A call answering service can offer a lot to your business – more sales, fewer hassles and distractions, and lots of extra time to get more of the “important” stuff done in your business.
While many businesses don’t expect much from such a service at first, there’s actually a lot that goes into making the right decision including your current needs, as well as the level of service you might need in the future as your business grows.
Here are 10 things to look for when choosing a telephone answering service:
1. Around the clock support
The perfect telephone answering service for your company’s needs will be available to answer your calls on a moment’s notice, such as if you or your day staff have to leave the office for an emergency. In general, the best of the best out there will charge you the same rate for after hours and holiday support as they do during regular business hours.
2. Logical and manageable pricing
There are few purchases that are more frustrating than walking into a car dealer, committing to a purchase, and being hit with one compounding fee after another. Much like how a dealer will charge you “shipping fees” when the car is already sitting on the lot, some digital telephone answering services will charge you for things that just don’t make sense if you don’t read the fine print.
Fees such as setup fees (even though there’s no equipment to install) can really hurt your bottom line. Fees such as “per unit” (per call), “per minute” (total duration of combined calls), and their various sub-categories should be easy to interpret and make sense when compared to the competition’s pricing – otherwise, go with the competition!
3. In-house management and training of staff
You may decide this isn’t a priority for your business, and that’s fine. However, most brands will benefit in a big way from hiring the services of a telephone answering service that employs onsite staff and trains them according to both yours and your caller’s needs. This type of setup will almost always have better employee management, call turnaround times, message accuracy, quality assurance practices, and offer a better all-round service experience for you and your callers.
4. Offer services that can grow (and grow with) your business
You might only require a message-taking service to handle incoming calls after business hours for now. However, in the future, as business and consumer needs grow, you might decide you need other features such as call screening and call forwarding during business hours, a virtual receptionist, appointment setters, or access to specialized call center staff for sales calls and/or technical troubleshooting. It doesn’t make sense to start a relationship with a service only to outgrow them in a year’s time.
5. They need to have a solid disaster recovery plan
You should ask them straight about redundancy and how they can recover from things like power outages, server jam-ups and crashes, whether they have backup ISPs and how they store and manage data in the event any of the above take place. These variables are harder to manage if the service hires remote workers, but at the very least they should be able to make you feel secure they’ve dealt with redundancy before and can recover quickly so your callers don’t suffer.
6. Same day activation can be a warning sign
This is another concern, but not necessarily a concern for all businesses looking to hire an answering service. If you know those answering your calls are going to need some level of training and understanding about your business and its callers, any company who promises same day activation isn’t likely to be concerned about the quality of service they offer. These folks will be the face and voice of your brand, and it should take the company at least a few days to get their staff selected and on board with your requirements.
7. The answering service you hire should have industry-related experience
You really don’t want a tenth-grader answering calls for your medical practice. Nor would you want someone who has never operated a vacuum booking appointments for your carpet cleaning business. Not only will a company that’s experienced in your line of business already have a solid set of practices and procedures for answering your calls, they’ll be able to offer more personalized service to the people calling your business.
8. You should be put in touch with an actual account manager
If a call answering service doesn’t offer you a direct line to the staff manager heading up your account, run the opposite direction! Unless you absolutely only need someone to pick up the phone and say hi, and your needs will never grow past that, you’ll need someone to contact in order to help refine call scripts and discuss the messages and call logs that you’re given. This feat is much harder to accomplish when you’re forced to call or email back and forth with whatever random rep is available at the time.
9. They need to be able to provide you with documentation of each call
Preferably in a voice recorded format, with typed call logs you can access from your remote dashboard whenever you wish. When a customer or business partner calls you directly and refers to a claim or promise that was made to them by the answering service rep, you need to be able to figure out what was said by both parties. “He said, she said” is not a fun game to play when you’re paying for an answering service to help lighten the load.
10. The call answering service you choose should pass the “sniff test”
Reviews of the service you’re considering are invaluable in helping to make the right decision. Any service worth doing business with should have at least a few detailed reviews you can view online. If they’re a recent upstart, ask to be put in touch with their current and past clients so you can vet how effective they are at serving their clients.