Companies have set hours but your customers do not. Many customers have needs that arise after business hours. For small business owners, especially those in service industries, this causes an issue. Do you answer your customers calls after hours or do you let the call goto voicemail? 

When it comes to after-hours phone calls, there are two basic options:

  1. Let the call go to voicemail and check it in the morning.
  2. Find a way to pick up the call even though you’re after hours.

The first option is by far the most common, however not answering a call after hours could mean you lose out on valuable business. The second option ensures you do not lose out on business, but it also means answering calls when you are not working.

Cons

There are pros and cons to each approach. Like any good business owner, you need to weigh them all and develop the plan that works best for you and your business.

  • Intruding on Personal Time – If you’re like most small business owners, answering the phone after hours means that you’re answering forwarded calls to your personal cell phone when you’re trying to enjoy your personal time. Most business owners work enough. Answering calls during these hours is stressful.

  • Not Always Important – Many phone calls you receive are going to be unimportant – things that someone can get answered via the internet, or that can be left on the answering machine (like hours). Hiring employees for this purpose may not be financially viable, and answering the phone yourself may be a waste of your time.

  • Reach Once, Reach Twice – Once a customer has reached you once during off hours, they’re likely to continue to expect your response during that time. Customers expect you to be around at the same time all the time, and if they reach you at 9pm, they’ll call you again at 9pm.

Can you afford to hire someone in your office to answer phones during off hours? Are you even getting enough phone calls to justify the hire? Are those calls important, and are you unlikely to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

Answering post-office hour phone calls can be tough and isn’t always the logical choice for your company.

Pros

Of course, NOT answering calls creates a different set of problems.

  • Emergency Services – If you work in the service industry, someone may need you in the event of an emergency. While most calls may not be urgent, if someone is in need of a last minute plumber or electrician (for example), being available means that you could have more business and a new customer.

  • Help Desk Support – Customers that have questions or problems often need help right away. If you’re not available, it can cause stress to the customer that may hurt their loyalty. If you are available, you can improve long term satisfaction with the consumer.

  • Branding/Competition – Even if 99% of your after-hours phone calls are not important, the companies that are there to answer the call when needed are more likely to get ahead of their competition. Being available has its strengths, and those companies that want to set themselves apart benefit from that availability.

  • Affordable Staffing Options Exist – If taking your own calls doesn’t sound appealing and you aren’t in the position to hire employees, answering services like CMS can answer your phone after hours. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of after-hours availability without the downsides.

Overall Thoughts

Every company is different. There are some companies that simply never receive any calls, or companies that are unlikely to receive phone calls that will make or break their business. A coffee shop, for example, may never need to answer an after hours phone call. But other companies can strongly benefit from having this availability, and given the low cost of outsourced call center services, it’s in the company’s best interests to consider it.