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What Does Your Telephone Say About You When You Are Away?


Business to Business relationships come to expecta certain level of professionalism, from the firsttelephone call to the final delivery.

Your business can be on the Really Big 500 list,employ only a handful of people, or be a businessof one but what is said by that business to otherbusiness customers will reflect the personalityof that business. It can be a PR boost or a PRblowout.

Have you called the telephone company or your longdistance provider lately? Chances are you will geta machine telling you to "listen closely becausethe menus have changed" (as if they know youcalled last year).

When you do listen closely, chances are there isnot a choice on the menu that sounds like thereason you called. Worse, you could choose aselection and be directed to an area that does notanswer with no way to get back to real people.What does that say about the company? Terribleimpression.

Only the company's bean counters will argue thatall that "select and press" boogie-woogie is goodfor the company. Word of mouth is faster andcheaper than any other form of advertising, andvery widespread. Have you talked with anyone thatthinks voice mail menus are nifty?

Same if you have to call an insurance company, orcredit card company. Now, it seems, more and morecalls are greeted with the "all our agents arebusy, please hold" message. Can you imagine howthat one got started? "Look, Herb, if we put themain line on voice mail, we can trim our customersupport staff in half, just have the machine say'everyone is busy helping other customers', we cansave really big bucks!" Not much for PR is it?Even worse if they ditch the 800 number and makeyou pay for the call.

For years I have told my clients to look to thebig boys to see how they do things. Now I hedge myadvice, by pointing them at the big boys that aredoing it right, because so many have made morethan one wrong turn on the road to a professional,caring image.

The telephone is only one part of the puzzle, butone of the most important parts. I tell my clientswith small to mid size businesses to call theoffice from time to time to see how the phone isanswered.

I cannot count the number of times I have had toask to person answering the phone to repeat themesh of words that just flew by. Hundreds of timesI have been ka-thudded on hold with not so much asa "Hang on Bub!"

It is true, you can hear a smile on the other endof the phone. You can also hear indifference andthe Easy one to spot is outright disgust. Onebored telephone person can do more to undo whattook years to do more than any other company asset(or liability).

What if your company is you? Staff of one with ahome office. What happens when a call comes in andyou are not there to put on your best voice? Doesa machine get it? In how many rings? What does themachine say? Does your machine make sense if youcall from a pay phone?

It only takes a few minutes to draft a script forthe answer machine. So much better than an ad lib.Even the pros write it down. Forget about that"I'm not here" stuff, any moron can figure thatone out. No need to lecture them with "..say yourphone number twice" or "talk slowly, I am not astenographer". Record it over and over until itsounds bright, happy, and clear enough for Grandmato understand.

How do you feel when you make a business call anda machine answers to tell you "if you want to senda fax, press start now!"? Makes you question thequality of the business, doesn't it? Can't theyeven afford a separate fax number?

You see it on printed material, too, "..for fax,call first so we can turn on the machine". It ishard to imagine such a setup being used for morethan one or two faxes a year. The impression thata lack of a separate fax number gives is negativein every respect.

The ultimate professional faux pas is to use yourhome phone number as your business number. Thismight work if you are the only one ever to answerthe phone and your machine always answers if youare away (even if the house of full of kids and anin-law or two). What usually happens is a child,or grandchild, will answer "huh-whoah?"

"Is this Acme Consulting?"

"I'll get my Mommee (clunk) Mommeeee"

Neat first impression. Consider the ramificationsif a teenager in your house has figured out how todial out.

Here are two simple ideas to help give yourbusiness a professional front, telephone-wise.

If you already use a separate line for the faxmachine, but still use your home phone as yourbusiness line, start using the fax number as yourmain business number. Make sure no one elseanswers it. Put your answer machine on it andleave the home phone alone. Put your new number oneverything and send email to those that may havethe old one. The transition won't take long.

You won't lose any faxes because you can get afree fax number from several sources that send thefaxes to your computer. No banner ads to read,just free fax service. I have had one for years. Ihave a dedicated fax number and don't pay a penny.

My fax number converts any fax to an eMailattachment and it arrives in my eMail box. I canread my faxes from any computer, worldwide. In myoffice I can read and pitch, or print and read. Idon't buy fax paper anymore. Some folks call themelectronic faxes. The point is, you can get a faxnumber all your own, without extension, thatanyone can use, 24 hours a day, for free. Nohidden costs or startup fees.

The two most popular are http://www.jfax.com andhttp://www.efax.com but any Internet search for"free fax numbers" will bring up a bigger list.

If you don't have a fax number at home, call thetelephone company and order a second residentialline. Just tell them you want a second line, noneed to explain. Once it is installed, make ityour main business line and get a free fax number.

Now your business card can show a main line, a faxline and a cell phone and your mother-in-law can'trun off new business.

If it walks like a pro and acts like a pro...

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Sig: 2005 BIG Mike McDaniel All Rights Reserved

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