An estimated 100 billion business-related emails are sent and received each day, but for many companies, their phone is still their first line of communication with customers and clients.
While larger businesses typically have the resources to answer calls in-house, a ringing phone can present challenges for "solopreneurs" and international companies looking to establish sales outposts in the U.S. that may only have one or two employees.
The flexibility and affordability of cell phones make them a seemingly logical alternative to a traditional office line - not to mention the fact that nine in 10 Americans already own them - but they can also end up costing companies over the long term if they don't phase them out when scaling their businesses and bringing on new employees. Three specific challenges associated with using personal cell phones for business include:
- "Can You Hear Me Now?": You have control over when and where you answer your phone, but can the same be said for your employees? What happens if they take a call at a restaurant or some other loud venue or, worse yet, fail to get to their phone before one of their children picks up? All of these possible scenarios threaten to undermine your company's reputation and, over time, could take a financial toll on your business.
- "You're Fired...Now Hand Over Your Phone": Employee turnover is a huge problem for businesses that allow workers to use their own phones for day-to-day communications with clients. If an employee quits or is terminated, business owners could have a hard time tracking down contact information for customers, and vice versa, and could even lose clients to the former staffer if he or she stays in the same line of work.
- "This Will Only Take A Minute": Business calls on a personal phone can ruin everything from a romantic dinner to a family vacation. Even if you don't answer, a vibrating pocket or flashing notification light can make it difficult for both you and your employees to unwind during your downtime. Five minutes here and 10 minutes there may not seem harmless but all of this time adds up, slowly deflating company morale.
There are a number of phone-answering services that were created to address this issue, but some create more problems than they solve. In some cases, these systems rely entirely on automated messages that seem more like a telemarketer than a receptionist. Others require customers to use a special phone number that businesses are unable to take with them if they ever decide to terminate the phone-answering service.
Therefore, it's important for small and international businesses to look for answering services that come with a live receptionist and allow companies to use and retain their own phone number. If you're unsure which provider would best suit your company's needs, try giving some of your professional contacts a call to get their recommendations. You may be surprised who picks up on the other end.
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Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Solutions, a Chicago-based real estate provider specializing in office solutions for companies requiring up to 10,000 square feet of office space. For more information, visit www.amataoffices.com.