Picture your ideal customer - the one you’ve always wanted to work with. See them finding your website or business card. They are picking up the phone and calling your number… but now they are looking disappointed because they’ve realised you’re not there to take the call. They were very keen to speak to you and they’ll be out for the rest of the day and on holiday for two weeks after that. So, there it is. The missed call.
Missed telephone calls are a fact of life, yet they still have the power to make many business-owners uncomfortable. Perhaps that’s because it’s not always easy to know how to deal with them. As a result, it can be tempting to adopt some less effective approaches in response.
1. The Lost Cause - not calling back
That phone call you missed could be the difference between doing OK and doing rather nicely, thank you. As someone wise (and presumably the proud owner of shares in a hiking boot company) once said, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Similarly, many profitable hours of business can begin with a single phone call.
While one phone conversation may lead to many opportunities, companies all too frequently view missed phone calls as a hopeless case. This could be because the caller didn’t leave a message '75% of people will not leave a voicemail' or your device calls history didn’t record the phone numbers. It may be that the business-owner is just too busy with their work to get in touch. Back to that ideal customer we mentioned earlier. Left waiting for a response, they might quickly move on to the next person. Or they might even forget that they made the call in the first place. No wonder this approach often ends up being a lost cause for both the potential customer and the business.
2. The Ostrich – actively ignoring the call
This way of dealing with missed phone calls doesn’t involve running at 70 miles an hour. It actually takes its name from the other trait for which the ostrich is most famous - hiding its head in the sand. Avoiding dealing with missed calls is probably one of the biggest phone fails any business can make. They see a missed call and… they do nothing about it. Why? Well it could be that they are simply too busy to deal with it or because they don’t have the energy to follow it up. The Ostrich approach could also be due to the understandable reason that the business-owner isn’t comfortable speaking on the phone. Not everybody is.
There may also be an assumption, as we’ve seen above, that the caller will phone back '85% of all missed calls will not call back'. Whatever the reason, that business prospect will never know what happened and they’ll make up their own mind about whether to bother trying to call again. They might, but it’s not always the case. That’s why the Ostrich approach isn’t the best one for ambitious companies. Why hide from potential business opportunities?
3. The Endurance Test – ignoring multiple calls
There’s the triathlon, the long-distance run and the repeat phone calls marathon. The Endurance Test approach to missed calls is not the best way to boost client relationships, especially for new prospects. This is where a business-owner will simply fail to respond to the call in the first instance and the potential customer attempts to phone them back a second or even a third time!
If you’re in an incredibly niche industry or are highly sought after, you may manage just fine while taking this approach. But not many companies can or should get away with demanding that their clients call them back on a repeated basis before they make contact with an actual human being. When someone has chosen your company from all the other ones out there, you want them to feel that contacting your business is a walk in the park, not the Ironman Triathlon.
4. The Big Rush – calling back late
We’ve probably all had a call like this after leaving a message for a business. Your call is eventually returned and you answer, only to hear a stressed voice asking who it is. You explain what you want, having to repeat exactly what you said in your message. Then the business owner asks you to text or email them your contact details. There’s no doubt that the rushed approach, while understandable, is not really the best way to nurture good customer relationships. It can be all too easy to fall into this trap when you’re catching up with calls during your lunch break or at the end of a long day.
You may be too busy to listen to the carefully worded voicemail that the customer has left, but asking them to repeat themselves could leave them feeling as if you don’t care. While it may seem somewhat better than the other approaches listed above, the Big Rush is not an ideal long-term strategy for business calls. Plus, there’s the added risk of that opportunity having already gone to another company by the time you do call back.
The Always-On Solution – taking the call or calling back quickly
This approach is straightforward and there are no missed calls involved. Customers call your number and, right away, they’re able to speak to someone professional and friendly who represents your business. That’s the response every prospect likes. While it would be wonderful to be available, poised and waiting, at all times to take your potential customers’ calls, it’s often not possible when you’re running a business, especially if you have a small team or you’re frequently out on the road.
The “always available, always on” approach is great for both customers and businesses. Any company that does manage this consistently is doing extremely well. But it’s not always achievable – unless you have the support of a specialist service.
The correct way to answer a business phone
Out of all forms of business communication, the phone call is one of the best for immediacy and impact. Yet missed calls are often seen as an inconvenience rather than an opportunity. It’s understandable that business-owners might be tempted to adopt some of the four rather less than effective approaches we’ve outlined here. If any of them sound familiar, don’t worry. It really is possible to be able to focus on your business and still benefit from responding effectively to every potentially valuable phone call. Just picture that. And not an ostrich in sight.
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