One of the great things about owning your own business is that you have flexibility. I get to drop my kids off at school, take days off when they are on vacation, and otherwise spend quality family time with them when I prioritize it. Now, that does mean that I am not earning as much as I otherwise could if I were out selling and closing projects during those times. But it is a trade-off and one I am willing to make almost every time.
So, while planned time off is usually attainable, it is the calls at all hours of the day and night that cause the stress and negatively impact my quality of life. This is a common theme in every industry, as we are all more connected than we ever have been—whether a plumber, home technology professional, lawyer, banker, or secretary.
I’ve been working hard lately to improve the quality of life for my employees and me so that we can leave our work at work and enjoy our personal time as much as possible. It is also, however, the nature of our industry that our clients tend to use their systems when they are home—typically nights and weekends—exactly the same times we want to disconnect and unwind. We have worked through various solutions and scenarios and use a mix of the following to meet our clients' needs:
1) Separate Phone Number for Service Calls. With a separate number, we can direct service calls to whoever is handling them on-demand. We use Google Voice and can forward the calls to any number we want from our Google Voice number.
2) Answering Service. We have an answering service that picks up all calls so at least clients are speaking to a live individual and not getting voicemail. Even though the answering service can’t troubleshoot, just getting a live human is reassuring.
3) Employee Overtime. When employees want to accrue some overtime pay, we will forward the service-call phone number to their number for a given period of time. They are paid a nominal amount for being “on-call,” and then an additional compensation for each call handled.
4) The Default is Me. As the owner, if no employee is on-call, I deal with the calls.
We are also exploring OneVision Resources, a third-party that handles all incoming service calls, 24/7/365, and triages them for you. They historically can solve up to 60 percent of the calls that come in without having to anyone from the integration company involved. They do this by keeping clients calm and working through the issue. They also have access to all of your remote monitoring and troubleshooting tools, from Ihiji to OvrC to Domotz to Bakpak. Additionally, they will actively work to sign clients up for a monthly service plan, using a revenue share model so they keep a portion of the recurring monthly revenue and the integration firm keeps a portion as well.
This is truly outsourcing your first-level tech support, and it seems like it could really help elevate your company’s service and free up management and techs for more value-added work. Plus, it means a return to sanity for everyone in the company, as all after-hours service calls will be answered by OneVision, and only those that can’t be solved over the phone will be forwarded on to the integrator.
You can handle the service-call dilemma. Finding a solution is critical to maintain a quality of life for yourself and your employees, otherwise you will burn out and lose the great sense of customer service that made you successful to begin with. And, if your employees are taking the calls all hours of the day and night and you don’t have a designated night shift to handle the work, they will burn out and turnover will increase.