I forget who it was that said something like this, “If it’s common sense how come it’s not more common?” It can so easily be applied to an issue that arises way too often among small businesses—not answering the phone. Surely it’s common business sense to make sure that the phone is answered by a real live person every time it rings?

I’m of course referring to this kind of recorded response: “Thank you for calling ABC Business. We are unable to come to the phone right now. Please leave a message with your name and number and we’ll call you back as soon as we can.”

Here’s the issue . . . If the caller is someone trying to get a bill paid, they may leave a message but will more likely opt to call back instead. If the caller is a potential customer, they’re less likely to wait or call back. They’ll just call the next competitor on their list and forget about you. Nowadays customers are impatient. They want a real person to answer the phone and to be assured that their interest has been noted and a communication process has been set in motion. And let’s face it, “We’re unable to come to the phone right now” sounds very much like, “We’re a really tiny rinky-dink outfit.” This doesn’t generate confidence.

So, the answer? There are  many but the most obvious are technology that allows for every call to to picked up right away by someone in the business, or an answering service. Before balking at the cost of either of these or any other solution, consider what immediately unanswered calls might be costing your business in lost sales. And consider what the damage to your image might be costing your business.