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Interview: Why is it important for small business owners and entrepreneurs to have a professional phone system?

Mike:
Hey everyone, it’s Mike Sullivan. Thanks for joining us again today on MO.com, where we feature small business owners and entrepreneurs and then bring you hints, tips, insights, and perspectives on what it takes to be successful.

Joining us today is Jonathan Kay from Grasshopper. He is their Ambassador of Buzz. Jonathan is one of our subject matter experts, and he will be joining us periodically along with some of our other subject matter experts to bring you some additional insight into their perspective on business and success.

So let’s kick things off. Jonathan, thanks for joining us. Would you mind getting things going by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Jonathan:
I’m Jonathan Kay. I’m the Ambassador of Buzz here at Grasshopper, so I run our word-of-mouth marketing department, our untraditional marketing department. Very briefly, I essentially graduated business school, knew that I loved working with people, knew that I wanted to make a shitload of money obviously, that’s why I went to business school.

I worked in sales for a couple of years and really didn’t enjoy it because for me it was very heartless and it didn’t really emphasize the relationship building, which is the piece that I thought I liked the most. After two years of that, I kind of stopped doing that and was looking for a similar type job and ran into the guys at Grasshopper who kind of realized something really interesting.

What they realized was that people are so focused on Internet and search engines and how I can use Google to get sales, which is important, but they kind of realized this very human thing that they get at this point, 2009, they probably got 20% to 30% of their sales via word-of-mouth, via someone who heard about us from a friend, a colleague, or a family member.

If we’re getting that many sales, like hundreds of sales a week from that, you need to cultivate and take care of those relationships just like you would the Google relationship and the pay-per-click. So the founder essentially was looking to bring in someone who’s insane and energetic and crazy and really genuinely cares about people, and that’s very much who I am, Mike. So they brought me in. They didn’t really know what they wanted me to do, but they just knew that they wanted to get people talking in every and any medium humanly possible and were willing to support me however they could.

Mike:
Great. So, let’s hit the topic for today. Why is it important for small business owners and entrepreneurs to have a professional phone system?

Jonathan:
Yeah, that’s a good question. I would say a couple of reasons. I’ll give you the first most basic reason. Essentially it could be the second or third point of contact that they have with your company. I have to assume at this point that the first way they will interact with your company is through your website. That’s very much the world that we live in, right?

Say they don’t understand something and they just want to talk to a person, well their second interaction is going to be immediately the first thing that happens when they call into your system, right? So if that’s you picking up your cell phone and saying hello, well if I hear that and I’m a customer, I’m thinking, shit, this is a wrong number. Who is this guy? He’s working in his basement.

You know what? Maybe you are working in your basement, which is fine, but you at least need to be mindful enough to know that you don’t want that to be your first interaction with your customer, right? Before you can prove to them that you are that trustworthy, steady source for them, you need to give yourself a fighting chance. You need to get on the phone with them.

By providing this professional greeting, Mike, and this professional phone system, not only does it make your customers feel more comfortable with you, but it actually allows to have a higher percentage chance of getting on the phone with your customer.

I’ll give you an example. I personally travel a lot, and so it’s great for me that I have three phone lines that ring simultaneously when you call my extension. I pick up the phone and I’ll hear, “Hey it’s Mike from MO.com.” Great, let me just pick that up, and now you and I are having a conversation. It doesn’t matter to you if I’m in my office in Boston or not, and it shouldn’t and it certainly won’t matter to your customers where you are. They need you now, and they should be able to have access to, right? So I think that’s probably the most important first piece.

The second thing I would say, and I don’t know if this is more of a Gen Y thing, so I’d actually be curious to hear your opinion, if you don’t mind. I very much feel comfortable, more comfortable buying from a company that I know I can speak to a human.

It’s funny because I’ll talk to people, and they’re like, “You know what? We sell products online. Why would I need a phone number?” Well, we have 40,000 customers, and we sell only products online. You can call up our sales team and you still need to sign up online, but the fact that you can call someone up 24/7 and they’re based in the United States and they understand what you’re saying and they can walk you through the process, well, shit, that makes you feel more comfortable with our brand.

A month down the road, if you have a problem, there’s going to be that same person that you can call and you can talk to. I’m very much behind the belief that you need to have a phone number and you need to be accessible by phone or be able to respond to a voicemail within a reasonable period of time because it’s a comfort thing. People feel more comfortable taking out their wallet for a brand that’s personable, a brand that has a voice behind it or a face behind it and someone that they feel like they can reach if some trouble was to ever happen.

You and I decide we want to start our own consulting company together, right? So the first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to create this professional greeting. It’s going to say, “Hey, welcome to Mike and Jon’s consulting company.” Then you’re going to have extensions for departments. So press 1 for sales, or 2 for customer support, or 3 if you’re in the press or maybe press 4 for the dial by name directory.

That might seem very basic, but what’s it done is it’s actually done more than maybe you think. What it’s allowed is, say I’m on vacation Mike and you’re answering all of our phone calls and you get a phone call, you’re going to know before you’re connected with that caller if it’s coming in through sales or customer service or press and that’s valuable, right? Because maybe if we’re in the middle of a meeting, we’re not going to take a customer service call. That can wait 20 minutes. We’re at the point where we need to grow at all costs, so if I’m getting sales calls or calls from the press, you drop everything for the press.

You need to know that and you want to know that. For me, I think it’s a great example. I actually have two extensions here at Grasshopper. I have 721, which is listed on our public website, and 717, which is on my business card. So it’s like when I get a phone call that comes in from the website and I’m really busy at my desk, I don’t pick that up because that’s probably a sales call. It allows me to have the flexibility to manage my time and do my day and make sure I’m getting on the phone with the most important people and not on the phone with people who are more spammy.

Mike:
Hey, Jonathan, thanks for talking to me today. I look forward to our next conversation and any new information you’ll be bringing us. Take care.

Jonathan:
All right, man.