Phone answering services can save businesses money compared in-house receptionists and customer service teams, as well as keeping existing customers happy and bringing in new ones with exceptional service. But choosing an incompetent business answering service can end up costing your company big time; even though consumers are turning to text and online communication when it comes to their personal lives, multiple studies released this year show that consumers still prefer to interact with businesses over the phone (instead of through chat, email or social media), and they have high expectations.
So how can you hire an office answering service that will benefit your business, and not harm it? Here are five things to take into consideration as you vet prospective companies:
- Language Skills
Nothing frustrates consumers more than struggling to understand the person on the other end of the line. It’s best to find a company whose operators are at least in the United States. If you run a very localized brick-and-mortar type of business, you may even want to look for services that are closer to home so that operators will understand the unique regional needs of callers.
- Training Procedures
When you’re checking out companies, be sure to ask about their training protocols. These operators will be representing your business, so you should be confident that they’ll be able to calmly and courteously handle everything from a simple question about directions to an irate customer complaint.
- Differing Service Levels
While some services stick to basic answering, forwarding and message-taking, other services will answer questions about your business and even schedule meetings or appointments — just like an assistant. Take into account what service levels will get you the highest return on your investment.
- Hours of Operation
For some types of businesses, a 24 hour live answering service is a must; after hours answering services are particularly common in the medical world. But if you run a more standard company or storefront, you might only need calls answered during regular business hours. If you never get calls past 7 p.m., make sure you’re not paying for those services.
- Call Metrics
Before you decide to work with a company, ask for some concrete data on their performance. How many operators are available, and what measures are in place in case of increased call volume? How many times is the phone allowed to ring before it is answered, and what is the company’s average hold time? These metrics will all reflect — for better or for worse — on your business in your customers’ minds.
Do you have any other advice to share on choosing between answering service companies? Join the discussion in the comments.