I don’t know about you but I really, really, really hate (do you feel the passion) being asked this question by a receptionist when I call a professional service provider and especially accounting firms. It is never asked when I call my dentist, doctor, hardware store, auto repairer or clothing retailer. The reason for the question is so the “busy” professional can decide if he wants to talk to me.
Of course some people will say that it’s to keep pushy sales people from interrupting us but let’s be honest you don’t get that many calls from salespeople (I know because I was in practice) and if they’re any good they will blast through your defense with no trouble at all. What happens is they leave a cryptic message that sounds like it could be important and ask that you call them back. You do that and telephone tag starts and you end up wasting way more time than you would have had you taken the call in the first place and blown them away there and then …. oh and don’t forget the possibility that even salespeople can often bring value to your firm!
So in order to avoid the 1 in 10 calls you really don’t want or need to take you are sending a message to your valued clients, valued prospects or valued alliance partners that you don’t want to talk to them or you’re too busy to talk to them. But let’s suppose that you are busy and you really need to be left alone to be with a client, to work through an important project, to participate in a team meeting etc. In this case simply instruct your receptionist to say “he’s with someone right now, is there any way I can help or would you like me to put you through to his PA?”
We have facilitated literally hundreds of Client Advisory Boards over the years and a recurring theme in the arena of “frustrations and dislikes” that people mention about their accountant is lack of accessibility. If you want to grow your firm and you understand the importance of referrals then being accessible is critical.
But YOU don’t have to be the person accessed. We are told by your clients that as long as they can get to talk to someone who can deal with their concern or at least get the ball rolling they are fine with that. All you need for this to happen is to have a protocol in place that where you instruct your receptionist to redirect your calls to Mary, John etc and they are briefed to take the call.
What about voice mail you ask?
Voice mail appears to solve the immediate challenge but it raises another one. The challenge it raises is that people prefer to talk to people not machines. If your client gets referred to voice mail every time (or most times) she calls she is going to believe you are way too busy for her let alone anyone she may know who could also use your services. Further, if you happen to ask her for referrals you’ve got no chance of her referring anyone.
This is the essence of our Phone Right system and firms that use it find their telephone productivity (and general work productivity) is improved and no less important, their clients perceive a huge improvement in service quality–remember, clients don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care.