Why SMEs need to treat call handling as an essential component of the marketing mix

Phone calls can often make or break a business's reputation among its clients: so how can you make sure you get them right?

Phone calls can often make or break a business’s reputation among its clients: so how can you make sure you get them right?

How consumers view the capability and professionalism of a business, regardless of its size, can now be disproportionately damaged by unsatisfactory customer service calls, argues David Joseph, board executive at professional telephone answering service alldayPA.

In the past, it has predominantly been large businesses who would more readily invest in telephony services – but new research suggests SMEs now need to be prepared to follow suit. This is a direct result of an increase in the number of consumers expecting more from professionals at the other end of the phone.

Our latest research shows that over 71% of consumers admit that they would consider a company to be ‘poorly run and managed’ as a result of unsatisfactory phone calls.

Simply relying on automated menus and voicemails no longer satisfies consumers’ expectations. The same amount of respondents consider hearing ‘a human voice and not a voicemail or automated menu’ when they reach out to a business to be important.

And since the findings further suggest that consumers are most likely to pick up the phone when they are unhappy and need help, having a professional who is capable of handling difficult conversations in an efficient, effective manner is even more imperative, as this suggests the majority of callers are likely to be incensed and require urgent attention.

>See also: Harnessing the power of images to market your brand

Effective call handling not only helps avoid reputational damage, but the research shows that it can go as far as to have a positive impact on consumers’ overall opinions of businesses. The majority (70%) of consumers are ready to assume that a company’s staff are “capable and know how to do their jobs” when a call has been properly dealt with.

The admin associated with managing a daily influx of calls often results in key members of staff being tied down, so outsourcing call answering or hiring capable professionals to answer your calls allows for these individuals to be freed up for higher value roles.

An experienced PA can confidently manage calls at peak times, logging and diverting those of high importance, fielding nuisance calls or even providing support when overflow support is needed during a crisis or when phone lines are engaged.

What’s more, consumers are increasingly demanding immediate assistance and solutions to their problems beyond the hours of 9 to 5 [see graph]. So professional call handling services can be a great support for meeting consumers’ demands outside of business hours.

In addition to this primary level of support, a further benefit of having a good telephone answering service is its ability to capture data effectively. A good PA will take more than just contact information, and possesses the skills to take down key information about customers’ requests and make informed decisions based on the call as to which calls need to be diverted as a priority. For example, call handling services answering on behalf of a clinical negligence firm will capture all the basic details required to assess the validity of the caller’s claim, so that the decision to or not to process the claim can be taken on the basis of the call, resulting in less work for the wider team. They will also divert urgent calls so that they can be escalated.

External call answering services can be easily established on behalf of businesses. Good quality services will allow companies to provide specifics to be included in bespoke call answering scripts, to ensure they are answered efficiently and in keeping with the company’s house style. Specific details about the business – including information they require from callers in order to handle certain types of calls, details of regular customers or key clients and processes for handling cold calls – will also be recorded.

Once this research has been conducted and the script is in place, businesses simply divert their number when they require the services – such as once the working day is over, when people are on holiday, or during busy periods when they require overflow support, to allow the PAs to take over. Phone messages can be sent by the PA to the relevant business contacts via email or SMS, and urgent calls can be diverted to a specified number to enable them to be handled effectively.

In 2015, we’re living in an age where consumer queries don’t sleep. Consumers’ expectations mean that businesses are open to being interrupted 24/7, and cherry-picking the calls that matter from those that don’t is becoming increasingly difficult.

Developments in technologies mean that businesses can expect to be contacted 24/7 – but as companies scrabble to meet this demand, quality and professionalism is being neglected – but it is more important than ever to ensure that SMEs can maintain the highest standards when it comes to call handling, to offer quality customer service.

Further reading on marketing: The reasons and approach behind a business rebrand


David Joseph is a board executive at professional call answering service alldayPA, which has also recently launched alldayPA Legal a specific service for legal businesses.


Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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