Virtual solutions: Calls On Call provides the expertise of full-time receptionists without the expense
A full-time receptionist is a luxury that many small businesses can’t afford these days. James Kademan, owner of DocJams, was in that predicament. “I could have hired a full-time receptionist,” he said, “which would have been impractical. I could have hired a call center, but I can’t train 500 people.”
Several years ago, Kademan met Jodi Fisher, owner of Impact Virtual Services, at a local networking event. They discussed the difficulties of running a business while working in the business, and an idea emerged.
In March 2012, the duo launched Calls On Call, a shared receptionist service, to address a problem they’d experienced firsthand: lost business from an inability to field and respond to incoming calls during the day.
Calls On Call creates the illusion of a full-time receptionist at a fraction of the cost of hiring one. Companies contract with the receptionist, who handles phone calls, schedules appointments, and engages in light problem-solving.
The concept is well suited, they say, to sole proprietors, like accountants or lawyers, home professionals, service providers, holistic health professionals (massage, yoga), or tradespeople, like plumbers or handymen.
“It’s for professionals who want to remain professional,” Fisher added.
Calls On Call employs one full-time “virtual” receptionist, Lacie O’Donnell, who is currently billing about 25 hours a week working for eight different clients. Each client works with his or her virtual receptionist to develop a flowchart that will be used to field incoming questions specific to each company and provide appropriate responses. “We want the call to stop with [the receptionist], if at all possible,” Kademan said. Light administrative work is also available, for a fee.
The calling party will likely never know that with the next phone call, the receptionist will provide the same customer service for an entirely different company. “We are not a call center,” Fisher insisted, “and we don’t want our clients to hear others talking in the background.”
Each month, clients receive a detailed report listing every call answered on their behalf, with a breakdown of incoming, outgoing, and forwarded calls, what time of day they were fielded, their length, and how many issues were resolved. Several flat-rate hourly packages area available starting at eight hours per month.
Fisher and Kademan claim their clients have reported a 25% to 30% jump in business, on average, because calls are being answered. Meanwhile, the company has proven profitable as well. The owners funded the start up themselves, spending $10,000 on start-up costs, including attorney services, IT expertise, and a telephone system.
“We’ve met and exceeded our one-year goals,” said Fisher. By the end of their second year, they hope to triple the number of clients and revenue. The more clients they take on, the more receptionists they’ll hire.
“It’s very important to maintain steady growth so we remain professional,” Fisher said.
Luckily, Fisher and Kademan’s core businesses have matured enough so they can each spend 20 hours a week handling business development for Calls On Call, and the company’s success is fueling their motivation.
“You’re getting the same services as a company receptionist but sharing the cost with other companies and paying between 20% to 30% of what a full-time receptionist would cost,” Kademan said. “Plus, you’re not missing potential business calls.”
Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine – your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.