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I was screening every thing for awhile letting the machine pick it up, and my astronomical phone bills (with partner in Aus) went through the roof. That didn't work to good. Two years ago I had a service, but that wasn't any better than a machine. I've since shortened my office hours quite a bit and that has helped, but it still seems like I can't get anything done for answering the phone.
What do you guys do?
Once that's done, just stop answering your public number.
Get Caller ID and set it so that you don't accept calls from blocked phone numbers. Don't answer the phone from anyone you don't know. Make your *work* number unlisted. Anyone who wants your services knows how to use email and the web.
I have a friend who regularly fires his clients when they start annoying him.
BTW, at $75, you are priced too low even for a good mood. Raise your prices.
Having a message with a few options to choose from might help. The message could offer a choice of information from basic services information, where to go to fill out a form to submit their request, best way to contact you as mentioned above, or provide an email address so they can send you their request and detailed description of what services they seek.
Another phone option choice for information about search engines can then make a referral to Search Engine World/Webmaster World sites. Email requests asking SEO questions can receive the same answer, refer them to the sites. Make a distinct line between what you are willing to share via professional services.
So I got a sales agent - one of my good old friends with a good sense of this. Now, if you want my time you book it with my agent. Clients can talk as long as you want with him for free but he don't know much about SEO (LOL). If they want to talk to me, then I charge them. I have no problem taking phonecalls at $200 an hour :)
WG, our members overseas may be scratching their heads over that one.... 'What the heck is a BAT phone??' Yes, a second, unlisted phone is the way to go -even if you follow some of the other suggestions. My businesses have been using them for years -we actually have 2 of them in one business, one very, very restricted. Cheap, and works great.
>Having a message with a few options to choose from might help.
That, like the menu system for Utilities companies. One choice leads to talking to a live person and the others to recorded information. And a part time live person - a secretary/sales assistant to answer. I include the word secretary because if someone doesn't mind that title, they won't object to the first two requirements:
1. Pick up donuts/bagels/McDonalds breakfast on the way in to work.
2. Make the coffee upon arrival.
3. Go through the messages (except personal ones) and send out information via mail or email, with a number of predetermined responses, and an opportunity for return follow-up if necessary, like filling out an online inquiry form. Or spot ones that need further personal follow-up.
4. Have a bent for sales, and the ability to qualify sales prospects thoroughly with the live calls, sending info to those who are luke-warm, and either giving you the call, if available, or indicating in a written message that it's a valid sales opportunity.
5. Someone who knows enough to understand the questions, and answer just a VERY few basics without actually telling anything, and be able to "hear" what's hot and what's not.
6. A rate sheet available to quote prices for phone consultations, and some set time scheduling system.
Add to that being around 30 and gorgeous, witty, charming and intelligent, able to cook, clean, raise children and play hostess for entertaining, make all doctor and dentist appointments, manage a budget and shop wisely, and you've got yourself a wife.
You can have all those FAQ type calls dealt with by pre-recorded messages and so happily let yourself work without having to worry that you're ignoring anyone's needs.
(There was a nice bit of free software for this with the old modem I had (56k US Robotics) called Super Terminal or something very similar - it worked great for me when I used it.)