounting firms to conduct a financial audit for their small business.
So they search for “accountants near me” and, thanks to local SEO efforts, your Google My Business profile appears at the top of the search results with a button that allows that person to call you straight from search.
When your reputation doesn’t precede you, it is especially important to put your best foot forward to build a relationship with that prospect immediately. This first call to you will be their first impression.
Written communication tends to strip much of the human element out of communication, so it’s harder to build that kind of a bond with potential clients so quickly.
As we mentioned above, phone calls give communication a more personal touch - and that human element can help build a relationship much more quickly than via email or web form submissions.
Make that first impression a positive one. Pick up the phone when they call.
Some potential customers have an issue they need to resolve immediately. For instance, maybe their network has been breached by a hacker and they are seeking a cybersecurity firm to handle the incident response. So they call you.
But you don’t answer, because your receptionist was out to lunch without someone to back them up. Or maybe you don’t have the budget for a receptionist, so answering duties are shared by anyone who is available to take the call - and nobody was.
This is an urgent, time-sensitive issue they need to address right now, so they’ll simply go back to the search results page and try one of the next results on the list.
Though computers and electronic communication are now ubiquitous, it hasn’t always been that way. And those who weren’t born into an era of bajillion-core processors and wireless everything are less likely to default to electronic channels when contacting you.
Even tech-savvy prospects may prefer to just pick up the phone to get their point across quickly. No matter how quickly a person can type, it’s usually easier to just talk through something over the phone.
Answering the Phone Helps You Retain Existing Customers, Too
It’s not just potential customers that could be on the other end of the line. In fact, you usually won’t know who is calling or what they need.
For most of the reasons mentioned above (and more), it’s also crucial that one of your representatives is available to speak with an existing client.
It Costs More to Bring On a New Customer Than to Keep Your Existing Ones
You may have heard this before...and it’s true. The general rule is that it costs about 5 times as much to gain a new customer than to keep one you already have. Nurturing leads, selling them on your product or service, and building trust and goodwill all require time and money.
Being responsive to the needs of your existing customers when they arise is one of the best ways to keep them around. It’s a matter of maintaining a strong relationship.
In more competitive industries, your willingness to provide outstanding customer service and personalized care may be one of the few distinguishing factors between you and your closest competitors.
So How Can You Make Sure You’re Answering Every Phone Call?
No matter your industry - whether it’s legal services, retail, or selling food-grade inkjet printers - you should make it a priority to answer every incoming call.
What are your options, though? Here are some choices to consider.
Hire a Receptionist
If you have many calls coming through, a tried-and-true approach is to hire a dedicated receptionist to field and direct calls.
Receptionists often operate in a cross-functional capacity between sales, customer service, and administrative assistance. Many receptionists also function as a de facto intake department.
If it’s a potential new client calling, the receptionist can take that person’s information and enter them into your company’s CRM platform. And they can help leave a lasting first impression.
The primary downside to bringing on a receptionist is the cost. Not only do you have to account for another salary on the payroll, but you have to consider the costs of benefits like healthcare and PTO.
Set Up a Rotating Phone Schedule
If your call volume is low enough, though, you may not need to hire a receptionist. You can leverage your existing employees to share phone duties.
This typically just means dividing your business’s operating hours up into chunks and assigning a designated employee the responsibility of making sure they are available to answer the phone whenever it rings.
The drawback of this approach is obvious: everyone’s busy with their regularly assigned duties. Answering the phone and addressing the caller’s concerns means less time for them to complete their other work.
Another popular option is to outsource phone answering duties to a company that specializes in taking calls on behalf of your firm.
Pricing models vary depending on the service. Some companies charge a monthly fee while others charge on a per-minute basis.
Answering services are often a nice middle-ground for companies who can’t afford to pay a full-time receptionist and can’t spare the bandwidth to share answering duties among existing employees. Most callers won’t know they’re speaking to an outsourced service.
Key features to look for in an answering service are the ability to email you message summaries and forward certain types of calls that are identified as being especially high-priority.
The main disadvantage to choosing an answering service over one of the other options mentioned above is a lack of institutional knowledge. Those who aren’t ingrained in the day-to-day operations of your business don’t have the ability to learn its intricacies, so they’ll be unable to directly address many questions that callers may have.
The Wrong Way to Handle Phone Calls
So far, we’ve discussed some best practices for answering calls from new and existing clients. But what about worst practices? Let’s talk briefly about what not to do.
Let It Go to Voicemail
As a general rule, people hate leaving a voicemail, and this is especially true if a large section of your target demographic includes millennials.
Voicemail was cool when it was popularized in the 1980s...but that was before the advent of widespread, high-speed Internet service, which brought with it a multitude of ways to get in touch with someone.
When someone calls your office, they want to speak to a human being - not a voice recording. Leaving a voicemail can feel like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it out into the ocean: you not only hope that someone will hear it, but that they’ll actually return your call in a timely manner.
Letting people go to voicemail can leave the impression that you have more important things to worry about than answering their calls. If it’s a prospect on the other end of the line, that could leave a very bad first impression.
Cut out the uncertainty for your current and potential clients by making sure they speak to a human - not a machine.
Use an Automated Phone Tree
And while we’re on the topic of talking to machines, don’t use phone automated phone systems unless it’s practically impossible not to.
It usually takes several minutes to listen through the prerecorded system menus to figure out which sequence of numbers you need to press on your phone keypad to speak to a live representative.
Or worse; the caller has to respond verbally and hopes that the voice recognition system is robust enough to understand their voice - with its unique timbre and accent - as well as the intent behind their request.
If you absolutely must use a phone menu, check out MightyCall’s tips for making the experience as pleasant as possible - for example, use caller ID functionality to send existing customers to a menu that is tailored to their specific needs.
Forthea Can Help You Grow Your Business
We focus primarily on digital marketing channels, but our overarching mission is to experience the joy of helping others succeed.
This is true whether we’re helping you create or optimize content for your website or helping you develop your business via non-digital channels (like phone calls).
Contact us today to see how we can help you succeed and grow your business. Still need convincing? Check out some of our case studies to learn how we’ve driven results for businesses like yours.