In a crisis, communication is essential. The United States is just about a month into the COVID-19 pandemic, and about 2 weeks into social distancing protocols, and life as we knew it is a faded memory. For small businesses, it’s too early to know the economic impact the novel coronavirus will have. But, what we do know is that as consumers continue to self-isolate, companies have an even greater responsibility to stay connected with them.
Let’s take a look at the best practices for using an answering service to tackle your traffic and communication challenges.
1. Offer 24/7 Customer Service
As a result of customers working and living out of their homes, new ways of reaching out to businesses may arise. As our new normal sets in, customers could start to contact you outside of normal business hours, or expect you to be available when their schedule allows a call to your company. Companies can be prepared for this new normal by making sure their answering service is available 24 hours, and by providing time dependent call handling. For instance, where during office hours you may want your answering service to transfer every call, after hours you may only want to have important or urgent calls transferred to you.
If your provider doesn’t offer 24-hour answering, here are other ways to cope with traffic outside of office hours:
- Add an IVR on your line which routes calls to your answering service during the hours when the service is available, then to your staff when your virtual receptionists are not
- Use an IVR after hours to help answer basic questions and provide information for callers, like when your team can be reached live as well as any urgent information
- If you’re trying to minimize contact for your employees after hours, program your IVR with an after hours announcement letting the callers know the office is closed and to can leave a voicemail message
2. Update Your Scripts
With social distancing and stay-at-home orders, physical business interactions may not be returning for quite sometime. Now is the time to re-imagine how you do business and make sure those changes are part of your customer service experience.
For example, many doctors are offering telemedicine appointments as an alternative to physical, in-person appointments in an effort to limit unnecessary contact. Brick and mortar stores are offering free delivery or curbside pickup. Whatever your new business model, make sure your answering service knows about it and your script is adjusted accordingly.
If you aren’t looking for a total overhaul of your script for something that may be temporary, here are some quick fixes:
- Update the FAQs your answering service uses with your new offerings
- To keep your script simple, add your new offerings to a ‘what services are you interested in’ dropdown
- Include a transfer protocol for important or urgent calls so your customers know you’re still there for them
3. Love The Phone Again
With new quarantine rules, all small businesses have the opportunity to fall in love with telephone communication again. With limited opportunities for face to face interactions with businesses, phone contact is more vital than ever to develop long lasting relationships with clients. Customers are looking to feel connected to the brands they love again, and telephone communication is the perfect answer.
Depending on the type of business you run and what your answering service offers, you may also want to utilize text or SMS response for those customers who’d rather not call, but still want the prompt response of speaking to someone in real time.
The businesses that continue to thrive when this pandemic is over will be the ones who stay close to their customers.