As a business owner, your time is often spent managing your business. That means you may not have the time to answer every incoming call yourself. And, whether you have a dedicated receptionist or if everyone in your office is responsible for answering the phone, all employees should know and follow basic phone handling best practices.

If you haven’t made these expectations clear with all of your staff, you could be leaking leads and ultimately losing business. So, here are five important tasks to make sure your entire team is up to speed on to make sure that everyone who answers your phone is converting more calls into customers.

Promptly Answering the Phone

How many times does the phone ring in your office before someone answers it? If you’ve ever called another local business, and we’re sure you have, you probably wouldn’t appreciate a phone that rings nonstop no matter how many times you call. Consumers who contact your business feel the same way. If you have a dedicated member of staff to answer the phone, you’re probably in a good position. But if you hear a round of “Not it!” coming from your staff when the phone rings, you definitely have a problem. Make sure that you set your expectations (like a two-ring policy) with all employees on how quickly to answer the phone – and let them know that “it’s not my job” doesn’t cut it.

Returning Voicemails

If you don’t use a live voice answering service for those (hopefully rare) times when nobody can get to the phone – before or after hours, during lunch, or when the lines are all busy – these calls are (hopefully) being sent to voicemail. When this happens and a consumer leaves a message, make sure they are called back as soon as possible. There’s no “how soon is too soon?” about this either. Calling them back with minutes is best, as consumers are likely to choose the business that responds first. . So make sure your entire team knows when and how to check the voicemail and conduct a proper follow-up call.

Asking for Contact Information

When a consumer calls your business, it’s fairly safe to say that they are seriously considering doing business with you, especially if they are the type of consumer who does their homework about you online first. A truly qualified prospect who calls has probably read through online reviews, checked out your website, and decided your business was one worth contacting. So, don’t ignore these prospects. Train your staff and provide a system that enables them to collect the name, phone number, and email address of each potential customer who calls so that you know how to contact them back. Having a system that organizes this information – from a simple spreadsheet or contact list on the computer to the prioritized contact list included in our ReachEdge system – helps ensure that no contact information gets lots in the shuffle of multiple people answering the phone.

Putting Callers on Hold

Chances are, you’ve had to put a caller on hold at some point. And although being put on hold isn’t uncommon, the longer you keep callers on hold, the less likely they are to stay on the phone. In fact, the average time callers will wait while on hold is 56 seconds. It’s a little bit longer for small business, averaging at 1 minute 47 seconds, because these consumers understand that a smaller staff may mean more people juggling tasks. Even so, make sure you and your staff have a clear understanding of how to keep callers on hold for the shortest times possible, even if this means adding additional lines to handle more call volume.

Being Pleasant

Following all the best practices for phone handling and follow up will mean nothing if the consumer on the other end is met with an unprofessional, disgruntled, or rude attitude. Understand that a phone call is often the first point of human interaction consumers will have with your business, so make sure it counts! Encourage your staff to answer phone calls with professional greetings, practice basic manners (a “please” and “thank you” can go a long way), and sound like they are happy to help each caller with their needs.

Does everyone on your team understand your expectations for how to answer the phone? Are you sure your phone isn’t the source of lead leaks (if not, here’s an idea that can help you find out)?

Let us know, and share your thoughts about phone handling in a comment!