Mobile Vs Redirect Vs VoIP Vs Receptionist
Mobile Vs Redirect Vs VoIP Vs Receptionist: Pros And Cons Of Business Telephony.
Telephone calls help make sales. Every businessman has a mobile. The internet came and stayed and the 'phone just got smaller and smarter.
Many businessmen are not good on the 'phone. They waffle, they stutter, they tense up. So they hire sales guys to make and take calls. Callers want to be persuaded that they have found a solution to their problem and that the solution is you. This means the guy or gal taking the call for you should be contactable and understandable. They should be at the end of a local number which matches the company's physical address.
So how to make and take the calls? Let's list the options:
A mobile number says one thing: there's a human being at the other end. Not a receptionist, not a company, but a guy. This is great for the tradesman e.g. a plumber. Harry puts his memorable number which he bought of eBay on his van. He gets calls. If he's any good at his job, he gets word-of-mouth referrals. That's all the advertising he ever needs to do, done.
Salesmen give their mobile number to their wife, boss, receptionist, valuable clients and no one else. Then he's contactable by the people who matter.
A 'web design company' with only a mobile number on its site sends a message; the wrong one. It says: we are small. We're probably one guy in a flat somewhere, subcontracting leads to Indian coders. Pass!
Your contact details should match the norm for your niche. There's no shame in a tradesman having only a cellphone; it's expected. BUT: A 'digital marketing agency' with just a contact form on their website and no phone number? Stroll on!
Tip: Buy sim cards on eBay which have repeating or sequential digits. 0777 81 41 899 reads a lot slicker than 07843 4036428.
This is where 0207 1448077 redirects to 0777 8141899. Skype sells UK numbers, as do local telecom companies. The numbers can be redirected to your mobile or landline. Callers think they're making a cheap call to a UK landline but, little do they know, Joey M. Obile answers from his car.
This is great for sales and good for sole traders who want to move up, image-wise. It says: sometimes I'm in the office, sometimes I'm out and about. I'm smart enough to get calls redirected in a sophisticated way, I'm local to London and I'm passing on a cost-saving, in call charges, to you.
Tip: 0207 and 0208 are inner and outer-London prefixes. They're getting scarcer. 0203 is more recent and, unfortunately, says "I'm a newly-founded company without the resources to get an older prefix so I may not be trustworthy."
Tip: Use redirect only if and when you want to make sales. If your calendar is full, set it to answering-machine mode. You will be paying call charges for the duration of any call and if the caller is calling from a cellphone (~ 18 ppm), it could be pricey.
VoIP (Voice over IP Protocol)
I will use this term to cover internet telephony, as opposed to PBX. Calls are transmitted digitally and wholly or partly routed via the internet. This saves on call charges.
Call quality has improved greatly with greater bandwidth availability. Headsets can be bought that have good microphones. Cheap soundcards no longer sound like tin cans. Result: sound quality is good and your client may not be able to tell you're calling from a VOIP phone.
- The internet might go offline.
- Bandwith may throttle and the call stutters. This is disastrous if it's an important conference call.
- Staff with headsets may wander into the next room and the call drops.
- Artefacts may occur in the transmission and make you sound like you're talking on a mobile.
- The provider might sell your number to someone else if you don't maintain the subscription!
Fact 2: Did you know old-fashioned landlines are on a separate circuit to your electricity lines? If your electricity goes off, the 'phones will still work.
Fact 2: VoIP lines are not traceable the way landlines are, so are not ideal for calling 999 in an emergency.
VoIP is great if you need extra lines and BT want your first-born child as a deposit. It's good for smaller companies, upwards. I would recommend still retaining landlines, at least for your receptionist.
Small businessmen think that having a telephonist take calls is the apex of call-handling. This is only true if she's your employee, who knows your business intimately, and can give sensible answers to callers' questions.
No one rings a number wanting to speak to a receptionist. They want to speak to The Man.
Sometimes they want to get a feel for who they're buying from. If Shirley knows her stuff and can confidently state when Mr. Johnson will be in and that she'll pass on the message, the caller will go away satisfied. But he'll still be waiting to be called back.
Virtual receptionists are different and should be used differently.
Virtual receptionists are good for papering over the cracks in a small operation. They can filter nuisance or low-value callers. Used sparingly, they reinforce the impression that the caller is dealing with professionals.
They should be used in those odd moments when your staff can't answer the phone after x number of rings. The most they can say is "Sorry, he's not available at the moment, can I take a message?"
The caller may not be satisfied. If he gets the same answer over a 48 hour period and no one calls him back, he may get nervous. If the virtual receptionist is all he gets whenever he calls, it's game over. He knows the company is permanently 'out to lunch'. He moves on. People generally aren't that stupid and businessmen, certainly not.
A typical scenario:
A small business starts with a man and a mobile phone working from home. He needs a number for his website and doesn't want to use his mobile. He buys an 0207 number and puts it on there. He gets more successful, takes on more staff and redirects the 0207 number to the new office landline. He buys a second number and points it to the other landline.
During the day, if the landlines are maxed out, he lets the virtual receptionist take messages and email them to his support staff. In the evenings and weekends he sets the numbers to voicemail and the messages are emailed to his staff as .wav attachments.
Result: He can answer sales calls quickly and can catch up later with people who call outside office hours.
When buying telecoms, you need to match your telephony to your niche and your image.
A carpenter looks dubious with an 0800 number but a large utility would not. A company that claims to be large and long-standing is undermined by using an 0203 number. A new law firm which buys an 0207 number, puts it on a slick website and rents desk space near Chancery Lane is doing it right.
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