When running a small business, you'll have similar goals to most business owners, the most important of which is maintaining great sales figures. If you're anything like the average SME, just hearing that phrase might send you spiralling into stress. Every business faces a multitude of challenges and barriers to achieving this goal, which can be a huge cause of worry when your livelihood depends on it.

Luckily, there is a wealth of knowledge and advice out there to help you tackle these obstacles head on. Today, we're going to be considering how to avoid common pitfalls when it comes to making the most of sales opportunities, starting with missed calls.

Calls are a crucial sales channel through which new enquiries from potential customers and collaborators arrive, and should be treated with respect as a result. Far too many businesses overlook the importance of making sure they answer their telephone calls; making this one of the most prevalent pitfalls in business.

80% of callers don't leave a voicemail

Perhaps you think voicemail is the answer. It might surprise you to learn that, according to Forbes magazine, 80% of callers do not leave a message after being sent to voicemail. Let me put that into perspective for you; by relying on a voicemail service to handle high incoming call volumes, you might be losing 80% of your existing and potential customers. 

If you miss a call, it can take 8 attempts to get back in touch with the caller 

Can you say, with faith, that your company calls back every person who has left a voicemail? This function might help in the short term by stemming calls, but in reality it is just creating another to-do list of calls to return. How positive an impact is this really having on your operational efficiency?  Not to mention the fact that, on average, it takes eight cold call attempts to reach a prospect. So, while receiving a voicemail message may seem more appealing than having numerous lines on hold, what are the chances of you being able to call them back at a time when they can actually answer? Plus, when you start to call them, it starts to cost you money instead. 

You'll lose more than half of your callers by placing them on hold

Maybe you think placing your customers on hold is a great way to keep them on the line until you're free to answer their call. In reality, 60% of callers placed on hold will immediately hang up; so, not such a good idea in practice. 

Don't forget, it's not all about sales?

Missing calls doesn't only impact your sales figures, it can have a big impact on the quality of your customer service. Once you've won your customers, it's the experience you give them that will retain them and keep them coming back to you, so making sure you're available when your customers need you is vital.

  • The most successful businesses have a customer service function, which creates the connection between your company and your customers. Having a faceless business is the quickest way to lose customers who need to know that there are real people behind the products or services they're buying. 
  • No matter how fantastic your product or service is, it's impossible to please everybody. Taking a welcoming approach to the qualms of your customers gives them reassurance that, while their purchase may not have initially met their requirements, every effort will be made to ensure that is does in the future. Taking a positive and proactive approach to customer complaints is the difference between excellent customer retention and the failure of your business, which is so often caused by a loss of faith.
  • Similarly, customer service departments are important for queries and clarification. Anything missing from initial communication of product details can easily be rectified with a conversation, again leading to great customer retention. Finally, customer service is the interface through which you receive new leads and opportunities for the growth of your customer base. It can be argued that, after your product, it is the aspect of your business most deserving of attention.

This is all well and good, but we also know that most small businesses just don't have the resources to offer the level of service they'd like to. We understand that there are times when you will experience overwhelming call volumes. We also understand that additional staffing to meet this demand is one of the most significant expenses a business can face, so it's not surprising that many business owners struggle to keep up with the demands of their new and existing customers.

Ever thought of outsourcing?

Outsourcing your sales and service to a company like Cymphony that specialises in call handling, on a temporary or permanent basis can deliver huge benefits. The recent rise of outsourcing has transformed the business world, which is no longer plagued by the problem of supply and demand.

And the cost? Probably much lower than you think. Compared to hiring new, full-time members of staff it can be far more affordable. Plus, at Cymphony, for example, we have the best systems and processes that money can buy, and first-class call agents and PAs who can be quickly trained to handle your calls in less than a week.

Particularly in an economic climate where business is unpredictable, a flexible solution like outsourcing can be a real life saver. There are no permanent contracts, no hefty expenses, just a helping hand as and when you need it. Plus, with per-second billing, you only pay for the time your calls are being handled, so no expensive downtime to pay for. 

So where does this come into our advice on making the most of incoming calls?

Well, rather than placing them on hold, sending them to voicemail or offering a call-back, the best way to handle a large number of incoming customer calls is to answer them all, and straight away. Outsourcing to a third party call-handling company allows you to do this. 

As a small business owner, there will be times when it is difficult for you to predict how busy you will be, especially in your service and sales departments. So, look into the option of outsourcing to tackle one of the most common pitfalls of business, missed calls. Once you've overcome this first hurdle, you will begin to see your business thrive.

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