By Grayson Kemper
As a small business owner, the idea that your official hours of operation define the actual boundary between your work and home life is a laughable notion. Especially given the role mobile phones and email play as basic extensions of the office, business is apt to occur at all hours of the day.
Given that most small businesses cannot afford a receptionist or to designate an individual exclusively to the task of fielding all incoming communications, a hefty portion of the burden of answering business calls, emails, and all other inquiries typically falls on the owner. While being constantly available to field inquiries for a small business may allow an owner to maintain better control over business operations, it can get overwhelming incredibly fast.
One way to introduce organization and order to this situation is through installing an answering service. Whether it be in the form of an automated service (traditional auto attendant or voicemail system), a live virtual receptionist, or an internet platform service (automated email response, live chat bot, or social media monitoring), an answering service allows for small business owners to scale their business processes and communications capacities.
Ultimately, answering services can facilitate scalability for small businesses in three distinct ways: reducing the volume of redundant questions and inquiries, providing means to organize and streamline communication and business contacts, all the while preserving valuable business resources to be devoted to other responsibilities of running a business.
1. Alleviating the Volume of Redundant Inquiries
Many, if not most, of the call and inquiries you receive as a small business owner refer to the same things — i.e., hours of operation, location, nature of the business. At its most basic level, using an answering service can solve this problem immediately through programming a simple, automated message which can inform callers of basic company information, instruct them where to go, and then direct them to that location.
This capability, though very simple, has dynamic potential for a small business. Not only can it eliminate a substantial portion of incoming calls and inquiries, it also still allows for customers or other business contacts who need information outside of standard FAQs to make contact with an owner if needed (albeit having to wait an extra 20 seconds to listen to a pre-recorded message).
This capability scales to forms of digital communications as well. Internet-platform services in particular — through automated email response, live chat bots, or social media monitoring services — can work to efficiently handle all incoming inquiries without you, or any of your employees, taking time to address them.
In addition to lightening the load on the shoulders of small business owners, answering services can collect, record, and store all calls and communications that they handle. Having stores of this information allows for small businesses to both organize and intelligently track the volume and content of their communications, as well as collect information on all of their contacts. This data is very valuable outside a purely communicative standpoint, as it allows for businesses to leverage incoming communications as potential business leads.
3. Preserving Business Resources
Obviously every service comes with a cost; answering services are no different. However, most answering services usually amount to less than $100/month. Given the value that answering services provide, this is most surely a worthy investment. This is especially true given the typical method-of-operation of most answering service providers. Answering services are typically offered as month-to-month, as well as usage-based, services. As a result of this structure, businesses are flexible to use them based on their specific needs, a situation which saves small businesses from wasting resources on an unneeded or unused service.
In addition, this low price is all but made up in the time an answering service saves a business from handling all forms of incoming communications. Since, in business, time equals money, answering services ultimately provide an opportunity to preserve precious business resources while allowing for small business owners to devote time to other aspects of running their business.