"What? No Telephone?"

I recently saw an interesting shop down the street. The next day, I tried to call to see if they carried something I wanted. But, I couldn't do it. They had no telephone number listed.

Do you believe that? Well, don't! It wouldn't happen with an off-line business.

Every brick and mortar company has a telephone number for receiving business calls. Can you even imagine a business with no way for customers to contact them by phone? What kind of business is that?

Yet, what do we have on the Internet?

We have people setting up home-based businesses. Then, they seem to feel that since they are working from a home office, they don't want to provide a telephone number on their web sites. What's the thinking here?

Some online business owners believe that they will be inundated with hundreds of calls per day and receive telephone calls from cranks. Not true. Only a tiny percentage of your web site visitors will ever call you. And you'll probably get just about as many crank calls as you would with an unlisted private number from cranks dialing randomly.

If you do get a crank call? That thing in your hand has a disconnect button - use it!

Some people work online during hours that may not be considered "business hours." They don't work 9 to 5. So what? Any business can set its own business hours and they can be anything you wish. Post your hours - and the time zone!

Oh, they'll just call anyway - day or night? So turn on Voice Mail after hours. What's the problem?

One person actually told me that she "hates the phone." This person objected to answering the same questions that were answered on the web site. All I can say to that is, "Then, get out of business." You can't build a company without customer interaction. If you don't like people, then you'd better get out of marketing!

At least in the USA, most land line telephone companies have a service called, "Personalized Ring" - or "Distinctive Ring." They give you a second number for about $6 per month. It uses your main line - but when a call comes in on that number, the telephone rings differently from your main number. Hark! A business call! You can now answer your telephone with your company name - and you don't even have to answer "after hours."

How can you run a business without allowing potential customers - or business associates - to contact you personally? You can't. If you refuse to provide a telephone number, trust me, smart people will refuse to do business with you!

If you expect your business to be taken seriously, you need to take that telephone seriously and provide a number on your web site. If you refuse to provide a telephone number, don't try to tell me you HAVE a business! You don't. No legitimate business hides from potential customers and/or business associates!

Same ol' rule of thumb: How to they do it down on Main Street? Are you in business - or not?

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* dr. jl scott is the Founder of Chamber of Commerce - on the Web™ http://www.ChamberofCommerce-ontheWeb.com - and also the publisher of the Online Business Trade Journal™ - the blog that keeps you up to date with online business coming of age. Visit: http://www.OnlineBusinessTradeJournal.com

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