An answering service does exactly what you might think: at its simplest, it’s a service that takes calls on behalf of your business.
When customers call, a friendly voice will answer and give them the information they need. The people behind those friendly voices operate offsite, away from your business. But they can still take and deliver messages, redirect calls, and schedule bookings and appointments as if they were right there with you.
An answering service can help you with most functions that you might hope for in handling and responding to your calls, short of keeping you company on your lunch break. Answering services don’t take breaks!
Making an answering service work for you
Missed calls mean missed revenue opportunities.
With an answering service you can take calls to your business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You work with professional client experience associates who will handle your inbound calls around the clock.
While a receptionist clocks out for the day, an answering service stays on the job. You don’t need to worry about missing calls that come through after hours or while you’re busy at work. If a customer calls, your business answers.
The personal touch: answering service vs voicemail
Nobody likes getting put through to voicemail. It means customers being forced to talk to a machine, then relying on you to get the message and call them back. That’s not much use if they have an urgent problem.
Although they operate off site and online, client experience associates are real people. They have the warmth, knowledge and tact to talk customers through your products, pricing, and even answer pre-agreed questions.
Integrating an answering service into your business
Nobody knows more about your business than you do, and an answering service will use that knowledge to your advantage.
This is achieved with call scripts, which you create with the answering service to accurately represent your business. The information from these scripts will flash up on associates’ screens whenever a call comes in for your business.
A call script can also be used to and establish parameters for when a call should be patched straight through to you.
If you choose to share calendars with your answering service provider, they will be able to book appointments on your behalf.
The more information you provide, the easier it will be for associates to slot in seamlessly as a part of your team. They’ll be able to react to real-time situations, tailor their approach, and even help convert general enquiries into paying customers for your business.
Why it might pay to use an answering service
Every business has a phone number, but they can’t all afford staff dedicated to answering the phones.
Answering services can work just as well for local businesses receiving ten calls a day as large corporations fielding hundreds. There is no one way to use them.
The chances are that somewhere along the way your business has missed a call from a potential customer, and the opportunity for business that went with it. Even if a customer gives you the courtesy of a callback, it’s at least as likely another has lost patience and went off to one of your competitors. Answering services exist to catch these calls.
If your business has ever let a call slip through the net, it might pay to give an answering service a try.
How does an answering service work?
The short answer: an answering service works whichever way you want it to.
Answering services are designed to work for you, answering calls on your behalf and fitting simply and flexibly around your business, so that you can get on with your job.
You can pick a plan to suit your needs, it’s easy to sign up, and once you do, an answering service can take your calls so there’s always someone available to talk to customers.
Who does the answering?
Customers like to feel heard, so when they call your business, it’s important someone answers.
With an answering service, you will always have someone to take calls for your business.
The people behind the phones, known as client experience associates, will talk to customers and take messages so you don’t have to, working offsite and across time zones so that they can be available to customers even when you can’t.
Where will my answering service team be based?
Technology can be complicated, but answering services try to keep it simple, and use it to help you provide a high-quality and consistent customer experience.
Your client experience associates won’t be in the office with you. That’s because they operate ‘virtually’, from quiet environments wherever they live, rather than swarming call centers where your customers can hear the hum of a hundred other calls.
With an answering service, there’s no one central location where your associates are based. Because you won’t be bound by geographical location, you can be sure the best talent from around the country is representing your business – not only those who happen to live a bus ride from the office.
How will an answering service know what to say?
If someone is talking to customers on behalf of your business, you want to be sure they know what they’re talking about.
The good news is your client experience associate always will, because you’ll tell them exactly what to say and how to say it.
You’ll create call scripts that replicate the kind of conversations you and your team have with customers. These scripts will flash up on screen whenever an associate receives a call from one of your customers.
If you like, you can even give them access to your schedule so they can book customer appointments on your behalf.
Getting what you pay for with an answering service
It’s not always easy to determine exactly what kind of call plan your business needs, but we can help you understand how to approach this question.
Some issues to consider might be: How many calls does your business receive in an average day? How likely is it your customers will call after hours? Do your customers tend to be local, or do they call from overseas?
Answering service pricing works a bit like a monthly mobile phone bill – you pay a certain amount of money for a certain amount of call minutes.
If you choose a monthly answering service plan for 200 call minutes, your team of client experience associates will answer 200 minutes worth of calls coming in to your business.
There are additional minutes available at a higher rate, giving you room to manoeuvre if your business goes through a busy period.
Work with your chosen provider to choose the plan that’s right for you, and remember that answering services are able to quickly scale to fit your business needs.
What can an answering service do?
An answering service can take calls for you, sure, but then so can voicemail.
Where answering services differ is they can do so much more than take messages. From making sure someone is on hand to answer calls to your business 24/7, to scheduling your appointments, to offering bilingual call answering for Spanish-speaking customers, there are a whole host of ways an answering service can make life easier for you and your customers, and add value to your business.
Answering calls when you can’t
In a nutshell, an answering service catches the calls that your business might miss.
You may be slammed in the office, busy on a job, or sound asleep at home when that important call comes in. Instead of risking losing a customer by letting it go to voicemail, risking the quality of your work by trying to do two things at once, or risking your marriage by taking calls while your other half is sleeping (it happens!), you can relax.
With an answering service, you will have a team of client experience associates available 24/7 to talk to customers, take messages, and patch important calls through to the appropriate people.
Appointment scheduling made easy with an answering service
Appointments are crucial to the smooth functioning of any business.
Meetings, conferences, booking jobs, or even just a quick chat over a coffee – everything needs to be scheduled ahead of time. Wouldn’t it be nice for someone to do all of that for you?
Answering services have it covered. You can give client experience associates access to your work calendar, so they have your availability at their fingertips.
Your client experience associate can book appointments as they’re requested, for no extra charge. They can even send text reminders to customers’ phones to make sure they never miss an appointment, and you never miss a payment.
Answering services and meaningful conversations
People aren’t machines – we’re not there, yet. Behind every phone call to your business is a person, with their own unique problems and perspective.
Happily, answering services are made up of people too. Your client experience associates might read from a script you’ve provided them, but they’re not robots. They’ll treat every caller with respect and react to situations as they happen, with knowledge and common sense.
If you choose to use an answering service, it will become a part of your business, and has a vested interest in making that business a success. This means taking calls, assisting current customers, and converting prospective customers into paying clients.
Sometimes all it takes is a friendly voice and a kind word.
Speaking your language: Bilingual call answering
The language of business is international. That’s something an answering service can help with.
More than than 10% of the US population are Spanish speakers, with that figure set to rise. If your business receives calls from Spanish-speaking customers, or would like to, an answering service can cater to that.
Answering services can offer bilingual call transfer, where an English-speaking client experience associate will transfer your Spanish-speaking customer to a bilingual team.
If your business receives a lot, or most, of its call traffic from Spanish speakers, you might be better with direct bilingual routing. That way, all calls will go to a team of bilingual associates as standard.
Either way, in either language, your customers find what they’re looking for.
Why use an answering service?
If someone calls your business, the chances are they’re either a prospective customer who you’d like to bring onboard, or a current customer who you’d like to keep onboard.
Businesses, large and small, depend on the revenue these calls bring in. That’s why your business advertises on the radio, in the local paper, online, with your phone number front and center each time. If someone has a problem, and thinks your business can solve it, they’ll give you a call. If you don’t answer, the smart money says they’re taking their business somewhere else.
We live life at a fast pace. People don’t wait around for voicemail anymore. Thankfully for your business, with an answering service, they don’t have to. When customers call your business, a friendly voice will answer. Every call, every time.
Answering services, your new ‘virtual receptionists’
Your business receives a lot of calls. Somebody has to answer them. But could you really justify hiring a person for that job alone?
Traditionally, that person was a receptionist, who sat in an office taking calls during working hours, from Monday to Friday. If you’re a start-up or small business, having a person to answering the phones for you might sound like a nice idea, but it’s probably a luxury you can’t afford. Even if your business has the means, where’s the value?
The way the world works is changing. Advances in technology mean businesses have access to global markets and increasingly operate across time zones. Customers expect 24-hour service. A receptionist can’t provide it. However, an answering service can.
Your client experience associates are your ‘virtual receptionists’: they’re friendly, patient, and they’ll take calls and messages 24/7 so you’re always available to customers.
That’s a better service, at a far lower cost than an in-house receptionist. What’s not to like?
Protect your time with an answering service
Customers pay you to do a job, with the understanding that you’ll devote your time and effort to that job until it’s completed. You can’t do that if you’re too busy chasing the phone lines.
Your time is valuable. Where you dedicate it will determine the success of your business. The time you spend answering calls, taking bookings, or trawling through voicemail, is time that might be better spent on your core business.
Every business needs to pick up the phone for customers, but if the quality of your work suffers as a consequence, you might find the phone lines aren’t as busy in the future. And if you are endlessly trying to play catch-up, and allow your work to encroach on your family time, can you really chalk that up as a win?
An answering service takes calls and takes messages on behalf of your business, leaving you free to do what you do best, whether at work or at home. If your business relies on bookings, have your provider schedule appointments for you. They’ll slot them directly into your calendar, and you can access them anywhere.
Your customers just might thank you as you deliver both a superior service and a better customer experience.