Too Busy to Answer Your Business Calls? Then Let Virtual Receptionists Handle It

Business

  • Author Samir Sampat
  • Published January 23, 2021
  • Word count 1,958

“Hello? (Hello? Hello? Hello?) Is there anybody in there?”

Roger Waters sang these memorable lyrics that have since been quoted by millions of fans. However, if your leads start quoting these lyrics back to you directly when calling into your business you should be worried. Very worried.

It seems obvious that businesses should be answering the phone every time it rings but they are unable to for various reasons. This can be especially tricky because your next call can potentially mean the difference between hitting your revenue goals for the year or just coming short of it.

Small and medium-sized businesses have to manage this even more cautiously because, for many, they are usually operating with limited in-house staff, resources, and time. Each of these businesses have to navigate these various constraints delicately to find the right balance between new lead responsiveness and managing existing client projects.

Savvy business owners and operators will leverage industry research to align their internal best practices with those of the overall industry. By benchmarking your business responsiveness to that of your peers, you will be in a better position to scale your growth.

Let’s take a quick look at an industry that has significant business diversity: the legal industry. Clio, a Canadian-based legal tech company, publishes their annual report analyzing legal practice management trends to help lawyers and law firms better understand the market landscape.

In their 2019 report, Clio found troubling data about the legal industry’s almost unbelievably poor rate of responsiveness to new leads. Clio commissioned a third-party research firm to put itself in the position of a person seeking legal help and representation. The survey was conducted among 1,000 randomly selected U.S. law firms with practices focused on at least one of five specific issues:

Family (child custody);

Criminal (domestic abuse charge);

Bankruptcy (debt elimination);

Employment (racial discrimination); or

Business (incorporation).

The outreach to each firm was tailored to correspond with the type of law that firm practiced.

Firms chosen for the survey all had to have:

An active web presence (such as a live website, a social page with activity in the three months prior to the study, or an active directory page);

A publicly available email and phone number; and Information available that indicated they handle legal issues related to the ones in the survey.

Now for the surprising findings: 60 percent of law firms did not respond to the emails at all and 27 percent of firms did not answer or return phone calls. Ironically, this data conflicted with Clio’s other commissioned surveys in which it found that 89 percent of legal professionals said that they respond to phone and email inquiries within 24 hours. But the proof is in the pudding, and the “secret shopper” calls don’t lie.

Every time one of these law firms did not immediately respond to phone calls and e-mails marked a missed opportunity to capture leads. They might as well have set up a voicemail message that said, “We don’t pick up our calls, so even though we’d love your business, you might as well call our competitor, ABC Law Firm, down the street.” (If you want our read on the data, check out our infographic on the 2019 Clio report on the Smith.ai blog.)

Now, this challenge of responding to leads in a timely fashion is not exclusive to the legal industry. When businesses fail to consistently capture leads, they will struggle with predicting lead quality. This struggle impacts a business’ ability to generate revenue and sustainable, predictable growth.

Fortunately, there are affordable resources like outsourced call answering services that businesses can use to ensure that they are consistently capturing and converting leads.

Let’s discuss further how small and medium-sized businesses can benefit from using an outsourced virtual receptionist service to be more responsive to leads and accelerate their growth.

How to Work with Your Virtual Receptionist Service

  1. Start with Using Virtual Receptionists as Backup Support

Your business may work well with you handling most of your calls. However, a lead who gets your voicemail instead of a live response may feel disappointed or even unwanted. If they’re an existing client, they'll potentially wait for a return call, despite the bad experience, but if the caller is a new lead, they're not waiting around — they're already calling other businesses. Most times, the first business to answer the phone will win the business and research supports this theory.

Data from HubSpot's consumer research report paints a grim picture for businesses who are not responding quickly enough to their new leads and existing clients.

Their research found:

82% of consumers expect an immediate response to sales inquiry.

82% of consumers expect to be responded to immediately and 90% of consumers expect it on a support request.

80% of consumers say they've stopped doing business with a company because of a poor experience.

If your business is not quite comfortable with using virtual receptionists to answer all of your calls, at least let them prevent callers from getting your voicemail during business hours. The service can be configured so that your virtual receptionists only answer your phone after two rings (two rings is standard practice). This way, you can answer if you're available, but if you're busy, in transit, or away from your desk, your caller speaks to friendly, professional live receptionists instead of leaving a voicemail. Virtual receptionists can also provide support for your business by answering calls after business hours, nights, weekends, and yes, even while you’re on vacation. This enables your business to always be available to your leads with 24/7 coverage.

Smart business owners know this is the sort of simple, small change to a process that can lead to an increase in business and in turn, revenue.

  1. Share Your Business FAQs

More often than not, callers will get in touch with your business simply because they want immediate answers to frequently asked questions, especially during COVID-19. Businesses may already have these questions answered on their website or social media, but not everyone will take the time to research the information themselves, which may result in a phone call. Spare yourself the unwelcomed distractions and let your virtual receptionist service answer these FAQs on your behalf. Simply share a series of questions and answers to guide receptionists for these inbound inquiries and they will be able to provide these responses quickly to callers looking for basic information. This helps small businesses preserve precious time to let them focus on current projects for clients.

Businesses can even provide a list of questions for receptionists to ask interested leads to evaluate if they're a potential client, so that person who called just for a bit of information has the potential to convert into a new client! If the lead qualifies based on your requirements, virtual receptionists will conduct new client intake capturing lead information with seamless integration into your CRM and schedule the call or meeting using your preferred calendar integration software. All that's left for you to do is monitor your calendar and convert that lead!

  1. Provide Access to Your Calendar

One of the biggest advantages small and medium-sized businesses find in using a virtual receptionist service is the precious time that they can gain back from fielding calls that could potentially drag out and disrupt productive workflows. While some conversations are completed relatively quickly, you’ll often have to schedule availability for a call or an in-person meeting to either secure an arrangement with a new client or further discuss an ongoing project.

By giving virtual receptionists access to your scheduling system through integrations, they can book appointments on your behalf while helping you better manage your schedule. You do not want to risk losing momentum and getting interrupted by answering the call yourself. Virtual receptionists will gather all the necessary details from the lead and schedule appointments following your provided directions. Receptionists can also pre-qualify leads live during calls based on your series of qualifying questions.

Once the meeting is secured and finalized, businesses will be able to view it on their calendar and in the summary notes provided by virtual receptionists after every call, which you’ll receive immediately via email and SMS.

Don't have a calendaring program yet for your business? No sweat! Calendly is great because it’s free, it's incredibly easy to use, and it works in collaboration with Google, Outlook, iCalendar, and Office365 so you will never miss a sales meeting with qualified leads.

  1. Virtual Receptionists Integrate with Your CRM & Intake Forms

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software makes it incredibly easy to manage contacts, accounts, business deals, vendors, and any additional information that helps your business operate.

Virtual receptionist services can integrate with many popular CRMs, including Capsule CRM, Clio, and Salesforce, to name just a few. By connecting any of these applications to your virtual receptionist service, businesses are able to forward lead information directly into these systems, including name, contact information, call summaries and notes. This helps businesses increase productivity by enabling them to not have to double report captured lead information.

Often, CRMs offer the ability to create forms, which can be embedded on your site or shared with leads and clients directly through a link. If your business has a new client intake form already developed, you can share it with virtual receptionists to complete live when they are on the call with a potential new client. That way, you have all of their basic information captured ahead of your first meeting so you can jump right in and focus on converting the pre-qualified lead.

  1. Auto-forward your emails

Do you have a web form on your website where people can easily request your services or more information about your business? Virtual receptionist services can use these forms to provide a few different services for businesses when these completed "contact us" forms are forwarded.

Follow-up with a call-back: When a lead asks a question via your form, your outsourced virtual receptionists will call them on your behalf and answer based on the FAQ provided.

Receive service requests: Sometimes, certain businesses utilize these forms as a first line for managing client problems or service requests. If your business is using a ticketing system to handle service and support requests, virtual receptionists can create tickets on behalf of your customers, and they'll appear in the queue for your support staff and technicians to complete.

Monetize "bad leads" with referrals: If you’re a small business, your company likely has trusted partners you work with, passing back and forth potential clients when needs better align with their services or yours. Often a “finder’s fee” is given when that referred individual becomes a paying client. If your virtual receptionist service calls back a new lead who completed your web form, and determine, based on your pre-qualification criteria, that they're not a fit for your business (perhaps they need a criminal lawyer and you practice family law), receptionists can use your referral list to get them in touch with a business that can help them, effectively monetizing even your "bad leads."

It is important for businesses of all sizes to promptly respond to all leads and clients. Especially for small and medium-sized businesses operating with smaller margins of error and where every call can be potential revenue. However, these businesses can’t always accommodate dedicated in-house receptionists. Maybe it’s a matter of budget, or bandwidth, or both. So they must consider affordable alternatives to continue accelerating their growth.

Hiring the right outsourced virtual receptionist service to provide 24/7 answering is the simplest and practically guaranteed silver bullet that they need to stop missing calls and start capturing all of the business available to them, if they. would. just. respond. It really is that easy.

https://smith.ai/features/24-7-answering-service

https://smith.ai/features/lead-screening-intake-service

Samir Sampat is a Marketing and Events Associate with Smith.ai. Smith.ai’s 24/7 virtual receptionists and live chat agents capture and convert leads by phone, website chat, texts, and Facebook. You can follow Smith.ai on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Youtube.

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