So many businesses are focussing on online communications at the moment. Smartphones and tabs, and even the internet on your TV have made accessing the web very easy wherever you are. Mobile data charges have never been cheaper, so more and more people are happy to use leisure and entertainment services online and on the go. Social media in particular are often the first port of call when getting online.
If your business has been spending the last couple of years tapping into these new areas of communication, you know how hard it is to be heard above the noise of your competitors. Enticing your customers to subscribe or like or accept your feeds requires a lot of imagination. There needs to be incentives, and often it is essential to tie in several services together at once. For example, you may be supplying viral videos on YouTube to entertain your customers, but asking them to link to it through your FaceBook business page.
The trouble is, with all this focus on providing a voice for your business online, how much monitoring are you doing for the real voices in your company? Customer service centers have started to shrink rapidly. Many businesses that sell exclusively online are not even bothering to have them. While this is a great way for your business to save money, it fails to provide that extra point of contact that the vast majority of customers still want.
Too much of our online activity falls into the ‘teaser’ category. We want to pique the interest of potential and existing customers, but then we often fail to provide the depth of information and service contact a customer needs. Customers want to know more details about products than we can write about on a single page. They may have specific questions we may not even think of ourselves. Or it may be they want instant answers, and you haven’t provided a live online chat service.
Having a telephone-based customer service team is still essential. It probably always will be. Customers like a real person to talk to when they need answers quickly. If the internet has given us anything at all, it is the power of instant access. We don’t have to wait until 9am on a weekday and drive three miles to the library to find information anymore. Google can point us in the direction of a website that is available now, whatever time of day it is. And we don’t need to leave our homes at all.
Your customer service team needs to do that too, but real people in the real world can only work so many hours whereas a website is online 24 hours a day. The solution? Hire a telephone answering service. Your customer will be greeted by a real person and given as many answers as you have supplied the team with. They can take messages, or relay your call to another team. You can use a third-party service provider to manage as much as you need them to, for as long as you require.
It may be that your own team are on leave, or you are having technical issues. A good outsourced telephone answering service can take care of your customers long term or short term, or on an ad hoc basis. You could use a third party company to handle calls to your management team. There are many reasons why you may not have a receptionist or PA around. A good telephone answering service provider will take calls and messages in a highly professional manner. Sometimes it is difficult to find your own highly trained staff, particularly if you are based away from the larger cities. You may not want the staffing costs at the moment. Paying taxes, pensions and other benefits can be very costly. You can avoid these expenses by outsourcing.
Operating online may be your area of expertise. That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert at customer facing roles. There is a dynamic shift toward all business being conducted online. Customers are generally accepting that the internet is the place to shop for all the products and services you may ever need. But there are certainly times when a real person makes a difference to you converting that enquiry into a sale.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to find a way to manage any customer concerns or complaints. Customers young and old need to know their complaint has been acknowledged and dealt with. How many times have you wondered if anybody will actually do anything about that email you sent? As a culture, we are starting to give up trying to communicate with companies we feel let down by. Many online retailers fail to supply a phone number to call anyway. But there is a danger to your business if you operate like that. A customer who is disgruntled will go somewhere else. Without repeat business, you cannot survive indefinitely.
Every business owner knows it is much harder to find new customers than to upsell, cross-sell or resell to an existing one. If that customer cannot reach you to resolve a problem, they will not come back. Having a phone number on your website homepage, and a real person to answer the call may be all it takes to ensure that customer feels looked after and valued. Your customers provide your salary and your company profits, so make each one count.
If you are considering using a telephone answering service, you may want to run some figures before you agree on the contract. Think about the value of each customer, and how many conversions you get on your website. Now think about the conversions you could get through telephone sales. Your contract with an outsourced provider will detail the costs for these services. Some will charge a fee for sales, or you may have a day rate to cover general scripted enquiry responses. Whatever you use a third party provider for, visit their call center so you can get a good idea of what they do, and how they will handle your customers.