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Myths About Answering Services and The Truth Behind Them
Answering services and call centers get a bad rap from stereotypes that have existed for years. Many business owners who consider hiring an answering service write them off as a waste of money and time and a potential deterrent for customers.
However, in reality, most of these stereotypes don’t hold up under scrutiny. Perhaps the myths were once true, but many answering services have altered their practices to avoid previous mistakes. These changes have resulted in professional services that are easier to use.
Below, we will discuss six of common answering service myths and the truth that debunks them.
- Answering Services Are Expensive
The argument that answering services cost a lot of money is simply not true. Compare the real cost of having after hours calls go to voicemail and possibly losing a customer to having a 24/7 answering service that answers every call that comes your way.
The majority of answering services charge on a by call or by minute basis as well, which makes the service significantly cheaper than paying a salary or hourly wage for an after-hours receptionist.
- Answering Services Are Only for Healthcare Providers
While doctors’ offices often find answering services a good investment, any business from real estate to sales can benefit from this kind of assistance. Especially with the state of the current economy, many companies find themselves looking for cost-effective communication options. A live answering service create a professional, attentive atmosphere for your customers without the high cost.
- My Answering Machine Does the Job
Think about when you, as a customer, call a company. When you get their voicemail, do you wait and leave a message, or do you hang up and call someone else?
When you contract an answering service, a representative discusses the script you want used for each type of call you received. With this script, the service’s employees get the job done right without having to forward calls to your personal phone. And you won’t lose customers because of voicemail.
- Answering Services All Outsource
Some answering services do outsource internationally, which may create a language barrier. But if you feel concerned about out-of-country call centers handling your business, choose a company that doesn’t outsource.
Plenty of live answering services don’t. You will find many answering companies based in English-speaking countries who hire employees qualified to take calls in English.
- Answering Services All Offer the Same Thing
The argument that answering services only provide generic customer care couldn’t be farther from the truth. Your third-party answering company will discuss how you want to handle every call. You then work with a representative to devise a call script. With the script, each employee in the center has training on how to answer, respond, and handle every possible customer question.
- Answering Services Just Put the Customer on Hold
While outlying situations do exist, professional answering services have a high number of employees working at all times to decrease the chance of customers being put on hold. Typically, the only time a customer will be put on hold is if the call center representative transfers him or her to someone within your company. This hold only occurs if specified in your instructions to the answering service.
Now that we’ve addressed some of your fears and concerns, feel confident doing more research into answering services. See if a live answering contract represents a promising option for your company. Then discuss any specifics unique to your business model with your chosen service provider.
For more information about how an answering service could benefit you and your company, read our other blog posts.
Tools Your Business Needs in International Markets
Recently, your small business has seen some big successes, and you’ve considered using those successes to expand into an international market. The prospect seems both intimidating and exciting. After all, even if you’ve been to that foreign country before, you probably don’t understand its advertising regulations. You might not speak the language fluently either.
Before you finalize your plans to expand internationally, you need a few tools to ensure you don’t waste your efforts. These tools will help you have a better reception with foreign citizens. They’ll also help you avoid drowning in the extra set of laws, product orders, and angry phone calls that will come from your new market.
1. A 24-Hour Live Answering Service
Even if you only expand into Canada or Mexico, you’ll still have customers who live in a different time zone than you. These customers may need your assistance outside normal business hours, and they often can’t afford to leave a message and wait until your company opens. This situation becomes especially the case if you expand into European or Asian markets, where business hours do not overlap at all.
Additionally, because these people often feel frustrated when they call, they don’t want to have a robot answer them. You need a live person to answer phone calls 24 hours per day, seven days per week, even on holidays. Other countries do not celebrate the same holidays as the United States does, and they do not treat weekends the same way Americans do, so you must adapt to meet their needs.
A third-party answering service gives you the perfect solution. You don’t have to hire more staff to stay in your office all night long. Instead, you can hand the responsibility to a professional receptionist who will help your international customers find closure with their problems. These third-party professionals will then relay the information on to you so you know what concerns your new market has.
2. A Foreign Legal Expert
As mentioned above, even if you’ve visited the country before, you probably don’t understand everything about it. Sure, you recognize that the foreign government operates a little differently. But you may not know the complexities and nuances in the nation’s advertising laws. So, to avoid angering the government, hire a legal expert from that country, and have him or her advise your marketing team.
3. A Foreign Cultural Expert
You likely don’t know everything about your new market’s culture either, and a basic knowledge of the foreign country’s cuisine and museums won’t help you much in this situation. So, along with a legal expert, you must hire a cultural expert. Ideally, this person must come from the country you plan to expand into. However, if you know a cultural expert who is not a native, he or she can help you too.
4. A Separate Marketing Team for Your International Audience
Your marketing team already has enough to worry about with your domestic audience-especially if your small business serves customers in several states. Don’t overtax your team by assigning them to an international audience as well. They don’t have enough time to devote research and brainstorming to both.
Instead, hire a separate marketing team, even if you make it a small one. This team will work alongside your legal and cultural experts to ensure your company’s products or services get a good reception in foreign countries.
Additionally, if you plan to expand into multiple countries, have a separate team for each country. Every nation has its unique worldview, so what works for Canada might not work for Mexico and vice versa. These teams will need their own legal and cultural experts as well.
5. A Financier for Your International Expansion
When you first began your company, you likely took out a loan so you’d have enough startup capital to establish a market presence. You’ll have to do something similar with this expansion. You’ll have to register your company with the foreign country, and you’ll have to pay various taxes and fees that vary by nation as well.
So, if you don’t have enough capital to cover those expenses already, you’ll have to select a financier. Luckily, you have many financing options available, including organizations like The U.S. Export and Import Bank. Contact the bank to see what financing solutions they can give you.
6. An International Business Partnership
International partnerships give you a mentor that you can learn from during your expansion. That mentor can also vouch for you with the citizens and leaders in that country. Look for a company that already loves your brand and can benefit you or benefit from you in some way. You could act as a supplier for that organization, or it could supply you with materials.
In any case, make sure you choose a partner that gives you a good deal. Don’t give up too much autonomy just to expand into a new country.
The Why and How of Managing a Busy Business Schedule
You work hard to oversee your personal business or move up at your company. But the further you progress in your career, the more responsibilities you have and the more stressful your day becomes.
To-do items pile up quickly when you have the schedule of a busy owner, manager, or salesperson. Without some structure, your day might get away from you in an overwhelming mess.
If you see your productivity and efficiency slipping, learn the why and how of successful time management.
Why It Matters
Quality time management skills help increase your productivity and reduce activities that don’t move you or your business forward. Your increased productivity will help you enjoy your workday more as you accomplish a greater number of tasks. And when you eliminate the unnecessary and get through work faster, you have more moments for other important things. You can spend your extra time on things like family, community, and hobbies.
With all these benefits, you can see how a well-managed schedule benefits your busy life. But if you need a little help learning how to best accomplish this goal, continue reading for tips on managing a busy business schedule.
How You Can Do Improve Your Time Management
Assess Your Current Schedule
You can track improvement better when you have a clear starting point. For a week, document where all your time goes. Keep a thorough record so you can know how to best improve.
After your tracking week, critique your schedule. Evaluate your activities as honestly as you can. You might feel humbled to find some time-wasters, but this process will benefit you in the end. Keep an eye out for less productive meetings and conversations, unnecessary breaks, and distractions.
Plan Your Weeks and Days
You’ll feel prepared each day if you know what’s coming and how you want to handle it. Spend some time on the weekend sorting through upcoming tasks and events. Then, spend about 20 minutes each morning planning the specifics of your day. Or, do this the night before if you prefer.
As you plan out your day, divide tasks into different time blocks and stick to the schedule. Organize your day into times for meetings, trainings, appointments, and calls. Let your receptionist or appointment scheduling service know your time blocks so they can adhere to your plan.
Focus Your Tasks
It’s also important that you prioritize as you plan your schedule. Consider deadlines, and make room for the most-pressing items. As small things come up, let them fall to the side until you have more time for them.
Additionally, remember that you can’t do everything. Decide what you want to work into your schedule-and don’t be afraid to say no to things you don’t have the time or energy for.
Give Yourself a Break
If you work hard, you’ll need to find some time to play a bit. Many people work effectively in short sprints instead of long marathons. Put your head down, see how much work you can get through, and then follow it up with a quick breather.
This approach makes working in blocks especially effective. You can schedule out a couple of hours of hard work followed by a break that allows you to refresh and rejuvenate. And, if you make time for moments of repose, you’ll reduce stress and better manage the anxiety associated with busy work schedules.
Talk in Person
Emails or instant messaging services act as a handy resource when you have a quick question or need to start a conversation. But they can turn into powerful time-wasters.
When someone leaves a voicemail or wants an appointment, avoid brushing it off with an email. Instead of an all-day email exchange, take care of the problem with a quick call. Or, set up a few 20-minute meetings each day to handle larger issues. These conversations might also benefit from the unspoken communication expressed in body language and tone.
Allow Someone to Give You a Hand
When you work with people in high positions, you quickly see how large-scale success requires delegation. Seek out and hire talented people, and then let them do their jobs.
As you look over your schedule, consider how much work you could appropriately delegate. Look for meetings, appointments, and other tasks that another person can handle. Training someone else for the new responsibilities might take some time, but it will help in the long run. You can work with a receptionist, assistant, or appointment scheduling service as well. This assistance frees up time for you and your team to work on industry-specific tasks.
Additionally, turn to a support system like family and friends for help in your personal life. As more and more tasks add up at home and in the office, you’ll see how a helpful hand keeps you efficient and on task.
As you work to better manage your business schedule, make sure you utilize your staff the best way you can. Work with an appointment scheduling service or assistant and keep your team informed so you can all work toward an efficient and constructive workplace.
4 Reasons Why You Need an Answering Service for Your Business
As a business owner, you take great pride in satisfying your clients. You oversee each order. You take customer feedback seriously. And you offer frequent discounts to help buyers save money.
But when your customers call your office, do you answer the phone personally? If so, you may want to consider a call answering service instead.
Call answering services offer multiple benefits for a variety of industries, from small start-up companies to well-established conglomerates. Check out some of the benefits below to decide if an answering service is right for you.
1. Never Miss a Call
While you and your staff work hard to answer every call that comes your way, you can’t reasonably expect to stay in the office 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no vacation time. When your customers need you after hours, do their calls go straight to voice mail, or worse, to a competitor?
When you hire an answering service, you know that your clients will always have someone they can turn to in an emergency. Customers will feel valued and appreciated, and you won’t have to worry about missed revenue opportunities.
2. Handle Calls Efficiently
If you manage multiple departments, you likely know how frustrating most phone transfers are.
Imagine this scenario: a client has a question about one of your services. She speaks first to sales support, who then transfers her to IT, at which point she repeats her problem. The IT representative decides that the accounting team would better handle the issue, so IT transfers her once more-only to have a new employee drop her call.
By contrast, professional answering services know your business details up front. If a client has a question about hours, the answering staff can give a straightforward, simple answer. If a customer requires further specifics, the staff can redirect him or her to the right department the first time.
Additionally, call answering services often follow a script that you give them. This ensures your customers receive consistent responses to their questions, rather than missing the small-but-important details.
3. Enhance Your Credibility
If you recently started your business, you and your staff may struggle to create a unified, professional front.
Here’s another scenario: your new receptionist works well when visitors walk into the office, but he struggles to answer multiple simultaneous phone calls and still keep his cool. Or, he handles messages well, but doesn’t always remember to alert you about each appointment or interview recorded on your calendar.
Unfortunately, these lost messages and forgotten interviews may lead customers to believe that you don’t run your business professionally, and most customers won’t take you seriously because of their misperceptions.
A trained answering service operator, on the other hand, will establish your image and professionalism right from the start. He or she will know how to greet customers and handle multiple calls at the same time. Additionally, some services will also book your appointments for you, so vital tasks don’t fall through the cracks.
4. Focus More Time on What You Do Best
You need your business to run as smoothly as possible, and to do so, you need each member of your staff completely focused on his or her individual tasks and assignments.
If your human resources director spends too much time giving basic directions to your office, she can’t effectively train new employees. Or if your sales team leader has to answer calls about office hours, he spends less time finding new leads and bringing in new revenue.
When you have an answering service on hand, however, you free up time to focus on what you do best: your business.
These are just a few ways you can benefit from a call answering service-and you’ll likely see many more benefits in the short term future!
Make Your Business Trips Easy With These 5 Tips
When you travel for business, you have dozens and dozens of different factors demanding your attention every minute of your trip. Have these constant demands ever worn you out? That exhaustion can happen to anyone, including the seasoned travel veteran or someone just starting out.
If you struggle to manage different tasks and obligations during a business trip, use our blog to eliminate your distractions. We will help you develop a strategy to simplify your workload and focus on the most important things. Use the tips below to create set patterns and plans to maximize your personal efficiency and enjoy your chance to travel.
Your suitcase is your most faithful travel companion-if you use it correctly. You should pack as light as possible so you can avoid checking a bag. When you have an important business deal to close, you don’t want to feel frustrated because your suitcase didn’t make it to your destination.
In addition, make sure you pack with security in mind. A well-organized suitcase, with different types of items packed away in bags, will help you navigate security at the world’s busy airports. When you pack light and smart, you also have more room for a few souvenirs.
Schedule Your Work in Manageable Chunks
If you have control over your meeting and work schedule, cut it up into manageable yet precise blocks. Try to front-load the most important events and meetings in the first few hours and days of your trip. The longer your business trip goes, the more time exists for something unexpected to happen and interrupt your plan.
Take Time to Refresh Your Mind
While you can schedule work into every minute of your trip, your mind won’t necessarily keep up. You need to rest your mind with enriching, yet entertaining activities such as reading novels, listening to music, or watching a movie. These activities allows your brain to rest, which actually makes your mind more effective. You will feel better able to tackle large problems when you make time for yourself.
When you go on a business trip, it’s easy to forget everything that happens back home. However, it’s also easy to feel overwhelmed if you try to monitor every call and email when you are away. How can you obtain balance? Dedicate specific blocks of time to communication. Set up a system beforehand that will allow you prioritize which emails or phone calls to return.
If you want an easy way to sort through all of your communications, a phone answering service can help. They will take calls and voicemails on your behalf and relay relevant information to you. Answering services help callers feel like they get the attention they deserve while they also make communication easier on you.
Plan for Jetlag
Few things hamper a business trip more than jetlag. Luckily, you can use several different strategies to acclimate your body and avoid the negative effects of jetlag. Here is a quick list of techniques:
- Set all of your clocks, email accounts, and phone to your destination time zone when you get on the plane (or sooner if you prefer). This helps your mind get used to the right time.
- Create an early morning routine, including exercise, and stick to it each time you travel. This routine will help you physical acclimate better.
- Don’t take naps while on a trip. Naps can set your internal clock back to your home time zone.
A successful business trip comes easier when you have a smart travel plan. If you have an upcoming trip, take time today to start preparations. Take our strategies and adapt them into your personal travel plan.
Updated on 2016-04-25T16:24:39+00:00, by .