Given that our cell phones always nearby or in our pocket, it’s not surprising to know that many small business owners use their personal mobile phone for business communications. But strategies that work in the start-up phase can spring holes once you start to expand your business and hire employees.
Here are four drawbacks to mixing business and personal communications, and alternative solutions that work better for the SMB environment.
1. You're Compromising Customer Data
Fact: 70 million smartphones are lost each year, with only 7 percent recovered.
Problem: No matter how careful you or your employees are with your cell phones, mobile devices get lost and stolen. This means important data and customer information could fall into the wrong hands and create a serious security breach for your company. Or, best case scenario (but still bad), you simply lose all the messages and client information you held on the phone.
Solution: Sure, you can back up your phone regularly and remind your employees to do the same. Good idea. But even better, subscribe to an app-based, voice-and-text service. It allows you to access voice and text messages in the app, using a mobile device or computer. If you or an employee loses a phone, the customer numbers and messages are secure in the app.
2. Employees may take vital client information (and clients) with them when they leave.
Fact: Even if you have employees sign a “non-solicitation agreement,” it’s legal for them to solicit your customers after a certain period of time – especially if they had sole contact with those individuals.
Problem: Small business owners need to rely on their employees to interact with customers and support customer orders or requests. However, when conversations are taking place on the employee’s personal cell phone, you can’t see what is discussed, or know when to make contact with the customer to wrap up the sale or project. If employees leave and launch a competing business, they will have easy access to that customer’s information to reach out and solicit their business.
Solution: An app-based voice-and-texting service allows you to stay in the loop with all communications. You can put every employee on the same platform, even the same number, so all messages can be referenced and reviewed on demand. That allows your entire staff to pick up a job and know exactly what needs to be done next, but it also keeps client information in a designated, business-only place, which discourages staff or former staff from corresponding with customers outside of dedicated business purposes. And when employees leave? Simply disable their account, and keep the customer conversation threads safe on your platform.
3. You never get a break.
Fact: Thirty-three percent of small-business owners work more than 50 hours per week, while an additional 25% say they work more than 60 hours a week, according to a survey.
Problem: Your business is your baby. We get that. But SMB owners have a tendency to work excessively – even obsessively – which puts your mental and physical health, as well as your home life, at risk. In a Capital One survey of small business owners, 42% said they had experienced burnout, and we all know burnout can be enormously destructive for the business as well as the individual.
Solution: When 24 entrepreneurs and startup leaders were asked to share advice on achieving work-life balance, their number-one answer was “schedule everything.” That may seem counterintuitive, but if you schedule time for work, you can also schedule time to relax and enjoy life. That’s where having a telecom solution beyond your personal cell phone is essential.
An app-based voice-and-text service allows you to set business hours, so when calls or messages come in when you're off work, you can send calls straight to voicemail or program an automatic text message response, letting the caller know when you'll be available and able to return their call or text. That assures them their message was noted, so they aren’t left guessing.
You can also share numbers with employees and ask a designated person to pick up calls after the end of your day. The next morning, the call records and messages will be available for you to review and discuss with the employee, so you’ll never be out of the loop.
Problem: If you’re using your personal cell phone for work, you may be missing important calls and text messages. Perhaps you get busy and miss a few phone calls, which end up in voicemail. Then you get several calls with unknown numbers that could be spam, so you let those go to voicemail as well. Meanwhile, texts from customers are getting mixed in with messages from your brother, your babysitter, your doctor’s office and your child’s school. By the end of the day, it can be tedious to sort through all the texts and determine which ones need an immediate reply.
Solution: VoIP voice-and-text services keep your business messages separate so you can easily log onto the app, see what you missed and return messages promptly. You can also set automatic text replies for times you’re not available, so whether customers text or call, they will receive an immediate text response letting them know you received their message and will respond at a specified time.
A Successful Separation
It’s time to separate your personal and professional communications, and getting started with an app-based voice-and-text service is easy. You simply create an account with the provider of your choice, log on and adjust the settings based on your needs.