By John Calhoun
1. Do not understaff: Many times as a business owner/operator, some of us tend to overlook the obvious when it comes to the bottom line. By over staffing, we allow ourselves the freedom to take care of the more important matters such as customer service, collections and new sales.
2. Utilize your staff: When your staff is not taking calls, have them make out going calls to your client base for collections, for updating information and for referrals. At my company, the entire staff was hired as operators and then later cross-trained. All key positions such as bookkeeping, sales and customer service are now filled with persons who were originally hired to be operators. Not only does this assist these persons in better understanding their new jobs, but also these same people provide a pool of trained operators when a shortage of operators does occur.
3. Cross train: All operators want to do more than just answer and process calls all day long. Train them to perform other missions and you will create a happier employee and simultaneously establish an abundant supply of trained people who can perform the duties of an operator when needed.
4. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid): In our industry, it seems sometimes that we try so hard to accommodate our clients that we make our jobs more difficult on ourselves. When a client makes an unusual request, my reply is that we process thousands of calls per day and that processing a volume such as that makes us an expert in this field.
5. Better pay: Pay more than your competitors. Do not underpay your employees; it is hard to find competent employees and sometimes even more difficult to keep them. Employees are an investment and anytime that an employee is lost, the company has lost an investment. In addition to the trouble of finding and hiring a new employee, the new employee has to be trained and a comfort level has to be established. Hiring and training new employees takes valuable time that could be used to improve your company.
6. Customer service: Call some of your customers every month to get their input about how your service is working for them and to find out if there are any changes to their account that you need to be aware of. Always try to get referrals from them. Not only are referrals golden for the obvious reasons, but also once a client has referred a colleague, that client is less likely to change services.
7. Find you niche: Regardless of how your system operates, you need to find something that will make you stand out from your competition such as most courteous, most dependable, most reliable, etc. Do not copy your competition. I look at Sprint, AT&T and other large communications companies to see what they are doing. They have invested large sums of money on their marketing and I try to learn from them.
8. Train your customers: Few of your customers have any idea how you handle their calls and never assume that they do. The more that they can learn about your system, the less likely they will abuse it.
9. Problem accounts: Get rid of problem accounts; they are too costly. One call from a problem account can ruin an entire day for an employee. There are people who will never be a satisfied customer no matter what you do for them.
10. Quality service: Give quality service; this is my best marketing tool. By providing quality service, I have been able to sign on thousands of clients in the past few years. I strongly prefer to spend money on my operations rather than on advertising. But do not stop at just building a quality service: go out and tell anyone that will listen.
John Calhoun is owner/operator of Receptionist One; he can be contacted at 888-500-6898.
[From Connection Magazine – May 2001]