If you had run your business ten years ago, you would have probably got an in-house receptionist to handle your business phone calls.
In today’s business environment, a call answering service provider is a more affordable and cost-effective option than a traditional receptionist.
Seeking, training, and hiring an employee to answer phone calls requires time and money (not to mention payroll taxes, benefits, holidays, sick days, and more).
Now, there are hundreds or even thousands of call answering service providers from which to choose.
To survive in the cut-throat modern business world, you need to abandon old business models and make more pragmatic choices (meaning that you should consider a call answering service instead of an expensive in-house receptionist).
Call answering services can make your business sound more established and professional at a fraction of the cost.
Of course, the cost-saving benefits of a call answering service are a no-brainer. However, you need to examine several features to get the most out of your call answering provider.
With so many answering services available, the task of narrowing down your options and choosing the one that fits your business best appears more daunting than ever.
Therefore, you need to know what top features you are looking for and what type of call answering service is suitable for your company.
For this reason, I have prepared a complete guide to help you choose the best call answering service to increase efficiency and maximise your profit.
Table of contents:
- 3 types of answering services for your business
- Top 10 features to look for in a call answering service
1. 3 Types Of Answering Services For Your Business
Before taking a closer look at the top features you need to look for in a call answering service provider, you should clearly understand the different types of answering services available.
There isn’t just one type of answering service.
Therefore, you must first choose a call answering service that fits your business size and model (and then examine the service’s features).
Here are the three major types of answering services available (and the business models they fit best):
- Virtual receptionist
A virtual receptionist is an agent working in a small team. They have the same tasks and responsibilities as a traditional receptionist, but the only difference is that they work remotely for an outsourcing provider.
An expert virtual receptionist is trained in the art of personalised customer experience, aiming to make each caller happy and potentially turn them into paying customers.
Even though the main responsibilities of a virtual receptionist are answering phone calls and taking messages, you can also rely on them when you need someone to perform basic administrative tasks (such as scheduling appointments, processing orders for e-commerce businesses, etc.).
Of course, a virtual receptionist is not a personal assistant, meaning that you cannot outsource to them dozens of administrative tasks.
However, you can leverage the flexibility that virtual receptionists provide and customise the service according to your business needs.
Please check out this post to learn more about the benefits of a virtual receptionist.
Virtual receptionists are perfect for startups and small businesses looking to make each caller feel comfortable and offer a personalised customer service experience.
- Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVR)
An IVR is an automated phone system technology that interacts with callers via pre-recorded messages, greetings, and menu options.
An IVR system utilises a combination of voice telephone input and touch-tone keypad selection.
Since most people are looking for a personalised customer service experience, it comes as no surprise that they prefer to interact with humans and not robots.
According to App Developer Magazine, the IVR technology is losing money from customers because people hate them: more than half (51%) of consumers have abandoned a business because they’ve reached an automated menu of options.
I agree that most people prefer to hear the voice of a real agent instead of a pre-recorded message, such as: “Thank you for calling ABC company. Press 1 for sales, press 2 for support…”.
However, an IVR can be an efficient telephone answering service for large companies and corporations that receive a high call volume from people looking for basic information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Furthermore, you can improve your customers’ calling experience with an IVR by providing only the necessary information and reducing the number of prompts that callers need to listen through.
- Call Centre
A call centre is an office, department, or business where a large team of advisors (agents) handle incoming and outgoing calls.
Typically, call centre advisors have the responsibility of offering customer support and handling customer complaints.
However, they can also carry out telemarketing campaigns and conduct market research.
Call centres are an excellent telephone answering service solution for large companies and corporations that need to spend a long time on the phone.
Call centres are a good option for large companies whose customers need less basic information and more specific answers to questions concerning the products or services they provide.
Please note that many companies have integrated IVR software into their call centres (meaning that you will first hear a set of pre-recorded messages, and then you will have the option to speak with a live agent).
2. Top 10 Features To Look For In A Call Answering Service
- Operating hours
Do your customers need help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year? In this case, a professional agent or receptionist should pick up the phone no matter when it rings. Maybe your customers are located in different time zones or have an urgent need for your products or services. Other customers may be night owls who like shopping at odd hours. It does not matter why they are calling your business at midnight. If they seek assistance 24/7, you should get a call answering service that provides round-the-clock coverage.
- Experience in the industry
If a call answering service does not have experience in your industry, it does not mean that they cannot deliver customer satisfaction. However, the experience of the call answering service provider in your industry is a big plus (because your provider can offer you tips and suggestions based on its previous experience within the industry). For example, suppose you are a small business owner. In that case, you should ensure that your call answering service provider is able to deliver a personalised customer service experience that startups and small businesses should offer to stand out.
- Sound quality
Make sure your call answering service provider is using a high-quality noise cancellation system. Background noise is a real problem in many call centres, and it can negatively impact your customers’ perception of your business. Moreover, it can be challenging for the call centre agents to think cohesively and provide excellent customer service if the noise around is too loud. Lack of clear communication is frustrating for both customers and agents. Therefore, I suggest you test the sound quality of the call answering service provider to ensure that no disruptive background noises affect your customers’ experience with your business.
Do you think that your customers should interact with a real agent (and not an IVR)? In this case, make sure you get a local professional voice. Eloquence is meaningful for flawless communication between your customers and the receptionist or call centre agent, providing them with help and assistance. A polite and friendly voice that greets your customers and welcomes them with warm words is crucial for your business. A little courtesy goes a long way!
- Language assistance
Do you have multilingual customers? You may think that English is sufficient to provide excellent customer service, but this is becoming an outdated theory in today’s global market. According to World Atlas, 18.2% of people living in Australia are non-English speakers, and many immigrants have smattering English. Furthermore, several small businesses are serving international customers. Therefore, if you have customers who are more comfortable speaking other languages than English, you should consider getting a bilingual or multilingual call answering service.
- Team size
The number of call agents provided by the telephone answering service should fit your company’s size. In the first section of this post, I have outlined the three main types of call answering services and the businesses they serve best. If you’re a small business owner, no one can stop you from getting an IVR. But are you sure that you want your callers to interact with an automated phone system technology as long as you don’t deal with high call volume? If you just launched your start-up, are you sure that a call centre with a large team of agents is suitable for your business? In this case, you should instead consider a virtual receptionist. Thus, I suggest that you choose your call answering service according to your business size and structure.
- Additional services
Call answering providers offer various additional services. Do you need appointment scheduling support, call forwarding, recording, statistics, or monthly reporting? Before getting a call answering service, you should ask what kind of additional services your package includes and choose them according to your business needs. For example, service companies and law, medical, and financial practices can take advantage of the appointment scheduling service as they typically deal with a high number of appointments. Some call answering providers can also give you access to a wide range of services and office facilities that are usually included in a virtual office.
- Degree of support
Before choosing a telephone answering service, I suggest that you answer the following question: What degree of support do your customers need? Are they looking to get answers to FAQs? Do they need answers to specific or complex questions? For example, suppose your customers need answers to basic questions. In that case, you can consider getting an IVR (even though implementing an IVR should also depend on your business size and call volume, as I mentioned previously). On the other hand, if your customers need answers to specific questions, you should instead get a professional receptionist or agent and train them to deal with customers queries, requests, and problems.
- Emergency backup plan
An excellent call answering service provider should have an emergency backup plan (e.g., rerouting calls to another location during an emergency). For example, the emergency backup plan of a call answering service provider should include backup generators and data backups. In the event of a disaster, maintaining communication with customers is essential to protect your reputation and keep your business compliant.
Profit margins drive a business forward. A business needs to be cost-effective to make money. Thus, your call answering service provider must deliver an excellent service at an affordable price. In Australia, prices vary according to the type of call answering service and the package you get. I suggest that you carefully examine both costs and outcomes/gains before getting a telephone answering service provider for your business.
To turn leads into customers and establish a long and positive relationship with them, you need a top-notch call answering service provider to make each of your callers happy and create an incredible caller experience.
To ensure you’re getting the best call answering service, the top 10 features listed in this post will help you make the right decision.
Our receptionists focus 24/7 on customer service experience to make sure you never miss a call or business opportunity. You can either get a local professional voice as a separate service or include your receptionist in a premium virtual office that will help your business build a winning reputation. For further details, do not hesitate to contact us!