In its most basic form, an answering service works by taking and screening calls. It provides information to callers, takes messages from them and passes these messages on to the business owner.
By allowing a business to connect with its customers any time, whether day or night, an answering service can benefit almost any business you can think of.
What’s in a Name?
The term “call center” is sometimes used interchangeably with “answering service,” but there are important differences. An answering service requires timely and critical decision-making and involves additional steps beyond simply gathering information.
Answering services provide an emergency message delivery protocol that demands that a telephone service representative make constant decisions in a fast-moving environment. A service representative must have expertise in one-on-one personal communication, including the ability to understand a wide variety of cultural subtleties. They must also have a solid command of the English language, both spoken and written.
On the other hand, call center accounts are all about information gathering, asking multiple levels of questions and providing detailed information. The call tree is very complex and requires a lot of specialization on the agent’s part.
A Personalized Approach
Some companies may need a personalized approach, beyond the basics of taking and forwarding messages. These days, both a call center and answering service can offer a number of benefits, like appointment scheduling, product support, taking orders and/or following up on potential sales leads. A call center acts on behalf of a company by providing continuous service according to each business’s specific needs.
Professional operators are carefully trained according to each client’s needs and are dedicated to learning the nuts and bolts of each specific business so they can provide the same level of service to every caller as you would if you could answer all of your calls personally.
Besides handling a variety of callers with finesse and empathy, a telephone customer service representative must make accurate decisions under pressure, make critical gray-area decisions and finally, deliver the information to the right person quickly and accurately.
An answering service is the solution for all sorts of different businesses. For example, painters, carpenters, plumbers and other contractors might partner with an answering service because they are on a job site during the day and find it difficult to answer their phones.
A doctor may need someone to screen emergency calls after hours, while larger companies choose an answering service to take orders or provide customer support. Other businesses are industries that demand consistent, effective communication with their customers. They include:
- Organizations that need backup telephone support during power outages and other types of emergencies
- Sales reps who can’t afford to miss out on new leads while they’re meeting with other clients
- Small business people who need a virtual office with a virtual assistant to answer calls
- Service organizations and insurance companies who need help handling routine inquiries about coverage limits, premium deadlines and other basic kinds of information
Voicemail and automated telephone systems can be frustrating to callers, whereas talking to a real person who may be able to give them the actual information they want, is much more gratifying. In any case, a caller will be much more satisfied by having spoken to a real person, rather than being subjected to the endless button pushing demanded by some automated systems.
Answering service operators are also able to determine if the call is urgent or less important, so that business owners can work more efficiently without the constant interruption of repeatedly taking phone calls.
Determine Your Need for an Answering Service
Almost any company can realize substantial rewards by partnering with an answering service. To determine whether your company would benefit from a professional answering service, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you unable to answer every call that comes in?
- Are your voice mail messages piling up?
- Do phone calls interfere with getting your work done?
- Is your office unable to cope efficiently with calls and forward messages without delay?
- Does your business experience a high call volume on a regular basis?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, an answering service is the solution. However, it’s important to partner with a reputable organization, in order to get the most out of it.
Choosing an Answering Service
Answering services have been around for decades, but not all of them have that distinction. Ensure that your valued customers will be treated courteously and professionally by choosing an answering service that’s been around for several years.
Look for an organization that has a low employee turn-over rate. This ensures that the company has qualified operators who’ve gained plenty of experience. Lastly, it’s best to avoid call centers that employ people who don’t speak English well. Language barriers equal communication difficulties and that frustrates customers.
The right answering service can help to boost your profits, while the wrong one could cause a lot of problems, so it pays to research well when looking for this important service.