Your Answering Service Is Your Enemy!

Steve Stone
Contributing Writer
CEO, ShuBee®

With today’s technology and niche service companies popping up all over the horizon, it’s easy to give in to the temptation of having your after hours or weekend call dispatching outsourced. Don’t give in, don’t treat your after hours and weekend business like a stepchild.

You never know when that late night call could turn into your next six figure account and the last thing you want to do is have someone not familiar with your company handling your business’ largest new account.

It may seem like a good idea to let another company work for you answering and dispatching these calls and I even fell into this trap with my plumbing/HVAC business, but there are a few problems that can arise when outsourcing your evening and weekend calls:

First, answering services don’t necessarily know your business. Maybe, you have a unique way of answering the phone or prefer to handle residential calls differently than commercial calls. Many answering services are going to answer your calls just like everyone else’s; even if provided a script there’s no guarantee they’ll come across with the same enthusiasm and can-do attitude that one of your own employees could provide by answering your phone.

Secondly, an answering service may field your calls for you, but will delay response times. Once the answering service talks to your client, takes a message and contacts your tech-on-duty to return the call, your after hours client has probably called five other businesses that has an ad they have recently seen.

Third, the issue with answering services that grips me most, is reports of my own clients being put on hold while the operator answers another incoming call. Answering services have no allegiance. Most mid-sized towns can only support three to four answering services. Odds are your answering service is answering your direct competitor’s calls as well as yours. While this may not have an impact on how well they serve your business, knowing this never set well with me.

One final problem I experienced when outsourcing our calls wasn’t with the service provider, but with my on-duty techs. Having the answering service contact my on-call techs caused a drop in service calls that were run over the weekends.

After a little investigation, I found that my techs were either diagnosing the client’s problem over the phone, telling them how to fix the problem if it wasn’t something “major,” or postponing the call until Monday morning. By then the client usually had the problem fixed by another company before we could show up on site. Here’s how I remedied this problem and doubled my weekend business. I was my company’s dispatcher after hours and weekends. It’s not the set it and forget it solution many would hope for, but the results were positively staggering.

I was able to run twice the business when I had after hours calls forwarded to my cell than by having another company handle them.

Most all phone services now offer an easy way to forward incoming calls to another number, many for free. Because I was acting as dispatcher, I was able to immediately assure the customer that a technician would be at their door in less than an hour and as a result – converted more calls to closed sales. Once you see the results you can then pass the duty onto someone in your office. I would not recommend letting the technician that will be running the job take the call. By improving how we answered after hour calls my company grew from 6 trucks to 32 trucks. I captured accounts that were million dollar accounts over the time I served them.

For example, I was taking calls on Saturdays and had a large university in my town call. They could not get a hold of the company that they normally used for service. We responded to their needs in a timely manner, which resulted in them becoming a multi-million dollar account for 10 years. One morning my phone rang at 3 AM in the morning, a tractor-trailer truck had run over a fire hydrant. This caused an entire Weyerhaeuser plant to shut down. We responded to this service call with no hesitation and got the warehouse back up and running. This is just another example of an after hours service call turning into a life long account. By making yourself available at all times for incoming phone calls provides the perfect example of how you gain your competitors business.

You never know when that million dollar phone call will come in. There are 24 hours in a day and the office is only open 8–6, so odds are it will come during the 3/4 of the day that you’re not there to personally answer. Don’t treat your after hours callers like the red-headed stepchild and leave them to tango with an after hours answering company.

Try it for just one month and let me know how much your after hours business grows. You do not want your competition taking your clients because you are not answering your phone after hours.

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