Telephone blues

An early 20th century candlestick phone being ...

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As some of you may remember I think it is very important that the published telephone number of any business is answered in person by a human being. I tried to contact a couple of sole trader business advisers last week and both of them were using answering machines or voice-mail on their land lines. One I later contacted via his mobile (cell) while he was driving.

I don’t speak to my clients on my mobile. I can’t give them proper attention. If you telephone my office I cannot guarantee that you will be able to speak to me. I might be with a client, out at another meeting or working on something and not wanting to be disturbed. What I can guarantee is that if you call in reasonable office hours you will speak to my PA who will take a message very courteously. I also guarantee that I will call you back.

What do you do if you telephone a potential supplier of goods or services and you either get voice-mail or worse still, no reply at all? You probably hang up and the odds are that you will phone someone else. Prospective business lost by the non-answerer.

I was watching with my wife a television programme called The Restaurant Inspector. Fernando Peire who presents the show is a famous restauranteur and from my brief viewing I could see that he was excellent not only at food matters but also at branding and marketing. He was helping a small fish restaurant on the South Coast.

The last task after a successful re-launch was to change business name on the message on the restaurant ‘s telephone answering machine: “We’ll call you when we get back”. I was rather shocked. Imagine you want to book for a Friday or Saturday night and you get that when trying to book. You are going to call another restaurant to make sure you have a table to go to. I would employ a telephone answering company or a PA to take the call; someone who had access to an on-line booking system. The bookings could be filling up while you were still out in the fish market or wine merchant.

In the restaurant business as in my tax and business advice consultancies, if people take the trouble to inquire by telephone they are almost certainly going to buy. Please don’t let them be put off.

The bottom line is, if you don’t want to be seen as unprofessional have a real person answer your phone and take a message or make a booking.

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