Hiring an answering service to take incoming calls can move your business to the next level in a big hurry. The digital era has ushered in a level of impatience the world has never had to deal with. It’s a fact that a missed call will result in a missed or lost customer 9 times out of 10. An answering service frees up your time, allowing you to only take the calls that are most pressing.
You can return calls when you’re most able to, rather than living in reaction mode, answering every call coming into the business while you’re trying to get work done. Using an answering service also affords the business longer operating hours, as you can have an agent answering phones twenty-four hours a day if need be.
A live answering service can take messages, forward company calls to a phone number of your choosing, and even handle sales and support calls from start to finish – a valuable service particularly for an online company operating from a Virtual HQ (a full online business.)
Here are 8 things to consider when choosing the best live answering service.
1. Don’t rush it!
This isn’t necessarily something to look for, but rather a cautionary warning. The last thing you want to do is hire a bad answering service. They can mess up your business in a real hurry! Take your time, read through the rest of the tips and above all else, don’t hesitate to fire a service if they’re not doing their job as you would like. There are thousands of answering services to choose from — never settle for sub-par service!
2. How big are they?
Not physically, but rather the size of the company itself. If you plan to grow your business, a one-person answering service may not be able to keep up with you and your staff’s needs. On the other side of the coin, if all you’ll ever need them for is to answer a few calls off-hours and take messages, you likely won’t require a large company with multiple operators (and the higher fees they often charge). Also, consider who you want answering calls. Do you want the same operator all the time, to add a sense of familiarity to your business? Some services aren’t able to dedicate a specific operator to your phone queue, while a small independent usually can.
3. Look for industry experience
Do you require specialized industry knowledge from the agents answering your calls? A medical practice will need a service with the proper HIPPA certification, and experience dealing with the types of calls coming into the business. If you want agents to help make sales or book appointments, they’ll need knowledge of your industry in addition to sales experience. Knowing your specific needs up front and researching extensively can make all the difference in the world in choosing the right answering service.
4. What’s your budget?
Budget is important when choosing a live answering service. There really isn’t a standard rate to expect, as there are so many kinds of live answering services out there. A freelance independent may charge by the hour, or call. Most large corporations will charge by the minute, or sell monthly subscription packages that include a maximum number of calls or minutes. If you receive more calls than a package allows for, the overage charges can end up being very costly. Try to accurately estimate how many calls you’ll be getting, and carefully weigh those needs with the offers you find, to avoid going over-budget.
5. Consider how reliable the answering service will be
Ask about their current service levels:
- How many calls do they answer daily?
- How many calls are they capable of handling total?
- What are their hours of operation?
- Do they have a backup plan for power outages at their facilities?
- How long have they been in business?
Answering these questions will help determine if they can reliably answer your calls, and do so in a timely manner.
6. Do they offer specialized services?
Industry experience will be essential for many of you reading this. What about other specialized services? Services like answering calls in multiple languages, and call center services like technical and sales support. Specialized services are often a must for growing businesses seeking to grow outside the current box they operate within.
7. Do they have the required compliance to take your calls?
Privacy can become a big issue when taking certain types of calls. If agents will be taking messages, they’ll need to be trained in non-disclosure of personal information standards. Medical calls will require HIPPA-compliance training and certification. Certifications are more common among larger corporations and independents who specialize in certain industries. If compliance is an issue, the last place you want to look for a phone agent is on a freelancer forum!
8. Inquire about training practices
You’ll need to be good at reading through a company’s marketing mumbo-jumbo in order to get a feel for how a given service’s staff are hired and trained. Most all companies will claim several hours of exhaustive and comprehensive training for all their answering agents. In reality, there is a huge turnover rate in this industry due to low wages and heavy demands from employers and their customers. Which leads to a need to get new agents on the phone as quickly as possible. Few actually offer more than cursory software training at best. If a service doesn’t allow you to interact with their operators and help train them to answer your calls effectively, run the opposite direction!
Consider all these factors when choosing a live telephone answering service, and you’ll save yourself a ton of headaches, lost messages and customers.