It’s happened to all of us — the guilty moment you need help from a business, knowing full well they’re closed. So you call anyway, still holding onto a glimmer of hope that your problem can be solved…
“You have reached us outside of our normal business hours. Please try again the next time we are open. Thank you.”
And then, while your mouth hangs open in disbelief, the call just ends.
No emergency hotline.
No option to be forwarded to a cell phone.
Not even a voicemail box where you can leave a message.
You’re just out of luck until the morning, or even worse, the following Monday.
If the horror story I’ve just described sounds like what customers experience when they call your business after hours, that experience is without a doubt costing you customers.
Don’t panic though, because today’s business VoIP phone systems come packed with options to handle after-hours calls. Let’s take a look.
SET UP AN AUTO ATTENDANT
An auto attendant is great to have during regular business hours to help direct calls, but it becomes absolutely vital once the sun goes down and all your employees go home.
You should have a greeting specifically for after-hours calls, informing customers of your normal business schedule and clearly outlining what their options are.
Are they calling for someone specific? Invite them to leave a voicemail at their extension.
Are they trying to get product support or set an appointment? Forward them to your on-call employee or answering service (more on these options ahead).
Are they experiencing an emergency? Consider having an option that rings your cell phone directly so you can sigh, pause your latest Netflix addiction, and take care of business right away.
Are they the 75,028th person to call and ask for your address? Record commonly asked questions for immediate answers for your clients.
The critical step of setting up an after-hours auto attendant out of the way, let’s go through your options for actually handling calls and see which is right for your business.
The simplest option for handling calls after hours is to have customers leave a voicemail. However, the downside to this tactic is that, well… you’re sending customers to voicemail. Any time that happens, whether you’re open or not, you can bet their next call with be to one of your competitors.
If you’re still dead set on sending after-hours calls to voicemail, VoIP systems offer a number of options to let you know when a new message comes in.
Real-time voicemail-to-email notifications can relay critical information like the caller ID, audio and message transcriptions so you can tell if you’re the victim of a dreaded spam bot or if it’s worth the time to call them back right away. You can also set up SMS notifications for when you receive a new voicemail if you’re more likely to check your texts than your email at night.
The most important thing about after hours voicemails is to make sure you follow through. Nothing irritates customers — and drives them to leave negative reviews — quite like being promised a call back and never receiving one.
Chances are you’ve worked somewhere with “the phone.” That chipped, outdated little device someone has to take home each night and dutifully answer after-hours calls.
Luckily, modern VoIP systems like FluentStream give plenty of options for you to answer customer calls at home without having to rely on “the phone.” These include:
- Easy forwarding to employee cell phones (with the ability to set a schedule!)
- A browser dialer that allows you to make and receive calls on your laptop
- A mobile app so you can use your cell phone to talk with customers without giving out your personal number
However you implement an after-hours phone for your business, the objective remains the same: Answer every call. Keep every customer happy.
Exercise caution, as even the best employees can come across as haughty or unprofessional when they’re forced to take too many business calls during their personal time. Most of us have whole lives outside of work that tend to get in the way of being able to provide perfect customer service every night.
That’s why we recommend switching up the employee responsible for after-hours answering on a rotational basis. There’s no getting around that it’s an inconvenience, but by spreading out after-hours shifts among your team you make sure everyone is annoyed as little as possible.
Another way for your business to handle after-hours calls is to invest in an answering service.
This allows you to offer live support and appointment setting with your customers around the clock, regardless of if anyone’s in your office. Plus, answering services will usually bill based on the call volume or call minutes you use, making them surprisingly affordable to businesses of any size.
FluentStream makes it easy as pie to integrate an answering service into your phone system. Based on your regular business hours, we can set your system to automatically route calls to your answering service after you close. Your routing can also be changed on-demand to ensure customers don’t go to voicemail while you’re in team meetings or out for lunch.
Sounds perfect right? Why deal with after-hours calls at all when you can just outsource the hassle altogether? Well, as with most things in this life, there are a few cons to keep in mind.
Although generally affordable, hiring an answering service is an additional cost you’ll have to account for every month. On top of that, answering service representatives will likely not be as knowledgeable or invested in your business as your full-time employees. Make sure you and your answering service are on the same page so your customers always feel like they are being adequately cared for.
No matter how you choose to engage with after-hours calls to your business, remember that what matters most is providing an excellent experience for your customers. Every bit of effort on your part goes a long way to showing the commitment and reliability of your business. With that in mind, don’t hesitate to invest in a solution that goes as above and beyond for your customers as you do.
Still have questions about handling after-hours calls? Want to learn more about how a FluentStream system can improve your customer experience and grow your business? Let us know at email@example.com or by calling 303-GO-CLOUD and selecting Option 1.