There was a stern warning to brokers and other businesses this week that they may be losing up to 30% of new business because they do not answer their phones often enough.

Thomson Local Directories said that everyone in an office ought to have responsibility for answering the phone and that callers should not be kept waiting longer than ten seconds. The company, which distributes 22 million free directories every year, surveyed all of the companies on its database and found that 30% of them failed to answer phones when they rang with a further six per cent permanently engaged. "It is vital that companies take steps to improve this situation. SMEs may not be able to afford sophisticated call management technology but there are steps they can take to minimise this problem," said Sarah McGregor marketing services manager of Thomson Directories.