When is an answering service right for your business?

When is an answering service right for your business?

When is an answering service right for your business?

It can be difficult for busy business owners to measure when it may be time to hire a virtual receptionist. The most obvious question is when does the benefit outweigh the cost? Luckily, there are several key indicators that can help determine the answer.

Professional Image

If your business requires the image that you’re ‘always on’ or that you have a large support system in place, missing calls can be a huge red flag for clients. As a business owner, you may not be able to answer every call that comes in. Or if you are, chances are you’ve been caught with your dog barking in the background or sounding out of breath as you run out to complete an errand. Even with a full time receptionist or support team, between sick time and vacation days, gaps will arise. If your professional image can’t afford to have missed calls, it may be time to look into receptionist support.

Business Growth Opportunities

As your productivity grows, so do your opportunities for growth. I can be overwhelming as more calls come in while you’re trying to hold everything else down. A professional answering service can alleviate the pressure of mounting inquiries, allowing you to focus on building your business. If you’ve noticed that your call volume has increased to a level you can’t keep up with, it may be time to hire a virtual receptionist.

Affordability

It may seem like a frivolous expense to hire an outside company to answer your calls. However, if you look at the cost to set up a similar service in-house, it may not seem quite as daunting of an expense. Not only will it cost much less to hire a third party, your team won’t be interrupted incessantly by the phones ringing each day, lending to higher levels of productivity! So, if you’ve been thinking about expanding your support team, it may be time to consider a third-party instead.

If any of these indicators sound familiar, it might be time to take your business to the next level by working with a virtual receptionist. If you’d like a quick demo of how Smiledog works for our clients, click here! 

 

The key elements to excellent customer service

The key elements to excellent customer service

Some say great customer service is an art. Others say it comes down to a scientific mix of character traits. We think the key elements for success lie somewhere between the two. We have put together a comprehensive list of skills, that are both developable and observational in nature. Meaning, your team can start working on these skill sets without having a natural aptitude for customer service.

Patience
For many, when they reach out to a business with an inquiry, it is from a place of confusion and sometimes frustration. Answering numerous and often repetitive client requests requires patience. Patience in dealing with clients is one thing, patience with each other and for the core of the business overall is crucial to an efficient and high-functioning organization.

Communication
This one might seem fairly obvious but you’d be surprised how easily communication styles can be misconstrued. Having consistent communication guidelines in place for your team can eliminate gaps from representative to representative. Implementing language you would like your team to use and holding regular training and role-playing will ensure that clients always receive the same level of service when they interact with your company.

Attention to Detail
Listening is one of the most important concepts behind excellent customer service. Active listening; looking for cues ‘between the lines’ will make the difference between placating a client in the moment and building a loyal client relationship for life.

Knowledge
Knowing the product or service they’re selling/supporting should be second nature for customer service experts. However, without proper training, many front-line representatives are left without the proper tools. Encorporating product and service training and ideals into your onboarding process will ensure a consistent knowledge base for your front-line team.

The power of positivity
Training your team on the power of using positive language will make a huge difference in how clients feel. Specific training on reframing statements from a negative perspective to a positive perspective will have a huge impact. If you’re not sure where to start, this positive language starter guide is a great resource.

Keeping your cool
While being completely unflappable can be difficult in heated situations, the ability to do so can turn a situation around in a hurry. While most interactions will likely remain civil, there are certain situations where keeping your cool is the ultimate solution. Clients will mirror the demeanour of their representative and often need that structure to see that the situation is solvable. The saying ‘cooler heads prevail’ should be the motto for your client service team.

Empowered Work Force
Giving your client service team the autonomy to make decisions on the fly will allow them to solve problems quickly and efficiently. This sense of empowerment will also give your team the confidence they need to handle situations with ease and professionalism. With proper training and role-playing scenarios, you should feel confident that your team can make decisions that reflect the values and goals of the company as a whole. 

Always be Closing
Your customer service team should know that their main mandate when concluding a client interaction is their satisfaction. Clients should leave the conversation feeling that their needs have been met or will be as soon as possible. Your team should verbally acknowledge that this is their mandate and confirm with the client before ending the conversation that their needs have been met.

Changing Perspective
Having empathy for client concerns can turn a situation around quickly and efficiently. The ability to think from a different perspective will allow your team to see issues from another angle, often resulting in creative solutions that work for everyone.

Time Management
Your team should understand that there is an adequate amount of time to dedicate to each issue. Sticking to those boundaries will result in more efficient conversations and a clear course of action should things veer out of scope. Finding another resource and acknowledging the inability to help is the best course of action.

If your team is struggling to reach the level of client service you’d like, we can help, reach out if you’d like more information!

 

 

 

The science behind answering the phone with a smile

The science behind answering the phone with a smile

It may sound like a gimmick, but believe it or not, answering the phone with a smile makes a difference. Not only that, there are scientific reasons to back it up. We believe in this so much at Smiledog, we named our company based on this premise. Today on the blog, we’re going to identify how it works.

Smiling affects your vocal tone

The acoustic effects of a smile’s stretched lips on speech changes the tone of your voice. In fact, when you’re auditory smiling, your tone is upbeat and friendly. Often the effect is so obvious that you may not even realize it until you’re smiling yourself in response!

This response is so powerful that we train our Smile Team to start smiling before they even answer a call. Try it, you’ll find that regardless of what you say, if you say it with a smile, it will have a positive outcome.

Moods are contagious

Moods are as contagious as the common cold. Psychologists call this phenomenon emotional contagion. It is actually a three step process where one person’s feelings and demeanor transfer to another. The first stage is called non-conscious mimicry, where you mimic the other person’s actions, often subconsciously. Second, you experience the feedback from the action, meaning if you frowned you may feel sad and conversely, if you smiled, you may feel happy. Lastly, you begin to synchronize your emotions until the nonverbal cues of those around you physically alter your own behavioural state.

When customers call in a frustrated or angry state, greeting them with an upbeat and positive tone and demeanor can change the course of the call nearly instantaneously.

Smiling actually makes you happy

Having a bad day when you work in customer service just isn’t an option! That’s not to say it doesn’t happen from time to time. Research suggests that even forced smiles can boost your mood. A smile spurs a powerful chemical reaction in the brain that can make you feel happier. We encourage our team to smile before, during and after their calls. Hopefully they’re mostly genuine, but if needed, our team knows they can quickly boost their mood by forcing a smile, in most cases, it doesn’t take long before they’re smiling for real.

There you have it, smiling is a simple, but effective, action that can improve your mood and in our case, also improve the experience that your customer receives. If you’re not convinced, give it a try and see for yourself how powerful a simple smile really is.

3 Phone Follies Losing Your Chiropractic Clinic New Patients (which are you guilty of?)

3 Phone Follies Losing Your Chiropractic Clinic New Patients (which are you guilty of?)

Missed calls, calls that go to voicemail and callers who put on hold are the #1 source of lost revenue for chiropractic clinics.

Most new patients begin their search for a Chiropractor with Google. This medium offers a great opportunity if you’re good with the Google to position your website in front of the prospects. 

However, it’s also easy for a new patient to just call someone else if your phone goes unanswered or they’re forced to wait on hold for too long.

This article covers the three phone issues costing Chiropractic clinics new patients every month. Which is happening in your clinic?

 

#1 “Can You Hold a Moment?”

 

PROBLEM:If you have in-house reception, you’ve heard it before. The phone’s answered, and person calling hears “thank you for calling … can you hold a moment”.A caller is put on hold most often when there’s someone in the clinic that requires service. The idea that the patient in the office takes precedence is true. However, it’s not excellent customer service to put someone on hold for a minute or two either.I think if you took a survey you’d find that more often than not people asked to hold a moment, who aren’t current customers, end up hanging up if waiting more than 30-45 seconds.

 

Setting up backup reception, where calls that go unanswered within the first 3-4 rings bounce to an offsite virtual receptionist automatically. The virtual receptionist can answer the call live, and no one gets put on hold. Every caller gets to speak to a live person, and your clinic doesn’t miss out on new potential patients.

 

#2 No Receptionist (or not full-time)

 

PROBLEM:If you’ve recently started or run a small practice then not having an in-house receptionist or maybe only having someone part-time is the norm. Staff costs money, and when starting out money isn’t always something we have. It becomes a chicken or the egg type discussion.Missed calls can mean lost revenue from both current and new prospective patients.

 

SOLUTIONConsider hiring an offsite virtual reception service either part or full-time to handle incoming patient phone calls. If you use a cloud-based calendar booking service such as Cliniko or JaneApp, a virtual receptionist can even book patient appointments for you.

 

#3 Flexible Hours = Voicemail

 

PROBLEM:Having regular business hours for a chiropractic practice can hurt new patient acquisition. Not everyone can come in 9-5 Monday to Friday. You know this, and we know this. Flexible clinic hours such as closing two mornings a week but staying open until 8 pm those same days are often the norm, but who’s picking up the phone if someone calls on those mornings no one there?New patients are often lost this way as people tend not to leave a voicemail. It’s too easy to just move on to the next Chiropractor in line on Google.

 

Part-time and backup offsite virtual reception can be set up to only answer calls that aren’t picked up by the 3rd ring in your office. So, outside business hours, or when your in-house receptionist is busy with another patient, callers will still get a live person to speak too.

 

Lots of Other Choices

 

The fact is most people looking for a chiropractor to visit are using the Internet, more specifically, Google. When they search for “chiropractor city name” there are at least ten choices that come up. The commitment level to have to get you on the phone isn’t that high. A simple back button click gives them another nine choices.All this choice is why it’s essential that you maximize every call. You don’t know which ones are current patients that may wait or call back and which are potential new patients looking for a provider.

 

SOLUTION = Offsite Virtual Reception

 

 

Offsite virtual reception services, such as Smiledog, answer incoming calls just as an in-house receptionist would. Want to see how we do it? Request our demo video and price guide here.Depending on the appointment booking system you use in your clinic we can even book new patient assessments and current patient appointments* without you even needing to speak with your client.We work with dozens of Chiropractic and wellness clinics across Canada and the US; watch one of our testimonial videos below from Dr. Nick Stryniak.

 

Online Booking? No Problem!

 

Thanks to online apps like Cliniko, Jane App, and a few others, offering online appointment booking is a breeze. Virtual reception services, such as Smiledog, can use these online book apps to book in current and new patients right on your calendar while you’re with another patient. Want to see how we make this work for Chiropractors and wellness clinics? Request our demo video and price guide now.

 

Answering Service Vs Virtual Reception – What’s the Difference?

Answering Service Vs Virtual Reception – What’s the Difference?

Many business owners see a phone answering service and virtual receptionist service as the exact same thing. On the surface, they’re right, both types of businesses answer the phone when it rings

It’s how a virtual receptionist handles that call that differentiates them from a strictly answer service business.

We’re going to compare and contrast answering services and virtual reception services.

Our goal isn’t to sell you on why you MUST hire a virtual reception service, but rather consider understand the differences so you know what to expect.

Answering Calls

Both types of businesses answer calls, with a focus on doing so quickly. This is the easiest part of the whole process, answering the phone, and it’s exactly what you pay a telephone answering service to do, answer that call.

What happens after the call is answered is where things begin to differ and why the cost of a virtual reception service is more than an answering service.

Handling Caller Questions and Requests

If you’re business just needs someone to answer the phone and take a message, then an answering service should provide the level of support you need. What if the caller has some questions about your products or services. What if they want to book an appointment? What do you do then?

Virtual reception services generally invest more heavily in their software and technology as well as their people. This is to ensure that each business can provide specific details about their products and services such that each virtual receptionist can handle basic questions and even appointment booking.

You generally do not get that type of support from a straight answering service.

Want to see how we handle incoming calls and the information we can provide our receptionists? Click here to grab a free demo video of our services.

Beyond Taking the Message

If you sell items over the phone, provide support or book appointments with clients this is a task best left for a virtual receptionist.

So many tools and services are now available online, it’s possible to book appointments, answer questions, look up information and even process transactions simply with Internet access.

This is where virtual receptionists really separate themselves from an answering service. They truly are your receptionist just not right in your office.

Ideal Answering Service Customers

If your business simply requires someone to take a message and that’s it then a strict answering service will work for you. The cost will be lower, they won’t be answering common questions or booking appointments, but every caller will get an answer.

It’s difficult to come up with a specific industry that doesn’t need great customer service. Every marketplace is becoming so competitive, there just isn’t a lot of room for sloppiness anymore.

 

Ideal Virtual Reception Service Customers

If you receive phone calls then there’s justification for having a virtual receptionist on your team. That is if you struggle to answer your calls.

Businesses that already have an established front desk staff or reception team generally don’t require virtual reception, however, we do sometimes provide backup reception services for lunch hours, times with heavy call volume and sick days.

We’ve found that professional services such as lawyers and accountants as well as wellness services such as Chiropractors and massage therapists see big benefits in having a virtual reception service support their team.

 

What Now?

The next step is to grab our free demo video and pricing guide so you can see exactly how we are able to provide specific information about your business.

You can request the video here:

 

Why Virtual Reception for Medical Clinics Just Works!

Why Virtual Reception for Medical Clinics Just Works!

In the medical, dental or even chiropractic and wellness fields, a missed call can mean big bucks over the lifetime of a new patient. This is just one of the reasons so many medical clinics have enlisted the help of a virtual receptionist business to ensure all callers get a live person to speak with.

In this article learn why medical and wellness clinics are some of the largest users of virtual reception services, and why it’s important that new callers always get a live person to speak with when they call in.

Busy in the Office

You know the process. A patient comes into office, checks in at the front desk and sits down.

After their appointment, they go back to the front desk to pay for any services and possibly book their next appointment.

Each patient likely takes 8-12 minutes of time at the front desk with each visit. That’s 8-12 minutes that your front desk staff are unable to answer incoming phone calls.

This problem is the chronic condition that most medical and wellness clinics struggle with and why many clinics turn to virtual reception for medical clinics to bridge the gap.

In many instances clinics use a medical virtual reception service for call overlfow only. This means that if the phone isn’t answered within 2-3 rings in the office it bounces to your virtual reception service to ensure the caller gets a live person. This is an excellent way to keep costs low but ensure all callers get a live person to speak with.

[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=”KEY TAKEAWAY”] Using a virtual reception service for call overflow and backup only keeps your costs down but ensures every caller gets a live person to speak with. Give us a call today to discuss how overflow call service works and how you can set it up with your Telco. [/thrive_text_block]

Appointments to Book

Most calls that come into a dental, medical or chiropractic clinic are to book an appointment. Few people are calling to ask a lot of questions.

This means that if your clinic is using a web calendar then you can easily allow someone off-site, such as a virtual receptionist for medical clinics, to book appointments on your behalf.

Missed calls, means missed appointments which of course means missed revenue.

Lots of Competition

The nature of most medical, wellness and dental markets is that it’s highly competitive.

You’re quite likely not the only shop in town, unless you’re in a very small town. This means that if a caller cannot get someone from your business on the phone to book an appointment a whole list of other providers are only a Google search away.

Ensuring that every callers gets a live person to speak with, even if your front desk staff is busy with a patient in the office, is essential.

Virtual receptionist services ensure that all callers get to speak with a live person in a timely manner and can integrate with your online booking software to schedule appointments with your patients.

It’s a seamless operation that helps your clinic grow!

Want to see how we’re able to answer calls in your businesses name and book appointments for you as well? Grab our free demo video and price guide now.

Be Weary of Small Business Telephone Answering Software

Be Weary of Small Business Telephone Answering Software

The software industry has automated a lot of things and saved a lot of time. Small business telephone answering software is not one of those things.Most businesses are still what we like to call human to human. When you call into any sort of business you want to speak with another person.

  • You have a question
  • You want to buy something
  • You want to book an appointment

Software just doesn’t do that well.

Now, let me say that done right an auto attendant is not a bad thing. The issue is that most people who use small business telephone answering software to set up an auto attendant do a bad job of creating that auto attendant.

The key to using telephone answering software, whether it’s RingCentral, a service from the telecom or software installed on your office’s phone service, is ensuring people calling have an easy way to talk to a human.

Don’t make people jump through hoops and multiple levels of press this or that only to get to another menu. Give them an easy way to talk to a human.

Different Questions for the Same Issue

Have you ever called the toll free number for your bank and waded through the deep multi-level menus they have on there telephone answering software auto attendant?

You know you’re having an issue with your debit card. Let’s say you need to get it replaced, but you’re not exactly sure what menu option is the right one. After all, they don’t come right out and say “for debit card replacement press 5”.

This is a common issue of automated answering software systems. You create the menu, but you, as the business owner or manager, have specific knowledge about your company and industry.

What you call something may not be what a current or prospective customer might think it’s called. For this reason, complex auto attendant systems will lose you more customers than get them.

If you must have an auto attendant make it easy for the caller to speak with a live person. This way the caller can describe the issue they’re experiencing or ask their question to a live person.

Alternatives to Small Business Phone Software

Rather than software, there are live answer virtual receptionist services. These services are offsite and will answer every incoming call with a live person. The cost is likely more than answering software, but you’ll reduce the chance of losing any new business.

As mentioned above, having an auto attendant setup that gives 2-4 options for a caller, one of which is a live person to speak with isn’t a bad idea. You can then connect the “speak with a live person” option to a virtual reception service.

This solves the issue of needing an in-house receptionist but doesn’t increase your costs by sending every call to a live answer service.

Not Every Business Needs a Receptionist

It isn’t every small business that can afford an on staff receptionist. Not all businesses receive enough call volume to justify an in-house receptionist, even if they can afford it.

This is why small business telephone answering software is so attractive. It appears to solve a real problem. However, unless the business owner is tracking their inbound phone call metrics, they may think the software is doing a fantastic job.

Before you decide on using software to answer your company’s phone, explore your options. Grab our free demo video that shows how we handle inbound calls for our client’s businesses.

FAQ Series: How Much Does it Cost and is it Worth it For Low Call Volume Businesses?

FAQ Series: How Much Does it Cost and is it Worth it For Low Call Volume Businesses?

We get a lot of questions about our services.

Some from people who call in and want to know more about what we do and some from people who complete our Getting Started form and answer the question “What’s your biggest question or concern about hiring a virtual reception company”.

We find this information fascinating and want to dispel the myths and fears about hiring a virtual reception company to answer your calls, deal with your customers and help your business run smoothly.

Today we are going to address a question we get a lot:

How do we bill for services and does it make sense to use Smiledog even if my call volume is really low (e.g. 20 calls or less per month)”.

We’ll deal with this question in two parts, answering the last part first.

Is Smiledog worth it even if I have low call volume?

The answer to this is, it depends.

What does missing a call mean to your business?

Are you a wellness clinic where a new client could be worth hundreds of dollars over their life?

Are you a home services company where a missed chance to provide a quote to a homeowner could mean thousands of dollars in lost revenue?

We believe no matter how many calls you get, if there are new prospective customers calling you, then you should give them a live person to speak with.

Fewer and fewer people are leaving messages when they don’t get a live person. So don’t lose that chance to build a connection with a prospective new customer on their first call by letting it go to voicemail.

So, YES it’s worth having a virtual reception service even if your call volume is low.

YES, it’s worth having a virtual reception service even if your call volume is low.

Of course, the question of cost has to come into play here.

How do we bill for our services?

You can see our pricing page here. From that you can see we have two types of services:

  1. Daytime Reception
  2. Appointment Setting Service

Each service has a base package, $149 for Daytime Reception and $299 for appointment setting, that covers a set number of reception minutes each month.

If you go over the minutes included with that package you are simply charged per minute based on the number of overage minutes used that month.

Want to learn more about how Smiledog’s services work? Grab our FREE 5-Minute Demo Video and Pricing Packages here. If you’re ready to get started then take a couple of minutes to complete our Getting Started form here.

3 Ways Your Phone is Losing You New Business and Customers

3 Ways Your Phone is Losing You New Business and Customers

The phone is the gateway to most businesses. Even in this hyper-connected online world phone calls are responsible for more leads than email or forms on a website.

This means answering your phone when it rings is extremely important to the long-term health and growth of your business.

Here are the 3 types of callers you are missing out on if you struggle to get to the phone when it rings.

#1 Callers Not Leaving a Message

As high as 80% of callers today do not leave messages. When surveyed the response is because most don’t believe they’ll actually get a callback. So what do they do? They keep looking for someone to satisfy their need whether that be a chiropractor, roofing contractor or lawyer.

#2 Callers Listening to Voicemail Greeting but Hang Up

Most voicemail service will tell you what the number was that called. So if you get it soon enough you can call them back, but most callers, if they’re a new customer, will keep calling other options to find a solution. Making the need to have someone live answer every call all the more important!

KEY TAKEAWAY: Callers to your business rarely leave voicemails in this new age of instant gratification. It’s easier to call another provider than to wait and wonder “Will I Get a call back?“.

#3 Callers Who Leave a Voicemail

You might think if someone leaves a voicemail they’re waiting for your callback. That may be true if you have a monopoly for your industry in your area. Most businesses don’t have this luxury.

Callers will most often keep calling your competitors to find a second or third alternative to solve their problem, purchase the product or book the appointment. By the time you call back they’ve already engaged someone else.

Calls answered live, even if it’s just a live person to take a message create a different connection with the caller than voicemail or an auto attendant. They’re more likely to give your business a chance and have an expectation you will call them back.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Virtual Receptionists will answer every call to ensure new prospective customer speak with a live person. A different level of trust exists when someone leaves a message with a REAL person than a voicemail box.

Having someone to answer basic questions about your products and services or book appointments with callers if your business requires them will remove any chance of losing a prospective customer to an unanswered call or voice mailbox.

If you are missing a large volume of calls consider a virtual receptionist service to handle your calls full-time or part-time.