Answering services can benefit businesses of all shapes and sizes. You’ll have a team of virtual receptionists take as many incoming calls off your plate as you choose, whether you only want to use the service for overflow or after hours, or as your first line of defense for every incoming call your office gets, allowing you to focus on the critical tasks your business needs you to prioritize.
It’s easy to come to the conclusion that you could scale more efficiently (and painlessly) with an answering service than without one, but finding the right service for you is a little trickier.
Where do you start? In this post, we’re going to take you through the process you should follow when you’re searching for the right answering service for your individual business.
1. Assess Your Budget
No two answering services are the same and the price range can greatly vary. That being said, when it comes to answering services, you get what you pay for. Choosing the least expensive service may not provide you with the service level or coverage that your business needs.
Hiring an answering service is an investment that pays off with an improved ROI and fewer missed opportunities. Especially if the service you choose is 24/7.
2. Consider What Volume of Calls You Need Help With
How many calls per month do you think you’ll need help with?
Think about how many calls you currently receive, and what percentage of those calls you’d want to have sent to an answering service. Do you want all the calls that go to your main number to be answered by the answering service first, or are you only planning on using their services during your lunch break or after hours?
Remember, too, to keep in mind that your need will almost definitely increase as your business grows. Find an agency that can accommodate what you need right now and that you believe will scale with you in the future; one that has multiple plans and pricing based on the volume of calls (like PATLive) is typically a good trait to look for here.
3. Decide What Specific Types of Calls You Want Help With
When some businesses hire an answering service, they literally just want someone to answer calls, offer basic business information like store hours, and maybe take messages. Others, however, are specifically looking for agencies that can help with appointment booking and rescheduling, lead collection, order processing, and more.
What specific types of calls will you want your answering service to help with? Think about your needs now, and what types of calls you’re currently receiving. What would speed up your process most?
Once you have your answer, make sure that you’re only considering agencies that can offer the services that you need.
4. Decide How Branded You Want Your Script to Be
Some answering service agencies allow for more personalization than others. Some, for example, will only say the company name and then just go through the motions, while others will completely embrace your privacy policies, company regulations, and even branded language.
Ultimately, it’s always a good choice to find an answering service that’s going to act more like a seamless extension of your business than an unaffected third party who is just paid to answer calls. Look for a service that will allow you to help personalize their call scripts for your business.
5. Look For A Service Who Already Has Clients Like You
You don’t want to be anyone’s guinea pig. Even an established answering service may be out of their league if they’ve never worked with a realtor before.
The right answering service should already have a list of clients that are somehow similar to your business. Even if they aren’t quite in the same specialty, they should have some clients that have worked in the same general industry and/or are similar to the size of your business currently.
6. Ask About Their Call Handling Process
Answering services typically make use of call mapping, which allows their agents to follow adaptable, flexible call handling instructions to best serve every customer they speak with.
High-quality answering services will have strong call mapping systems in place, typically using top-of-the-line technology and training their agents carefully on how to make the most of these sort-of scripts.
If the answering service isn’t using call handling technology that can be customized to your specific business, they’re likely not the one for you.
7. Search For a Service With Strong Experience
Too many answering services are unfortunately happy to hire anyone who has a strong internet connection and phone line so long as they can be available for set hours a few times a week.
You only want to hire an answering service that has 100% native speakers to whatever language(s) your audience speaks, and that only hires agents who have previous experience before starting with them. PATLive, for example, only accepts a tiny fraction of our applicants as employees, and then we put them through rigorous training.
Remember that these agents are going to be helping your customers in your name. Many likely won’t even realize that you’re using an answering service, so you want the service you hire to represent you well. Poor customer service can drive customers away, whether you delivered it directly or not, while great service will keep them around.
When you’re looking for an answering service to help you better serve your customers as you scale your business, there’s clearly a lot to consider. It’s important to go step by step through our checklist, however, as this is typically the most efficient way to weed out agencies that aren’t right for you.
After you’ve gone through the criteria, and are on the fence between a couple of different providers, consider starting with a free trial. This way you can give the service a test run before setting up a more permanent call flow.