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Improve Lead Response Time with a 24 Hour Answering Service

Posted in Advice and tagged ,

In B2B or B2C sales, if you’re not getting back to leads lightning quick, you’re losing business. There’s really no way around it. Without instant lead follow-up, you’re daring that prospect to call your competitor. So, instead of growing your small business, you’re left treading water. Lead officially blown. Although it’s super important to make sure new leads are communicated with and relationships established quickly, in a normal business that’s only operating from 9-5, it’s not always feasible.

However, there’s one tool businesses can use to make sure their employees aren’t expected to work around the clock and no leads are missed: The 24 hour answering service.

It’s all about time

According to the Harvard Business Review, leads go cold very quickly. Their research showed that businesses that were able to contact new prospects within 1 hour of receiving the lead were 7 times more likely to qualify or close the lead versus those companies that tried to contact those companies after an hour – 7 times! Taking that a step further, if you compare the less than an hour response time companies to those companies who waited 24 hours or longer to call a lead back, now we’re talking about that lead being 60 times more likely to qualify or close comparatively. Those are pretty cold statistics if you’re on the > 24 hour end. But despite that, a surprisingly low percentage of companies, 37 % to be exact, will respond to requests within an hour.

So why do companies do it? Why are only 37% of businesses fast to respond? The reality is that most businesses aren’t equipped to contact leads back instantly. There’s no in-house 24 hour staff. There’s no unicorn employee that likes to be answering phones and responding to requests 24/7/365. Businesses aren’t just businesses. They’re powered by people with families and responsibilities outside of work.

Unless you’re running your own 24-hour shifts, it’s time for a change. By diverting those leads and having them captured and responded to by a 24 hour answering service, you’ll be better equipped to close more leads by decreasing your lead response time. With the opportunity captured, you can focus your decision making on what leads does your staff want to be contacted for, and what leads are important – just not important enough to disrupt my sales staff’s lives as 9:00 PM.

It’s all about tools

Routing your sales line to a 24 hour answering service throws any limitations on money and manpower you may be tethered by out the window. For a low monthly price that’s based on volume, you can reap the benefit of that 7 times higher close rate by giving your prospects a live voice to speak with to ensure their lead data is captured. The best companies take this a step further and learn how to take advantage of specific scripting and protocols to find a balance between what the lead wants, and what your employees expect in terms of work-life balance. When setup correctly, your 24 hour sales line can get you in the game:

Deciding which leads should be transferred

While all leads are important, not all need an immediate response from your sales team. For example, someone calling in with a few questions but not showing any real interest in signing up at this time could just result in a message for your sales team to follow up on a later date. However, hot leads, or leads who are very interested in your product or service should probably be transferred to your team to close the deal. Your answering service should be able to program in screening questions which will help the operators determine who would need to be transferred or not.

For example, they could ask your callers “are you interested in signing up or did you just have questions?” If they are interested in signing up, they can transfer the caller to your team. If they just want more information, the reps can utilize your custom FAQs to answer questions and then take a message for callers who need more information.

Deciding on your transfer methods

If you decide to transfer hot leads to your sales team, your next decision should be what type of transfers to implement. Typically, there are 3 types of ways your answering service can reach out to your staff, which include:

  • Cold Transfer: A cold patch would involve an operator blindly sending a call through to another party, like your sales team.  This means they are not testing the line first to see if someone is available. If no one is available, your caller would be given the option to leave a voicemail message for a return call.
  • Warm Transfer: A warm patch would involve the operator placing the caller on hold to see if the person they are patching to is available. If they are, they can transfer the call through. If they are not, the operator can take down the message details and let the caller know their call will be returned soon.
  • Reach On-Call: A reach out would involve the operator taking down the message details from your caller and disconnecting the call. They would then reach out to your staff via phone call with the message details and hop off the line. It would then be up to your staff to call the customer back.

Ensuring backup staff or supervisors are in place for the can’t miss leads

If your staff can’t be available 24/7, it’s a good idea to have an on-call system in place so that someone is always around on your side to close those deals that may come in after hours. Your on-call system should be on a rotating schedule so that you can evenly distribute the work, and your answering service should be programmed accordingly.

For example, your answering service script should be programmed in a way that allows the operators to determine which leads need an immediate response and which can wait. For the ones that need immediate response, your agents can access your on-call schedule to reach out to the appropriate person to deliver the message. Instead of having to wait for the next business day for a response, your potential customers will feel satisfied knowing they can speak to a member of your team any time.

For non transfers, provide realistic call back times to keep them interested

For inquiries that don’t require a transfer, it’s still important to provide callers with a realistic time frame of when their call will be returned. Otherwise, they may grow impatient and decide to move on to your competition. If your callers know someone will be getting back to them within a specific time frame, they are less likely to move on. However, it’s equally important to make sure your team is sticking to the timelines your answering service is relaying, otherwise you’re going to lose trust from potential customers, which means you’re going to lose business.

Use available tools to send out emails with more information

If you and your staff are unable to get to every lead that comes in right away, having your answering service send out emails to your callers with more information regarding your product or service is another way to help secure leads. While they are waiting for a call back, your customers can read through the information provided which may help answer questions and familiarize them with your company. When you do reach back out to your customers your interaction will be more streamlined and efficient, since they have already been sent all of the necessary preliminary paperwork when they first called in.

It’s all about making it personal

Voicemail isn’t just cheap. As a lead capture tool, it’s both cheap and ineffective. If you’re using voicemail to capture your leads, you’re failing. Customers would rather connect with a human being than with a business. In fact, according to a Microsoft customer service report, 34% of customers cite the most frustrating aspect of customer service is not being able to reach a live person. As your lead begins it’s journey through your sales funnel, you don’t want to start the relationship on a sour note. The first encounter your customer has should be with a live person. And by using an answering service with 24 hour availability, you can indulge in the benefits of live person-to-person interactions without the cost of doing it in-house.

Let callers know they’re speaking with the receptionist

If your answering service is fielding calls on your behalf, honesty is important. That means you shouldn’t have your answering service lie to your callers to make them think they are speaking with someone from the office when they are not. Not only does this mislead your callers and allow for false expectations, it also shows that your business is not trustworthy. Being up front with your callers from the get-go is a good way to show that your company is transparent and open.

On transfers, let callers know who they’re being transferred to

When building a successful business relationship, communication is key. That  means your callers and potential customers should never be left in the dark. When your answering service transfers calls, they should keep the caller in the loop as much as possible. That means they should familiarize the caller with what they are doing (being put on hold) and who they are being transferred to (John from our sales team). The cherry on top of the ice cream would include having your answering service introduce both the caller and your staff member to make for a seamless transition (Sally, I have John from our sales team on the line for you, he’ll be able to answer all of your questions.)

Let the service schedule appointments

If you’re just using your answering service to answer calls, you’re missing out. Having your answering service perform other tasks like helping schedule appointments means one less thing you and your staff have to do. Instead of having to return calls to schedule, potential customers are already in the database, and your team can spend that time preparing and focusing on other jobs and responsibilities. And, those services usually don’t cost any extra which means you won’t be spending any more money than you already were.

It’s all about success

24 hour answering services make it possible for businesses to connect with their sales prospects around the clock. Businesses who are in the know and outsourcing are doing it right, those who aren’t – just aren’t. The same Harvard study that showed 37% of companies responded to their lead within that golden one hour mark, 16% responded within 24 hours, 24% took longer than 24 hours, and 23% of businesses never responded – at all. Surprisingly disturbing, right? Leaving money on the table when it doesn’t need to be is how you sow failure, not success.

Having an answering service operating 24/7 on your behalf could mean the difference between the success and failure of your business. Just giving your leads someone to talk to makes all of the difference. It shows that you care about your customers, and that you care about the growth of your business.

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Specialty Answering Service is a leading call center company, helping fast-growing businesses close sales and deliver amazing live customer support 24 hours a day. SAS' friendly virtual receptionists and customized call handling create an outstanding virtual office experience. There are thousands of small businesses already using our services. Try SAS for free today.

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