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  #1  
Old 02-09-2000, 08:49 PM
Ground Effects Ground Effects is offline
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Like many others in this world I don't like talking to an answering machine if i'm calling another buisness, so I have to ask what some of you are doing.<br> Like some of you, I'm just starting this buisness as a part-time thing, while I work full-time at another job and am not able to be around to answer the phone.<br> I'm curious about what some of you did about machine messages, or if you used some sort of answering service? I've been thinking about recording some kind of joke or somthing, maybe if I get the potential customer to laugh they won't have a problem leaving a message. HELP!<br> Thanks Again<br>
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  #2  
Old 02-09-2000, 09:03 PM
Finecut Finecut is offline
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How about a message with a pager number and give them the opportunity to either leave a message - and tell them you check your messages on a regular basis during the day or page you for a quicker response - if you repeat the pager number several times I think people will page you and you can reply at your convenience.
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  #3  
Old 02-09-2000, 09:22 PM
Ken
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My outgoing message states that I check my messages every hour on the hour. Therefore a customer should not have to wait more than an hour for a call back.
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  #4  
Old 02-09-2000, 09:24 PM
Lazer Lazer is offline
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With Cellular/Voice Mail less than .20/minute, I would forward my business line right there and answer them yourself. If you don't pick-up, it goes to voice mail and you call them right back. That's way less $ than a answer service and heck, your customers know you're not a big outfit.<p>Prompt return calls really are the key more than the manner in which the phone is answered.
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  #5  
Old 02-09-2000, 09:33 PM
ashlandscaping ashlandscaping is offline
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Used machine for longest time got tired of hearing hello hello or hearing a dail tone. Used a service which I now got all the calls but when people ask to set up a time or have a problem or anything the service anwser is were just a service and thats it. So went to useing voice mail on pager give them that number as well as main line # now they know I will get back to them quicker. A few of them have my cell phone. If you go that route make sure you have caller ID so that you can see first if you really want to answer that call or not.
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  #6  
Old 02-09-2000, 11:15 PM
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JimLewis JimLewis is offline
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I agree with Lazer and Ash. <p>Let me put it this way. If someone isn't answering your phone LIVE, you are missing a lot of financial opportunities. Even more so if the person calling got your number from a place where a lot of other landscapers are listed (e.g. yellow pages, newspaper ads, etc.) I never leave messages for any company unless I REALLY want that company specifically. If I were going through the yellow pages or whatever and looking for a carpet cleaner, for instance (which I often do.) I NEVER leave a message. I hang up and call the next ad. Sorry to say, but our society is an immediate gratification society in a lot of ways. People have short attention spans. They want to get things settled now. I am the same way. <p>For the last year I had an answering service, which worked pretty well. It sounds professional and most people just thought it was my secretary answering the phone. They'd leave a message and I'd get paged instantly. Worked out fairly well. But it's not 100%. An answering service can't answer questions and you will still lose a few people once in a while. But if you are still doing a lot of the mowing yourself, this isn't a bad idea. <p>This year I've gone to answering the phones 100% of the time myself. When I am gone my business line is forwarded to my cell phone. I have a cell phone that costs $80 per month with unlimited usage so I don't worry about spending too much time on it. My phone vibrates so if I happent to be around a lot of noise (a blower or whatever) I can turn it off and still get the call. The goal is to answer 100% of the calls myself this year. It's worth the $2 for call forwarding and $80 for cell phone. I will make that many times over because I will be answering the calls. <p>This, in my opinion, is the best option. You are always the most knowledgeable about your services. And you are the best salesman for your company. Anything short of that (pagers, voice mail, whatever) will get you a little less results and you will lose a little bit of potential income from it - guaranteed. So for my buck, I'd do this even if it cost me $250 a month in cell phone charges. Even if all I do is retain 3 calls that I would have otherwise missed, I will make up the cost. <p>If this isn't an option for some reason I would do the following (in order of most effective to least)<p>***** An answering service who pages you with messages instantly (I paid $30 a month for this)<p>**** Forward your home phone to a cell phone, even if you won't be around it all the time. Have voice mail on the cell phone. <p>*** A pager with voice mail telling people if they will leave a message you will be paged and return the call within 15 minutes. <p>** A message machine (or VM) at home telling people you check in every hour and return messages promptly. Messages should sound as professional as possible e.g. &quot;Hi, you've reached the desk of xxx with xxx landscaping. I am in the office today but I may have stepped out for a second. If you will leave a message I will be back within the hour and return your message shortly&quot;<p>Caller ID is a must too. It's not 100% because some people are blocked. But for the few who do call and don't leave a message, if they are on the ID box, it's worth gold when you get back home. <p>Anyway, that's my 2 cents. <p>----------<br>Jim Lewis - Lewis Landscape Services<br>http://www.lewislandscape.com
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  #7  
Old 02-10-2000, 02:50 AM
mountain man mountain man is offline
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I agree with Jim that it is critical to try and have someone answer the phone live as much as possible. My assistant is scheduled to work as many of the high volume times (eg Mondays)as possible. If someone calls and she is not there and I am in the field, I have calls forwarded to my cell. If I'm busy then it gets dropped back to voice mail. <p>I think it is important to forward calls to the cell phone. There have been many times when I have been driving between locations that I have been able to field a call. Not only does the customer immediately get service, it also saves me office time when I get back to the office. <p>One thing I disagree with previous posts is saying I will call back in 1 hour etc. If you are out in the field and someone calls with an accounting question, I feel it is better to wait until I get back in the office to return the call where I can look at the computer. I return all my calls ASAP, but I am not a Doctor so I do not want people thinking I am available 24/7 all of the time. You still have to have family time.
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  #8  
Old 02-10-2000, 10:51 AM
MRPLOW MRPLOW is offline
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I am just a 2 man operation. I haven't answered my phone in about 2 years. The only time I answer phones is if I have an add going which is usually only in the springtime for lawn aeration. I used to answer my phone all the time when I was home, but after about 3 years I found it impossible to seperate work from play. Also when I used to answer my phone about 50% of the time it was damn telemarketers. I check my message in the morning before I leave for the day and then again when I get home. If I hear the phone ringing on a sunday or something I don't even listen to the message till I get into work mode again on Monday morning. To my knowledge I have never lost one of my current customers from not answering the phone. All of my new jobs are from referrals so they don't seem to have a problem leaving messages. I don't need any more work so answering the phone to get new clients doesn't really affect my business. I don't no about you guys but my phone probably rings 5 times a night, how do you guys enjoy life if your answering your business phone from 6-9 at night.<br>
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  #9  
Old 02-10-2000, 04:20 PM
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JimLewis JimLewis is offline
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Yah, I agree with Mtn. man. It's not necessary to answer accounting, etc. calls from your regular customers within an hour. You can wait till you get home, the next day, or whatever's good for you. My only point was that for new customers (who are coming from an ad or something) it's important to imply that if they leave a message it will be returned shortly. Whether you are actually able to return them within an hour isn't as important as getting them to believe you will so that they will leave a message. <p>If you have a machine that says &quot;If you are calling for an estimate, please leave your name and I will return your call within an hour&quot; as opposed to one that says &quot;leave a message please&quot;, you will get better results every time. <p>I also agree with Mr. Plow to a certain extent. I see your point. It can be cumbersome dealing with all the calls in the spring time and summer. How you choose to answer them all depends on how ambitious you are. For someone who is happy to just get a few referrals and answer calls later, that's fine. And if family time now is more important to you than answering business calls at night, so be it. That's totally cool. <p>But I am speaking from a standpoint of somoene who is very ambitious and wants to grow their clientel very quickly. Not all people want that. But I do. And for those who do, you gotta make a few sacrifices along the way. <p>We advertise like crazy with in all sorts of ways. Last year we went from handling under 50 regular accounts to almost 120. This year we expect to go well over 200. And to accomplish that, I have to try to answer every call. Yah, when we are out at Olive Garden on a Tuesday night with friends, I may take my cell phone with me and get interrupted once during dinner. I will take 2 minutes to write down the information so I don't miss an opportunity. And all my friends and family understand that's how it is for me in the spring and summer. It's a minor inconvenience but I am willing to sacrifice a little time now so that I may have a big company that affords me LOTS of time off later. <p>So far it's worked very well. I've finally managed to get my business to a point where I don't have to mow lawns or pull weeds any more. I get to do what I enjoy. I wake up when I want to (or when the phone starts ringing ;-), I spend the morning in the office then I drive around in a nice truck all day listening to CDs, running errands, giving estimates, and doing quality control. That's what I always wanted to do. And in 9 months my wife will be able to retire, like she wants to do. That's the goal and that's what I give up some of my extra time for now. <p>And it's all worth it to me. For some people, it's just not. And that's cool too. To each his own. But all I was saying before is if you are THIS ambitious, you'd better find a way to answer all your calls. Otherwise, it will take you that much longer to reach your goal. For those who are already at their comfort level, cool. <p>----------<br>Jim Lewis - Lewis Landscape Services<br>http://www.lewislandscape.com
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  #10  
Old 02-10-2000, 05:18 PM
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Charles Charles is offline
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I have been trying the home phone transfer to the vibrating cell phone bit now for the past 2 years. The good side of it is that you do get some calls that you might have otherwise missed. The bad side is all calls do not make it to the cell phone I would say 40% of the time. Either your are in a bad area for reception or whatever reason. Even though we have those antennas everywhere. Another reason it doesn't work well is that when you have a blower on your back. The vibration from it makes you not feel the phone at all. Another reason is that you have to stop whatever you are doing and cut off the equipment and answer the phone over and over and talk to someone who may be long winded. Or let the voice mail get it like if it was at home to begin with. If the cell is in your pocket with the antenna up and its aimed at some part of your body. Even the cell phone companies are saying that this may give you cancer. I have a satelite dish with a inside antenna. I was using the indoor antenna. I got a call on my cell phone and the picture went really bad on the tv with no sound while i was talking. Those microwaves are that strong.
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