Virtual office services in action
Here’s how two startups enhanced their businesses by enrolling the help of virtual office services:
Briwood Engineering For Brian Woodward, owner-manager of Surrey-based structural engineers Briwood Engineering, it was his hatred of answerphones that convinced him to use an answering service. “I know I hang up when it’s an answerphone, so I assumed other people were doing the same to mine. I needed something better.”
Like many other people running a small business, Brian relies heavily on the telephone. He works from an office at his home, but during busy periods he spends about 60% of his time on the road – either at meetings or doing site surveys. Meanwhile, he has to co-ordinate clients, main contractors, sub-contractors, draftsmen and various tradesmen.
It was five years ago that he started to look for an alternative but telephone answering services were virtually unknown. But a friend spotted an advert from Answerlink and he realised it was just what he was looking for.
“I wanted my call to be greeted by a human voice, and by someone who could take messages and tell callers where I was. I also needed someone able to receive faxes for me. It’s no good if someone calls to say they’re sending through a fax and the receptionist tells them they can’t. That would defeat the purpose of the service.”
A quick visit to the call centre, satisfied him that Answerlink would offer the all-round service he was looking for and Brian signed on the dotted line.
“I use a lot of sub-contractors, which means I can take on large contracts despite not having full-time employees or large premises. The answering service allowed me to portray a larger image and improve the company profile.”
Action point: Search shared workspaces and assess if it could be worth co-working with other start-ups (external site, opens in new tab)
That isn’t to say the service hasn’t been without its problems. “People say to me ‘Your Aussie chap answered the phone’ and I have no idea who they’re talking about. Also different telephonists pronounce the name of the company differently – it’s not ideal. I’d prefer a service in which one receptionist is assigned to the company, but they are more expensive,” he explained.
But overall, Brian has found the service has done exactly wanted he wanted. “I’m happier knowing that a person is answering my calls, rather than a useless answerphone”
Streetwise Driving School David Howat, founder of Streetwise Driving School, explains: “As a driving instructor, I’m usually out with clients every day from 8am till 7pm.”
While it’s good to be busy, David finds that it can create problems. Two years ago he was just starting out and faced a dilemma. He was running a business that relied absolutely on the telephone but left him unable to answer any calls.
“Our clients are short-term. They join up, we teach them to drive, we get them through the test, and they leave. There’s no repeat business. We have to continually look for new customers, through advertising with a freephone number, or through recommendation. In both cases, the first phone call is essential.”
At first he used an answerphone. But he worked out that only two out of ten callers were leaving a message. He tried diverting calls to his mobile but it proved unworkable as he was out driving with clients all day. He enlisted the parents of one of his colleagues. But they didn’t know enough about the business and it wasn’t professional enough.
So he turned to telephone answering services. After making a few enquiries, he signed up with Kendlebell.
“They came from our area, the costs were competitive and they gave excellent service from the start”, says David. He was hooked up with Peter, a Kendlebell franchisee. From his initial need for somebody to answer his calls, David soon realised the service could offer much more.
“My expectations have been surpassed ten-fold,” he enthuses. “The line at home is for personal as well as for business calls, and Peter deals with them accordingly. He sends urgent messages as text to my mobile phone and I pick up the others when I get home. He’s built up a lot of knowledge about the business and can now answer most questions that callers ask him.”
He’d prefer the service to be available on Saturdays but he doesn’t want to sacrifice the personal touch he gets from having a designated operator.
“The service has enabled the business to grow. It’s the reason we now have three instructors rather than just one.” You could say it’s driven his success.
I know I hang up when it’s an answerphone, so I assumed other people were doing the same to mine. I needed something better.