Phone numbers, call answering and more….
If you run any type of business, you need a way for people to get hold of you. In today’s world customers are not used to calling Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, and most will not remember half day closing!! So you need a solution that works both for you and for your client. This article is based upon my setup for the phone number and if it works for me, it can probably work for you.
With any setup, I always recommend having unique suppliers for each element. So if you use an answering service, never promote their number as yours. If they go bust or change your number bang goes all your business cards and other advertising. Likewise if you opt for VoIP lines (digital lines that run over the internet), then use a different provider for your phone numbers. If you need to change your VoIP provider your numbers are still yours. Your phone number(s) is probably one of your more valuable assets in your company.
Whilst you can run a company behind a mobile number it speaks volumes that you are a one (wo)man band, in the same way as using a free hotmail or gmail email address does. This might be great if you portray yourself as that, but for many you will want to say to investors and clients alike that you are a team, you are professional. A landline number can do that. Long gone are the days when you needed to get BT in to supply you a business line. You can now have one or more virtual numbers.
These are regular 01x, 02x, 03x and 080x numbers. 01x and 02x are your local town dialling codes. 03x are national numbers which replaced similar 08x numbers. For example I run 0333 numbers, but you can have 0345, 0300 and many other combinations. 03x numbers cost the same to call as 01x and 02x but will give you a national presence. 080x are freephone numbers (primarily 0800 & 0808). I would avoid 0845 and 0870/1 numbers as these are now premium rate when calling from mobiles and are often not included in plans.
I get all my numbers from TTNC – you can then divert these numbers to a mobile, landline, VoIP line etc. anywhere in the world. The cost is just £20 per year, per number. The good thing about TTNC is that now you can dial out from your mobile via their service, by registering your mobile with them, dialling your own number entering a pin and then the number of your client. Your office number will then show at their end instead of your mobile number! They never need to know your mobile number. You can add to your service items such as call recording, call whisper (where a short message is played before the caller to identify who they are calling) and conference calls. Check out the TTNC for all the options. I add a package for an additional £7 a month to cover all my numbers, but this is optional.
Other providers exist, but many will charge £10 a month. I much prefer £20 a year at TTNC and pay for my calls as I go.
If you are like me, you do not want to take calls 24/7. I would prefer someone else did that. So I can divert my numbers from TTNC to Answer. Calls cost between 90p and £1.20 to answer and you will be informed within a second or two as to who called you. You can then call them back. If someone calls me they act as my PA and say that I am currently unavailable but will call them back asap. The folk answering the phones are all UK based. I have both a DDI number for me and my main staff, which during the day will go to the correct mobile and in the evening/weekends to Answer and a central office number which is always answered by the folk at Answer.
The good things is that with Answer there is no monthly fee and no contract. They will even give you £5 to try the service.
They operate 24/7 365 days a year. So are happy to take your calls on a Sunday whilst you relax watching a film.
Campaigns / Sites
Depending upon your business you can add phone numbers to your company easily. As a property developer at Leading Homes we will use a new number for every site. This enables us to redirect it to the agent and keep track of how many people called and when. TTNC charges just £20 per year and so we simply add a local number in the correct dialling code to display outside the site.
If you advertise via leaflets or other adverts use a unique number for each campaign – this way you will now how many people responded to your particular advert. If you do not require the number after a year, simply cancel it at any time. Keeping track of everything will help you in business to know if something works or not. No point repeating a promotion that didn’t work.
If you run an HMO or Serviced Accommodation you could setup a service where your clients call a particular number, get someone answering in your company name asking what the issue is. You can then get a text or email or both with the request. You can then deal with it as required without having to talk directly to the customer as not all cries for help require an immediate response. An emailed response from you might be sufficient or you can put a call in to a third party to assist them. Your own imagination on the options could save you valuable time to work on other matters.
The above setup works for me. I have used both companies for a number of years and have no need to go anywhere else. I will never recommend a company that didn’t do what they say on the tin.
If you have a need to have physical phones in your office then I would recommend installing a VoIP phone. I have a Yealink deskphone which can have up to 16 lines. Each of these lines are VoIP (digital lines over the internet) but again I can direct the TTNC numbers to this phone as required. More importantly I can pick up my phone and plug it in anywhere in the world! All it needs is the internet.
Any questions, please get in touch.