Informative Articles to Grow Your Business
Call today 800.525.1315
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.
0 comments | Posted by: Spencer on May 14, 2012 | Categories:
Zohar Shiff is owner of Shiff Atlanta, a small-business-oriented IT company, who’s made approachability and user-friendliness his organization’s mantra. Shiff Atlanta is entirely cloud-based, a structure that dovetails with IT’s goal of smoothing the friction between the work you’re trying to do and the work you’re able to do. He’s passionate about making information technology work for, not against, his clients. “I look at computing as a utility,” Shiff says, “like you plug stuff to the wall and you just have electricity. This is behind what we’re doing.”
What is Shiff Atlanta’s primary service and clients?
Outsourced IT for small businesses, across the board. We specialize in doctor’s offices, but we have a mix of clients.
How do you approach your clients’ IT-based problems?
We have a unique service. It’s unlimited remote support and unlimited onsite support for one flat price, calculated per user. So if you increase or reduce the number of users, it is going to change your bill. Other than that, it’s all-inclusive.
We have technicians that are standing by between 8:00 and 10:00 on the phone. Those technicians are qualified enough to resolve any “settings” problem—anything that’s wrong with your settings. But they’re instructed not to spend more than 10-15 minutes on a call. What they do is get into the customer’s computer, they ask to see the problem, and then they start the process of fixing the problem. Most problems are fixed that way.
If the technician doesn’t have the answer or it will take a longer time to fix, he will escalate to Level 2 support. That’s a higher-level engineer who will go further, do deeper troubleshooting, and stay with the problem until it’s resolved. And if that doesn’t work, we move to Level 3 support, with an on-site team. These people will physically come to your site and resolve the issue.
We look at the user first and their computer next. If the user has a computer that is locked up and we clean that computer and it locks up again, and we fix it and it locks up again, and we fix it and it locks up again, then we’ll just replace that computer. It’s not so important to us to find out why or what’s going on with their computer. It’s much more important to have the user go back to work.
How have you seen cloud-based applications affect businesses as a whole?
You’re talking to a cloud-based company. My server is not a physical server. It’s virtual; it’s in the cloud. All of my services that I use for my company are in the cloud: email, file services, accounting. Nothing physical is on my computer. I use my computer daily, and if my computer crashed, God forbid, I would not miss a beat. I’d go to another computer and be up and running in seconds, because everything is in the cloud.
My engineers are almost never in the office. Today is the first day I’m in the office this week, and it’s Thursday. I was meeting with clients this whole week. So were my technicians.
Companies that are more stationary, companies that have an office and work in the office between 8:00-5:00 and have, let’s say, ten people in the office—to live on the cloud could be risky. The T1s and the Comcasts of the world are not as reliable yet. What would happen is, if something does happen to that connection, you are in trouble. If you are a doctor’s office, say, there’s no way you can rely on this. So we have virtual cloud computing. We take a slice of the cloud and bring it to your office. You still pay for it as if it were on Amazon or Google or something. But it’s replicated from the cloud and located in your office. You are completely secure from all sides.
And for start-ups? How does cloud computing help them compete?
I can show entrepreneurs how I can build their whole business with him or her not needing to build any physical presence anywhere, unless they want. And even then, we’ll set them up. If you consider the disaster recovery plans that we have, you can have the whole physical presence crashed by a tornado or a Katrina-type hurricane, and you go to your hotel room and have the whole company run. You almost don’t miss a beat.
Technical work aside, how much PR are you doing to clarify people’s understanding of IT?
Not even close to what we need to.
Because we’re too busy! I think PR is so important. But when you are starting a company—and my company is not even a year old—you have to run between a lot of different things that you have to do for the company. PR is extremely important and it gets pushed aside all the time.
People think that IT is “Oh, I’ll get a computer, and you’ll help me set that computer up.” Or “I’ve found this server for $1,000 online. Okay, so I’ll buy this stuff and you’ll help me set this up.” IT is no longer that. But a lot of IT companies still work that way. They want you to purchase the equipment from them and then they’ll maintain it for you.
The way I look at it? I look at computing as a utility. Like you plug stuff to the wall and you have electricity, and you never think of what happened to generate that electricity. You never think, “I’ll buy a generator.” You just plug in. Or some people use a septic tank, but most of us just hook up to the sewer line of the city. It’s the same with computing. There’s no point buying infrastructure. You just pay for what you use.
This is behind what we’re doing: “Don’t worry about which computer to buy. Don’t worry about how it’s going to work. You will have the computing power you need and want. If it’s not good enough, you tell me, and we’ll turn the turn it up a notch. If you have 10 people and you’re paying for 20, we’ll turn it down.”
You’ve spent 20 years working in IT. How is the reality of IT now different from your perception of the future, 20 years ago?
To tell the God-honest truth, I thought we’d be further along by now. Sometimes I’m baffled at some stuff that’s not out there. Why don’t I have an iPad built into my car? Why don’t I have a connection between my phone and my iPad? Why do I have to kill my eyes every time I need to dial when I have this beautiful device next to me? I Why am I not able to be on your website, click on your phone number, and then my cell phone dials you, not Skype or something like that? It’s simple stuff.
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on December 28, 2011 | Categories:
A live phone answering service understands that unique situations require unique handling, and that true service is not one-size-fits-all. While detailed questions may be necessary for one business, this could be off-putting to customers of another. Ever try casually browsing for a car on a car lot with a particularly competitive staff? At one point, great customer service becomes overbearing. At the same time, we’ve all experienced the frustration of the non-existent salesperson when we’ve needed help. The same holds true for answering services.
Some businesses need nothing more than a warmer alternative to an answering machine, someone to take accurate messages and pass them along. An answering service is a natural fit, with its round-the-clock, friendly remote operators ready to greet callers, verify all information and relay each message with courteous efficiency.
Then there are those businesses, such as law firms and medical offices, that require an inbound call center to obtain sensitive or complicated information from potential clients. The same operators proficient at taking basic messages are well-versed in HIPAA guidelines. They’re adept at maintaining a balance between empathy and professionalism, while gathering as much detailed information as the client needs.
If a company needs even greater expertise, they can have their calls handled by dedicated agents assigned exclusively to their account. Dedicated agents receive thorough training in every aspect of the business they represent. Businesses can consider these operators an extension of their office. They are as knowledgeable as an on-site employee, but without the overhead cost.
A live phone answering service is not a one-dimensional service. Its many areas of customization allow it to stretch and conform to any business. Whether you want a simple messaging service or a legal intake team, a call center could be a perfect fit.
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on December 22, 2011 | Categories:
We love getting positive feedback from our clients. So we were thrilled to get this email from Steve of the Foundation for Human Understanding:
“I just wanted to state how delighted I have been with the assistance, cleverness and skill of the team, primarily servicing our two (now three) accounts. Jenny, Brittni, Jayme, Pradeep, Nathan and the rest of the folks we have worked with have been a delight. …When one of our special projects became operational recently, I was delighted at how quickly (within just an hour or two) your system and attendants got to where they were fully able to address any incoming call professionally, appropriately and with a good grip on the information needed. ..Having your capable help has given us a 24/7 accessibility, without having to add staff or facilities.”
Thank you, Steve, for such high praise! And thank you, associates, for helping us be the type of company that provides such satisfactory experiences.
Photo provided by Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net