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Choosing an Answering Service Provider

A capable answering service provider makes customers feel like they’ve called your office directly. Do you feel that you lose business by not being able to take calls outside office hours? Does the...

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A capable answering service provider makes customers feel like they’ve called your office directly.

Do you feel that you lose business by not being able to take calls outside office hours? Does the thought of expanding your staff to include customer answering agents sound a bit too expensive? If yes to either then it's time to consider partnering with an answering service provider that will enable you to connect with your customers around the clock without having to pay for a 24/7 in-house staff compliment.

An effective answering service provider is worth their weight in gold by ensuring that callers receive a high-quality experience, freeing up your staff to focus on your business, providing important insights, and growing your customer base. Whether you receive 20 calls a month or 2000, the impression you make on your customers over the phone is a lasting one, so you need to make sure that the exchanges are distinctive.

Use Your Budget and Goals to Guide Your Decision

When shopping around for the best-suited corporate answering service provider for your business, you need to have a firm handle on your objectives and budget. Understanding your specific goals allows you to select a set of fundamental and supplemental services to help you achieve them.

You'll find telephone answering services available at nearly every price bracket, from zero-commitment free trials to massive structures worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Part of choosing the best partner to work with is understanding how to get the most out of your budget.

It’s important to look beyond the numbers as well. The best partners can add great intangible value to your company in terms of strategy, advice, and synergy, so the bottom line shouldn't be your only consideration.

Answering service providers generally have two main types of billing models: per-minute and per-call. Before choosing an option, make sure you sit down with your prospects to break down the details of each offering to determine the best structure for your business.

Per-call Billing

This payment structure is as close as you can get to a flat-rate service. With per-call billing, answering service providers charge for each incoming call, no matter how long it lasts.

It’s important to read the fine print here, as a provider may include additional charges for messages sent, wrong numbers, immediate hang-ups, emails, and outgoing calls. If your business experiences a high volume of calls, a per-call billing structure may not be a good fit.

Per-call billing is useful as a small-business answering service when you expect a low number of calls that require attention to detail and specialized knowledge. The nature of this billing structure means that your customer service agents can take their time with each caller and that you generally pay for what you consume.

Per-minute Billing

Per-minute billing is similar to a mobile phone plan. In this structure, you pay a set fee to your provider in exchange for an allotment of minutes to use per month. If this allocation is exceeded, out-of-plan charges may be applied or your package automatically upgraded to the next tier. The biggest advantage of this payment model is that you don’t have to worry about wasting your budget on zero-value things like hang-ups and misdials from customers.

In order to get the most out of a per-minute structure, you need to make sure you have a predictable monthly call volume to justify your cost. A big risk with this model is that you pay for minutes that you may not end up using. As such, it’s crucial to monitor your usage to make sure you are on the optimum plan for your needs.

Determine Which Type of Corporate Answer Service Provider Fits Your Needs

Virtual Receptionist

Virtual receptionists fill a similar role to their in-office counterparts but do more than just answer and transfer customer calls. They are a good fit for when a company needs someone who has industry-specific knowledge and can be trained to understand a company’s day-to-day working environment.

A virtual receptionist is especially useful in fields that require specialized knowledge, such as the medical and manufacturing industries. This enables them to distinguish between helping customers themselves and when to escalate their concerns. In order to gain this in-depth industry and company knowledge, they will need to interact with your in-house employees on a regular basis.

The big plus of having a virtual receptionist is that they are always available when needed and don’t cost anything when they’re not on the phone. This saves you a lot of money compared to having a team of dedicated in-house receptionists available around the clock.

Call Center

Call centers allow you to flexibly scale up your operations without making a huge financial commitment

Call centers are the best answering service option if what you’re looking for is scale. They also allow for flexibility, enabling companies to expand or contract the size of their support team as needed.

In place of building out customer service teams with additional employees, call centers act as extensions of a business’s service, sales, and help desk teams. Call centers are also available 24/7 if necessary at a fraction of the cost of a 24-hour in-house team.

Many call center services also offer lead generation and sales services. By taking this burden off a business, it allows full-time employees to focus on growth and improving day-to-day operations.

Customized Service Team

If you’re not sure exactly what kind of team or setup you need, consider finding a partner that will work closely with you to create a custom team that’s tailor-fitted to your business. Helpware is such a company, working closely with partners from recruitment to training to monitoring ensuring that everything is perfectly curated to each client’s specific needs. With services including multi-lingual, technical, and customer support, in addition to a dedicated success manager, Helpware makes sure that partners extract maximum value from their customer service teams.

Choose an Answering Service Provider That is Available 24/7

24/7 availability is one of the biggest steps you can take to grow your business

Providing your customers with a channel to connect with you at any hour of any day is a huge step towards taking your business to the proverbial next level – Your company is perceived as being professional, creates an enhanced customer journey, and distinguishes you from the competition.

This is why it’s critical to choose a reliable corporate answering service that offers 24/7/365 capability. It’s important when searching for such a service to understand that some providers charge extra fees related to 24/7 availability. They may charge extra for holiday calls and calls after cut-off. Some also only offer live support up until a certain time before switching over to an automated system.

Fortunately, there are answering service providers who include 24/7 live support as a standard part of their package with no extra hidden fees. Some even offer disaster recovery services, which means that they can take over all of your phone lines in the event of an emergency.

Consider the Answering Service Features

Corporate answering services often come with loads of features that you can select based on your needs. When vetting a provider to partner with, take a look at what kind of features they offer. Remember, don’t choose solely based on what services you need now, but also anticipate your future needs so that your chosen partner stays relevant for the long term.

Free Trial Period

No matter where it appears, a free trial period is always a welcome addition to the consumer journey. It’s a great way to get acquainted with a potential answering service provider before committing to signing a contract.

During this free trial, there are certain things you should look out for when assessing your partner. It helps to get in the shoes of your customers and place test calls to ‘experience the experience’ firsthand. This enables you to spot potential bottlenecks, stress points, and other kinks.

The trial period is also when you should explore the features and structures of your potential partner. Take note if their service is user-friendly so it makes running your business easier overall. This entails not only evaluating its ease of use but also whether adjustments can be easily made. Simple changes like swapping a number or email address should be straightforward enough that it doesn’t impede your processes.

Web Portal

In today’s environment of limitless data and deep analytics, even small business answering services often offer web portal services. This is a cloud-based service that allows you to have real-time access to all kinds of impactful data. Web portals will differ between providers, but some common features include:

  • The ability to listen to call recordings
  • On-demand access to reports and analytics
  • The ability to upload and manage an on-call schedule
  • A log of calls/messages
  • Access to call handling
  • The ability to make real-time updates

It’s important to know what kind of data you are looking for prior to diving headfirst into the analytics. This will help guide your interpretation of the information, allowing you to understand your customer journeys better and improve your services overall.

A web portal is also useful because it allows users to make changes to their answering service quickly. This means that businesses can stay nimble, enabling swift intervention to address inefficiencies and customer concerns.

Appointment Scheduling

Appointment scheduling support is a helpful feature that gives customers the ability to call your company at any hour to schedule an appointment. This makes it especially useful for businesses that require a commitment to be made for goods or services rendered.

Many answering service providers also allow partners to access an online appointment scheduling app. This allows users to view appointments in real-time for convenience and to avoid double-booking. Some services also manage appointment confirmations and reminders to minimize no-shows and the lost revenue that comes with it.

Emergency Dispatch System

For service companies like maintenance and medical operators, an emergency dispatch system is an essential feature of any answering service partner. This ensures that incoming calls are filtered appropriately, with regular ones being handled by the operator and urgent calls being escalated to a relevant team.

There are few things worse than being told to wait until office hours or speaking to a machine when there’s an emergency. Having an emergency dispatch system sets your business apart by having an operator who can handle extremely urgent calls 24/7.

Emergency dispatchers need in-depth knowledge of their industry so they know which calls to escalate and which to handle directly.

Select an Answering Service Provider That Caters to Specialty Industries

Some companies require industry-specific knowledge from their corporate answering service providers in order to adequately address customer concerns. If you are in one of these industries, make sure that your potential answering partner can support your needs.

The onboarding process is still very important regardless of the level of industry knowledge a partner possesses. Onboarding familiarises teams by outlining your business profile and processes to them. This helps ensure a smooth working environment down the line.

Some industries that require specialized support and knowledge include manufacturing, healthcare, professional services, and service providers. If possible, consider making use of a virtual receptionist who is trained in the appropriate backgrounds and so can provide more comprehensive customer service and support.

Helpware is Geared to Help

At the heart of every good partnership between an answering service provider and their client is a continuing understanding of a company’s needs and the provider's capacity to deliver on that needs. This understanding allows the client to know what features and structures they require from a provider. It also enables the said provider to know how to best customize their services to help their partner achieve their goals.

Helpware is an omnichannel, customizable, and feature-complete answering service provider that thrives when working hand-in-hand with clients. Driven by a desire to understand our client’s needs at every step, Helpware ensures that partners get optimal value from their investment to help them grow while anchoring their brand.

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