When dealing with a business we’ve never used before, most of us are looking for a bit of reassurance that the business is professional and will do the right thing by us.
The larger and more professional the business appears to be, the more comfortable we are about handing over our hard-earned cash. And even though it may be unfair, we’ll often hesitate if the only contact details provided are a mobile phone number or free email address (e.g. Yahoo, Gmail).
The good news is that with today’s cloud-based and “virtual” services, it’s never been easier (or more affordable) for even the smallest business to present a professional image. Even if you’re a sole trader working from the comfort of your home office, you can present an image to the world of a larger business with multiple departments and employees.
1. Ditch the mobile number
You don’t have to stop using your mobile, but you should stop advertising it as your main contact number. Nothing screams “sole trader” louder than a mobile phone number.
A good option is to get a 1300 number
or 1800 number
. These are “virtual” numbers that aren’t tied to any single fixed line or mobile phone. Instead, you can direct (or route) them to the number(s) of your choice.
They present a more professional image to prospective customers, make you look like a larger business, and provide you with the convenience of being able to answer them on any fixed or mobile phone in Australia.
Costs start from just $14 per month, so these numbers aren’t expensive. There are even plans designed especially for businesses who answer all calls on their mobile phones that provider lower mobile call rates.
2. Make sure the phone is always answered
Around 75% of callers simply hang up when their call goes through to voicemail. This is especially true for first-time callers who are just as happy to dial the next number down in the local paper or Yellow Pages until they find someone to talk to.
There will always be times when you’re unable to take a call (for example when you’re meeting with a client or on another call), and very few small companies can afford to pay a receptionist.
Using a live answering service
is the ideal solution. Your “virtual” receptionist answers calls using your business name at times when you’re not available, and then forwards details about the call to you immediately via SMS and email. With some plans you can even get the calls connected through to you.
Our live answering operators are based in Australia and available to answer your calls 24/7 (including public holidays). And with plans starting at less than $1 a day, it’s an affordable and efficient way to ensure your calls are always answered professionally.
3. Create the impression of more employees
Another way to make your business look more established is to create the impression that you have a team of people working for you (even if you’re there on your own). We all know that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, but there will be some potential customers who equate size with stability.
Your virtual receptionist adds one employee. And you can add the impression of more by using a call forwarding menu
(also known as an IVR).
These are the menus that say things like “For sales, press 1; for support, press 2; to speak to someone in accounting, press 3; for all other enquiries, press 4 or stay on the line.”
When your business is small, you can create the impression of a larger company by having multiple options routed to the same person. (No-one ever needs to know that you’re answering both the sales and support calls.) Calls can even be routed to external numbers, which allows you to direct calls to your virtual receptionist and any other external contractors you may use.
Again, this is a very affordable solution, with a typical plan costing $10 per month on top of your inbound number plan. And it comes in handy as your business grows, and you really do want to route calls to multiple people and departments!
4. Provide multiple contact options
We’ve covered your phone in the first three steps, but you shouldn’t stop there.
When it comes to providing an email address, steer clear of the free addresses (e.g. Yahoo, Gmail). It doesn’t cost you that much to get your own domain and looks a LOT more professional. And as with your call forwarding menus, you can make your business look larger with separate email addresses (e.g. sales@, support@, info@).
And even though we tend to use them less today than we did 10 years ago, there are still times when people may want to send you a fax (for example, to send you a signed document). Again, virtual services can come to the rescue here. With a virtual fax service, there’s no need to purchase and maintain a fax machine and dedicated landline. Instead, all faxes sent to you are received at our server and converted to .PDF or .TIF files before being forwarded to you as email attachments. Our Fax2Email plans
start from just $10 a month, which includes a local (02, 03, 07 or 08) number for the service. You can even redirect a 1300 number or 1800 number to your service.
5. Get a matching domain and phone number
If possible, it’s nice to finish off your professional image with a matching domain name and phone number. For example, Alltel’s web site is www.alltel.com.au
and our phone number is 1300 ALLTEL (1300 255 835).
When choosing your business name, why not first spend some time to see what matching domain names and phone numbers are available? Not only will this help to make you look more professional, it also makes it easier for customers to remember your web address and phone number.
To look for phone numbers that spell words, visit the www.smartnumbers.com.au
web site to see what is available. This is an Australian government site that lists all available phone words and smartnumbers. If you see the one you want there, you can bid on it in a public auction.
You can also work backwards (from numbers to words) using tools like Phonespell, which converts phone numbers to letters and helps you find possible words. (Visit the Phonespell web site at www.phonespell.org
You can find more information about smartnumbers and phone words in our blog post: Selecting the Best Number for your Business
Of course, nothing beats good listening skills and good customer service. The above 5 tips are designed to help encourage customers to call you. Once they’ve made the call, the rest is up to you!