Starting a business can seem simple when you are doing something you know well and you do in an excellent way. You have a few people that can’t wait to purchase your goods or services and life seems great. You feel energized by the possibility of being your own boss and working with great clients. Finally – you get to make the decisions and you are sure you can do it better than your previous place of employment.
You probably are able to do it better … for lots of reasons … but always remember: In the future, your culture and processes need to be written, they need to be able to be duplicated, they need to be taught and they need to be sustainable. It can be hard to imagine that you may want to take a vacation. Perhaps you may need to go to a conference or trade show. Maybe someone in your family will get ill and you will need to vary your work hours to accommodate their needs.
If and when any of these things happen, you do not want to disrupt or upset the lives of your customers. You don’t want them to feel you have abandoned them or can no longer provide your goods or services. The customer experience should always be the same; you can make all your changes behind the scenes. Here are some workable, economical and sustainable suggestions:
From Day One: Have a professional alternative when you are unable to answer your phone.
Voice Mail: A well-spoken voice mail message will inform and direct your callers. Checking your messages frequently and responding efficiently will insure that your callers will have enough confidence in your response that they will leave a message instead of calling a competitor. You will also be able to ‘have a life’ without advertising your personal life to your callers. This is sustainable.
Enhanced Voice Mail Services: You may not have the cash flow to purchase a system that can give your company the larger image you desire. Check around – many answering services have state-of-the-art voice mail systems that can provide amazing services for a very small amount of money.
Your company could have voice mail with options for each ‘department’, even if all those departments are you at this time. Moving forward, when you actually have a service or a ‘customer care department’, things won’t look any different to a caller. This grows with you and is sustainable.
A voice mail system could answer the phone, record a message and then text or email you to alert you that you have a message. This would help you to provide the customer service you promise while still being a small business. This grows with you and is sustainable.
Answering Service: Budgeting for the ability to use the live-person services of an answering service will pay off in multiples. An agent acting as your receptionist can inform a caller when to expect a call back, give them directions or even pricing if you choose for them to do so. The expanded services they offer will allow you to present a professional image to your clients without having to pay for an employee that you cannot yet afford. As your company grows and you decide to hire a receptionist, the answering service could provide your after-hours coverage or extra coverage during the business day if your business has that need. This grows with you and is sustainable.
Check back for more suggestions to help you look like a grown-up company when you are really a baby company!