(This is a contributed post)
Are you spending too much time on the phone at work? Making and receiving phone calls can be an essential business duty. However, it’s possible to spend so much time on the phone that it stops you from doing other core tasks.
Answering the phone in particular can be a big chore for many business owners – you may find that your work is constantly being interrupted by incoming phone calls, which could cause you to lose your focus on what you were doing before. Not answering these calls could mean potentially losing out on new customers or not receiving urgent information. So what is the solution
Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do to make phone calls less of a nuisance. Below are just some of the ways to stop phone calls ruining your productivity.
Some companies find that it’s easiest to simply let incoming calls ring out. By setting up an answering machine, you can allow callers to record messages so that you can then ring them back at a time that best suits you. This stops you from having to interrupt tasks.
This can be a good way to filter out all the unimportant annoying calls (like sales calls), however it could backfire in some cases. Potential customers may be put off the fact that you didn’t answer their call and may not leave a message. It’s possible to record the numbers of everyone that calls you so that you can ring back these callers in your own time, but by then it may be too late – they may have already chosen another company (one that picked up their call). This is why relying on answering machines can be risky.
When it comes to important phone conversations, it may be possible to schedule a time and date ahead. This allows you to conduct these calls at a time that suits you. You’ll be able to prepare any documents that you may need in advance so that you’re not wasting time on the phone looking for the information that you need. You can also plan any key points that need to be discussed so that you can keep the call succinct.
You may be able to schedule calls via email. Alternatively, you may be able to schedule a new call during a previous phone call (if a new customer rings you and wants to go through lots of information with you, consider rescheduling the call to a later date so that you can better prepare for it in your own time).
It’s worth also putting time limits on phone calls when talking to particularly chatty people. Unless you’re guiding someone through a difficult problem, there’s usually no need to conduct a phone call lasting more than 30 minutes – so try to make this your phone call time limit. With employees and suppliers that like to talk, you may be able to tell them that you only have so much time. When it comes to customers that like to talk, you should try to find a more subtle and polite way of wrapping up the conversation (this post has a few great examples of polite ways to end business conversations that are starting to drag).
Instead of having to interrupt tasks to answer the phone, consider whether you can do these tasks and talk on the phone simultaneously.
There may be times while travelling on the train or in the car when you can catch up on phone calls you’ve been meaning to make. Obviously, if you’re driving a car, you need to be careful about having phone conversations – make sure you’re using a bluetooth earpiece or using your car’s bluetooth system so that you can make calls hands-free. If you need to reference documents, you won’t be able to do this while driving.
You may also be able to carry out phone calls while doing certain manual labour tasks. For instance, if you do landscaping for a living, you may find that you’re able to answer calls via a headset while doing your work.
There are some conversations that you won’t be able to conduct while doing another task such as interviewing an employee over the phone or handling a complaint from a customer – in these cases you need to give them your full attention and should drop any other task. Some people may find that they’re simply unable to concentrate on a phone call and another task at the same time. Know in yourself whether multi-tasking is likely to make you less or more productive.
There are situations in which a phone call may be the best way of getting hold of someone such as in an emergency or when you want to come across more personal. However, there are instances where other forms of communication may be better suited such as conveying the same information to lots of people or providing news that isn’t urgent. Consider whether it’s worth encouraging these forms of communication instead of phone calls. Below are a few examples
Email conversations can have many benefits over phone conversations. You can send large pieces of information to lots of people at the same time. You can also maintain written evidence of the conversation so that you can refer back to it if necessary. You’re also not expected to reply straight away via email.
Email isn’t the best communication tool when you need to have fast back-and-forth conversations, so bear this in mind. However, when it comes to sending over single chunks of information, encourage use of email.
When it comes to encouraging new customers to contact you, consider using online forms on your website. This allows customers to email you, while also encouraging them to provide specific information to help streamline the process.
Form submissions can often be ways of setting up scheduled calls. You could find that many customers prefer to submit a form than to call you for a quote. There are lots of programs you can use for building submission forms.
Text could be a way of communicating with employees on the go. You can also communicate with customers via text if you have their mobile number. Text can be less invasive than a phone call and could be better suited if you need to send a small amount of information or want to set up a scheduled call.
Instant messaging allows for quick back-and-forth typed communication. It’s less invasive than calling people and you can more easily refer back to conversations or send links to resources. Many companies use it when communicating with remote employees. You can also use instant message features on your website to handle customer enquiries instead of relying on phone calls.
Just be wary that people expect a faster response time when communicating via instant message. While you don’t have to answer a message straight away like you do with a phone call, you don’t want to leave a customer or employee hanging for half an hour or more. Once you’ve read the message, you also need to be prepared to reply as the other person will see that it’s been read.
There are times when you may be able to automate replies to people. Confirmation emails and reminder texts can often be automated, reducing the need for a phone call or any form of manual communication. You can even install a chatbot for website visitors to use for general enquiries. This could reduce the amount of general enquiries by phone call and prevent you having to reply via instant message.
Automated replies cannot be used in all situations. It’s unwise to use robots to handle complaints or personal conversations – in these cases, you should always have a human point of contact.
You may be able to simply delegate the task of making and receiving phone calls to someone else. This does mean paying someone to do this duty, but it could prevent you from having to go out of your way to do it.
If you already have a team of employees, you could consider delegating the task of making and receiving phone calls to them. Alternatively, if you don’t want your current team to be burdened by all the phone duties, you could hire a new staff member to solely handle phone duties.
Outsourcing could be another option. A lot of companies outsource phone answering companies to answer the phone – such companies can take care of all sales calls and general enquiries, relaying only the most important information to you. You can even outsource individuals to make calls for you.