What happens when a small businesses misses a phone call? At the very least, it’s a disgruntled caller. Worse, it’s a missed opportunity, lost business or a dent to the company’s reputation.
Most firms struggle to answer all incoming calls due to limited resources and a stretched team, yet as virtual office operators well know, this scenario can be avoided by outsourcing incoming calls to a live receptionist or virtual office service.
So how do business centre operators communicate the value of virtual offices to small business owners?
This new research may help.
A new study of 142 small businesses across the U.K. identified how many answered or missed their calls, and what percentage of calls were left to voicemail. It also evaluated the level of customer service received.
“The results were really quite shocking,” says Judith Ludovino, who commissioned the study. Judith is Managing Director of virtual services firm TelePA and the Mendip Hub, a flexible workspace in the city of Wells, Somerset.
The research took the form of a single phone call between 10:00-13:00 and 15:00-17:00 during the working week (March 2015), to each of the 142 businesses. The key figures are certainly startling:
- 47% of 142 businesses left calls unanswered.
- 37% of the 75 businesses that answered did not take the time to engage with the call.
- Of the 67 calls missed, nearly half the answerphones didn’t confirm the company name.
- Businesses using a reception service performed 38% better.
Most shockingly, the study reveals that almost half the small businesses contacted were unequipped to deal directly with incoming calls, and of those over half provided no call deferral or message-taking apparatus.
The following graph highlights the importance of receptionist services:
The data shows that businesses with reception services perform on average 35% better when it comes to answering incoming calls.
With regard to greeting, Judith analysed the 75 calls that were successfully answered in terms of professionalism and telephone manner. She found:
- In 81% of the 75 calls answered, the company name was confirmed.
- Only 29% confirmed the name of the call receiver.
- 24% offered to refer my call.
- In 64% of the 75 conversations, businesses didn’t offer a greeting
- Only 9% offered to help
- 80% indicated they listened to my query.
On average, Judith concluded that 37% did not “engage sufficiently” with the call, therefore delivering a sub-standard level of customer service.
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“There was very little consistency across the duration of the call, with some key areas missing completely,” she said, adding that while businesses are willing to demonstrate courtesy during the first point of contact, “the purpose of the call can be missed” due to rushing the conversation.
Voicemail has “limited usefulness”
Furthermore, of the 67 calls that were left unanswered, more than half rang out.
Of the 29 lines that were sent to voicemail, Judith expressed surprise that 48% used a generic voicemail, without confirming the company name at all.
“People want to speak to people, not to machines, and this is the reason that answerphones have limited usefulness,” she said.
“Conversely answering the phone promptly and courteously makes customers feel their time and effort in making the call is valued.”
Call answering guidelines: 10 point checklist
Delving deeper into the necessity of a good telephone manner, Judith explained that TelePA uses a 10-point quality checklist to conduct their call answering services:
- All calls are answered promptly
- Callers are greeted: Good morning, good afternoon
- The company name is offered
- The name of the receptionist is offered
- The receptionist offers assistance to the caller
- The receptionist listens carefully, checking understanding
- The receptionist works to the brief of the customer
- Details of the call are recorded accurately, the spelling of names is checked using the phonetic alphabet
- Telephone numbers are checked
- The content of the call is provided in detail, including the name of the receptionist in case of clarification being sought
TelePA’s research shows that an alarming number of businesses are missing calls, while those that do receive callers are generally failing to reach quality standards of customer service.
So what can be done?
“Businesses can train their reception staff, or outsource to a specialist provider,” Judith added. “Both these solutions will have a substantial impact on the customer experience.”
This research certainly makes interesting reading and adds considerable weight to business centres looking to demonstrate the value of virtual office services to potential clients.
The data was drawn from a sample of 142 small enterprises from across the UK, all operating in the business-to-business (B2B) sector. The sample was taken as evenly as possible from 10 geographical regions on the mainland United Kingdom.