So you’ve made the decision to hire a telephone answering service. Congratulations! This is a positive step towards growing your business. Now what? An important question because not all answering services are created equal.
Good answering services will accurately take your messages and be available to answer your calls when you need them to. Great answering services are partners with your business. They assist in generating profits, helping your business run more smoothly, and adding value and convenience for your callers.
Here are five tips for choosing the right phone answering service for your business:
1. Look for true partnership.
Privacy and confidentiality are at the heart of any answering service. The interaction between you and your customers or patients are sacred. Your callers are placing their trust in the professionalism of your business and business associates. This trust is hard earned and should not be taken lightly. Discretion regarding business, legal, or medical matters should be evident throughout every step of sales, account management, and the call process. Many phone agents are trained in non-disclosure of confidential information, as well as HIPAA-compliant interactions. When your answering service treats you as a partner, you can trust them to be your voice and add value to your business.
2. Staffing and training.
Don’t be afraid to ask about the people answering the phone. Do agents answer in-house or remotely? Are they trained in the specifics of your business? Can they accommodate bilingual calls? How much do they know about your industry? How are their telephone etiquette skills? Can they readily problem solve? Who trains them? Are there quality assurance practices in place? If so, what specific practices are being measured? These are all valid and necessary questions to ask of any phone answering service.
3. Services and packages offered.
Having a variety of services at your fingertips from which to choose is key. Make sure the company you select offers additional services that can complement your business and align with your goals. Some of these features may include web access to calls, appointment setting, call screening, call forwarding, virtual receptionist service, call center service, and specialized applications. Do you need 24-hour coverage? Variable coverage? Overflow coverage? Seasonal answering assistance? Understanding the capabilities of the service you hired will help match your needs with their ability to help you.
4. Simple pricing.
This doesn’t necessarily mean cheap. Remember, you get what you pay for, especially when you hire a company to represent your business. The company’s pricing structure should be easy to interpret, up front, and without any surprises. Make sure the company is clear about hidden fees, set-up fees, contract cancellation fees, extra fees involved for after-hours and holiday coverage, and any that are included in the fine print of their terms of service. Understanding how you are billed is crucial. For example, are you paying per call or by the minute? What is considered a call? Which minutes are billed and which are not? Is your base rate scalable? What do they charge for overage minutes? What other features are available that are not standard? What do they cost? The answers to these questions will help you to plan your budget and weigh the true costs and benefits of having an answering service.
As with any professional service, you need it to be ready at a moment’s notice. What are the backup procedures, redundancy plans, and emergency process in place to ensure the communication from your clients, employees, and prospects gets answered and delivered? Down time for your answering service is the same as down time for your business. Ask about their redundancy, site certifications, and disaster planning. You need to know what safeguards they have put in place because their availability is your availability.