May 09, 2012

Small Business: Please, Answer the Phone!


Today I called six small businesses to gather information and get a quote. I was looking for two specialized items, both that needed to be customized. I needed to talk to someone about the details, possibly schedule an appointment at my home and/or get a price estimate.

How many of these six small businesses do you think answered the phone?


An one of them was so busy, he asked me to call back.

Fast forward, eight hours later, of the other three small businesses that I called and left a message how many have I heard from?

You guessed it, none!

There is a statistic that when a prospective client gets a voice mail, up to 70% of clients hang up without leaving a message. There is also a correlation with answering the phone and making money.

Just like meeting someone for the first time, a first impression goes a long way in determining your level of confidence, and sets up expectations for future engagements.

I (and I assume you’re in the same boat) am not interested in doing business with someone that cannot even return a simple message. When — or should I say “if” — I hear from these three small businesses, my mind has already been made up. I have already moved on and they have lost the opportunity.

Amazingly three of the six that I left messages with were from an insert that hit my mailbox. They paid money to advertise, and just when they were expecting calls from prospective clients they could not answer the phone or call back in a reasonable period of time. Isn’t this just a baseline business expectation?

If they cannot call back in eight hours, I question what my buying experience would be with that company? If they cannot pick up the phone when I want to buy, why would they pick up the phone when I need service?

Certainly, there are reasons that they could not call back, but if you are so busy that you cannot respond to a phone call in a single business day — especially when you are advertising for new clients — something is wrong.

No More Excuses; Services That Answer the Phone For You

There are a variety of answering services and virtual assistants that can handle this job without very little set up and minimal costs like,,, and

There are a host of executive offices in most major cities that answer the phone as part of the overall office and assistant package. As a small business owner the most valuable resource you have is your time.

I realize depending on your business you cannot individually answer the phone for each prospective client. However, you are smart enough to realize that if you don’t have someone answering the phone, you are losing money. If you need to make the change to make your organization more professional, I suggest you do it today. One single sale this week probably would pay the monthly fee associated with one of these services.

Your Turn

Have you had similar experiences? Do you have a hard time answering your business phone, or responding to customers when they want your business?

About the author


  1. Well-said. Spent much of my day trying to call places that used Google call forwarding… but instead of chasing a real person, it dumped me into voice mails.

  2. Just today I was about to order a vinyl record from Amazon when I decided that if my local shop had it, I’d get it from them instead. Spread the wealthy locally and all that.

    I placed three calls since they opened to see if they have it and none of the calls were answered. The Amazon order has been placed.

  3. I found that most of the businesses that do not answer phones are from California. maybe they are trying to start a new trend but I think it’s lazy and stupid. The money they could have spent on hiring a college student to answer the phone is worth allot more than the business they lose from not answering. I usually hang up when a business does not answers the phone. Unfortunately I occassionally got burned after purcahsing an item then trying to get customer service and there is nothing but an email address.

  4. I am a sole trader running a small “in-home-visit” IT repair service. I don’t answer calls when I’m with a client, but neither can I afford a full time PA…my voicemail reminds callers that I am with someone and I do call back always within two hours…they seem to appreciate that one day I’ll be with them and won’t interrupt the time they’re paying for by allowing calls to get in the way.

  5. Yeah, read this article cuz right now I am trying to rent a storage unit. I called a place on a Friday at 11am and they still hadn’t called me back by the next day 11am, so I called a cell phone number they provide on their website, still goes to voice mail. Okay, screw them, so I call another facility, goes right to voice message. It’s not like they are full, their voice mails all say they have openings, it would be nice to hear it instead of wondering.

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