Maxine Park, co-founder of call handling and reception services specialist InTouchNow, recently explained to the readers of Master Photography why clients should not be expected to leave voicemail, when you are unable to answer their call.
Master Photography is a publication mailed to all members of The Master Photographers Association (MPA), providing advice on technical matters and gear relevant to the photography market.
You can order a copy of the May/June issue online here, or you can simply scroll down to discover why outsourcing your call answering to professionals like InTouchNow will allow you to get on with the job you enjoy – and are paid to do – whilst giving a professional impression to both existing and potential clients.
Taking calls is not the answer
Whether you are chasing work or putting yourself in the picture for new clients, the last thing you need is to be left incommunicado.
Photographers get unwanted calls on a regular basis. This interruption to business can be very damaging. If you are unable to pick up other important calls and confirm times and dates with people, it could cost you more than just money.
And while technology can lend a hand, answer machines and text messaging does not make the same impression on potential clients as talking to a helpful, courteous and friendly human.
Maxine Park, Co-Director at call-answering service provider InTouchNow, explains why the personal touch is invaluable.
“In the current economic climate where productivity and efficiency are central to a successful business, having someone to not only answer calls but deal with them in a manner which projects a professional image, is absolutely crucial,” she said.
“There is a growing appreciation of just how important dealing with phone calls in a professional manner really is. Freelance photographers work in a rather zealous market where the next client is potentially just one phone call away. Given the effort now being made by all and sundry to appear on the first page of Google, the way in which you answer your phone is integral to your success, or indeed, failure.
“It is alarming that even with all the options available to people, many still cling to the belief that if they cannot answer their phone then diverting a call to voicemail is good enough. However, surveys indicate that around 70 per cent of people calling people or businesses they do not know will NOT leave a message.
“Many professionals are under pressure to deliver a first class service which competes with their larger rivals. For photographers, the answer is to concentrate on what they are getting paid to do and outsource everything else.
“The best service providers will offer a full suite of reception and secretarial services; from handling customer service enquiries to marketing support, all delivered by professional, UK-based individuals with years of experience.
“Using these services also has the added advantage of providing a greater sense of scale to smaller outfits, as it can make businesses appear larger than they really are. It also marks the business out as one that is run efficiently and recognises the importance of all incoming calls.
“When you outsource your needs to a professional reception team that has worked hard to understand your business, they can handle customer service enquiries, working with information you have provided, to help answer simple questions or even progress sales calls.
“These teams understand that they are an extension of your business, concerned with your success and are not just there to take messages. If that is all do require however, the details of calls can be emailed or texted to you, so you can take the appropriate action; when you are ready.
“Advanced services will also include an online portal, showing the call history and actions undertaken, which can be viewed in real time. The client can step in at any time to return important calls or add information to help the reception team deal with calls more efficiently.
“Following any calls received, you will not just have the numbers to call back, but all the details necessary to return calls effectively, with time to prepare if needed. And of course, you also have the opportunity to filter out the calls that do not matter.
“Depending on your call volume and the services you require, outsourcing your call answering and reception services will range anywhere from between five per cent to 50 per cent of what it would cost to employ an individual to handle your calls.
“If you simply want your calls screened, announced and connected in real-time your costs will be lower than if you want diary management, appointment scheduling and more time intensive processes.
“For freelance photographers the decision to outsource provides complete flexibility. You can concentrate on the job in hand and, when you are busy, you simply leave calls to be answered professionally, by humans. You buy the services you need when you need them and turn them on and off at the swipe of an app.
“It is senseless to risk losing out on work opportunities and suffering a knock to your reputation when there is a simple, accessible solution to the familiar “answer, don’t answer” dilemma.”