In this episode, Chris and Michael discuss the importance of implementing systems for answering phone calls and other inbound messages in a quick and effective manner to win more business.
In this episode, we cover:
- Why failing to answer the phone is detrimental to business.
- Common reasons businesses don’t always pick up the phone (busy, not enough resources, anxiety, etc.)
- How to manage newer forms of inbound contact (Facebook messenger for business, SMS, Instagram, etc.) to gain online sales leads.
- How to disrupt the consumer’s “scanning mode” to generate new leads.
- The utility of trackable phone numbers.
- Why call center services are still useful, and who should consider using them.
- The advantages of using a call recorder system or service.
- The importance of identifying credentials on the front end.
For more information on the tools and resources mentioned in this episode, please visit https://www.searchprimer.com/.
Chris Raines: Welcome to Grow Your Painting Business, a podcast for commercial, residential and industrial painters to grow their businesses in their local or regional markets. We’re experts in digital marketing for painters and other trades, and this is a show to share our experience with you. Grow Your Painting Business is a free podcast from Searchprimer.com, the experts in digital marketing for the trades.
Chris Raines: All right, welcome to episode 19 of Grow Your Painting Business, the podcast from Searchprimer.com, my name is Chris Raines, I’m joined by Micheal Utley, over here to my left.
Michael Utley: Yup, good to see you again.
Chris Raines: Good to see you. Before we get started we’re going to talk about phone calls and all manners in which people can communicate with you as a business. But first, Michael, why don’t you tell people about the free audit they can get if they go to Searchprimer.com.
Michael Utley: Yeah. A lot of times before we start working with somebody we do a phone call, pull up their website, look at it through a few different tools, a few different lenses to kind of understand what’s going on, see how they’re ranking in search engines. See what keywords they’re ranking for, look at things like their page speed score to see how Google sees their website in terms of page load time for either desktop users or mobile users. So those are some of the things we do just as we’re getting to know people and get familiar with their situation.
Michael Utley: And typically what will come out of that is if there are things that they need that we think will help them in the realm of SEO or advertising we can have a further conversation. But it’s a good way to get to know each other and see if we’re interested in working together.
Chris Raines: Great, and if you’re interested in that free audit, just go to Searchprimer.com and there’s a big fat button on the homepage that says, free audit. Click that, get your free audit and figure out where you stand against your competitors.
Michael Utley: That’s right.
Chris Raines: Awesome. Okay, Michael, let’s get into the topic of today and it’s phone calls. What did we title it? The phone’s ringing, something like that?
Michael Utley: Yeah, we’re very sensitive to the fact that a lot of campaigns take a lot of work, there’s a lot of creative effort getting either keyword research and then advertising, or just investing in search engine optimization and developing content for a website to show up higher in search results. There’s a lot of work that can go into that, but at the end of the day, if it results in the phone ringing and no one answering, it’s kind of a missing link in the chain.
Chris Raines: It’s like getting to the ten yard line and then fumbling.
Michael Utley: And just stopping, yeah just stopping dead in your tracks-
Chris Raines: Or just go into the bus and going home.
Michael Utley: And waiting for the play to end for no reason.
Chris Raines: Yeah.
Michael Utley: Yeah, so that’s right. The surprising thing is, we see this all the time. It just seems to be a chronic problem of we’ve got a little bit of a theory on why that happens, so that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Chris Raines: Yeah. And it’s not that people just are negligent and just don’t want new business. People are busy, if you’re running a successful painting business, or really any business in the trades you’ve got jobs, you’ve got trucks going out. You’ve got proposals to follow up on, quotes to do. So it can be really easy to not be there when the phone rings.
Michael Utley: Yeah, my theory on why this happens, phones are typically a hassle. Usually if the phone’s ringing and it’s not somebody you’re expecting or somebody you want to hear from, it’s just sort of a tax on your time, your energy. You have to get ramped into whatever it is somebody is trying to tell you, or get you to do. Even just managing a business is hard, and we can develop a lot of sort of unidentified anxiety about the phone and say, oh gosh I don’t want to deal with that right now. Wow, we’re already been back out to that job site two or three times, I just can’t do it again.
Michael Utley: So I think we tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to phone. We tend to maybe treat the entire medium as just a negative. A lot of people don’t want to talk on the phone, they’re not eager to answer an incoming call. But when we’re deciding what phone number to use in a campaign, or deciding where to point phone calls if we’re using a trackable number, we really need that to be someone who’s going to be picking up that phone right away and engaging someone with a human voice.
Michael Utley: So yeah, we’re just surprised at what a chronic problem it is.
Chris Raines: Yeah, so how do we solve that problem?
Michael Utley: Yeah, well we do a couple things. One is, being very intentional and let’s broaden the conversation, this isn’t just about phone but all the inbound forms of contact.
Chris Raines: You have Facebook, messenger-
Michael Utley: Yeah Facebook messenger-.
Chris Raines: Direct message.
Michael Utley: Yup, having people tweet at your company, Google My Business messages. Can include options for SMS, so if you’ve got that activated you’ve got to know where that’s going. Inbound phone calls, inbound emails from form completions. Requests for a demo that come in through different formats like phone or email.
Chris Raines: And I’ll interject this, if you’re more traditional, maybe older set of people you’re used to phone call when you want to do business you make a phone call. And maybe you’re savvy enough to fill out a contact form online, but we have a whole group of people, let’s call them the millennials, let’s call them gen-Y, that are very comfortable with doing all kinds of non-casual, maybe even business related things on these social media channels. So it wouldn’t be at all a surprise for someone who’s 22 to reach out to a tree removal company, or a painting company via Instagram direct message and say, hey do you service Old Hickory, I’ve got four bedrooms, I’m looking for a quote? That would be very normal for someone in that age range to do that.
Michael Utley: That’s right. Yeah I’m copied on incoming Facebook messages for one of our clients, a landscaping company here in Nashville I’ve been working with for, gosh, 10 years. And we see questions come in, and it’s opportunity for work. It’s stuff like, hey we’ve got a 40 foot tree, some of it’s hanging over the house, we’re kind of nervous about it. Is that something you all do?
Michael Utley: So they’re wanting to get the information out there, and that’s a sales lead. There’s no world in which that can be identified as anything other than a sales lead.
Chris Raines: Right. And so for the business owner, if you own a painting business, you need to have open all those channels that your customer’s going to use. So maybe somebody’s calling in, maybe they’re 55, 60 years old, they’re probably going to be more likely to pick up the phone and call. And those younger people are more likely to use social media or the contact form on your website, or something like that.
Michael Utley: Yeah. And the more the sort of Facebook users age, they’re becoming more familiar because that platform is doing a lot, investing a lot to get integrated into people’s lives and how they communicate with each other, and creating groups and people have pages for different things. So people are becoming more conversant with these digital platforms for different reasons, from their personal lives and applying those in real business situations, in ways that we just never would have expected in the past.
Chris Raines: Yeah. So Michael, I’m going to do a retort here. Hey man, I know I need to be answering the phone, but I run a busy painting company, I’m 50% of the time I’m in my car or in my truck going out to give an estimate, taking care of customers, in meetings. And I can’t just be by the phone 24/7, how do you handle … That’s just reality for small businesses.
Michael Utley: Yup. It’s true, and even big businesses. You know we work with folks that have large teams and yeah they don’t always have someone at the desk. So we really like using technologies and planning and different services to do what needs to be done. And I think of this as a key link in the chain that exists between two different phases of someone selecting a service provider. I think that there’s a scanning mode where they’re online, they’re doing self education, they’re researching to find options. And then once they reach out to someone they’ve entered a new phase.
Michael Utley: They’ve entered the phase of discussing details with someone and getting pricing. So they’re out of the education phase, out of that scanning mode, sort of looking across the horizon and trying to poke around at different options and maybe reaching out to a couple of people. The sooner you can sever that connection between scanning mode and them receiving pricing, and be a part of that, the better. Because as soon as they talk to a person they’re less likely to continue to call other people.
Michael Utley: So how do you fix it? We tend to recommend using things like trackable phone numbers that could be pointed to a good phone number, like a mobile device. With these trackable phone numbers you can just log into a dashboard and change where you need to point that number. Somebody’s going to be out of town, or even if you have a phone pool and you’re pointing it to a number that is distributed to ring across multiple phones, you can train everyone to answer the phone and at least take down and capture lead information so that people talk to someone.
Michael Utley: As soon as they talk to someone they feel a little bit more emotionally invested in that particular option, even if they have to wait a little bit for pricing. So you can have a standard two questions, give us your contact information and make sure you’re in our service area. Yes, that’s going to be Bobby, I’m going to get him your information, you’ll be hearing from him soon. Thank you so much we’re so glad to have heard from you today. That little bit of effort that someone can take with a standard two question conversation is enough to get someone out of that scanning mode.
Michael Utley: So trackable phone number and actively managing the credentials that are used, that are out there in the world, and being used to accept inbound contact.
Chris Raines: Yeah, and another option, and this is probably more for national focus companies that have a high … Or people that are in large metros that might have a higher volume. There are phone call center services, a phone call center as a service that you can engage with-
Michael Utley: That’s right.
Chris Raines: -to handle the call volume for you. Who might that be a match for?
Michael Utley: Yeah, so we use those a lot. And those are really option for companies where you have maybe a distributed set of site managers who do a lot of the quotes, and they’re busy during the day and maybe out on job sites or in environments that are noisy and they can’t talk. So what you do is you set up a call center, and there are a lot of these out there, and if anybody wants details or options on these we can provide those, just check-in with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Utley: But yeah, we use a number of these ourselves, we’ll create scripts and give instructions to the call center on how to handle it. And so when the call comes up, comes through a special number and they can see exactly what brand to announce to the person on the inbound call. So they can say, hi this is Mary from US Painters, how can I help you today? They would do it better than I’m doing it right now.
Chris Raines: Right, they would know what the front door should be.
Michael Utley: Yeah. And so they have that information put in front of them, and they’re instructed not to try to dig into answering questions. They’re not going to offer pricing information. You don’t want to have any complicated stuff happening on those calls. What you want to do is just have a human voice, someone who can receive information and complete essentially a form on behalf of that inbound caller. Getting it into a digital format from a call.
Michael Utley: But, have that human contact and know, and be told what to expect. And just that little bit of inbound contact being instant with a person, them not having to do the work of sharing their contact information. Or even worse, having to do the work of working their way through a phone tree. That’s a really friendly way to do it.
Michael Utley: This is a side note, I would also recommend using US based call centers, I would recommend against international call centers for these purposes. So we tend to lean on US only for these types of things because it is the frontline of your brand.
Chris Raines: Yeah. And one thing I thought of when we were talking about the phone pool and spreading that number out so it rings in multiple phones, that’s actually a good practice to have across all of your channels. So for instance if you have a contact form set up on your website, for a lot of people that contact form only directs that new contact if someone reaches out and fills it out. It’s only directed to one email. So think about, what if that person quits, gets fired, goes on vacation. Who else can …
Chris Raines: I’m sure there are scenarios, I’ve never heard of this, but I’m sure it’s happened where someone has quit and they’re wondering why they haven’t gotten leads for a month, and it turned out that that was the only email that the contact form got sent to. So those are just little tactical things to make sure that there is layers of redundancy.
Michael Utley: Yeah, it’s a pretty easy thing to set up a particular email address as the authoritative credential for inbound contact. And then to use email rules such that any email delivered to that address is then forwarded to five different other addresses.
Chris Raines: Sales@goepps.com and then everyone in the company has access to that email so it doesn’t get, yeah.
Michael Utley: Yeah. So it’s easy to do that it just requires some discipline, some planning. A lot of times there’s a little bit of cleanup work that needs to be done after someone gets clued in that having leaky inbound contact channels is a problem. Sometimes it takes going around the company, doing a little survey. Sometimes you find that your company Facebook page is actually setup under the personal profile of an individual. We’ve had companies that lost their Facebook pages because they were created by employees who left the company and did not keep those pages active.
Michael Utley: So yeah, there’s a lot of messiness that can be handled and tightened up when you survey all the formats of inbound contact that are possible and make sure that they’re all being handled correctly.
Chris Raines: Yeah. And I want to add something, and this is more of a question for you, because you might disagree here. But I think voicemail can be okay for your website number. In other words, a lot of people like to have a phone tree or some kind of system like that. It sounds more professional, it makes the team seem larger and so forth. But people don’t like hanging out on phone trees and hearing things ring and ring.
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Chris Raines: So what do you think about just having if you know everyone’s out of the office and going to be unavailable, turning on voicemail to where it rings a couple times and then it’s a voicemail message?
Michael Utley: Yeah I think after hours, holidays, those situations. My orders of magnitude of what would be ideal here would be far and away exponentially better would be someone live answers the phone.
Chris Raines: Right, that’s number one.
Michael Utley: Who’s knowledgeable and able to answer every question and provide an immediate quote.
Chris Raines: Right.
Michael Utley: Okay well that’s not most people’s situation. So then I think next is a real human answers the phone immediately, no phone tree required, nothing. And then next would be voicemail, this is fine for after hours. And then dead last would be the phone tree thing. I think providing a phone tree when part of what you’re doing is being in the business of offering a service to people, I think it’s a real problem.
Michael Utley: I know big companies feel that they have to do it, and it helps them cut down on having administrative staff. But if you’re using a campaign, if you’re using a phone number just for a campaign you can actually select that as a separate inbound phone number than what you have for your entire company. And so then you can use that phone number to do a couple things. You could have it integrated with your AdWords campaigns. You can have call recording on that line so that you can listen and make sure the quality’s good. And you can have it go to a designated person and make sure someone’s at the desk and ready to answer the phone during business hours.
Chris Raines: Yeah, so that means … What you’re talking about is, if you have the normal number on your website that everyone can see, people that want jobs, people that want to sell you stuff, all that, they can see that number. And maybe they get the phone tree, they got to work to get to where they’re going.
Michael Utley: Sure.
Chris Raines: But let’s say you’re running a PPC campaign, that’s a special offer or something where you’re pretty sure that most of the inbound calls are going to be sales focused, you can actually take that number and have it swapped to a number that’s going to go right to a sales rep.
Michael Utley: That’s right. And a lot of companies worry and they say, well you know this is our phone number that we’ve had for 40 years. Our customers know us by this 800 number. No, not really. The customers don’t really care about that.
Chris Raines: They know you by your name and your brand.
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Chris Raines: And they’ll attach that to whatever number they happen to see.
Michael Utley: Yeah. They’re not going to be thrown off by there being a different phone number. They’re going to assume it’s a department or whatever. I will say that if you’re using a local-
Chris Raines: Unless your 1-800-contacts. And your number is your brand.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Except for a really branded toll free. And in that case those companies are already using other numbers for campaigns, so they can have the benefits of tracking. They might have 1-800-contacts on the headline, but in those situations often the decision is made to use trackable phone numbers because they want call recording, they want it integrated with their AdWords, they want all the benefits.
Michael Utley: But yeah, creating a fast track for inbound contact when there has been money invested to get that inbound activity to happen, that’s a really important thing. And it just goes back to don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because it’s phone doesn’t mean its hassle. It’s probably a phone call that’s worth $5,000. And that means-
Chris Raines: Or a phone call from someone who wants to act quick.
Michael Utley: Yeah.
Chris Raines: Right?
Michael Utley: Yeah, you’re either a candidate for delivering the services, or doing the job, getting the job. Or you’re not even in the ballgame and you’re never going to hear from them again. So answering the phone, absolutely number one.
Chris Raines: Yeah. Well that’s great. That’s all we have to talk about I think, but this is really fundamental right, to running it. This is kind of executing fundamentals, right?
Michael Utley: Yeah, that’s right.
Chris Raines: Answering the phone. Answer the phone, and if you can’t answer the phone, develop really good systems where you can followup quickly.
Michael Utley: Yeah. And if you’re doing what we’re recommending of using a special phone number where there is a campaign and there is ongoing effort to gain inbound leads, it really has a lot of benefits. You can track better, you can record the calls, listen to them, see how they’re going, make sure you’re frontline staff is trained on how to handle certain questions. You have that as a resource for following up with people, and making sure that you have good notes based on their inquiry. There’s a lot of upside to call recording.
Michael Utley: And then the other thing, just to reiterate, having credentials identified on the front end and auditing all of your forms of inbound contact and making sure they go to a set of credentials that can be staffed. Those are really the two best practices. And it’s a game changer, if people do it they’re going to get more business. They’re going to win more business.
Chris Raines: Perfect. Well that’s all the time we have for right now. And once again if you want that free audit that we talked about at the beginning of the episode, just go to Searchprimer.com, there’s a big button right there on the homepage it says, get my free audit. Probably takes about 30 seconds to fill out and then we’ll get back in touch with you and start that free audit. So take advantage of that and we’ll see you next time, Michael.
Michael Utley: Yup, thanks Chris.
Chris Raines: The Grow Your Painting Business podcast is a free service of Searchprimer.com. Visit us today for more information on how you can grow your business using the latest tools in digital marketing. Searchprimer.com.