Love it or hate it, a phone is often a must for running a small business. For me, there are many reasons why the phone is not my preferred method of contact. For starters, my work, by nature, requires that I have notes of client conversations – if those conversations occur in email format – presto, notes are already there. If the conversation happens on the phone, much can be lost in translation. More importantly, as a work at home mom (WAHM) at any given time there are distractions – the baby is crying, my 6 year old needs attention immediately (mama, can I have another snack), the dog is barking, the buzzer on the dryer that I share office space with goes off – it’s not the ideal setup for a business call. I’ve had more than my share of phone calls where I’m frantically trying to meet the needs of my family while still attend to my client. If I had it my way, I would never take phone calls.
And, I can pretty much guarantee that I never look like this woman – a happy, smiling, quiet baby is sitting in front of the computer with their hands to themselves while I cheerfully conduct business over the phone – ha! Not quite. But still, if I had a dollar for every client who told me that they were so glad I actually had a phone number to call, or who felt that they could express themselves so much clearer over the phone, or who was just grateful to feel like there was a human on the other side when they were about to spend their money on a service. My business went up by about 1/3 when I added a number to my website. Sure, it didn’t happen overnight and I can’t say that it was the only factor, but I know that if not weekly, than at least monthly, I gain a client who would not have paid for my services if they could not reach me by phone.
I’ve tried handling the phone number thing various ways; not having one, having people request a call back via email, using my cell phone as a business phone and finally, what has worked the best – using a phone service. I think that the last 3 options are all fine, as long as people have a way to contact you by phone, but I have found that people can sometimes get frustrated when they have to email you for a phone call back. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with that – if you just can’t do phone calls, then you can’t do them. And you will find that some people will “abuse” your phone number by calling for every little thing. But in the end, if running a successful online business is dependent on good customer service, and I think it is, then putting up with some of the annoyances of taking phone calls is worth it if it means more satisfied customers (or even just more customers).
So now I use a phone service, it allows me to pay less than I would for a full business line. I get an 800 number that will ring through to any phone I want, or my computer, or any combination (it currently rings through to my computer, home phone and cell phone). I can set the business hours, create extensions, set voicemail preferences, check my voicemail via phone or computer and receive faxes. One of the biggest selling points for me was the plan pricing, which was perfect for my budget. I think there are several phone services out there, I have been using Ring Central for about 2 years and would highly recommend it if you need a phone line solution. You can get a Free Trial Plus $10 Off by clicking on the link.
Whatever you do about your phone options, make sure it makes sense for you and don’t be afraid to change it along the way. When Aiden was a newborn, I took my phone number off my website for about 3 or 4 months. I really needed to maximize every second I had to work and didn’t want to be distracted or feel compelled to answer business calls. I went on a no calls policy, and while I think it did hurt business a bit – it was the right decision for me at the time. In the end, I’m a WAHM because it allows me to make decisions about my work that are truly the best thing for my family – I think as long as I stay true to that along the way then I can’t go wrong.