Thursday, January 7, 2016

Goodbye to voicemail

     Statistics show that the days of voicemail are numbered. Recently published numbers reveal that more then three quarters of people do not leave messages when they are sent to voicemail. They simply hang up.
     So why do so many small businesses still depend on voicemail? The answer is simple. Voicemail is convenient for the business--not the caller. And that is bad for business.

     More and more customers are turning away from voicemail, favoring text messages and emails instead. Consumers know what's convenient for them--even if businesses are slow to catch on.

     The situation has led to the rise of speech-to-text providers. They turn voice messages into text messages and send them on. Big businesses can afford this extra service, but small businesses are likely to consider it a needless expense.

     All this confirms what has long been suspected. And it comes from experience. A deliberate decision was taken by the Business Owners Institute of New Jersey not to have voicemail. The organization received a continuing stream of phone calls from owners of small businesses seeking help with management and growth problems. Every phone call was answered before the third ring--by a live person. Callers responded positively to the set-up.

     Prompting a client or customer to go to voicemail simply delays--and sometimes kills--a relationship. Owners of small businesses need to realize that telephones are for the convenience of the customer--not the business owner. Phones should be answered promptly by a live person. If the caller is trying to sell you something, you can simply hang u.

     But if a caller is trying to place an order, arrange a purchase, or needs information, the caller deserves to speak with someone. Flipping the caller to voicemail and getting a hang up can mean you lose a customer. All of us know that you never want to miss a call from a fresh referral.

     Today, savvy business owners are turning their smart phone into their business phone. You have it with you all the time, and you answer it when it interrupts you. At the very least, have calls from your business phone automatically and seamlessly transferred to your smart phone.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Easy ways to get more referrals

     Every business owner knows the value of referrals. When people are referred to you, they arrive pretty much open to your products/services.

     Referrals are a natural part of human interaction. We talk with each other, and we want to share with each other our thoughts, feelings, ideas, and much more--like a new restaurant in town or a plumber we know. 

     Social media like Facebook and Twitter provide a mechanism for these interactions. But there are some other ways you can promote referrals for your business. 

     Nutritionist -- Mary has lots of training and experience in nutrition. To connect with new clients, she regularly gives informational talks and sessions at wellness centers, senior centers, organizational meetings and other venues. She answers lots of questions, makes future appointments, and hands out literature. All this results in people subsequently talking about her in the community. Referrals come in. These activities speed up a naturally-occurring process, and they are in addition to her Twitter and Facebook postings.

     Electrician -- Ralph is an electrician working alone, carrying his tools and equipment with him in his van. He targets homeowners and small businesses, handling their electrical problems and needs. Every time he finishes a job, Ralph meets with the customer, explaining the work and answering any questions before presenting his bill. Then, he hands the customer a half-dozen business cards asking that they pass them on to friends, neighbors, and other business owners. It is a simple process, but it has worked for Ralph. People receiving his business card call him to fix their problems. 

     Interior design -- Eric takes a more aggressive approach to getting referrals. He is an interior designer handling residential and commercial clients. When he finishes an assignment, he asks for referrals and frequently receives a couple on the spot. Then, in about three months, he calls the client again, asks if there's anything else he might do for them, and, again, asks for referrals. Not only does this provide client follow-up, but it results in more referrals. He also maintains relationships with several real estate professionals who pass on to him referrals of new people moving into the area. 

     There's more to life today than Twitter and Facebook. Some older methods still work very well.