A Guide to Hiring a Small Business Answering Service
If you’re reading this, there’s a solid chance that you’re considering hiring an answering service for your small business. Congratulations – this is an exciting step, and it means that your business is growing and you’re being proactive about providing excellent customer service.
Choosing a small business answering service or knowing how to get the most out of it can be difficult, but the good news is that we’re here to help.
In this post, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about small business answering services, including the benefits of using them, how to choose one, and how you can get started.
Why You Should Consider Hiring a Small Business Answering Service
There are plenty of great reasons why small businesses should consider hiring an answering service, but these are the most advantageous benefits:
More Time to Do What You Love
When the answering service is handling a large number of incoming calls, that’s one enormously time-consuming task off your plate. Send all of your calls to the answering service, or just some of them. You design the call flow from start to finish — so you can focus on what you do best.
Winning Employee Experience
When your team isn’t being interrupted by the ringing phone, they’re able to focus more on the work that truly needs their attention. Happier, less-stressed team members means more productivity. And, a healthier work environment retains your top talent longer and trickles down to the service you provide your customers.
Faster Customer Support
Answering services are capable of handling everything your own team member can; they transfer calls, process orders, book appointments, take messages, and more. This means that we can help your customers get the support they need quicker on every front, creating an exceptional customer experience that keeps them coming back for more.
An Improved Bottom Line
It’s much more cost-effective to hire an answering service than even a single in-office receptionist, and answering services can answer more than one phone call at a time because we’re staffed with a team of virtual receptionists that are at your disposal. And with around-the-clock availability, you’ll have every opportunity to capture every opportunity that calls.
You can save money while simultaneously making more with an answering service, all while adding time back into the days of you and your staff. That’s a major benefit you won’t want to pass up.
What to Look for in a Small Business Answering Service
When you’re considering hiring an answering service, it’s important to find a service that will deliver everything you need consistently and reliably.
While small business’s needs do vary, in our experience we recommend that you hire an answering service that offers the following:
- Experience with your industry
- 24/7 coverage, 365 days a year
- Flexible call handling that keeps you in control
- All-inclusive pricing, so there are no surprise fees or costs later on
- Bilingual receptionists
- Easy-to-use technology like web and mobile apps that allow you to make changes on the fly
- No contracts required that would lock you into commitments, especially since business’s needs often fluctuate
- Experienced, US-based virtual receptionists
Keep in mind that most high-quality answering services will offer a free trial of some kind, which is typically at least a week long. We offer a 14 day, no-obligation free trial ourselves so that all of our customers can test out our service and feel confident before they ever pay us a cent.
If you’re unsure about a service’s offerings, take advantage of this to make sure they’re a great fit for you.
How to Get Started with An Answering Service
Once you find a service you love and sign up for your free trial, you can get started setting up the service itself.
Before you start forwarding your calls there are a few steps we recommend you to get started. These will help you get the most out of your answering service and ensure your call handling is tailored to your small business needs.
1. Consider How You Want to Use the Service for Your Small Business
There are plenty of options to choose from when you’re trying to decide which calls you’d like us to handle and how.
A dentist’s office, for example, might use an answering service to handle all incoming calls. They can book or cancel appointments, process payments, and leave messages for the office staff or the dentist.
An electrician with his own company, however, may prefer to try to answer all incoming calls directly if he can. He’ll patch along overflow and after-hours calls to an answering service so he can have every caller greeted with a live voice, no matter what.
If you want us to handle every single incoming call to certain lines, we can. If you’d rather us pick up only if your team isn’t able to get to the phone, or on a schedule, we can do that, too. We can even answer your calls when you use our web or mobile app to change your status to “Away” or “In a Meeting”, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Decide how you’d like to use the service, and then set up the call flow accordingly. Remember that you can change this at any time.
2. Customize Your Answering Service’s Call Handling Instructions
When customers call your business and a virtual receptionist from an answering service picks up, you want it to sound just like they are interacting with your business.
In order to act as a seamless extension of your business, call handling instructions are key. Share the information we need to sound just like you, including company policies, branded greetings, and processes for taking messages or processing orders. No one will ever know that our receptionists are answering virtually.
Keep in mind that we can handle all calls, even urgent calls that need to be transferred to you. We’ll work with you ahead of time to qualify which scenarios to handle ourselves and which should be transferred. This could be someone calling a plumber with burst pipes, a lawyer receiving a call from a judge, or even just a business with high-value clients calling with concerns.
3. Streamline Your Call Flows with Answering Service Integrations
We mentioned earlier that we can book appointments for you. Sure, we can email you that a caller wants an appointment at 11:00 on Tuesday and hopefully you’re free; OR you can opt to integrate your call handling instructions with the appointment-booking software you’re already using.
That way, our receptionists can see times you’re available (and the times you’re not), and you’ll receive instant notifications you’ve already set up on your own.
We offer integrations for a large number of tools outside of appointment scheduling, too, including CRM software so we can record customer information (and use it to offer even more personalized service), eCommerce platforms to process and manage orders, and even specialized options like property management or legal practice management tools.
We can look up customers’ orders to answer questions about when their order will arrive, we can qualify leads, and we can even register users for upcoming events.
4. Generate Reports in Real-Time
High-quality small business answering services offer real-time reports so you can have a crystal-clear understanding of exactly what calls we’re taking, how long they lasted, how long the customer waited to be transferred, and if any voicemails were left.
This not only allows you to access your business’s voicemails and form submissions anywhere and anytime (and either on desktop or mobile), but it also shows you call metrics that help you gauge how your business is evolving, too.
Here at PATLive, we pride ourselves on serving your customers exactly as you would, taking the time to help them with everything they can, and ensuring they get to the right people when we can’t.
There are a number of outstanding reasons why small businesses should consider hiring answering services, the most valuable of which is that it ultimately means more time and more money for your company.
And once you find a great service that you can count on, it’s invaluable to both you and your customers.
We’re ready to support your business, your team members, and your customers. Are you ready? Get started with your free trial here.