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0 comments | Posted by: Terri on August 16, 2012 | Categories:
As a 24/7 answering service, we take calls day and night. But the calls we take at 3 a.m. can be vastly different from the calls we take at three in the afternoon. Late-night callers are often dealing with urgent or emergency situations that need special attention. Here are four tips to make after-hours calls go smoothly:
Many businesses use our answering service to relay urgent calls to on-call technicians, meaning if we’re getting called, something needs to be fixed. The callers may be panicked or upset. It’s critical to keep your voice calm and professional. Pitching your tone low and speaking calmly will help de-escalate the caller’s anxiety. An article from Business Insider advises, “Think of the public speaking tip that you should always speak a little slower than feels natural to you. Talking too quickly can make you sound nervous, frustrate the other person and only adds to the general air of franticness.” At the same time, be sure to convey to the caller you understand the gravity of the situation and will work quickly to relay the information to the correct person.
Talk With Not At
Make sure you’re talking with the caller, not at or over them. Mark Goulston says it best in his blog from Harvard Business Review: “The more you talk over or at anxious people…the more they will close their minds to what you are saying.” Actively listen to the caller and use empathic statements to convey you are talking with them.
Let them wake up.
If you do have to dial out to an on-call technician or property management specialist in the wee hours of the night, you’re probably waking them up. Don’t pelt them with information the moment they answer. Give them a chance to fully awaken. State your name and where you’re calling from, them give them a moment to orient themselves and perhaps locate a pen. This will save you from having to repeat yourself and will likely be appreciated by the person on call.
Take extra care to verify.
Verifying information is always important, regardless of the time or situation. But in moments of heightened stress, you’ll want to take extra care to make sure all information is complete and accurate. Always double-check any on-call schedules. Dialing out to the incorrect person in the middle of the night is a surefire way to an unhappy conversation.
When taking late, after-hours calls, all the rules of phone etiquette apply, but a little extra patience and assurance will go a long way towards ensuring a stressful situation reaches a pleasant outcome.
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on July 20, 2012 | Categories:
Our primary goal at AnswerConnect is to ensure all callers reach a living, breathing human being. We take on the role of virtual receptionist, keeping the channels of communication open and delivering every message to its intended recipient. But sometimes we take on another role: the bouncer.
Below are three situations in which we serve our clients best by not making connections:
“We want to tell you about an exciting new business opportunity!” Our virtual receptionists are excellent spam filters. Solicitors, automated surveys, political recordings: these types of calls are irritating enough when you’re seated at the dinner table, let alone during a busy day at the office. We listen carefully to first determine the legitimacy of each call and efficiently dispatch any would-be time-wasters.
“Wait, who is this again?” Wrong numbers happen, sometimes due to a misdial, sometimes due to a misunderstanding of your services. We take care to be courteous. First impressions are priority #1. We want you to stand out in every caller’s mind, regardless of whether the call was intentional. Who knows, they may come back as a customer.
“Hold all my calls!” Sometimes you just need to focus. Trust us to handle your calls while you deal with that looming deadline. You can outline exactly which type of calls meet your emergency criteria, allowing you peace of mind to deal with the big stuff. We’ll take care of the rest.
Answering services bring efficiency to an office for obvious reasons: our ability to transfer calls to anyone, send messages via email or text and our around-the-clock availability. but it’s our ability to manage the velvet ropes that maximizes the value of every call.
0 comments | Posted by: Spencer on June 18, 2012 | Categories:
Samantha Moon founded Lunar Ink, an online wedding invitation and stationary boutique, after a potentially sobering realization: “I wasn’t very satisfied with my wedding.” So she made it her business to help other wedding couples stay satisfied with theirs, starting with the invitations. Her role is part artistic advisor, part counselor, and—reading between the lines—part diplomat. With two young kids at home, Lunar Ink is a 24/7 gig, and Samantha loves creatively responding to frequently high-pressure situations. “When you’re getting married, it’s stressful,” she says. “You have to talk through issues. That’s what we do.” (Happy to report that if Samantha’s wedding was less than perfect, her marriage has trended positive: “I get a lot of support from my husband. …It’s wonderful to have that support at home.”)
How did you launch Lunar Ink?
My education is actually in biology. I went to a liberal arts school, and one great thing about liberal arts schools is that they teach you more than just your degree.
I wasn’t very satisfied with my wedding, looking back on it. I decided that I had an interest in invitations. I wanted to help other brides find something that was priced well and fit what they wanted. My husband’s grandmother had sold invitations for many years; she advised me how to get started. That’s how I started Lunar Ink.
What’s Lunar Ink’s specific focus?
What sets us apart is the fact that we’re an online business that treats you more like a boutique business would. I get to know each bride who orders from me, and I get to know their tastes and styles. I work as an advisor and sometimes more like a counselor. When you’re getting married, it’s stressful, even when it’s not that hard. Lots of times, there are questions on etiquette: “Should I or should I not invite these people?” You have to talk through issues. That’s what we do. We’re more like a boutique experience, but it’s online, so you can shop whenever you want. I work 24/7. Whenever emails or calls come in, that’s when we’re there.
How do keep work-life balance?
It’s not easy. I have two small children—one is three and one is almost eight months—and there’s the craziness with that. What I try to do is devote certain times of the day to each item I need to do. If there’s calls coming in, AnswerConnect handles them for me during certain periods of the day. After-hours calls I deal with as I have time; lots of times, that’s late at night, when the kids are in bed. I’m kind of a night owl. For a long time, when the baby was little, I was working at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. It’s the way it worked out.
I get a lot of support from my husband. He’s a good guy. On the weekends, when I want him to watch the kids for me, he’s there. It’s wonderful to have that support at home.
Does he work from home?
Yes; he works at home, during normal business hours. I work anything and everything in between. I managed to hire on summer help—two new employees—for the busy season. They’re both part-time. One is a sitter to watch the kids for a couple hours, and the other one assists me with other things.
You said you help brides with wedding invitations. Do you usually work with just one partner?
Generally, it’s the bride contacting us, but I also sometimes deal with the groom or the parents of the bride or groom. I’ve also dealt with bridesmaids. I’ve dealt with wedding planners. But generally, brides themselves like to be in control of this part of their wedding because the invitation sets the tone for the ceremony. Is it going to be fancy or casual? Where is to going to be: in the same town? Is it a destination wedding? Most brides like to be in direct control, though of course, there’s always the exception to the rule.
I also work with [same-sex] partners—lesbian, gay, transsexual—as well. We help everybody. Everybody gets treated the same.
What are some challenges you’ve faced with Lunar Ink?
One of the biggest is staying up-to-date with the current wedding trends. It’s amazing how many changes there are, just in a year, especially with color and designs.
For awhile, we’ve been talking about launching our own product line instead of being a retailer for one of the companies we work for. The challenge is finding time to work on that and source our print shop and learning the technology. There’s a lot of demand for custom designs. I have to start learning design software.
The fact is, AnswerConnect frees me up to learn and do those things. They can take messages; that way, when I call back my clients, I have a targeted way of addressing their concern, because AnswerConnect has already let me know what it is.
How much time do you spend on marketing?
That’s hard to say. Generally, we focus on marketing at a certain times of the year, usually between Thanksgiving and the new year. The rest of the year, usually, we’ve already gotten our marketing plan into production. Bridal season starts in January. The high season runs from January into May. Then after May, you’ve typically finished, with just last-minute ordering into fall. So the bulk of my time in the off-season is working on marketing.
What do you love most about your small business?
It lets me be creative. I really love that. I see a lot of things that other people have come up with. And if a bride likes one invitation, and the price isn’t right or she wants to make changes, we do custom-ordering. That allows me to get creative. That’s what I love. I love the fact that I can write and research about it and let my imagination move with the business.
Meet Jenny Carter. Jenny has been with AnswerConnect for over three years and lists helping people as one of her passions. “It’s in my genes to want to help people. I interact with people who are experiencing problems addressing their business needs. As a salesperson, I’m able to offer up multiple business solutions to help meet those needs. “
Our salespeople speak daily with medical practitioners, lawyers and business owners of all types; all concerned with one thing: finding an answering service that fits their needs while providing the best possible customer service. Several key questions come up often in these conversations. We thought we’d save you a little phone time by having one of our top salespeople answer the most frequently asked questions:
How does your answering service work?
When you decide to use AnswerConnect, you get a specifically assigned Setup Specialist to help with all of your setup questions. Then you get a Dedicated Account Manager who will work one on one with you your entire time as a client. We give you a toll-free number that is custom to your business. You can use that as your business number, or you can forward your existing lines to us. We then develop/customize a script with you detailing how you want us to answer your phones, the role you want us to play on those calls, any information you would like us to gather—or give to your callers—and the delivery method. We can email/text all of your messages to you, transfer callers, dispatch calls, set appointments, place orders and more. Also included with all of our service plans: live web chat and active response—two incredible features if you have a website.
What is the cost?
Depending on your specific needs, we have entry level plans for automated and live answering which fit almost any budget.
What will your associates say?
This is where we customize your account to meet your specific needs. We want to outline the reasons why a person is calling you. Each call type essentially has its own set of scripting. Based on the specific call type, we’ll build your account according to any information that you’d like us to gather or give to your callers.
What makes AnswerConnect different from the other competitors out there?
We have been in the industry over 10 years. We are a part of The Better Business Bureau, and have a great rating there. We answer our phones quickly, professionally, and are efficient on your calls. And all of our associates are US-based.
AnswerConnect is always on the cutting edge of technology. We offer mobile applications for the iPhone and Android phones, web-based scheduling through our SetMore product, chat support through our Conversion Support software and so many other applications.
While we may not be the least expensive, we are extremely competitive in pricing and definitely one of the best. I sell our service on quality and our desire to form long-term partnerships. We want to be the company that grows with our clients, no matter what service level they’re starting out on.
To speak to a salesperson live, head over to our website. If you have a question you’d like to see featured on our blog, email us at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
0 comments | Posted by: Spencer on May 18, 2012 | Categories:
Norman “Chris” Polak, P.A., is a criminal defense attorney in Ocala, Fla., whose former careers as a police officer, ATF agent, and investigator for the Florida State Attorney’s office led him, eventually, to practice law. None of Polak’s jobs, past or present, could accurately be described as predictable. “This is a huge challenge,” Polak says. “Many times, the [legal] odds are more insurmountable than if you’re just prosecuting. Nothing’s ever the same from day to day, and that’s what I like about it.
How long have you practiced criminal law?
I’ve been practicing almost eleven years.
What attracted you to criminal law in the first place?
I started out, when I got out of college, as a police officer, and later, I worked for the state attorney’s office as an investigator. During that time, I’d gone back to school and gotten my Master’s. I was always interested in law school. When that possibility [to study law] came around, I didn’t want to let it pass.
Whom to do you represent?
In the criminal arena, I work with folks who’ve been charged with drug trafficking, sex crimes, murder, and white-collar crime. That is part of the realm there. Then I have some civil clients that I do collections work for—mostly small companies, locally, who I do collection work for.
How predictable is your daily schedule?
Here I can plug AnswerConnect. One feature I like is the 24/7 answering service. It’s not uncommon for us to get calls after-hours from family or someone who’s gotten in trouble and gotten arrested. Before AnswerConnect, for example, I’ve gotten calls at 4:30 in the morning. It’s not uncommon for folks calling at 6:00 or 7:00 pm, asking for assistance. From a standpoint of being able to respond, it’s nice to look down and see it’s someone I need to respond to immediately, or someone who can wait.
From a day-to-day perspective, you can’t predict that you can get a call. Often you’ll have your day planned out—you’re in court or in deposition—and someone calls and says “We need to hire you.” That changes your day around. Three out of five days of your week, something may happen where you have to change things up. Say your client’s in from another facility. Your day could turn into a 6:30 or 10:00 at night thing really quickly.
What do you love about your job?
It’s a challenge. Being able to work with someone’s case, dealing with the law, the evidence, and seeing how it affects them—does the evidence match the law that he’s been charged with? Different parts of the system are more challenging than others. After being involved as a prosecutor and a police officer and managing in the court system, this is a huge challenge. Many times, the odds are more insurmountable than if you’re just prosecuting. Nothing’s ever the same from day to day, and that’s what I like about it. You don’t get into a mundane, day-in and day-out thing.
How does technology affected your practice?
It’s amazing how much easier it is for me, with an iPhone and an iPad, with dockets being imaged in, I can go anywhere and do my job. I can access court systems, print files—it’s just easier, more diverse. You used to have to be in a room with the files. Now if I want to look at some property in regards a forfeiture action, say, I can be on my laptop, pull it up and look at it in Starbucks. Before, I had to get to the courthouse.
Years ago, I was a court investigator when crack cocaine was getting really big. All that money has to go somewhere, you know? So we would search property records. We always had to go down to the courthouse to do that. Now I can be remote and look this up. Now, with Google Earth, I can see where someone is.
Or we can go to the scene, take our laptops and iPhones and get answers to our questions at the scene. Years ago, we used to have to write down things and travel someplace to then look it up. Our jobs have become easier and more portable.
What’s the downside?
You can never get away from it. It used to be, you had a pager. Now we’re connected constantly. You can never really separate yourself. It may not be necessarily that my clients are sending me texts all the time. Maybe it’s a friend. But the question becomes, do you have another phone, a business phone and a cell phone? From a level of never being able to put it down and separate yourself, that can become problematic. Especially when it’s movie night with your family. It can be harmful if it pissed your family off.
One thing that’s hard is trying to know “What software do I need and what I don’t need?” Especially from an overhead business perspective, there’s so many things you can buy that you don’t really need.
The other side to that, I have a friend who scans everything. Daily. And if you communicate by email, and you do all your research online, if your hard drive goes down and the power goes off, there’s nothing like that calendar you took your pencil out and wrote in. Being paranoid, I still write things down in the calendar. It’s wonderful when Google Calendar works. When it goes down, though, you’re like a child, pulling your hair out.
Where do you see your practice in five years?
There’s no way of predicting what’ll happen with the economy. If you read a lot of predictions coming out of law schools and think tanks, they’ve tried to give us an idea. I’ve looked at these to predict where my practice will be in five years. I know we’ll remain portable.
We’re in a position where when someone misses a call, that client will go somewhere else. You’ll lose that lead, unless you’ve been referred to them. If you’re a parent and your son or daughter or family member is in trouble, you may not call back if I don’t answer. In the next five years, with the economy as it is, we have to be very quick to respond to people’s needs. You have to study your market not to out price yourself. In five years, we have got to be as quick or quicker to respond.
We’ve always had a general practice, where a lot of people have specialized. When the economy went south, it was positive for us. We had other clients coming in—we were doing collection work—and that helped us stay profitable. Compared to if I was in only one field: if that went dry, it went dry. In the criminal field, when mom and dad don’t have credit, their 401(k)s are drained, they don’t have cash, who’s going to hire me to represent their son, daughter or son-in-law?
We’re going to stay lean and not narrow our field. If things change, we’ll expand.