Simply picking up the phone proven to boost small business revenue

Man-making-sales-phone-call

Source: Unsplash/Berkeley Communications.

Nowadays, it’s tempting to think that everything can be done online. After all, if you can “gram” the spaghetti emoji to your local Italian restaurant and expect a beautiful pasta dish to arrive within 30 minutes, how much more digital can things get?

As the founder of a digital agency, I’m a huge advocate for all things digital — but there’s a broader issue here than just “let’s all jump online”. Small businesses and their customers are time-poor, and the daily deluge of false leads and digital communications can be distracting them from the most valuable communication medium of all.

In an era of chatbots and social media messaging, our research found that there is an opportunity for every small business to grow up to 20% with one zero-cost task: picking up the phone.

Why do customers prefer to call?

First and foremost, phone calls are more often used for personalised communication; to build relationships and respond to challenging situations. This means that phone-based and in-person jobs are difficult for technology to replace.

Urgency is also a huge factor. We’ve all sent an enquiry via a web form, shortly followed by the uncertainty that anyone is going to read and respond. Picking up the phone promises instant gratification and response for time-poor customers.

Let’s get back to basics: businesses need to prioritise and understand that a phone call is the most valuable enquiry of all. A phone call usually leads to a commitment, when a customer can pass on their personal details, take time out of their day, share their needs and wants and desires, all in real-time.

Filtering out valuable communications

As marketing channels get bigger and more complex, business and sales enquiries can flood in from all directions: comments, direct messages (DMs), texts, emails, form entries and so on. The effectiveness of emails and texts is on the decline, with abysmal open rates and better spam filters striking them down before they ever reach their destination inbox.

Since communication is now so easy, businesses are constantly bombarded with low-quality spam. This is leaving many businesses overwhelmed, which means they cannot prioritise how or where to pay their attention — especially small businesses that are time poor and can’t outsource this task as easily.

Phone calls may seem archaic, but instantly connecting with a real human voice and having a conversation has power and effectiveness that you just can’t replicate with an Instagram message.

Why are phones not answered?

Between September 2020 and January 2021, Expertise.com conducted some research by making 41,293 initial calls to a variety of service providers. They found that on the first attempt, businesses picked up the phone only 60.52% of the time.

For small businesses, it’s quite possible that the person answering the phone is the same person doing the work. If they’re on a job or consulting with a client, they’ll let calls go to voicemail and keep their attention with their current customer.

With so many communication channels available, the simple fact is that most business owners would rather focus on replying to comments and emails than committing their time to the phone.

Why phone calls are so important for businesses

There really is no excuse for a phone call to go unanswered, and you may not get a second chance to make a good first impression. Not answering the phone creates a negative perception of a business, and in times of Google searches and multiple tabs, it absolutely pays to be the business that responds first.

A quality phone conversation creates a positive impact, and since so many have been isolated from human contact with remote work, a voice at the end of a phone is genuinely what customers want. It only takes a minute or two of conversation for most people to form an idea of what it would be like to work with a business on an ongoing basis. 

Everything could rest on that first conversation.

The solution for businesses

How do businesses track calls, and make the process of the inbound call easier for everyone? You can’t improve what you don’t measure, so get yourself some phone tracking software. They come with all kinds of bangles and baubles, but the bottom line is that phone tracking software can identify where calls come from and also record them. Play these recordings back to properly record details, track what people need when calling your business, or just listen to how you sound when answering the phone.

In particular, calls made off the back of paid media spend, a new website or a social campaign really should take priority. If a business is trying to boost inbound enquiries by spending money, it must have the right system in place to handle the outcome.

Every inquiry needs to have the right response. For a customer, the minimum expectation is to answer the call. For small or time-poor businesses with limited resources, telecoms providers have a huge range of digital telephony services available to help make this process seamless. Even small businesses have the tools they need to prioritise their phone communications and make that communication channel work at peak efficiency.

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