Main Virtual Office Rebrands As US Answer

Main Virtual Office has launched a new website www.usanswer.com. After a year in Beta, Main Virtual Office has now distinguished itself as the premier small business alternative to voicemail.  Our small business answering service is really the only viable and affordable alternative for very small businesses looking for a voicemail alternative, said Jim Plunkett CEO and Co-founder. We founded Main Virtual Office to specifically cater to the nations smallest businesses.

We predict that most of nations workforce will be freelancers and solopreneurs in the next 5 years. Most of these small businesses are still using cellphones and the voicemail provided by their carriers, even though studies show that more than 80% of callers will hang up when they are sent to voicemail.

Most believe that the high hang up rate is due at least in part to scheme concocted by the four major cellular carriers in the early nineties. Realizing the dramatic increase in cell phone adoption, especially by small businesses, they decided to add 15 -20 seconds of instructions in their voicemail recordings, increasing their annual revenue more than $750 million per year, each.

What was once considered the “norm” for handling calls you cannot handle has now become a liability for these small businesses. Only the most competitive of these small businesses are now seeing this and beginning to gain a competitive advantage by having their calls answered live.

About Jim Plunkett

Once lead engineer on the cleanup of the nations worst hazardous waste sites, Jim entered the digital world in 1999, founding Vacationharbor.com (think Air B&B 1.0). In 2001, at Wright Express, Jim conceived the “Daily Best Fuel Price”, now branded Octane, arguably the first “app” ever developed. Jim was employee number 11 and EVP at PowerPay, which grew 900% from 2004-2008, making the Inc. 500 list. Jim is presently Co-founder and CEO of US Answer.

About US Answer

US Answer is cloud-based answering service and mobile app built on the Salesforce.com and 8×8’s cloud-based Contactual software.  More information can be found at www.usanswer.com

More Than 60% Of Your Answering Service Competitors Are Not Doing This – Why Not Take Their Customers?

A study by SMB Digitalscape showed a remarkable opportunity for many of the nations smallest  businesses.  More than 60% of the nations smallest businesses do not have their telephone number featured prominently on their homepage.

According to a study of 8,000 telephone calls by RentLinx, a property management software company, only 20% were answered live. The rest went to voicemail.

That means that only 15% of incoming leads get answered live. With small businesses increasing over 300%, from 15 million in the early 90’s to over 45 million today, many small businesses are realizing they can no longer afford to 85% of their incoming leads to voicemail.

Answering services are their only choice.  But, the answering service industry has a bad reputation and rightly so.  More than 95% of answering services are over ten years old and are using outdated, complex telecommunications equipment connected to the public telephone system.

A new breed of answering service is emerging, using cloud-based systems, connected to the voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) network. The VOIP network is slated to completely replace the circuit/switch public telephone network by 2018. It will be very interesting to watch what happens in the answering service industry, when this occurs.

Most likely a significant consolidation will occur. New emerging companies like US Answer and Main Virtual Office are giving entrepreneurs a new alternative to quickly and cost effectively gain a significant competitive advantage over their counterparts still using voicemail.

About Jim Plunkett

Once lead engineer on the cleanup of the nations worst hazardous waste sites, Jim entered the digital world in 1999, founding Vacationharbor.com (think Air B&B 1.0). In 2001, at Wright Express, Jim conceived the “Daily Best Fuel Price”, now branded Octane, arguably the first “app” ever developed. Jim was employee number 11 and EVP at PowerPay, which grew 900% from 2004-2008, making the Inc. 500 list. Jim is presently Co-founder and CEO of US Answer.

Why Voicemail Sucks – Reason Number 2

If you are a small business, trying to grow, and are still depending on voicemail when your new business prospects call in, you are committing suicide.

THE PERPETRATOR

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“The brick” weighed 2 pounds, offered just a half-hour of talk time for every recharging and sold for $3,995.

Consumers lined up in droves to buy it in 1984 as soon as it hit the market. It was the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. I had one when I started my first company, an environmental consulting firm. By 1995, most small business owners were running their businesses with their cell phones.

Cellular service companies as I noted in my previous post, immediately offered voicemail because the their recordings with instructions added more than 10 seconds to each call with voicemail. We all got used to using it until text messaging took hold.  Now, most teenagers never use voicemail. They are leading the exodus from voicemail.

Small businesses though, are hooked, as though it is heroin, because they have been doing it for so long. 5 million even signed up with virtual phone services like Google Voice, Ring Central, OneBox and Grasshopper. These companies allow you to record a greeting, require the caller to announce their name and then wait as the service rings your office and the cell phone and ultimately most end up in VOICEMAIL.

So what, you say? When someone is calling your number for a local service or product, after they have found you searching the web, if you do not have someone answering the phone, studies show 80% of your callers will hang up and call the next listing on the search page.

Jim Plunkett
Co-founder
Main Virtual Office
jp@mainvirtualoffice.com

Why Voicemail Sucks – Reason Number 1

Its a blatant cash grab by the cellular networks

Back in 2009, David Pogue, a NY Times columnist with more than 1.5 million twitter followers, had had enough. He went on a crusade of sorts to put pressure on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon for imposing 15 second instructional messages in every voicemail message. He speculated that these major mobile companies where reaping upwards of $750 million every year just by making these pre-recorded instructions mandatory on their customers voicemail systems.

Cellular carriers have a code to bypass the instructions but the problem is its different for each and they keep it a secret. As part of David Pogues crusade he encourages everyone to inform their callers by recording the code on your voicemail message so your callers no how to bypass the instructions.

If you are using your cell phone for your business, you hae already suffered a setback as these instructions indicate to your callers that you are using a cell phone for your small business.

But that is not the worst part that comes in Part 2.

Jim Plunkett
Co-founder
Main Virtual Office
jp@mainvirtualoffice.com

 

Main Virtual Office Chosen By Mathnasium Centers

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Mathnasium Centers In Colorado, Michigan, Georgia and New York have selected Main Virtual Office as their live answering service to make sure they do not lose any new parents to their competitors, because of voicemail. I think why this is occurring is most succinctly expressed by Bernard Douthit, Center Director for Mathnasiums in Greenwood Village and Cherry Creek, Colorado

“Core competency is critical.We teach Math and we do it really well.  They answer the phones and they do it very well.” Many Mathnasiums are now evaluating whether or not they can afford to have their calls go to an automated answering service.

Not having a live person answer answer the phone, when a parent calls in can be disastrous, especially for the emerging group of Mathnasiums in Canada that are competing against established tutoring franchises like Sylvan and Kumon.

Mathnasiums, which focus on helping kids with problems get back into the mainstream by conquering math have grown to over 350 locations in North America. Main Virtual Office is helping them compete against established, larger math tutoring franchises.

Answering services are going through a renaissance period.  Once burdened by technology limitations and call center behavioral attitudes, new cloud based companies are demonstrating that this technology/service combination can make small businesses much more competitive than those depending solely on voicemail

Jim Plunkett
Co-founder
Main Virtual Office
jp@mainvirtualoffice.com

Are You Sure You Still Want To Use Voice Mail For Your Small Business?


 

We at Main Virtual Office hate voice mail even though we offer a voicemail transfer and after hours voice mail capability for our clients that request it. Quite simply people don’t like voice mail

5 Million small businesses have signed up for “virtual” phone systems like Google Voice, OneBox, Ring Central and Grasshopper to make themselves look more professional.  While many believe this is working well, their customers and prospects would probably tell them something different.

Data shows more than 50% of small business calls end up in voice mail and more than 80% of those callers hang up. Contact me directly if you want the data sources.

This also applies to the other 40+ million small businesses that depend just on their cell phone and voice mail.

WHY QUITTING VOICE MAIL MAY BE THE SINGLE MOST EFFECTIVE THING YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

 

Quit

Jim Plunkett
Co-founder
Main Virtual Office
jp@mainvirtualoffice.com

The Freelancers Union Selects Main Virtual Office

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We are proud to announce we have been selected by the Freelancers Union, to offer the Union’s more than 200,000 members a special offer when they sign-up for Main Virtual Offices live answering service and mobile app.

The Freelancers Union is the largest group of independent workers, freelancers and solopreneurs in the US. Early in her career, Sara Horowitz, couldn’t get health insurance from her employer because she wasn’t considered a full-time employee. Recognizing that there were a lot of people like her, she founded the Freelancers Union to represent the nearly 1 in 3 Americans who are one man or one woman companies. Sara is now widely considered the leading authority in the Freelancers community, having authored the Freelancers Bible. She was also recently appointed to the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

While more than 5 million freelancers and very small businesses signed up for “virtual” phone systems, like Google Voice and Ring Central, over the last decade, many are now realizing that most of their new sales leads-potential new customers-are going to voice mail, where research says that more than 80% will hang up.

Main Virtual Office developed their cloud-based live answering service and mobile app specifically for one-man companies, freelancers and solopreneurs. Main Virtual’s business model is different than every other answering service. We actually strive to keep our customers minutes down by efficiently managing their calls. But, clearly, the main value that we bring is that we engage new sales leads, transfer them to our customers or get their contact info immediately to our customers so that they can respond to these leads quickly”.

With freelancers and solopreneurs now 1 in every 3 workers in the US and projected to comprise half the US work force by 2020, those that continue to depend on voice mail instead of a live answering service for their incoming calls are putting themselves in a precarious position.

Using Ring Central, Google Voice or Grasshopper? You Are Still Losing New Business!

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More than 50% of our small business answering service customers are already using a virtual phone system like Ring Central, Google Voice, OneBox or Grasshopper. However, most of their callers still end up in voice mail and they are losing a lot of business because of that. That’s what they tell us when they call.

More than 5 million very small businesses signed up for virtual answering services that emerged in the early 2000′s.  And, while these services work really well for these small businesses, they do not work so well for their customers.  New customers that call, are expecting to talk with a live person and when that doesn’t happen, they are forced to listen to recordings and prompts and ultimately end up in voice mail where reportedly (Fortune 2006) more than 80% hang up.

When these systems emerged, they were considered the “ultimate phone solution” for very small businesses and solopreneurs.  Many users of these “virtual phone systems” however are now facing a much more competitive environment.  One man companies or solopreneurs have tripled since the early nineties and now number 45 million. With a reported 80% of callers that are sent to voice mail hanging up…small businesses that continue to depend on it are literally committing suicide.

Many now realize that a live answering service is the only way they can keep from loosing new customer inquiries. They also don’t want the traditional answering services that have been available the last quarter of a century.  They are looking for more advanced services that can handle scheduling, lead management and call transfers.

Jim Plunkett
Co-founder
Main Virtual Office
jp@mainvirtualoffice.com

What Very Small Businesses Can Learn From the Largest Internet Retailers

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Prior to co-founding our answering service, I was working with MasterCard and a company that managed the internet presence for 8 of the top ten US Internet retailers…including WalMart, Target and Home Depot. These retailers were getting tens of millions of unique vistors online every month. The percentage of these visitors that purchased online, also called a conversion, typically ranged from 2-5%. These retailers are spending millions to optimize what is presented to each unique vistor online to increase the amount of conversions they get.  They know an awful lot about you and when you convert, they know even more because they can track your in-store purchases as well.  Take LL Bean, for instance.  If you have ever called them up or made another purchase in their store, they know all about your previous purchase history and their systems present items to the customer service rep to offer you. The retailers call this technology, personalization

Now, if you are a small business, you are probably also spending a lot of time, money and effort to generate traffic to you.  For most small businesses their incoming traffic is in the form of a telephone call.  As the largest retailers know, when someone decides to convert, it’s an emotional decision. When they call and are sent to voice mail instead, you as the small business owner just missed the best chance you had to convert that customer.

Jim Plunkett
Co-founder
Main Virtual Office
jp@mainvirtualoffice.com

 

Who are the Best Small Business Answering Service Companies?

As part of boarding over a 100 customers every month, we are always asked about other answering service companies.  Not ones to shy away from being blatantly honest about our competition here is a list of who we consider are some of the best small business answering services we compete against.

  1. VoiceNation – based in Buford, GA, has been in business 10 years, reportedly has more than 40,000 customers (they offer virtual phone services like Google Voice and Ring central) and boasts clients like Time Warner, CBS and JP Morgan
  2. Ruby Receptionists – based in Portland Oregon, also 10 years old has 1,500 customers and 80 employees.  Ruby is pricey but has excellent reviews on Yelp.
  3. ReceptionHQ – in Phoenix, was founded in 2007 and has partnered with the UPS store.
  4. AnswerConnect – based in Portland Oregon, was founded in 2002 and are using home based agents and trying to go global.

We would recommend that you investigate each of these companies as part of your due diligence.  Each of these small business answering service companies has a different pricing plan and a different culture and you should find the one that fits you best.

Jim Plunkett
Co-founder
Main Virtual Office
jp@mainvirtualoffice.com