Does My Small Business Need Answering Services?

Answering Services

We live in a fast-paced world and when customers want something, they want it now. We have fast food, faster internet, and crazy fast shipping. Undoubtedly, your customers have the same high expectations for your customer service. Do you need an answering service to keep your customers happy and to keep them coming back?

Who needs an answering service?

Answering services have been around for decades, but technology and virtual workspaces are making this option more cost effective for small to mid-sized businesses including:

  • Mobile workforces such as plumbers, home health agencies, and contractors who need to be at the right place at the right time. Employee time and attendance may be dependent on the various levels of urgency based on your client calls.
  • If you oversee a team of sales reps, you certainly don’t want your rep to miss a potential opportunity, but they also can’t be interrupted during an important meeting. An answering service can determine critical calls versus ones that can be returned later.
  • If you provide a service, you may need an answering service to handle calls for common tasks like appointment scheduling, looking up billing statements, or taking messages.

Is it time to invest in an answering service?

An answering service may seem like an added expense or luxury, but it may save you time and money in the long run. And, it ensures that your customers feel well taken care of. Consider these questions to help you determine if now is the right time for you to look into hiring an answering service:

  • Are you able to answer and respond to every phone call that comes in?
  • Are messages cluttering up your voicemail?
  • Are you constantly on the phone, and is it keeping you from doing your work?
  • How many calls does your company receive each day?
  • Are customers complaining about the length of time on hold or the amount of time it takes to get their message returned?

If you’re distracted by a high amount of phone calls or your customers are upset with having to wait for service, it’s time to invest in an answering service.

Answering services

Types of answering services

There are several types of answering services available, and knowing your options can help to direct you to the solution that will work best for your business.

Automated call answering services

These are basically recordings, and customers can find the answers they’re looking for by typing in numbers on their touch-tone phones. We’ve all used these types of answering services: Press 1 to hear our office hours. Press 2 to access a staff directory. Press 3 to get directions to our office.

Call centers

A call center works in a “scripted” environment where customer service reps address issues from tech support to billing complaints to order taking. These calls are generally more complex and can take anywhere from five to 15 minutes, depending on the topic. The answering operator is assigned to a single call at a time and will work with that caller until the customer is satisfied.

Live call answering services

Answering service operators offer more basic services and will gather key information from the caller such as name, telephone number, and reason for the call (about five to six questions worth of information). Messages are then quickly sent to the client so that they can respond accordingly. Answering services manage a variety of tasks from taking messages to handling emergency calls, and they can work with thousands of different clients across many industries.

How do answering services and call centers work?

When a customer calls your business, an operator sees the number the caller dialed on their computer screen, which lets them know which business the call is for.

The virtual receptionists have training pertaining to your specific business, so they know your general information ahead of time and can answer basic questions that your customers ask. The level of training varies based on your needs and the answering service company that you hire.

The answering service answers customer calls with the corresponding greeting you told them to use.

How do I choose the right answering service for my needs?

There are a ton of answering services on the market. You can narrow down your choices by answering these five questions:

  1. Do you want a service that caters to your specific industry?
  2. What is your current daily number of calls? How much time do you spend on the phone each day? From there you can decide if you want to pay an answering service per call or choose a monthly plan. Make sure you understand what you’re getting and that their pricing is crystal clear.
  3. Do you just need messages taken and then sent to you, or do you want representatives to answer questions?
  4. How are the operators trained? How do you know that they can address industry specific questions? If you’re in the medical industry, are they HIPAA compliant (or do they need to follow other possible government regulations)?
  5. Where is the call center located? Are they fluent in English or in the terminology that is associated with your industry? Do you have a customer base that will require operators who speak different languages?

Most importantly, an answering service is an extension of your company, and you need them to represent your services in the best light. This may not mean going with the most budget-friendly option, but happy customers equal returning customers. Investing in the right answering service can not only free up your time, but it can make your business run more efficiently.

Eleonora Israele is a business manager and analyst at Clutch. She is responsible for web design and voice services. Clutch is a Washington, DC-based research, ratings and reviews platform for B2B services and software.

These views are made solely by the author.

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