Did you know that 45% of day-to-day activities could be automated? That is a shockingly high amount of time and money that could be used elsewhere. It doesn’t necessarily point to the ineffectiveness of your team but rather the lack of infrastructure built around your processes to allow your team to deliver more effectively. 

As small business owners, most of your time is spent with your customers. So, where should your first priority be when trying to improve your systems and processes? It should be where your customers are contacting you—the phone. In fact, 60% of clients prefer contacting small businesses by phone over any other form of communication.

Unfortunately, a common statement we hear at Smiledog is: “I already have an auto-attendant (AA) or voicemail picking up my calls, and that seems to be working fine for me. Why would I need your service?”

The problem with that mindset is that you’re basing your perspective on an already established client base with whom you’ve built a level of trust and who are more willing to leave you a message.

But in today’s market, choice is king. If you’re not there to help when a client calls for the first time, our internal data shows that there’s a 67-75% chance they will hang up or not leave a message. This simply means that you’ve lost them to the next company that is willing to help right away.

Don’t worry! Improving the initial customer experience can be much easier to implement than you realize. 

Auto Attendants: What They Are and When to Use One

Auto attendants (AAs) are an automated answering and prompt system. They are designed to allow your customers to self-navigate where they want to go within your business by giving them a series of automated messages followed by a number to reach the specific department they need.

Rule #1: 

Keep it simple, simple, simple. 

You want three options max. For example: Thank you for calling Smiledog.

The reason for simplicity is that it stays within a customer’s patience range. With a simple choice selection, a customer is more inclined to take the requested action. 

The most important thing to remember is that a person must be at the other end of each option. Otherwise, it completely defeats the purpose, and it results in a negative first experience with your potential customer. 

Rule # 2: 

There isn’t one. With anything more complex than what we covered above, an auto attendant is not ideal and the conversation is better handled, live, by someone on your team. Otherwise, you run the risk of harming your company’s reputation and the overall client experience, as well as the risk of losing new revenue-generating opportunities.

Voicemail: Is It Still Relevant, and How Can I Use It?

Rule of thumb for small businesses: customers should never hear a voicemail message between 9 am and 5 pm Monday to Friday. This is because those hours are the minimum of when a company should be available to their clients. 

When is voicemail okay? Outside of your business hours. 

We all know how demanding customers can be and how overwhelming that can get. At the end of the day, you need to be able to recharge for tomorrow, so voicemail can be beneficial in helping you better train your clients to learn when you are available and to call within that window.

What are the best practices for successfully setting up your voicemail? 

  1. Use a friendly and upbeat tone for the message prompt.
  2. Be specific in the information you want the caller to leave so you can follow up appropriately.
  3. Have an emergency option available for one-off situations that need a quick response.
    • Be clear in the message that you will only follow up on true emergencies quickly.
    • Highlight your definition of what constitutes an emergency on your website or directly in the message prompt.
  4. Ensure your voicemail has automation features like an auto email sent to you with the recording attached or a transcription-to-email option.

Always being on is unhealthy and not sustainable. This is where a voicemail, when properly executed, can be a good tool to help maintain work-life balance. 

Wrapping Up

Now that you have a better understanding of AAs and VMs and how to use them effectively, the only thing left to cover is how you can effectively and efficiently answer your business’s phone calls. That is where a reception service can be beneficial in improving your overall customer experience and increasing revenue-generating opportunities.

It’s important to look at a virtual receptionist as a tool for creating new business opportunities rather than an expense. Always having a friendly and reliable team taking care of your customers is a huge weight lifted for many small business owners, and the great thing is that our model is pay-per-use, meaning you’re never paying for a service when you aren’t using it. This allows our service to remain as cost-effective for you as possible. As the past year has shown us, everything can change in an instant, but taking care of your clients is the one thing you can’t stop doing.

Smiledog offers one central place where you can get everything you need to improve your business’s initial customer experience. We can set you up with a simple AA, live reception services, and a fully customized voicemail. 

If you’re looking to automate with a human touch and improve your company’s phone experience, we would be happy to find out if we’re a good fit for you!

Book a time to chat with us here.