What happens to your small business’ after-hours calls?

As a small business owner, you likely feel like you live at your place of business. Maybe you spend over eighteen hours a day there. Or, perhaps you’ve been known to pull an all-nighter in your office. While it’s normal for entrepreneurs to spend a great deal of time at work, you do have to rest! That means you can’t answer business phones twenty-four hours a day, even if you feel so inclined and those after-hours calls go unanswered.

Instead, you have to find a way to route calls elsewhere while you’re away. Most small business owners choose to transfer after-hours calls to an employee cell phone, send them to voicemail or hire a call answering service to handle customer inquiries. Each of these options has both benefits and drawbacks that can have a big impact on the bottom line of your business. Here’s everything you need to know about the pros and cons of your after-hours call answering options.

night calls image via https://homethods.com/

Transferring After-Hours Calls to an Employee Cell Phone

One of the easiest ways to tackle after-hours calls is to transfer them to your cell phone or have them go to one of your employee’s cell phones. This ensures that a live person answers all customer calls and helps you schedule appointments as needed. This tactic is particularly popular with businesses that provide emergency services to their clients.

But, before you adopt this approach, you’ll need to think about applicable labor laws. Be aware that having business phone calls transferred to an employee cell phone may result in overtime claims and other human resources issues. In addition, there are several other pros and cons to this approach:


  • Customers always have the option to talk to a real person.
  • Appointments and service visits can be scheduled quickly.
  • You won’t have to worry about losing customers while your business is closed.
  • You can enjoy the convenience of answering business calls from your own home.


  • You or your employees will never get a real break from work.
  • Your business will be expected to cover the costs of business cell phone use for employees.
  • You may be woken up in the middle of the night by unimportant calls.
  • Customers may not receive the same quality of service from employees who are on their own time.

Every business leader knows that it’s essential to have the right employee answering business calls. Unfortunately, even the best employees can come across as short on the phone when they’re forced to take business calls during their personal time. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of this approach.

dealing with after-hours calls when you own a small business

Sending Calls to Voicemail

Using a voicemail service is perhaps the most widely adopted tactic that small business owners use to handle after-hours calls. With voicemail, you get to create a personalized greeting for your company. You invite customers to leave messages, which you can listen and respond to at a later time. Voicemail is a popular solution because it requires no investment in additional human capital and allows you to truly step away from the office. Of course, there are advantages and drawbacks to voicemail that you’ll need to consider before adopting such a system.


  • Customers know that they can call your business and leave a message to request further help.
  • Voicemail tends to be inexpensive and easy to use.
  • Modern voicemail systems offer a wealth of answering options.
  • A voicemail system can help you route calls for better efficiency.


  • Customers won’t be able to get immediate help or schedule appointments after hours.
  • Your phone system may be limited to a single voicemail box, which can make sorting through messages in the morning difficult.
  • Mailboxes can fill up quickly, which leaves customers with no way to communicate with your business.
  • It’s easy to forget about or put off checking voicemail messages in a timely fashion.

virtual receptionist answering phone, photo via https://www.flickr.com/photos/alanclarkdesign/

Using an Answering Service

Another way that small business owners can address after-hours calls is investing in a call service or receptionist service. When you contract with such a service, you can offer your customers live phone support around the clock. In turn, you’ll pay the message center based on the call volume or call minutes used during a standard billing period. Call answering services are widely used by doctor’s offices and businesses that offer emergency home services. This is because such services can immediately set appointments and can initiate contact with a business owner or medical provider directly when the situation demands it. Of course, there are a variety of pros and cons that you should weigh before investing in call answering.


  • Your customers know that someone will always be there to answer their calls.
  • Having a live person answer phone calls has been connected to an increase in overall sales.
  • You don’t have to worry about missing out on customers in different time zones.
  • A receptionist service can schedule appointments for your business.


  • Although generally affordable, you will have to pay for call answering services.
  • Your customers may not feel like they are getting adequate support, especially if you sell a technically sophisticated product.
  • Answering service representatives may not be invested in your business to the same degree that your full-time employees are.
  • Customers might feel that it’s difficult to follow up on calls made to an answering service.

Choosing the right after-hours call-handling solution for your business is all about evaluating your needs and taking a close look at the pros and cons of all your options. No matter the option you choose, remember that nothing goes farther than excellent customer service when it comes to positively impacting your business’s bottom line. Don’t hesitate to invest in a solution that will truly meet customer needs.

Apply this to your small business

There are three different options we’ve discussed in regards to dealing with after-hours calls at your small business: voicemail, call routing to an employee, and hiring an answering service. Each has pros and cons, so choose wisely.

Now, give these a try:

  • Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: do you want to leave a voicemail with a business, or have your question answered?
  • Consider what the best way would be to keep your customers and your employees happy.
  • Contact a live call answering service