There are a number of ways in which a virtual receptionist can help you manage your HVAC business. In this article, find out how you can improve customer service, increase revenue, and make your business more efficient.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN INTERACTION IN CUSTOMER SERVICE
There is a lot of (deserved) hype around new web technologies and the importance of social media. Despite this, studies have shown that customer service is still best as a human-to-human interaction.
In practical terms, this means the telephone.
In a recent study, NICE Systems found that 88 percent of those surveyed named the telephone as their preferred method of resolving customer service issues.
Even millennials, who were practically born with smartphones in their hands, prefer speaking to human beings over the phone in these situations.
While consumers do believe that social media is important for customer service, it will be a long time before companies can move away from the telephone.
STAND OUT BY PROVIDING HUMAN CUSTOMER SERVICE
With this knowledge in mind, make sure you are giving your customers the best possible experience on their No. 1 method of communication.
So, how do you improve your customer service over the phone?
In today’s world, it’s not enough to answer the phones from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. HVAC companies, in particular, who often have very busy clients, just can’t afford to keep banker's hours.
With increased competition in the HVAC world, it’s essential that you are available and helpful when and where your customers need you.
Fortunately, the field of virtual reception has presented an affordable, attractive way for businesses to improve the way they speak with their clients.
What is a virtual receptionist and what can they do? Let’s dive in.
WHAT CAN A VIRTUAL RECEPTIONIST DO FOR YOUR HVAC BUSINESS?
Essentially, a virtual receptionist (sometimes referred to as an answering service) is a human being who sits in an off-site call center. Virtual receptionists often work for several different companies at the same time, to help keep everyone's costs down.
When someone calls your office number during your chosen time, the phone rings at the virtual receptionist’s desk.
They answer the phone using your company’s customized greeting, and then proceed to assist the caller. They can help with any number of issues that would usually be handled by your in-house receptionist.
Your virtual receptionist is trained according to your specific needs, and can make or confirm appointments, take down client information or messages, or forward calls to the appropriate member of your team.
They can deliver messages via email, text message, or voice mail. It’s up to you.
A virtual receptionist can also be trained to perform data entry tasks or collect information. They can help with billing and payments, maintenance calls, and much more.
In fact, with an excellent virtual receptionist, callers won’t even realize they are speaking with an off-site employee. They will just be happy to speak with a friendly, helpful representative of your company.
Now, let’s talk about what an answering service can do for your current and prospective customers.
IMPROVE YOUR HVAC CUSTOMERS’ EXPERIENCE
Let’s be clear. While there are benefits to you and your staff, the main reason to hire a virtual receptionist is to improve your client's customer service experience.
Here are some of the ways a virtual receptionist can help your customers:
• 24/7 Coverage on Your Phones
With a traditional, in-house receptionist, he or she clocks out at 5 p.m. and switches on the after-hours voicemail. If a caller dials your office at 7 p.m., they are left with three bad options:
1. They can leave a message, not knowing if or when they will be called back;
2. They can hang up and call again during regular business hours, provided that they don’t forget or get sidetracked; or
3. They can hang up and call one of your competitors.
This last point alone can be terrifying for small business owners. If you are not fully prepared to accept a customer’s business or to serve your current clients, you are setting up your business to lose critical revenue to competing companies. But what else can virtual receptionists do?
• Proactive Scheduling and Customer Outreach
In addition to accepting incoming calls, your virtual receptionist can make outgoing calls, too. He or she can help you reach out to schedule maintenance appointments, or offer personalized early bird discounts to repeat customers.
This can help you boost early-season revenue and smooth out the seasonal workload.
You can also use an answering service to perform post-service customer outreach. You can follow up a week or a month after each installation or maintenance appointment.
Not only will you ensure that your customers are happy with their service, you might find that you can also sell them additional products or services. This kind of regular customer contact can be extremely valuable.
Also, this is an excellent way to collect real customer feedback about the quality of your service, which you can then use to improve in the future.
• Handling Incoming Sales Leads
Your virtual receptionist can help you move potential customers along in your sales funnel. He or she can gather contact and decision-maker info, send out sales materials, and schedule in-person meetings with you or your sales team.
Don’t let potential clients take their checkbook elsewhere. Make sure you can keep in contact with them from the moment they decide to phone your company.
• Other Customer-Facing Applications
1. Troubleshooting. A virtual receptionist can assist your clients with basic troubleshooting around their HVAC system. You can train them to work from a troubleshooting script, which they can then walk through with callers.
Your answering service can take this kind of work off the plate of your senior employees, and let them focus on more challenging or urgent issues.
If further assistance is needed, you can have your virtual receptionist forward the issue to your team or set up a consultation.
2. Additional Support Channels. Many virtual reception firms offer services for additional customer support channels. You can ask them to help you monitor your web chat or social media channels so that your clients can reach you the way they prefer.
But answering services are not just good for clients. They can increase efficiency around your office, too.
HANDLE ADMINISTRATIVE TASKS
Sometimes, your in-house receptionist goes on vacation or needs to call in sick. With a virtual receptionist, you don’t have to worry about hiring a temp agency, or disrupting the office by pulling another employee off a project to monitor the phones.
Just set up your phones to forward to your answering service. Crisis averted.
Here’s another scenario. If your in-house receptionist is overwhelmed during the busy season, just increase your virtual reception plan for that month. You only pay for the hours that your virtual receptionist spends on your line, and you can always reduce your plan the following month.
This way, you don’t have to go through the time-consuming and expensive process of interviewing, hiring, and training someone to work for just a few months out of the year.
CONCLUSION: THINK, RESEARCH, AND DECIDE
The bottom line is this: virtual receptionists can help you increase the productivity of your HVAC business. You can improve the customer experience at your company, increase revenue, and take some of the burden off your team’s shoulders.
And, it’s affordable. You can get started with your own virtual receptionist for less than $200 per month.
The answering service industry continues to grow. In the future, we are likely to see many small and medium-sized HVAC businesses find creative ways to use these services to increase revenue and efficiency.