While calling someone seems old school in our fast-paced digital world, the majority of consumers—60 percent—still initiate their first contact with local businesses via phone after finding them online. That’s according to a report from BrightLocal, which surveyed 500 U.S.-based consumers who shared their opinions about how they choose to communicate and engage. Yet, for many small business owners, more than half of all calls go unanswered, especially during peak times when staff and employees are at their busiest. Add to this the fact that 1 in 3 consumers will text a business expecting a reply, but never receive one simply because the number is not text-enabled. All these factors contribute to missed opportunities, lost revenue and customer frustration.
Potomac River Running Store, for example, adopted an AI-enhanced answering service to give team members flexible phone support to ensure excellent customer experiences. Based in Virginia and with nine locations in the region, the family-owned retailer was known for its high-touch services outfitting runners for shoes, as well as training and events. However, the combination of warm weather and a pandemic forced the various locations either to close or shift to curbside, creating difficulties for team members to attend to the high-call volumes and voicemails. The virtual answering solution allowed Potomac River to continue greeting callers, inviting them to opt in to texting to receive the latest information regarding event cancellations, hours of operations, order status, pickup locations and more.
Lex Gopnik-Lewinski of Augie’s Montreal Deli in Berkeley, Calif. now uses text messaging to successfully communicate with customers in his restaurant, which had to quickly transition from indoor dining to outside pickup when the pandemic hit. Implementing new technology that converts his landline into a textable number, Lex was able to keep his doors “open” and his customer calls and requests answered. Pre-COVID, Lex estimated that approximately 60 percent of his business was dine-in customers, Now, about 90 percent of sales are coming through his virtual receptionist platform via text messaging, which has also served as a cost-saving alternative to third-party delivery apps that charge 20-40 percent in fees. To ensure customers get personalized attention on every level, employees can still take calls with an automated solution at the ready for a dependable backup.
While the U.S. continues to navigate an unchartered course in these unprecedented times, small business owners in particular are searching for ways to ride out the storm and adapt to what may become a new way of life. With technology to bridge critical gaps, these establishments and businesses that define the heart of America will have the tools and support they need to move beyond survival—and thrive.