How to choose the right telephone answering service for your business
It doesn’t matter what sector you’re in, it’s likely there will come a time when you need help answering the telephone. At what point a business realises they need help with telephone answering can vary greatly. For independent freelancers, telephone answering could be vital from the start, whereas a well-established retail firm with its own call centre could realise after 20 years trading that it needs help with call overflow handling.
The exact service a business needs from a call handler can vary greatly, so it’s important to identify from the start exactly what it is your company needs from a telephone answering service.
What is a telephone answering service?
What is a telephone answering service? The clue is in the question, right? The fact is though the service you actually receive from a specialist call handler can vary greatly from company to company and package to package.
At its most basic level, telephone answering is just that. Someone will pick up and answer phone calls for your company. How they proceed once they’ve answered the call though is what’s important. A less sophisticated answering service will simply answer the call and take a name and number with the promise someone will get back in touch. As you move into more advanced services there is a vast array of options from virtual switchboards to incident call management and everything in between. In order to choose the right provider for your telephone answering service, you first need to identify exactly what service will best serve your business.
What telephone answering services are available?
A good telephone answering service is able to offer the custom scripts and wrap up options that mean a tailored answering service is almost always possible. With that in mind there’s no way to provide a finite list of the telephone answering options that are available to an up and coming company. However, it’s fair to say that the majority of call handling duties fall into the following categories:
- Virtual Assistant & Receptionist – A virtual assistant or receptionist service is what most people probably think of when they talk about call handling. A receptionist service ensures that when someone calls your company there is a friendly human voice ready to answer their call and take a message for them.
- Incident Call Management – An incident call management service takes advantage of the quick and consistent telephone answering that outsourcing to a call centre can provide. These services are popular with companies like IT and maintenance firms whose customers require a rapid response to emergency calls.
- Outsourced Call Centre – An outdoor call centre service is designed to give small companies the massive customer service firepower of their biggest competitors. An outsourced call centre with custom scripts means that start-ups and smaller firms can provide the round the clock customer service 21st century customers expect.
- Virtual Switchboard – A virtual switchboard service means a call handler can take the calls that come through from your customers and direct them to the right department or person in your company. This improves efficiency and means you can have just one dedicated number for customers.
- Diary and Appointment Booking – A diary and appointment booking service is a great way to use your call handling service to maximise the efficiency of your business. An appointment booking service means that rather than just taking a message for your firm, a telephone answering provider uses integrated software to update and amend your diary for you.
- Media Response – Every company’s dream is for one of their marketing campaigns to go viral. The only problem with this is small companies can easily find they don’t have the infrastructure ready to deal with a surprisingly successful marketing campaign. A media response service makes sure there is always someone ready to answer the calls that come off the back of your successful campaigns.
Just from this basic overview you can see there are a number of different ways telephone answering can benefit your business. It’s important to choose the right combination of the available options to make the most efficient use of your telephone answering service.
How can telephone answering benefit your business?
If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you already have at least some idea of how a telephone answering service could benefit you. For a lot of people this is having the option to ignore their phone so they can focus on their work, their family, or their friends. While a call handling service is fantastic for giving you time away from the business, employing a telephone answering service will benefit your business and your customers too.
Telephone answering services specialise in answering calls, and as such the level of customer service they can provide is second to none. Not only that, but a telephone answering service can offer round the clock customer service lines. That means even the smallest firms can compete on the same level as the biggest companies in their sector in terms of customer service and availability.
Today, with social media and review sites, bad news travels fast and reputation is everything. The customer service a telephone answering service can provide an up and coming firm could make all the difference to their success.
Similarly for businesses like engineering companies and IT firms who provide emergency call outs, using a telephone answering service for incident call management ensures urgent customer calls are always answered quickly.
Choosing the Service for You
While it’s clear a telephone answering service could benefit most businesses in one way or another, to truly make the most of a telephone answering service it’s important to identify exactly how telephone answering can best help your business. By analysing the interaction you have with your customers over the phone, you can identify the key areas that need the most support.
For a retail company it’s likely an outsourced call centre service is what’s required. By evaluating the number of missed calls during the day versus overnight you can establish whether it is an overflow service or an out of office service that’s needed.
For a restaurant, straight forward appointment booking might seem like the obvious choice, but upon consideration some restaurants may realise their customers often have dietary requirements that need addressing, or a large part of their business may come from functions.
For these restaurants a message taking service could work better in the long run so a manager can get back in touch with their customers to get a real understanding of their specific needs. It’s all about identifying how your customers want to talk to you and implementing a telephone answering service that works for them.
Although email and social media are making it easier and easier for businesses to talk to their customers online, nothing will ever replace the power of the human voice. By outsourcing telephone answering to a dedicated provider you can rest assured your customers are receiving the highest level of customer service available to them, while giving yourself the time to focus on work, the business, and most importantly your home life with family and friends. With the right telephone answering service in place you’ll wonder why you didn’t use one before.
Reuben Singh is one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs with over 20 years’ experience founding and directing industry leading businesses.