One major mistake that I have seen many small businesses make, especially landscapers is that they market to customers with their own personal cell phone number. The problem with this is that it is 100% NOT scalable. Learn how to use google voice to make free calls and look professional as a company. As your company grows you do not want customers to have access to your own personal phone number. Having an “office” number that customers can call will give your company a more professional look and allow for you to outsource customer service duties as the company grows. Another problem with taking calls on your own personal phone is that it limits you ability to focus on the work. If calls are coming in on your phone during the middle of a job you either have to force it to go to voicemail or you have to stop the job you are working on. There are two problems with this. First, if you have the call go to voicemail the potential customer will hear your personal cell phone greeting and second, as a landscaper you are often working with loud machines that prevent you from being able to always hear the phone.
Google voice is the perfect solution for the small business owner trying to provide their customers with a professional image. Utilizing google voice prevents you from needing to purchase and additional phone or phone line. Google voice works through your existing Gmail account and actually allows you to choose a new phone number that will then forward calls to any phone. This means that you can choose a phone number that corresponds to your businesses or has the suffix LAWN or something similar. You do need a Gmail account in order to use Google voice but the payoff is huge. Once you have the number set up and have it set up to forward to whatever phone you want you simply program the Google voice number in your phone as “Lawn Customer” or something that lets you know a customer is calling. You can then assign that contact a specific ring so you can answer with a specific greeting.
Within Google voice you can also set up schedules to have all calls go straight to voicemail at specific times, you can record different voicemail greetings and have them play at certain times etc. Another great feature of Google Voice is that as mentioned above it can forward calls to any phone number. This means that you can have remote customer service operators taking calls at anytime. We actually have had operators that live in different states take our phone calls.
One of the best features of Google Voice is that it tracks ALL calls that come in or go out. At anytime you can go in and analyze when calls are coming in. You can see if you missed any calls, you can make notes about any call, you can determine average call lengths, and keep track of various metrics which will allow you to better control office payroll and task assignment.
Google has an app that can be downloaded to any android or Iphone that allows the user to make outgoing calls that will show up on the phone with your new business number.
So how to you get google voice?
Once you land on that page you will be greeted with this (you must first have a Google account):
Click “I want a new number”. On the next screen you can insert the area code you want for the new number and search for any phrases you want. Select the number that you would like to use and then enter a pin that you want to use to access your voicemail. At this point you can setup a forwarding number. This is a number that you want calls to be forwarded to, no worries you can set up multiple numbers for as many people as you want to answer your phones. You then have to verify the phone. Once you have done this the majority of the interface is intuitive. You can record your voicemail message and set up hours and other options from the options on the top of the screen.
One feature that Google Voice has that I really like (although) it needs some work is that it will transcribe voicemails into a text message. This helps so that you can quickly see or at least get an idea of the message that someone has left you without having to listen to the actual voice mail.
Okay, with all of that said . . . you want to find someone that is capable of answering the phones within 2-3 rings during normal business hours. For this reason I love the call forwarding capabilities. You can have multiple secretaries. Even if they just answer the phone and get a call back number you will see a dramatic increase in your business. People that call your business want to talk with someone. In their mind one lawn company is as good as the next. That moment that they call is your chance to pick them up as a new customer . . . answer every phone call!!! Find a way to insure that each and every call is answered. We have taken calls as early as 6am and as late as 10pm. Customer service is basically dead in most industries (especially in the service industry) if you can wow from the very first phone call you will have a highly successful company.