• Darin Vilano

Top 5 Mistakes Business Owners Make With Incoming Phone Calls | The Small Business BIG IDEA Show



One area that is often overlooked by small business owners is how they handle phone calls. In this episode, I share my top do’s and don’ts when it comes to fielding incoming calls to your business.

As customers, we’ve all had bad experiences when it comes to calling other companies. It’s actually pretty amazing how often entrepreneurs and small business owners take this part of their business for granted. In fact, dealing with people directly and providing high-touch customer service are advantages that small businesses have over larger companies. Unfortunately, not only do small business owners consistently fail to capitalize on this point of differentiation, they typically mess up what should be a fairly straightforward aspect of their businesses.

Here are the top 5 mistakes that you want to avoid:

1. The phone rings and rings without a proper greeting or voicemail option to leave a message. As business owners we have to do better than muffled personal greetings or even worse...a beep and disconnection after waiting for someone to pick up.

2. Someone answers the phone in an unprofessional manner. Now, we’ve all experienced this at one time or another as customers. People on the other end of the phone can be rude or short with us. And, sometimes, they may not even identify who they are or even say the name of the business.

3. You’re routed through a lengthy call tree or forced to use voice recognition prompts that don’t work properly. Yes, even small businesses are using these systems due to cheaper and more widely available technology. And, the sad part is that it takes away one of the main advantages to being small - which is accessibility.

4. The caller is greeted by what is obviously an outsourced answering service. While there may be times when it makes sense to use an answering service, most of the time they just aggravate your customers. After initially becoming excited that a real person answered the phone, the customer quickly becomes frustrated that the person on the other end can’t answer even the most basic of questions.

5. After leaving a voicemail or speaking with someone, you never get a call back! This one may be the worst of all. You actually leave a message, and you’re waiting for a call back. And you wait, and wait, and wait. We expect businesses to care enough to follow through, and it’s amazing how often that many don’t.

Remember, when people call us it’s like they’re raising their hand to say that they want to do business with us. We must treat this with the utmost care and respect. After all, this is why we’re in business. We can’t treat inbound calls as an afterthought. And, with all the mediocrity out there, we can actually set ourselves apart from the competition by doing a great job with handling calls.

Here are some tips on how to do this effectively:

1. If your financial situation permits it, hire someone to answer incoming calls. Approachability and friendliness are two major advantages of small businesses. And, having a real human available to speak with customers plays to these strengths. A well-trained employee available to field calls is an investment that can pay your company back multiple times over.

2. Make sure you have a professionally recorded greeting with the option to leave a message. I know this is basic, but it’s often the most basic parts of our businesses that we overlook. There are going to be times when you or your employees can’t answer the phone, so test your system periodically and make sure it’s working. And, make sure your greeting clearly conveys what you want the caller to know.

3. Give people an expectation of when you will get back with them. For example, many businesses have a policy to return all calls within 24 or 48 hours. Make sure to communicate this policy on your website and over the phone.

4. Call people back! Put a system in place to make sure that you get back to everyone. Don’t let anything fall through the cracks. Establish a reputation for great customer service. This is how you grow your business and the reputation of your brand.

Now, because the phone is based on 100+ year old technology, we’ve taken it for granted. But, the fact remains that despite automation, many small businesses still rely on the phone and they will for many years to come.

So, here’s my question for you: How do you handle incoming calls to your business?

Remember, as small business owners and entrepreneurs, one of the best ways that we learn is from each other, so please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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