Phone service should fit your business' needs.
A large number of customers prefer to talk to a person at your business, so understanding your business's unique phone service needs is key. — rez-art/Getty Images

Despite the rising importance of SEO and digital marketing, many customers still prefer to interact with businesses in the old-fashioned way: over the phone. Research by BrightLocal found that 60% of customers prefer to call small businesses. Whether it’s checking to see if a product is in stock, asking about opening hours or seeking customer service support, small business owners need to meet a customer’s needs by having a phone service that works.

[Read more: Choosing the Best Business Phone System for Your Business]

What features should you look for in a phone service?

Depending on the size of your business and your goals (e.g., sales, customer service or just a way for customers to get in touch), you may need a phone service with all the bells and whistles or one with just a few bells.

[Read more: A Quick Guide to Cold Calling]

Voicemail

Voicemail is a basic necessity that virtually every business needs. Your voicemail message can answer some of the frequently asked questions about which your customers routinely call. For instance, your store hours, location and any changes to your schedule during the holidays can be described in your voicemail message.

There are a few advanced voicemail features you might also consider adding. Voicemail-to-email or voicemail-to-text are two ways to get a transcription of a customer’s voice message. See which messages are urgent and which messages can be tabled for a later time when you’re in-store. Transcribed voice messages also help you route a customer’s request to the appropriate sales representative or customer service team member. Ultimately, the goal of your voicemail features should help a customer get the information they need quickly without having to call back or wait on hold.

Call forwarding or mobile twinning

If you work in sales or like to give your customers maximum amounts of personalized attention, call forwarding and mobile twinning are two features to explore. Call forwarding directs calls to your business to a different designated phone or cell phone. Mobile twinning is similar in that it allows you to use your cell as an extension of your business number. When your landline rings, so does your cell phone. Both features allow you to accept calls no matter where you are. If a salesperson goes on vacation or you’re working from home, have your calls forwarded to a different device and always stay connected to your customers.

Small business owners need to meet a customer’s needs by having a phone service that works.

Automated attendant

“An automated attendant is ideal if your business expects a lot of callers on a regular basis without the need for an actual receptionist,” writes one expert on GoDaddy. If your business experiences a high call volume, set up an automated attendant or interactive voice response to make sure no calls go unaddressed.

An interactive voice response is an automated answering service that prompts a caller to select a menu option and directs their call accordingly. Automated attendants and IVRs make sure that a customer’s request is quickly addressed and matches their call to the person who can help them best. If you’re finding that many of your calls have to do with customer service or your business number serves multiple departments, consider adding an automated attendant to your phone service.

Conference calling

Some small business owners forgo a brick-and-mortar location altogether in favor of running their business online or from a home office. If you’re exploring a phone service for your home office, or if you allow some of your employees to work remotely, conference calling is a feature critical to keeping your team in sync. Conference calling allows three people to join a two-way phone conversation without an operator or paid conference line like Zoom. It’s also great if you have a traveling sales team that takes calls on-the-go and can’t easily join an online conference service like Google Hangouts.

CRM integrations

An advanced feature of a phone service is a CRM integration, meaning the phone service includes an application that syncs with Microsoft Outlook, Salesforce, Google’s suite or any other customer relationship management software your sales team uses. This integration helps your team keep track of your business’s interaction with a customer to personalize each message and build customer loyalty. CRM integrations give your team the ability to pull transcripts and records of your last interaction with a caller to make sure their needs are fully addressed. “Make sure that the provider explicitly spells out how the system will coordinate with the CRM options you have or want,” cautions one expert.

Remote support

Lastly, make sure your phone service features remote and comprehensive IT support. In case there’s an issue with your service, the provider you work with should be able to troubleshoot from afar. Administrative changes and upgrades should be managed without a lot of hands-on knowledge or service interruption.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published January 23, 2020