This question has been asked of me many times in my 29 years in the industry. It is one that I would love to answer, “Of course you do, choose mine,” but that would be wrong on both points in many cases.
Whether or not to hire an answering service is a question dependent upon many factors unique to your specific situation. While I cannot provide a definitive answer to this question, I can give you a few suggestions to help you work toward making the right decision for your company.
But I am going to spin the tables on this question. I am going to work from a different approach and give you two examples of when an answering service is NOT going to be right for you.
2 Reasons You Do Not Need An Answering Service
1. You believe your current or prospective clients will call only during normal working hours.
Many years ago, when the Yellow Pages were a primary advertising venue for most businesses, I instructed our overnight operator to go through the Yellow Page ads and call every office that had a full-page ad in the industries that we were interested in working with. I knew that a full page ad would cost well over a $1,000 per month, while at that time, the cost of my company’s monthly service averaged about $100. By targeting those customers who could easily afford my services, and were more likely to need them, I surmised that I would have a better chance of successfully obtaining new clients.
The operator found that:
- one-third of the offices had an answering service
- one-third had a voice mail or answering machine
- one-third had no answer at all, simply a ring out.
Imagine that, a group of businesses paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for advertising, but over 70% of the time during after-hours, their phone would ring with no one to answer.
Clearly, they thought the value of a call—or of a client—was high since they spent thousands in advertising. But they hadn’t taken into consideration the gap in their strategy created by poor accessibility outside of normal operating hours.
The companies who chose to forgo implementing any type of message capturing system must have believed that their prospective clients would call during normal working hours only. Interestingly enough, however, one-third of their competitors believed it was worthwhile to pay an extra $100 or so per month for an answering service to capture after-hours calls and make their large marketing investment more cost effective.
2. If you do not wish to grow or to maintain 24-hour contact with your clients/patients.
Some years ago, my company had a booth at a dental industry conference and I had the opportunity to speak to a dentist who stopped by. He allowed me to explain the benefits of working with an answering service, i.e., the ability to grow his practice and stay in closer contact with his patients. He said, “I do not want to grow my practice; I am trying to retire!” He practically ran away from our booth.
At the end of the day, only you can decide the importance of 24/7/365 availability to your clients/patients and prospective clients and patients. And only you know the value of a call and the value of a client. These are the things I would suggest that you consider when pondering the question: “Do I need an answering service?”