By Garrett Smith
If you’ve been running a snow and ice management company for any length of time, you know there’s two types of operations: normal and saddle up, we have a storm on our hands.
During normal days, handling customer phone calls and emails is pretty easy; but when a storm rolls through, your phone’s probably ringing off the hook before the storm even hits.
“When will you be here?”
“Remember, you need to do the sidewalks, too.”
“Hey, do you think we should salt?”
Unfortunately, clients likely rarely care about your operation or consider that you have other clients. They want their property taken care of “RIGHT NOW!”
What’s an operator to do?
For a growing snow and ice management company, managing these calls can pose quite a problem.
How do you provide clients the same level of care and responsiveness during a winter storm that you do when there’s not a flake of snow on the ground?
Our company had to tackle this problem this season. With limited resources and tight budgets, we couldn’t just throw bodies at it (or outsource) like some companies. We had to look to technology for help, and we found it in our phone system.
Before starting WNY Snow Removal with my brothers, I spent over a decade building one of the largest suppliers of telecommunications equipment. Despite my experience, our phone system became an oversight. I was done with phone systems and was more interested in other aspects of the business.
We had a basic menu and routed our calls to desks; but after setting it up, I forgot about how helpful it could be in solving our communications problems.
After one early storm, I knew we had to do something. I had frustrated clients, employees and partners all due to the fact that you can’t plow a lot and have a real conversation with a client or teammate.
You can only do one thing well at a time; and after many hours on the job, the last thing anyone wants is to handle a call from an unhappy customer.
That’s when I finally realized the error of my ways. I never considered that clients would be calling at all hours, using just about any way they could to track down the team in the field.
We implemented a cloud-based phone system. Many of these systems allow you to create a number of auto attendants, which are menus that play a greeting and allow the caller to choose from various options. It also allowed us to create several call groups, so only certain phone numbers and extensions ring based on a client’s selection from the auto attendant.
Armed with these two features, I quickly created a new menu that could be turned on for winter weather service events. I changed the messaging that clients would hear and the menu options they could select.
The results? Better than I could have expected. Although we still received the same number of calls to the main line from clients during the next winter event, teams in the field received 90% fewer calls and clients appreciated timely callbacks to their messages with a realistic answer.
Compare this to the chaos and frustration that was present just a few weeks ago, and it was a huge win for us. And although I still want nothing to do with phone systems, I was really glad I made this call.
Pros and Cons of a Cloud Phone System
There’s more to the story when it comes to cloud phone systems. Here are some pros and cons to consider:
- Low or no upfront system purchase costs
- No maintenance or upgrades required
- Easy to add new users and features by yourself
- If your internet or service provider go down, you have no phone
- Providers often require 1- to 3-year service contracts
- Recurring costs can be expensive as you grow
Garrett Smith is co-owner of WNY Snow Removal in suburban New York. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.