You have finally decided to use a telephone answering service to enhance your customer service image. Good choice! Of course, you want your calls answered by a friendly, professional and courteous telephone answering service agent. But are there any advantages to having the phone answered by an auto attendant? That seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?
There is a time and a place for everything – even auto attendants! To provide your business with a competitive advantage, it is always best to have a live person answering the phones 24/7. This is especially important in the service industry where many potential sales prospects will simply hang up the phone if they call your business and get a voice mail greeting. In a situation like this, an auto-attendant can absolutely kill your after-hours sales. But are there situations where an auto attendant can be used effectively to enhance your business? Let’s look at two examples.
Example 1 – “I want to answer the call if I am here.”
In this first example you, the business owner, have decided that if you or your staff are in the office that you want to be the first ones to answer the phones. Makes sense. You decide to hire an answering service as a backup should you or your staff be unavailable at any time (good choice!). In order to make this work, you must contact your local phone provider and have them program your phone lines so that they automatically roll over to your answering service should your lines be busy or unavailable after, say 4 rings. Now here comes the rub…..
Let’s say you have an after-hours caller that dials your office. It rings 4 times in your office because your night-shift person is unavailable to answer for some reason. so the call rings 4 times in your office and then it rolls over to your answering service. Now let’s say that it takes your answering service 3 rings before they can pick up the phone. From the caller’s perspective, they just listened to 7 rings and they probably will hand up on the 5th ring just out of courtesy. You just lost a sale. Or, they will hang on the line for all 7 rings and call you the next day to complain about multiple rings at night.
If you decide that you want calls to ring in your office first and then roll over to your answering service, it is advisable that you have your answering service set up an auto attendant for you so that callers do not get frustrated by multiple rings. Rather than listening to more than 4 rings your callers would roll over to the answering service and be immediately greeting by an auto attendant. That attendant might say something like this, “Thank you for calling XYZ. We are connecting your call now!” Your callers now know that they are in the process of being transferred and the possibility of losing that call is exceedingly diminished.
Example 2 – “I get a lot of non-urgent calls at night. But I want the urgent calls answered by a live person.”
In this example, you know your customers well. You also know that you get a lot of non-urgent calls at night from people asking non-urgent questions that can easily be handled the next day. But you also get several highly important calls that must be answered by a live telephone answering service operator so that the call can be processed immediately. Should you use an auto attendant for this? Maybe. It is always advisable to use a live answering service for all calls when you are unavailable. Even for the non-urgent calls. The level of professionalism and image that you present to your customers will be second-to-none. So I would suggest that you have 100% of all calls answered live. However, you may not agree with that suggestion and would prefer not to have non-urgent calls handled this way. If this is true, then you should use an auto attendant. It would work like this:
- You would forward your office line to an auto attendant at night
- The auto attendant would greet callers and give them options (Press 1 for this, or press 2 for that)
- Your calls would be routed either to voice mail or to a live answering service
The key to making this work is to ensure that your auto attendant can forward calls to an outside number so that you can effectively route calls to your answering service. Solaxis FrontOffice auto attendant systems can do this quite easily. Your callers might hear the following: “Thank you for calling XYZ. You have reached us after-hours. If your pet needs immediate medical attention you may press 1 to be connected to a live agent. Otherwise, please hold the line to leave us a detailed voice mail message and we will be paged and respond the following business day.”
In this situation, the business owner is using the auto attendant to “screen” the non-urgent calls and only allow the urgent calls to be forwarded to a live attendant. Remember, it is always preferable to have your calls answered by a live operator. Yet, there are robust auto-attendant options available to those who need a mixture of auto answer and live agent.