Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Why Your Small Business Needs A Virtual Receptionist

So, you run a small business. If you are like the other small business owners that we work with, you feel that there just are not enough hours in the day. Between managing your business, managing employees, answering the phone, and actually doing your job, the time runs out quickly. In the past, this would be at the point that it would be time to bring in a receptionist to help take some of the stress off of you. But is that still the best way to go?

With our ever changing world of technology, you now have options. Instead of paying a receptionist to sit at a desk in your office, waiting for the phone to ring, you can hire a company like ours to be your virtual receptionist. So what is a virtual receptionist, and why do you need one?

A virtual receptionist is exactly like a regular receptionist, only they do not sit in your office, cost you a full salary (and benefits, workers’ comp, etc.), or require you to add an extra phone line or an expensive phone system.

Be Available 24/7/365:
At PCNAnswers, our operators are available to answer your calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year with our 24 hour answering service. Whenever a customer calls, they will reach a friendly and professional voice who follows the script that you provide and then promptly either connects you to the caller or texts or emails you your message. Whether you need us to answer frequently asked questions, give directions, schedule appointments, or handle your common customer service issues, we can help – and for a whole lot less than a receptionist would cost.

Call Forwarding:
Just like with a real receptionist, we are able to forward calls to you or your staff when it is appropriate. You will let us know who is on call, give us reasons for that person to be connected with a caller, and then we handle the rest. If it is an issue that we can take care of, we will without disturbing you (you will get a notification of the call so you know what calls we have taken). If the call requires either you or a staff member, we will call your number, let you know that you have a call that needs your attention, and then connect you.

You Set The Script:
The best part about having us as your virtual receptionist is that you get to choose how we answer. No having to train your receptionist on how to answer the phone professionally (we take our training very seriously, and our operators are the best in the business). You simply write out a script for us (we are happy to assist you with this!) and when we answer the phone for you, your script and all of the information that you have given us about your company will pop up on our computer screen. We will follow the script exactly and we will handle all calls just the way you want them handled. Our most important job is to be your representative to your customers. We will do that exactly like you set out in your instructions.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Your Smart Phone – Indispensable or Major Distraction?

Everyone has a smart phone now. You can’t travel a few feet without seeing somebody staring at their phone. So why is everyone staring at their phones? Because they have become an indispensable part of our lives. You need to find out how to get somewhere? You get on Waze and have directions and know how long it will take to get there. Bored? Pop out your phone and start catching some Pokemon with Pokemon Go. Looking for a great place to eat? Pull up Yelp and find an amazing restaurant right around the corner.

To keep from beating a dead horse, our phones have become an integral part of our lives, and there is nothing that is going to change that. So why is this a problem? If you are the boss at work and you walk in and see half of your staff looking at something on their phone you start to wonder how productive your employees actually are. Is the ease of entertainment found on a phone keeping your staff from being as efficient as they should be?

Here are 3 Tips To Help You to Get the Most Out of Your Employees in the Smart Phone Era

1. Turn off non-essential notifications
The last thing that you need is your employees looking at their phone every 15 seconds at a new notification. Of course some notifications are necessary. If they text with clients, you cannot have them turn off their texting notification. If they monitor Twitter for the company account, those alerts must come through. However, productivity would go way up if the amount of notifications would go down. Just think about what we do when we get a notification on our phone… we look at the notification, unlock our phone, and do three or four tasks that we were not thinking about doing before the notification.

2. Have official cell phone breaks
It is one of those things that is just going to happen. Your employees are going to check Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram whether you let them or not. You would be much better off setting aside 15 minutes a couple times a day for cell phone breaks. Let your employees get their fix, and then bring them back to the task at hand. A couple of short breaks are good for productivity in general, but it will be even better if you can cut down on most of the unofficial social media breaks that your employees are already taking.

3. Cut down on office stress
One of the main reasons that people use cell phones is as a stress reliever. You will find that the more stressed your employees are, the more they will want to use their phones for something mindless. If you can keep the morale up and the stress level down, you will find that there will be much less use for your employees to use their phones for non work related tasks. At PCN, our supervisors are always available and make sure that we are getting the training that we need. One of the most stressful parts of our job is when there is a caller with a medical emergency and medical office has not given us updated information. Of course we have procedures in place to handle that particular call, but our management is very good about making sure that we feel supported and that we get the information that we need updated so that it is available the next time. With just these little changes, it not only makes the quality of our medical answering service better, it makes us as operators feel valued and our stress levels stay low.

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4 Customer Service Tips from A Telephone Answering Service

Customer service is an uphill battle. I don’t know if it has something to do with society today or if it has always been this way, but customers have incredibly high expectations. Often impossible expectations. And they are all too happy to post all over social media any time a company is not perfect. So what is a company to do in 2016 to try to provide excellent customer service even when their employees may be feeling like they are fighting an uphill battle.

Here are four tips that help us to keep our employee morale high and our service scores excellent.

1. Be a Team
Everything is easier if you are a part of a team. If you feel like your boss and your coworkers have your back, it is a lot easier to take any complaints that come your way. Of course if you deserve the complaints you should own up to your mistakes and take responsibility (another way to provide great customer service), but I am talking more about when a customer is complaining about something that you have no control over. If you foster an environment among your employees where everyone feels like they are a part of a team, not only will they enjoy work more, but they will be able to provide better service as well.

2. Be Efficient, Not Fast
Of course we all know that there are always more calls to answer. It is pretty tempting to go for speed and to let the service that you are providing suffer. However, while this might be OK in the short run, it is not going to work out well for you in the long run. Of course you should not be wasting any time or shooting the breeze with your callers. You need to be efficient – hear their problems, answer their questions, offer assistance, give them the information that they need – and then hang up and move on to the next caller. But you do not want to shoot for speed alone. In my experience, the callers that end up feeling worst about the service that they receive are the ones that do not feel heard. They end up feeling like the operator rushed through their call and didn’t take the time necessary to solve the problem. Take the time, but be efficient.

3. Have the Information that You Need
Working at an answering service (PCNAnswers Phoenix is the best!) is great because as we answer the phone, all of the information that we need about the customer that we are answering for pops up on a computer screen. However, we do run into trouble if a client does not give us all of the information that we need to answer questions. It is so much more efficient if you have all of the information right their with you. Make a sheet of frequently asked questions and have all of the answers right there. That way, no matter who answers the phone, you can be sure that they will give accurate information quickly.

4. Don’t Talk Down to your Customers
Your clients are usually calling because they have a problem. Many of them may be confused about something. Don’t be condescending or talk to them as if they are stupid – remember, you know it so well because you work there! The worst thing that you can do is make a customer feel like you think that they are stupid. That will raise the emotions and frankly leave a very bad taste in their mouths. Be patient, be kind, be friendly, and your customers will thank you!

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Answer the Phone Like a Pro – 4 Tips From an Answering Service

Funny thing, that telephone. Of course so many of us would love to pretend that it didn’t exist – or at least pretend that it is a text only device. However, as a business, how you answer the phone is still the first impression that you will have with the majority of your customers (and that makes it pretty important!).

Since we are an answering service, we know a thing or two about answering the phone professionally. Our clients trust us to represent them well every time that we answer the call. We know that every call could be that next big deal – or for our medical clients, the emergency that needs quick attention to save a life – so we can never take a call off. Here are 4 tips that will help you to answer the phone like a pro even when you don’t want to.

1. Answer the Phone
This one seems pretty obvious, but it definitely needs mentioning. Many business owners simply can’t be bothered to answer the phone.  We hear this one a lot, “If it’s important, they’ll leave a voicemail.” Guess what? Most of the time they won’t. If your caller does not get a live answer they will generally move on to another company that answers the phone. Shameless Plug – if you are having trouble answering the phone and think that you may be losing business because of it, we’d love to talk to you. Our friendly and professional operators will answer your calls 24/7/365 and you can concentrate on running your business. Give us a call at 888.528.5678 if you’d like to try us out risk free.

2. Identify Yourself When You Answer
You want to let people know 2 things – that they called the right place and who they are talking to. Something like, “Southern California Plumbing, John speaking” is great. You let the customer know that they called the right business and who they are talking to. If your phone is a cell phone that gets both business and personal calls, this is a little bit harder. We generally recommend that you answer with your name in that situation – “Hello, Andrew Jones speaking” so that people know who they are speaking with. And this way, whether it is a business or personal call there will be no confusion.

3. Do Not Answer When You Are In A Meeting
This is a tough one, and of course there are exceptions to it, but it is incredibly rude to answer a call while you are in a meeting. You are telling the person that you are meeting with that they are less important than a phone call. Of course if you are expecting an important call, it is acceptable to warn the person that you are meeting with in advance that an important call may come in and that if it does you will have to take it. Then after the call, apologize and continue on with the meeting. However, if it is not an urgent/important call do not answer it!

4. Don’t Be Funny
Don’t try to be funny with your greeting. Unless you have caller id and you are sure that you know that the caller is a good friend or family, always answer the phone professionally. We have heard too many horror stories of people expecting a call from a spouse or friend, answering the phone in an inappropriate way, only to find that it is their boss or an important client on the other end. Don’t put yourself in that uncomfortable situation. Be professional with every call!

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Friday, July 29, 2016

5 Effective Customer Service Tips Battle Tested in a Call Center

customer service tipsWhen what you do all day is talk on the phone, you get to learn a little something about customer service. I’ve been with PCN for quite some time now and they are amazing at making sure that we are well trained in customer service. They asked me to write up a blog post about the 5 things that I find most helpful in dealing with customers on the phone, so I’ve come up with 5 tips that I think will help anyone that deals with customers on the phone on a daily basis.

1. Don’t Try To Go Too Fast With A Customer
Yes, you have a lot of calls coming through. You probably have a stack of work on your desk too. But if you want to deliver excellent customer service it takes time. You need to make sure that the customer feels heard and you can’t do that if you are already thinking about the next call that you are going to take. Stop, breathe, and focus on the caller. Hear their problem, understand their problem, and then deal with their problem however possible. We find that hearing a customer is better than solving a problem as far as customer satisfaction goes.

2. Close The Conversation Well
This goes hand and hand with number one, but you have to make sure that you have actually dealt with the issue. You want to take the time to ask, “Is there anything else that I can help you with today?” Don’t assume that if you solve one issue that the customer is now happy. There are often multiple things that a customer would like help with, and if you do not give them the chance to voice them, they will often not call back and will leave the interaction quite unsatisfied.

3. Be Unified
This one is huge. It is great as an answering service that we get to talk through common complaints and how to handle them with our clients. That allows us to have all of the information in our script so that no matter what operator a caller talks to, they will get the same answer with a complaint. All companies should have something similar, and it has to be a working document. When a new issue arises, take the time to document how you want it to be handled and make sure that every employee that may deal with customers on the phone has easy access to it. The last thing that you want is for two customers to compare notes and find that they were both told different things. Or for two employees to tell the same customer two different things. Either of these can turn into a customer service nightmare.

4. Answer The Phone Quickly
We find that when we answer the phone quickly customers appreciate it and feel better cared for. At the times when the phone rings a few more times, a customer has already started to become annoyed and it can often last through the whole conversation. So do yourself a favor. Answer the phone quickly with a friendly and professional voice (our trainers tell us to have a smile in our voice and that really seems to work) and you can already start to put out any fires.

5. Have The Right People Answer The Phone
I bet having read that, you pictured an employee (or past employee) that shouldn’t be taking customer service calls taking one. There are some people that should not be tasked with customer service. If you have a very task oriented employee, they are going to struggle to take the time necessary to make a customer feel heard. That is not to say that there is no place for task oriented employees – companies would be lost without them. But you need to make sure that you have the right people plugged into the right places.

Need Help With Your Customer Service?

If you need help delivering excellent customer service or you are looking to lighten the workload on your employees (or yourself) we would love to help. We offer a 7 day risk free trial. Give us a call at 888.528.5678 and we will get you set up!

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

4 Signs That Your Customer Service Stinks

If you’re a small business owner, you know that customer service is important. You know that it is hard and/or expensive to get a new customer. You know that your business depends on keeping the customers that you have. And you know that the fastest way to lose customers is to offer less than excellent customer service. But you do not know how your customers would rate your customer service. Here are 4 signs that your customer service stinks.

You Don’t Get Many Referrals

Of course there is a lot more that goes into getting referrals than simply offering excellent customer service. However, we find that companies that offer amazing customer service will get a decent amount of referrals automatically – just because their customers are happy and they tell people about it. This is not to say that if you have an established referral program that gets great results means that you have amazing customer service. What find is that if you are not getting referrals from your current or past customers – there must be a reason and it usually has something to do with your service.

You Think That Not Getting Many Complaints Means Something

Nobody wants to get complaints about their service. And if you are not getting many complaints, it can mean that you start to feel pretty good about your service. However, there is a small problem with that thinking. Research finds that no more than 4% of unsatisfied customers will actually complain. Let that sink in for a minute. That means that for every complaint that you get, there are at least 25 other dissatisfied customers that didn’t bother to complain. Still feeling good about your service because you don’t get many complaints? Didn’t think so. A better measure would be a survey of your current and past customers. Or even looking at the times that someone does the opposite of complains – when you get a compliment about your service without asking. If you are getting more compliments than complaints, maybe you are doing something right!

You Want to Handle Customers as Quickly as Possible

This one can be tough. Your staff has only so many hours in the day and it is easier to take calls as quickly as possible. However, excellent customer service is never done as quickly as possible. It works best if you take your time and actually listen to your customers so that you can best answer their questions and solve their issues. But how can you do that? One simple way is to hire an answering service to answer overflow calls (this is one of our favorite things to do for companies – you can read more about our service here – http://www.pcnanswers.com/areas/chicago-answering-service/), to take messages, and to answer simple questions. This will free up your customer service representatives to handle more calls, spending more time with your customers without having to hire additional staff.

You are not Prepared For Complaints

There is nothing that will drive an irritated customer more crazy than having the customer service representative not know how to handle the situation. Of course there will be things that come up that you cannot prepare for, but you have to take time to think about issues that might arise – and then train your staff to deal with them. The better prepared your staff is for each individual situation, the better they are able to handle the customer well. Our operators answer for the Call Boxes on the side of the Freeways (https://www.newswire.com/pcn-introduces-live-telephone-answering/192815). As you can imagine, we get some strange calls with strange requests. We really had to take time to think about what issues could come up and train our staff on how to handle them. It has really made a difference for our operators and for the callers.

Conclusion

You want to offer excellent customer service. All business owners do. But right now, you’re not sure how your customer service stacks up. These were four tips that can help you to measure your customer service and give you areas where you can address and make necessary changes.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Use An Answering Service To Improve Small Business Customer Service

lead capture servicesCompeting against larger companies with greater pools of resources can be very difficult for smaller companies; small business tips that are time-proven and sound can be of great help for small business owners.

People starting a business or running a smaller one spend a lot of time brushing up on small business help, checking on how other successful companies do things, and even spending money on consultations to maximize efficiency. But sometimes the best small business tips that can be offered are how to capture every opportunity to increase business at the lowest possible cost. One of the best small business tips is to make sure that your business is known as attentive, quality-based, and customer service orientated.

Small Business Tips for Getting and Keeping Customers

For many companies, making the smaller business shine amongst those with more capital means making use of local advertising. Another great way to assure that one’s business prospers is through word of mouth. People who use and recommend a small business help to promote that business – for free! To keep up the good word, owners should listen to small business tips and pay careful attention to public face. This means having qualified and friendly people as customer service personnel.

Small Business Tips Include Use of the Best Phone Operators

When it comes to staff, the best help for small owners is the use of professional telephone operators – particularly after hours or on holidays. Some companies are literally skeleton-staffed or even one-man operations. Particularly with a small business, help is needed answering the phones consistently and professionally. But budgets don’t necessarily allow for a full-time receptionist, much less one for after hours. One of the most important small business tips is to have someone handling the phones at all times, focused on your calls.
Small Business Tips May Lead to Business Success
small business tips

Small business tips, so that you won’t have to wear quite so many hats!

Of all the small business help and advice, one hint that should never be overlooked is that customer satisfaction is particularly important for smaller companies, and a great help for small business owners. Telephone answering services for a small business help keep that business in touch with its clients, providing the best possible service with a lower number of employees.

When a customer calls in, the customer’s information can be pulled up so every call is handled as if the owner were handling it personally. Small business tips emphasize that personal and customized service builds loyalty, which is vital for the relevance of any company. This is exactly what a phone answering service will provide – if you hire the right one. There is no better small business help than making every client feel appreciated and important.

Being available to customers 24 hours a day 7 days a week is a rarity for smaller companies, but it need not be expensive. A phone answering company such as Professional Communications Network will offer help for small owners by being there when the owner cannot. Listening to these important small business tips can inexpensively put one’s business at the forefront ahead of all the others and fresh in the minds of those who count: customers.

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