SMEs hung up on taking telephone calls

A survey suggests SME staff are wasting a quarter of their time at work fielding phone calls.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Employees at small companies are wasting hours and hours answering the phone when they could be performing more valuable duties, according to new research. The report, from outsourced reception specialist Moneypenny, suggested that SME staff are now spending up to one working week in four on the blower dealing with incoming calls, which is effectively costing small firms a small fortune. Apparently the problem’s particularly bad during the summer months, because resources are absolutely stretched to the limit when those who can still afford it jet off to sunnier climes. And Moneypenny’s answer to this thorny issue? Outsourcing receptionist duties. Fancy that…

It’s true that in these straightened times, not many small firms can afford to employ a full-time receptionist. This increasingly means that sales and delivery teams are finding themselves on the receiving end of telephone queries (from other companies on a desperate hunt for extra revenue). In fact, the survey found that a business of 100 people will receive on average 2,300 telephone inquiries a month, each lasting approximately 70 seconds. Apparently this equates to staff spending 67 work days a year on the phone, rather than doing their actual job (this sounds a lot to us, but then we’re probably among those people doing the pestering).

In the long run, this could cost employers a lot of cash, the researchers say. They’ve painstakingly worked out that if an employee on a salary of £40k spent five and a half days a month dealing with calls, it would cost the firm £11,536 over year – whereas if a receptionist on £18k were dealing with the calls, it would cost just £5,194. (Although this doesn’t make sense to us, because surely it would cost you £18k, i.e. the receptionist’s salary?)

We’re sure Moneypenny really does have SMEs’ best interests (as well as their own bottom line) at heart. And we sympathise with the notion that a permanently ringing phone is a major distraction when you’re trying to get your head down and work – it can’t be good for productivity, and that’s top of mind for most business owners at the moment. On the other hand, needs must: if a business can’t afford to pay a receptionist (either in-house or out) then presumably they haven’t really got much choice.

But we’re very much problem-solvers here at MT, and we think we may have come up with the perfect solution: teenagers. They spend hours chatting away on the phone, despite apparently having nothing of note to discuss. So why not get a few in on work experience? They’d be in their element spending all day on the phone, while the rest of your team can get on with their jobs. It’s a win-win situation (unless you’re Moneypenny, perhaps).

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