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What is call handling and is it for me?

In this article we look at call handling or call management services and attempt to answer some of the frequently asked questions that arise.

Call handling or call management relates to the virtual outsourcing of your telephone calls. Your calls are diverted to a telephonist who will answer all incoming calls on your behalf. Service providers, such as ourselves, can also organise a business telephone number which can be used on all your business correspondence too. This could be a local, national, or international number that best reflects your business audience and objectives. This number can be jointly accessed by you and the telephonist.

The telephonist will answer the call using a pre-agreed script, for example;

‘Good morning / afternoon, Treen Coward Associates, how can I help?’

The telephonist will then take essential details such as the caller’s name, where they are calling from, the purpose of the call, the best contact number or email to return that call, and what would be the best time to call. It is also the telephonist’s role to establish other salient points to assist you in getting the right information back to that caller in the most efficient way. For example, a musician who needs to ensure all calls are answered to avoid losing potential work will need to know what sort of event they are being contacted for. Is it a wedding? Corporate event? When and where it is being held and what time they will be required? Are there any special requests? Whilst it is not the telephonist’s job to respond to those questions, obtaining such information enables you to check all the necessary details first then respond fully and professionally to the caller. The details of the call will be emailed to the client so the client can monitor and respond to the same as appropriate.

There are many questions and benefits in utilising a call handling service, here a few considerations;

Missed calls or missed opportunities?

A source of anxiety for both the business owner and caller. For the business owner, a fear of appearing unavailable whips up all manner of thoughts - what if they go elsewhere? For the caller, constantly trying to reach someone who is always engaged or not answering can be frustrating - is my call not important? Is there something they’re not telling me? Such fears may be unfounded, but they must be addressed all the same.

Can’t we just use email to communicate? Can’t they just leave a message on my voicemail?

In most cases technology has greatly improved our lives, but today we want the penny and the bun. We desire to know, like, and trust one another in business and this means both email for communicating and forwarding essential information, but also personal contact to continue building that business relationship. We need to feel understood. In most businesses I have worked with, setting out communication expectations is part of the initial meeting. If it is urgent, don’t email, pick up the phone. As before, a telephonist will also help to extract some more useful information and aid you in preparing to return that call.

I prefer to deal with calls as they come in

Technology enables us to remain constantly connected and workplace cultures and expectations have certainly changed in my 20 year experience. The ability to work anytime anywhere certainly has its advantages in terms of flexible work and remaining productive, but presents new problems in terms of work life balance. Demands on time are often cited reasons for ‘burn out’, loss of business, and breakdown in relationships. Fire-fighting calls and unable to get the work done, leading to late nights at the office is a slippery slope. Whilst effective in the beginning, it is neither sustainable nor good business practice.

I have to return the calls anyway so what is the point?

You are your own boss and control your work schedule, but you still need to spend time doing the work your clients are paying you to do. Answering calls as to why you haven’t done it, or are late, adds to the delays and creates that vicious circle of not getting work done because you are distracted by calls, worried about not taking the calls you allow yourself to become distracted, the work still isn’t done.

Distraction management is important, you have to allow time to get on with your work. When calls are managed you control which calls are prioritised to be returned. Existing business, new business, or tyre kickers, you can whittle those calls down to those you need or want to deal with. Save your time and effort for more productive and rewarding things.

I’m not sure having an outsourced call handler presents the right image for my business

This depends on what type of image you want to create. We don’t believe in pretending to your clients that we are sat next to you in your office. Your clients and customers deserve more respect. But they also want to speak to a human so add that extra layer of service and show them you care. You want to do their work but that means good time management on your part. Doing the work and returning your calls in a timely fashion will only be good for business.

When my business reaches ‘X’ I will want this service, just not right now

We recognise that financial and other obstacles are part and parcel of the business owner and entrepreneurs journey, but you don’t want to be pigeonholed and you want to present the best image not only to the clients you have but also the ones you want.

There are many cost effective plans available and remember, setting out clear communication expectations is essential to maintaining a good client / customer relationship from the start. Hiring staff and employing people is a huge responsibility, outsourcing can enable you work smart, grow stealthily, and cost effectively.

My clients will only deal with me, how can I introduce this to my business?

Growth is an exciting time for any entrepreneur or business owner. Depending on what you do, your clients may also be entrepreneurs and business owners and should recognise this. Make the time to pick up the phone or arrange that catch up. Be prepared as to how you want to approach it, it is a benefit for them also that you respect their time and calls and want to ensure they are handled efficiently and effectively. When you are not on the phone you are working, if you are not working, you still respect the time they’ve taken to call you and have put systems in place to ensure the client is still attended to.

Not seeking support can also impact on business growth, it can be reassuring that you are taking your work seriously and have additional support to enable you to give full attention to the work. You have permission to have enjoy your business and personal life. Maintaining the ‘I’m so busy’ and ‘I can’t possibly take time off’ thing is hard work in itself. You may be admired for doing so well, but this will wear off if you repeatedly ignore the need to look at sourcing assistance. That business buzz of meeting so many client’s needs will only last so long before things start to slip.

Out of hours but not out of business

The desire to ensure you take all calls and not miss out means being available, day and night, forever. Does that sound like the business owner or entrepreneur you wanted to be? Breaking habits can be hard so having the right support around you is crucial. Good business means allocating time for work and play. We understand that when you are on holiday it can be difficult to completely switch off, but knowing your calls are being taken care of and you have pre-arranged allotted time for returning those calls and emails is essential for your business and personal life and relationships.

In summary

The call handler acts as a traditional secretary or receptionist, they do not pretend to be you or anything else. This respects your clients and customers whilst allowing you to get on with your work. This can reassure your client that you are working and effectively managing your time.

Running a business can be stressful enough. Feeling that entrepreneurial pressure is exciting but true entrepreneurs and good business owners act. That does not necessarily mean committing to an exclusive office space filled with executive staff, but outsourcing certain tasks of your business can facilitate growth and development, and achieve the same desired results and image. Businesses are generally expected to grow so seeking assistance should not be viewed as weakness or failure. You are a professional with professional support systems in place.

Finally, remember, you did not start your own business or entrepreneurial journey to repeat the situation you left behind. Get good support and systems in place and this includes effectively managing your time and calls among other things. Set out clear communication processes, do your work in your allotted work time and return your calls and emails in a timely manner. This may sound clichéd easier said than done but it is possible.

If you would like to talk about your business activities and tasks and how we can help you achieve the business you want, contact us for a free, informal, and completely confidential chat.