Mark Baranov, the head of OfficeEarth, told My Business that far and away the biggest problem SMEs face is call handling, yet many missed opportunities could be passing them by unnoticed.
“The largest issue that we have found with SMEs is the fact that they are not in a position to answer phone calls in a professional manner when they absolutely need to,” Mr Baranov said.
“The problem, although varied in the way it presents, is the same: either they are too busy to answer all of their calls … or they are so busy out spruiking their business, making face-to-face contact … that they are not in a position to take a call when it comes in.”
And it is not just sole traders and micro-businesses that have this problem, he said.
“There is not one business on the planet that can afford to have a client call go unanswered. More than 80 per cent of all callers will not leave a voice message – they will simply let their fingers do the walking and call the next appropriate contact point.”
Mr Baranov gives the example of a small contracting company whose directors were formerly senior managers in a large corporate and decided to go out on their own.
“They were able to meet the client they wanted to meet and establish a good rapport … documentation was prepared and sent. And then the CEO [of the prospective client] wanted a last check, basically, to touch base and get a verbal assurance that his business was in good hands,” he said.
“It came through to one of the guys who happened to be at home at the time; he took the call thinking his environment was conducive to a business call but his seven- or eight-year-old son walked in halfway through the conversation and started screaming at his dad … that was the end of quite a lucrative deal that these guys were working on for a very long time.”
His advice is clear – not only does a call need to be answered every time, but SMEs need to ensure that it is answered in a manner that befits the customer’s expectations.
“You have to instil confidence; you have to create an environment where the client is willing to entrust their business in your hands,” Mr Baranov said.