Sales and service teams looking for the easiest and fastest growth hack needn’t turn to a new CRM, hire a new supervisor, or staff up. The secret is in automating and outsourcing responsiveness to increase productivity, client retention, and new business revenue.
Backstory from Stacy and Maddy: We were discussing the creative ways our clients use our text-replacement software and virtual receptionist services to streamline their systems. Most businesses are strapped for time, money, and just downright energy to slog through the necessary yet annoying repeat tasks that each day inevitably brings. A new lead? Awesome! But they’re asking the same 5 questions as the last email you just handled? What a drag. How are you going to get work done today?
It’s not that business owners are taking new clients who want to pay them for goods or services for granted — it’s that these unending communications take time from getting work done for existing clients.
We talked about how business owners’ and operators’ talent lies in their work, and not in their routine replies that answer common questions and keep momentum rolling with a new interested client, or even aid existing clients with support requests.
We agreed that business owners’ and staff members’ time is best spent performing work, delivering on expertise, creating value from products and services, and overseeing business strategies that drive future growth. At a time when 82% of consumers demand an instant response to customer service and sales inquiries, there’s also the matter of manual work being slower than automated work — humans can only really do one task at a time.
To help owners and staff free up their most-valuable time, automating and outsourcing tasks is imperative. We believe that when done well, these solutions bring a competitive advantage to your business. A factory with more uptime makes more widgets. We believe we have to maximize uptime, and time can be better spent by automating the tedious work of answering business emails, calls, texts, and Facebook messages.
So, we reached out to a mutual client and technology expert, Tom Lambotte, CEO of GlobalMac IT, to see if he’d share his best practices, having scaled his managed IT services company using leverage that software and remote staff offer.
Here are his words, with a few of our own piped in for context.
Best Practices for Automating Responses with TextExpander
1. Use Command + / to search quickly & find the right snippet
In my opinion, this is an absolute MUST for anyone who wants to use TextExpander. I have found that the biggest hurdle for people is remembering the snippet (abbreviations) they set up. If they don’t recall the snippet, they don’t use it. This simple feature overcomes the biggest hurdle to usage.
TextExpander has a small, handy search feature that you can trigger anywhere you type. With it, you can instantly search your entire snippet library, use arrow keys to browse results, then press Return to place the selected snippet into your current app.
To call upon TextExpander Search on your Mac or PC, the default shortcuts are:
- macOS: Command + /
- Windows: Control + /
- Chrome: Control + .
2. Start with the basics: Automate typing out your contact information
It’s almost too simple, but one of the highest-impact snippets you can create is one that contains your contact information.
Start with your personal contact information:
- Your name, company name, address, emails, phone numbers, etc.
Next, add contact information for your entire team:
This is more advanced, but super powerful. Using TextExpander for Teams, you can follow this workflow so everyone’s contact information is readily accessible at the tap of the keyboard:
- Emails for everyone on your team (I use first initial + @ + first letter of a domain) then
- Set up your client list—this can ensure the naming convention is consistent in files, communication, etc.
- Our company name is GlobalMac IT, not Globalmac, not global mac it, not globalMAC. People like their company names spelled correctly, it’s professional, and it helps with searches and file-naming. Create a snippet with the proper spelling, spacing, and capitalization of brand names to keep things consistent.
- We have all our clients in a shared client list with abbreviations. Using the search feature above makes it super simple to find them and expand it correctly – every time.
- TextExpander has a free public group that you can subscribe to with the proper spelling and casing of some of the most common brand names. Subscribing is a win-win—less work for you, but you can take all the credit! All three brands in this article—GlobalMac IT, Smith.ai, and TextExpander—are all listed in the public group.
3. Take advantage of the Calend.ly drop-down menu
One of my favorite features of booking services like Calend.ly is having different links for different meetings. You can have the default set; 15-, 30-, or 60-minute meetings, but can also set up meeting types for sales consultations, strategy calls, or even job interviews.
All meeting types have different lengths, different questions upon booking, and can also provide different access to times on your calendar.
The problem that comes with this is remembering the Calendly URL to use, since each meeting time has a unique URL. Having a TextExpander snippet with a drop-down menu lets me get access to them in seconds, where it was always a pain to find in the past.
To create the Calendly drop-down snippet:
- Use a “Fill-in” Popup Menu:
2. Enter one URL per line.
3. Which will be used the most? Tick that box, so that is the default —i.e., you just hit Enter to select it
What I love about this is that once the snippet is called up, I can use my Up and Down arrows to choose the event type, and then hit Enter to expand the snippet.
Best Practices for Outsourcing Call Answering to Smith.ai Virtual Receptionists
1. Integrate Slack alerts for call summaries — and define internal responsibilities for monitoring & follow-up
Smith.ai lets their clients determine where to push call summaries after every call. You can pick from their standard defaults and receive an email and/or text message with the call summary, or you can choose to have call summaries routed to a chat app like Slack or Microsoft teams.
Our team uses Slack, so that was the natural choice. Routing call summaries to a dedicated Slack channel means our team doesn’t have to look for emails or texts after calls come in — they’re notified in the system that’s already up on their screens during every hour of the work day.
Plus, the call summaries include the name, phone, and email of the caller, in addition to the receptionist’s note, so the team has everything they need to take action, if needed.
Here are my recommended steps for an efficient setup:
- Set up Slack alerts so every call summary appears in a dedicated Smith.ai Slack channel.
- Define how to process Slack alerts as a team.
We implemented a check-mark-and-comment system, so once a team member has reviewed the call summary, they put a checkmark emoji on that Slack message, and also add their brief note about what action they took or what had happened.
The entire team is aware and interruptions are significantly reduced unless urgent matters need to be handled promptly.
A client called us to alert us of a Comcast outage.
- You can also set “coverage” schedules for the Slack channel so it’s not just a matter of “who gets to the message fastest,” but instead “who’s on shift to check new messages to the Smith.ai channel.”
- Typically, the best individuals on your team to review Slack messages from Smith.ai are those who can follow-up and carry out the next step. They’ve already talked to your receptionist (Smith.ai), so the caller will be expecting someone calling them back with more extensive knowledge and authority. Otherwise, they can pass that message to the correct person on the team who is authorized, as a triage process.
Maddy’s Note: The Smith.ai Slack integration can also be used to alert your team of call transfer requests. In this case, Smith.ai receptionists will post to your dedicated Smith.ai Slack channel when a caller meets your criteria for leads or clients who are permitted to be live-transferred to you or your staff (such as a lead calling you after a recent event where they met a representative of your business).
Some business owners prefer these Slack notifications to a call, to reduce the noise of a ringing phone in your office or home, during a meeting, or other times where your ringer may be on silent but you can break for an important call. Learn more about Smith.ai’s Slack integrations for call summaries and call-transfer requests.
2. Weeding out and blocking spam and sales calls
Smith.ai blocks spam and sales calls, plus wrong numbers, for free. They do this by tracking databases of known spammers and sales callers and incorporating it into their product through AI and their proprietary call handling software.
What I love is that they not only automatically block millions of known spammers, but they also let you customize numbers you consider spam or unwanted sales calls on your individual account.
(For example, I might consider an advertising agency spam, but my friend who owns his own business may use them and as his vendor, those calls would not be considered spam to him.)
I love that Smith.ai makes it easy to block spam and sales calls right from the call summary emails.
Here’s how it works (phone numbers blocked for privacy):
- Click on “block this number” in the call summary email.
- You’re directed to a confirmation page that allows you to review the details of the blocked caller and an option to “unblock” them if you opted to block them by accident.
We love how it is very easy for us to block the caller from future calls, saving us both Smith.ai call fees and time for everyone involved!
Maddy’s note: Within the Smith.ai call dashboard, business owners and operators who have an active Smith.ai Receptionists account can also manually add blocked callers.
Learn more about the full set of features provided by the Smith.ai call dashboard, or head to the specific directions for how to set up and manage your Smith.ai account within the dashboard, including where to manage blocked callers.
3. Review call sources and determine the #1 source of calls, and then how to streamline and improve caller experience.
- What is the #1 source of calls and exactly how should those be addressed?
At GlobalMac IT, we don’t just throw call-handling script at Smith.ai for different call types (like new leads want to learn about services or clients call about upgrading service), but instead take a thoughtful approach to the entire call experience, the conversation, and the steps to take to ensure we deliver a great experience to callers.
You can use the Smith.ai call dashboard as Maddy noted above to review call volume and summaries, to ensure the highest value calls (especially those calls you’re paying to generate from advertising and marketing campaigns) are handled promptly and effectively to maximize conversions from callers to clients, or from happy clients to even happier, more lucrative clients, but you can also go one step further:
What happens when you change the approach to these calls and try a different process, e.g., instruct Smith.ai to transfer the call to a sales rep instead of taking a message for a later call-back? Tracking changes and their impact will help you maximize the results from all sales and service opportunities.
Maddy’s note: Since Smith.ai charges per-call and not per-minute, we also recommend you download your full call history every month and check all names of new leads against data you have for a) their lead source (how they heard about you) and b) their current status (e.g., did they convert to a paying client, are they in a “trial”phase, or have conversations stalled?).
You can determine not only the total cost of the campaign and net gain of new clients (total count of clients and total revenue expected from them), but also the contribution of Smith.ai’s receptionists to fast response that you may find lead to higher conversion rates (as many of our clients do). So, as Tom said, track your internal process, identify bottlenecks to responsiveness, and position your business to win the most valuable, most important business through effective resource allocation and prioritization.
Bonus Resource: Free Webinar with Tom, Stacy, and Maddy
Want to learn more? If you’re reading this before August 25, 2020, sign up for our live, joint webinar on that date, focused on best practices for capturing more leads and delivering better customer service.
If you missed the live event, visit the Smith.ai YouTube Channel to watch the replay.
About the author and his “sidekicks”…
Tom Lambotte, CEO of GlobalMac IT
Tom Lambotte is the CEO of GlobalMac IT, a national Managed Service Provider providing complete end-to-end legal technology services to Mac-based law firms. They transform law firm operations and boost profits by leveraging technology. Tom’s methods are based on over a decade of research, testing, and real-world refinement of best practices. Sign up for his weekly Stupid Simple Mac Tips series here: http://www.globalmacit.com/ssmt
Maddy Martin, Head of Growth & Education at Smith.ai Virtual Receptionists & Web Chat
Maddy Martin is the head of growth and education for Smith.ai, which provides 24/7 communication & intake services for businesses, by phone, website chat, text, and Facebook Messenger. She has spent the last decade growing tech startups from New York to California and has expertise in digital marketing, small business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, SEO & content marketing, social media, co-marketing, and event marketing. Maddy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on LinkedIn.
Stacy Carlson, Partnership Manager at Smile and TextExpander
Stacy L. Carlson is the Partnership Manager at Smile, where she helps businesses communicate smarter, faster, and be more consistent across all their channels. She has helped affiliates, influencers and partners of all sizes to better understand how their customers interact with Smile’s products and increase their conversions while also helping them build their own administrative workflows to be more productive. Stacy can be reached at email@example.com.