How Answering Services Work Answering services provide a vital function in today’s economy by allowing customers to contact and receive information from businesses even if the company does not have an employee available. Some examples of businesses using answering services include: ● An after-hours answering service for a doctor’s office that takes messages from patients that call when the office is closed and which will contact the doctor immediately in an emergency situation. ● A large corporation that uses a call center provider to place orders and answer technical questions about the company’s products. ● Small organizations that can typically get by with one or two phone representatives, but which need short-term help to handle a staggering number of calls, such as a utility company receiving service calls during a major storm, or a business with a big promotional sale needing extra help to process orders. ● An individual, either an entrepreneur or sales representative, who can’t afford to miss calls from potential clients, but who also doesn’t want to be interrupted while in meetings or on the road. Types of Answering Services There are a few varieties of answering services used today: ● Automated answering services, which require customers to press a number or speak a key phrase in order to leave a message or receive recorded information. ● Live answering services, which direct callers to a live person who may be able to provide better or more customized information than an automated system. Often the operator has some discretion to pass the call along to someone within the business if the situation is considered urgent. ● Internet answering services, which designate people to respond to live chat questions, answer email messages, and engage in social media monitoring to check for mentions of your business on Facebook, Twitter, etc. ● Call center services, where many customer service functions, such as answering calls, taking sales orders, and other office duties, are handled by representatives who are contracted by (but not employees of) the business. Hiring an Answering Service The Association of TeleServices International suggests that you thoroughly research a company before signing a contract for answering services. In addition to checking with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints, ask the company to provide information on its turnover rates for employees and for a list of references you can call to talk to people who are currently using their services. What you are looking for is a company with a long track record and relatively low employee turnover, which indicates that they are well managed and reliable. For example, Answer United is not only accredited with the Better Business Bureau, but they have some phone agents who have been with their company for over 15 years. You will also want to have a clear understanding about what you need from an answering service. Do your customers call round the clock, or is 24-hour service unnecessary? How many
calls a month do you typically receive? Are there certain times of day or periods during the year when call volume increases? For example, a tax preparer may have relatively few calls during most of the year, but between February 1 and April 15, the phone rings off the hook. Being able to provide details about how your business operates and what your expectations are will help you and the answering service provider develop a plan that will help your business in the long run. If you have questions about call center providers or live answering services, or if you would like to get a quote for your own needs, contact Answer United directly or visit their website at www.answerunited.com.