What Does Your Telephone Say About You When You Are Away?
Your Small Business Image can be Shattered by Your Phone
by BIG Mike McDaniel
Business to Business relationships come to expect
a certain level of professionalism, from the first
telephone call to the final delivery.
Your business can be on the Really Big 500 list,
employ only a handful of people, or be a business
of one but what is said by that business to other
business customers will reflect the personality
of that business. It can be a PR boost or a PR
Have you called the telephone company or your long
distance provider lately? Chances are you will get
a machine telling you to "listen closely because
the menus have changed" (as if they know you
called last year).
When you do listen closely, chances are there is
not a choice on the menu that sounds like the
reason you called. Worse, you could choose a
selection and be directed to an area that does not
answer with no way to get back to real people.
What does that say about the company? Terrible
Only the companyís bean counters will argue that
all that "select and press" boogie-woogie is good
for the company. Word of mouth is faster and
cheaper than any other form of advertising, and
very widespread. Have you talked with anyone that
thinks voice mail menus are nifty?
Same if you have to call an insurance company, or
credit card company. Now, it seems, more and more
calls are greeted with the "all our agents are
busy, please hold" message. Can you imagine how
that one got started? "Look, Herb, if we put the
main line on voice mail, we can trim our customer
support staff in half, just have the machine say
Ďeveryone is busy helping other customersí, we can
save really big bucks!" Not much for PR is it?
Even worse if they ditch the 800 number and make
you pay for the call.
For years I have told my clients to look to the
big boys to see how they do things. Now I hedge my
advice, by pointing them at the big boys that are
doing it right, because so many have made more
than one wrong turn on the road to a professional,
The telephone is only one part of the puzzle, but
one of the most important parts. I tell my clients
with small to mid size businesses to call the
office from time to time to see how the phone is
I cannot count the number of times I have had to
ask to person answering the phone to repeat the
mesh of words that just flew by. Hundreds of times
I have been ka-thudded on hold with not so much as
a "Hang on Bub!"
It is true, you can hear a smile on the other end
of the phone. You can also hear indifference and
the Easy one to spot is outright disgust. One
bored telephone person can do more to undo what
took years to do more than any other company asset
What if your company is you? Staff of one with a
home office. What happens when a call comes in and
you are not there to put on your best voice? Does
a machine get it? In how many rings? What does the
machine say? Does your machine make sense if you
call from a pay phone?
It only takes a few minutes to draft a script for
the answer machine. So much better than an ad lib.
Even the pros write it down. Forget about that
"Iím not here" stuff, any moron can figure that
one out. No need to lecture them with "..say your
phone number twice" or "talk slowly, I am not a
stenographer". Record it over and over until it
sounds bright, happy, and clear enough for Grandma
How do you feel when you make a business call and
a machine answers to tell you "if you want to send
a fax, press start now!"? Makes you question the
quality of the business, doesnít it? Canít they
even afford a separate fax number?
You see it on printed material, too, "..for fax,
call first so we can turn on the machine". It is
hard to imagine such a setup being used for more
than one or two faxes a year. The impression that
a lack of a separate fax number gives is negative
in every respect.
The ultimate professional faux pas is to use your
home phone number as your business number. This
might work if you are the only one ever to answer
the phone and your machine always answers if you
are away (even if the house of full of kids and an
in-law or two). What usually happens is a child,
or grandchild, will answer "huh-whoah?"
"Is this Acme Consulting?"
"Iíll get my Mommee (clunk) Mommeeee"
Neat first impression. Consider the ramifications
if a teenager in your house has figured out how to
Here are two simple ideas to help give your
business a professional front, telephone-wise.
If you already use a separate line for the fax
machine, but still use your home phone as your
business line, start using the fax number as your
main business number. Make sure no one else
answers it. Put your answer machine on it and
leave the home phone alone. Put your new number on
everything and send email to those that may have
the old one. The transition wonít take long.
You wonít lose any faxes because you can get a
free fax number from several sources that send the
faxes to your computer. No banner ads to read,
just free fax service. I have had one for years. I
have a dedicated fax number and donít pay a penny.
My fax number converts any fax to an eMail
attachment and it arrives in my eMail box. I can
read my faxes from any computer, worldwide. In my
office I can read and pitch, or print and read. I
donít buy fax paper anymore. Some folks call them
electronic faxes. The point is, you can get a fax
number all your own, without extension, that
anyone can use, 24 hours a day, for free. No
hidden costs or startup fees.
The two most popular are http://www.jfax.com and
http://www.efax.com but any Internet search for
"free fax numbers" will bring up a bigger list.
If you donít have a fax number at home, call the
telephone company and order a second residential
line. Just tell them you want a second line, no
need to explain. Once it is installed, make it
your main business line and get a free fax number.
Now your business card can show a main line, a fax
line and a cell phone and your mother-in-law canít
run off new business.
If it walks like a pro and acts like a pro...
©2004 BIG Mike McDaniel, Professional Speaker and
Former Major Market TV News Anchor. The BIG Ideas
Group helps small business grow with mastermind
groups, seminars and sales training.
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