Earth month is a global celebration of hundreds of nations to drive education and engagement on environmental issues. At Specialty, we want to do our part to educate customers on how using an answering service can actually help reduce the impact that businesses have on the planet. That’s why we’ve created this environmental answering service guide, and we invite you to join us in implementing the tips below to help put the planet first – this month and every other month!
#1. Let your employees work from home
Even if it’s only a few days a month, letting your employees work from home can help cut down on the amount of resources they use in the office, which will help lower the environmental impact your business is leaving on the planet. Some activities that occur every day that suck up energy include:
- Driving to and from work
- Turning on the lights
- Using computers
- Adjusting the thermostat
- Making copies
- Brewing endless cups of coffee
- Heating up lunch in the microwave
When you outsource to an answering service that can handle the same basic tasks your staff does, you eliminate the need to have your employees come into the office every day, since most of their tasks can be completed remotely. While they may need to come in to meet with customers face to face, the majority of their work day can be spent in the comfort of their own home while your answering service fields all incoming calls and handles basic receptionist tasks like transferring calls to your remote team.
#2. Downsize your office space
No matter how much you think you need more space – you probably don’t. Instead of spending more money to hire more employees and increase your office space, you can outsource your calls to an answering service instead and use the money you’ll be saving to reinvest back into your business. Answering services can allow your business to grow without actually needing to grow physically. Smaller offices are easier to manage, cheaper, and much better for the environment.
In fact, an answering service can help you run a business without the need to have an office at all! Unless your business requires that customers come in for appointments, consultations or because you run a brick and mortar shop, everything else can be done remotely through your service. For example:
- With the use of a CRM, you don’t need to store customer files in old school filing cabinets that take up space. Many answering services can integrate with whatever CRM you’re already using, and update that accordingly whenever they take a new call.
- Answering services can help schedule phone appointments, or appointments where you are going out to your customers’ house to provide estimates.
- Answering services can process orders on your behalf, handle event registration calls, and manage your email response, social media, and live chat assistance.
- If you have employees, using an answering service can make it easy for your staff to work from home, negating the need to come into an actual office. Conference calls can keep everyone on the same page, or you could always meet for lunch to discuss business matters.
If you already occupy a large office space, consider the benefits of using an answering service to handle the same tasks some of your employees currently do, and how downsizing to a smaller office space would help your business succeed. Remember, it’s not about the size of your business, it’s about what you can do with it that matters!
#3. Ditch your phone system
For the businesses that use intricate, outdated phone systems that suck up a lot of electricity, outsourcing to an answering service that uses energy-efficient VoIP phone systems is a great way to decrease your carbon footprint, your electric bill, and the amount of customers who are annoyed at being stuck in your IVR loop. Answering services are also typically available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so they are able to handle all of your incoming calls if and when necessary. That means you can ditch your phone system without worrying about your customers not being able to reach you.
#4. Get and pay your answering service invoices online
Snail mail is so last year. More and more people are opting to receive and pay bills online for a number of reasons. Not only are you able to have immediate access to your invoices, but you also don’t have to worry about your check getting lost in the mail, which may result in late fees. Additionally, the more bills you can pay online, the less paper you use in the form of stamps, envelops, return address stickers and the bills themselves. So, by opting to pay your bills online, you are helping save the planet as well as your wallet!
If you’re using SAS as your answering service, there are a number of ways you can check your bill online. If you’re new to the scene, we’ve broken it down for you below:
- Through your Billing portal: Both of our Advanced and Essentials service level customers have access to our billing portal. Here you will be able to view all past invoices, view all past payments, and update your payment method.
- Through your SAS Desk portal: For our Advanced service level customers, your online portal will also include billing information. The billing section within your general portal will include information about the plan you are on, the amount of minutes you’ve used so far within the month, and if you are on the right plan or not. If you are not on the right plan, you can select a new plan to make sure you are not overpaying for service. From your general portal, you can also access the standard billing portal if you want to view your past invoices or payments.
If you want your invoice to be sent through email only, then you’re in luck if you’re using SAS, as we always send invoices via email by default. For customers who specifically want their invoices sent via standard mail, they must reach out to our customer support department to enforce the change.
#5. Don’t receive daily fax reports
Every year Americans use over 90 million tons of paper products, which means millions of trees have to be cut down to support the paper industry. Many businesses rely on daily reports sent from their answering service in order to reach back out to clients, analyze metrics and determine marketing strategies. However, instead of having your service fax you these reports, see if they can send them via email or better yet – if you can generate them yourself through an online portal. Taking steps to reduce paper waste means a smaller carbon footprint and a happier mother Earth. By eliminating faxed reports, you are also not at the mercy of the fax machine if it happens to break or stall. Your reports can be sent immediately through email or you can have access reports on-demand through an online portal.
If you happen to use a service that doesn’t offer an online portal and faxing reports is your only option, try reducing the reports to be sent daily (instead of with each incoming call), or weekly (if you’re not relying on the reports to return calls).
#6. Use an app and give your printer a break
If your answering service offers a mobile app, use it! Using a mobile app will eliminate the need to print out messages, on-call schedules or directions for service technicians. As long as all of your staff has access to a smart phone, they should be able to access your service’s mobile app. From their mobile app, they should be able to do things like:
- Check new messages and respond from wherever they are
- Check who is on-call or make updates
- Have immediate access to the caller’s address and use Google Maps to bring up directions
- Generate on-demand reports without needing to print them out
#7. Ditch your computer to reduce energy consumption
While it may not seem like using a computer is harmful for the environment, you should know that computers are energy hogs. Depending on the type of computer you use (i.e., a laptop vs. a desktop). A desktop computer uses an average of 200 watts/hour when it is being actively used. A computer that is being used for 8 hours a day would typically use about 600 kilowatts/hour which emits around 175 kg of carbon dioxide per year! Now times that by the number of staff members you have and you’re leaving a pretty big carbon footprint. Some ways you can reduce energy consumption from your computer include:
- Turn off speakers if they are not being used
- Turnoff the printer if it is not being used
- Turn off your computer when it is not being used instead of putting it to sleep or stand by mode
- Use a laptop instead of a desktop
Letting an answering service enter data into your system means less time you’re in front of the computer. Your answering service agents can update CRM records via an integration, schedule appointments, process orders and troubleshoot basic issues. While you won’t be able to cut out the need to use a computer entirely, reducing your energy consumption is always a step in the right direction.
#8. Share an on-call phone
According to the EPA, discarded cell phones and their components that are lying in landfills allows lead to seep into the ground, air and water, which can then be consumed by humans. If your business uses an on-call schedule that rotates between your employees, you can cut down on resources by having your employees share one on-call phone that rotates between them. The less cell phones and cell phone chargers that end up in landfills the better. If you’re not sure how to go about sharing a phone among employees, here are some tips:
- The company should purchase the phone so no one has to share their personal device or pay out of pocket to buy it themselves
- After each on-call rotation is finished, the last employee to be on-call will bring the phone back into the office and hand it off to the next person on rotation.
- Instead of giving customers the direct number to the on-call phone and increasing the chance of non-urgent calls, you can route your office lines to the answering service, and then have them reach out to the on-call phone for any urgent issues.
#9. Use your service to send important documents to your customers
Taking into account how many paper products are used each year, you can opt for email instead, and use your answering service to send important documents to your callers. With SAS, this can be done in a few different ways:
- Email App: The Email App is useful for sending pricing information, product details, medical office forms, and more. It can also be utilized to create customized call detail routing for your colleagues so that new SAS leads will be easily identifiable.
- Google Calendar: The Advanced Settings section of the Google Calendar app gives you the option to send callers their appointment details following a call. The email will send them their appointment date and time or confirm a canceled appointment. Note that this is not an appointment reminder message, but an email confirmation of their appointment details.
- Google Docs: With Google Docs, documents can be sent to callers as a link or an attachment. You can also use this app to provide operators with detailed information about your business in response to specific questions.
- Google Maps: When callers are requesting directions to your business, we can take their starting address and send them a link with point-by-point directions provided by Google.