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Should my Telephone Answering Service use an Auto Answer System?

An auto answer system has its time and place in telecommunications, but is it ever beneficial for live answering services to use one?

Image of a robot using an auto answer system

Well, first let’s define what an auto answer system actually is so we are all on the same page here. An auto answer system is used by businesses, telephone answering services or call centers to “automatically” answer an incoming call using a prerecorded greeting. It might sound something like this:

CALLER: Ring…Ring….Ring….

AUTO ANSWER SYSTEM RECORDING: “Thank you for calling the XYZ Company. We are now connecting your call to a representative.”

An auto answer is similar to an auto attendant system. The difference is that an auto attendant offers the caller dial  options to help them self-route their calls like this:

CALLER: Ring…Ring…Ring…

AUTO ATTENDANT: “Thank you for calling the XYZ Company. For sales, press 1. For Customer Service, press 2…..”

Ok, so now that we’ve defined what an auto answer system is and differentiated it from an auto attendant, the questions remains. Should telephone answering services use an auto answer system? Even though the purpose of a telephone answering service is to answer incoming calls with a live person, the answer is, yes, sometimes live support providers should use an auto answer system.  Let’s break it all down…

For example, let’s say that the XYZ Company wants its answering service to take incoming calls only when internal staff is unavailable to do so. This means that the XYZ Company has calls ringing in to their front desk all day long. Only in the event that XYZ’s front desk office staff are either busy or unavailable to take calls should customers be “rolled over” to the answering service. In this scenario, it is recommended that the XYZ Company use an auto-answer system. Why? Because it sounds like this WITHOUT using an auto answer:

CUSTOMER: Ring…ring…ring…ring (Call rings four times at XYZ Company’s front desk. Call is then redirected to roll over to the answering service)

ANSWERING SERVICE: Ring…ring…ring… “Thank you for calling the XYZ Company. How may I help you?”

Notice that the XYZ Company is NOT using an auto answer. The problem here is that the XYZ Company is allowing incoming calls to ring four times at their front desk before being rolled over to their answering service. The service  then does its job correctly by answering the call with a live agent in three rings or less. In this example, the telephone answering service  picks up on the third ring which is an acceptable service level.

However, from the caller’s perspective, they just sat through seven rings! This is poor customer service overall because of the extra rings that the XYZ Company added to the call waiting times by allowing calls to ring so many times at their front desk. Most customers will hang up after five or six rings and so an opportunity is lost. Whenever companies choose to allow calls to ring four or five times in their office before rolling over to the answering service it is always recommended that you use an auto answer system. This way the caller knows that they are being taken care of and service levels greatly improve. It might sound something like this WITH and auto answer system:

CUSTOMER: Ring…ring…ring…ring (Call rings four times at XYZ Company’s front desk. Call is then redirected to roll over to the  answering service)

AUTO ANSWER SYSTEM: “Thank you for calling the XYZ Company. We are connecting your call to a friendly, professional live agent now…”

ANSWERING SERVICE: “Hi, my name is Jessica. How can I help you today?”

In this example the XYZ Company IS USING an auto answer and the caller only had to experience 4 rings before they were speaking with a real person. This is a greatly improved level of customer service. If you use an answering service for overflow calls, then having your support provider install an auto answer system is highly recommended.

One of the other nice things about an auto answer system is that they can be customized to play whatever greeting you prefer! If you have any questions about how your company might benefit from using an auto answer system or an answering service, please contact us today. We’d be happy to help!

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About Brian Gabriel

As the Call Center Manager for Sound Telecom, Brian is responsible for overseeing the daily operations and long term success of the company while managing a variety of inbound customer support programs. He also has a hand in taking care of the Solaxis services division. Prior to joining Sound Telecom, Mr. Gabriel held management positions with several prominent Internet Services companies including XpenseWise.com and Greatfood.com. Brian started his career in advertising and sales before moving to Washington State. He joined AEI Music in 1995 and supervised their international customer service department and technical support call centers. Brian received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish languages from San Diego State University. Brian teaches adult education at his church and actively supports Christian ministries.