So you have determined that working with an answering service is the right move for your company, but how do you tell which one is the best fit?
If you want to choose the right answering service “fit” for your company, you first need to answer two important questions for yourself:
- What image do I want to portray to my customers?
- What kind of service should my customers expect to receive?
When you understand the relationship between these two questions, you can then choose an answering service that best meets your requirements. Usually, your search for the right answering service will have you resolving a few more questions before you make a final decision, but those two questions are a good place to start. From there, you will probably notice that your reasons for choosing to partner with an answering service fall into one or more of these four areas:
I need a live person answering my phones all the time
If answering the phone with a live person all the time is how you want to portray your business and what your customers expect, then you need to choose a service that answers all calls with live operators and not with an automated greeting. There are some answering services that use an auto-answer or “queue” to hold your calls before they are transferred to an operator. Be sure to ask if 100% of all calls are “LIVE” answer.
I need a live service that sounds like a professional secretary
There are some businesses that do not want their customers to know they are using an answering service. And that’s a perfectly understandable request, but if you have a customer with a high degree of curiosity, then there is a reasonable chance they will figure it out. However, there are services that are geared to sound just like they are sitting in your office with you. The tone of the operators is very¬† warm and professional and the entire experience reminds you of talking with a secretary. I have even spoken with several folks that only want females to answer their phones. But usually, this is a difficult request to fill since most call centers are split more or less evenly with male and female operators. If you talk with a service that promises to sound just like “Betty” down the hall, call and test their service first to make sure it is what they say it is.
I need my messages relayed in real-time
This request should be standard for all answering services. Be sure to ask about “dispatch” and “message relay” times. Then ask for the different options that are available to you such as email,¬† text message, secure online options¬† and other forms of message delivery. If your answering service says they can deliver in real-time, ask them to define that. What, exactly, is “real-time”? Is it seconds, minutes or something else?
I need an answering service that specializes in my type of business support
No two answering services are created alike. And this is particularly true when it comes to specializing in business support. Some answering services focus on medical support. Others can handle the services industry well, (companies like HVAC and plumbing). I have known of several answering services that only handle towing companies. There are, of course, services that have strength in several different vertical markets. These companies tend to be a bit larger and have more years of experience under their belts. The advantage to using a well-rounded service like this is that they can apply experience and knowledge gained from serving other industries to use on a number of different projects. If you are looking for skill specialization, be sure to ask for references within¬† your industry and call them.
Take your time while shopping for the right answering service. Evaluate the sales agent, the collateral materials, the terms and conditions of the agreement, and the pricing. Look at everything and¬† check their references. If you make a careful decision, it will pay off dividends down the road. And now you know how to decide which answering service is right for your company.