Outsourcing your customer support to a small business answering service can make a world of difference in keeping up with your communication needs. Whether you’re scaling or your business needs 24/7 support, there are advantages to outsourcing customer support over handling it in-house.
But before choosing the outsourcing solution that fits you best, you’ll have to do some homework. Because not just any amateur will do — you have to make sure your outsourcing partner is well-trained, tenured (if it’s a service), and most importantly, they fit with your company culture.
Answering services are like the middle man between your business and your customers. If you’re running a small business and it requires a lot of customer service, this is a great way to step away from that and let someone else handle their concerns. Outsourcing also frees up your staff to perform higher-level functions in the organization.
This article will dive into more about the small business answering service, including the do’s and don’ts, things to look for, questions to ask in a demo, and the top tips to optimize outsourcing.
The Dos and Don’ts of Outsourcing With a Small Business Answering Service.
As a small business owner, you understand the importance of developing a personal relationship with your customers. In addition, you know that you need to provide stellar customer service to keep them coming back.
As a business owner, you wear many hats. Unfortunately, when it comes to running your business, you wear the hat of CFO, CEO, and COO all at once. Delegating smaller more insignificant responsibilities to an outsourcing service can help you grow your company faster without losing control.
Outsourcing entails handing off responsibility for specific business functions to a third-party provider. This can be as simple as hiring a virtual assistant or a more complex process like farming out customer support to an overseas team.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider outsourcing certain functions of your business:
Do think of outsourcing as a leaner way to run a company. For example, outsourcing to a small business answering service can save businesses money by reducing overhead costs related to phone support, attendance management, and more. Then, you are freeing up time that you would otherwise spend managing workers and customers. It also allows you to hire people with specific skills or expertise you wouldn’t have time to learn yourself.
Don’t think of outsourcing to a small business answering service as a temporary fix to a short-term need. If you’re thinking about outsourcing, it’s because you have a long-term need for the skill set of the worker you’re considering. If your needs change, don’t be afraid to reevaluate your decision and bring on an in-house worker instead.
Do think about what skills or expertise you need to make your company more successful with a small business answering service. For example, if no one on your team has the time or expertise to answer phones and process orders, and this is an area in which you need help, outsourcing can be a good option–it’s likely cheaper than hiring someone new with those specific skills.
Don’t outsource core workers. If you’re outsourcing customer service, think about what kind of communication is required. Suppose the only contact with customers requires text or brief phone exchanges. In that case, you could outsource that reasonably easily. Outsourcing administrative tasks like answering phones and scheduling appointments are helpful, but keeping essential workers in-house is also necessary. IT specialists, accountants, and bookkeepers are often crucial parts of a company that shouldn’t be outsourced because they
Do understand the value of outsourcing with a small business answering service. You can use outsourcing as a way to grow your company without adding direct overhead costs. For example, if you’re in real estate sales and use an answering service for incoming callers, you can handle more leads per hour than if you had someone answer the phone yourself.
Don’t expect outsourced workers to function entirely on their own. Of course, you want someone who will excel in the position and take the initiative, but make sure to give them the appropriate direction and understanding to approach your company’s specific needs with their best foot forward.
Things to Look for in a Small Business Answering Service.
There’s a reason that 86% of businesses believe the customer experience is the most important space to surpass your competition. Of course, customer support will always be necessary for growing a business, but as your business grows and becomes more complex, you may find yourself wishing you had another set of hands-on deck. When hiring a small business answering service to support your team, it is essential to understand some key facts.
First, is the company new to the scene, or do they have the experience to back up the guarantees? A company in business for an extended period is more likely to have a solid reputation and a history of providing quality service. With nearly 40 years of experience, Call Experts is here to support your needs and offers outstanding customer service on your behalf.
It is essential to understand customer retention rates. A small business answering service that doesn’t retain clients usually doesn’t have the best customer service, or they are just incompatible with your business. Try to find one with a high client retention rate to ensure you get the best service possible. Also, review the company website to get an idea of their customer service by looking at their social media accounts and reading testimonials. A website can also give you more information on how they operate and how they may help you better achieve your goals.
While most answering services are available 24/7, it’s essential to know what times the small business answering service operates and what times they are available to respond to your emergencies. Unfortunately, many people get lost only asking about the time they will service your clients, but what about you?
A small business answering service must provide a dependable on-time delivery service. If you cannot receive important messages promptly, you will find that this problem is even more critical if your business is open 24 hours. A tardy service may result in lost sales and employee frustration.
While many companies will work with small businesses to establish payment terms, there are limits to what they can do. So take the time to fully understand all payment options before choosing a service and asking about early payments discounts. Also, ask them whether or not they require a deposit and what happens if you need to cancel your service before the end of your contract term? Also, understand any hidden fees, like early termination fees or automatic renewals – so make sure you know what you’re getting into before signing anything.
When you start looking for small business answering services, you want it to be easy to find companies. In addition, you want there to be many options available to you to quickly choose the one that will best fit your needs and the needs of your business.
Ask the Right Questions During a Demo Call.
There is a lot of small business answering services on the market. With just a quick search, you’ll find pages of websites with customer support representatives you can talk to and manage your customer service calls. But how do you know which is the best? The best way to find the right one for your needs is to understand what you’re looking for.
Asking yourself and the prospective contact center’s sales reps the right questions can help you narrow down your choices and get you closer to finding the right service provider.
Here are ten essential questions to ask when searching for a small business telephone answering service:
- Are there any extra or hidden fees associated with this service?
- Do you charge a per-minute fee or a flat monthly rate? What are overage rates?
- Is there an initial set-up fee, or will they call me back at their expense?
- Do you offer a live answering service, and how does the live operator fit into my business plan? Can I combine live agent services with automations?
- Are agents English speaking? What other languages do you offer?
- What, if any, additional messaging options do you offer?
- How do I get started? Is there a sign-up form I need to fill out, or will someone answer the phone when I call and help me get set up?
- What are its ‘on-call’ hours (if any)? Will you return calls outside those hours on-demand, or do I have to schedule time in advance?
- Am I assigned a representative to your account familiar with your needs?
- Are you 24/7/365?
- What redundancies do you have in place for security and to ensure no service outages?
- How long has your business been around?
- Where are your offices located? Where are your contact centers located?
- Do you offer a portal? What does it do for my business?
- Do you provide secure SMS messaging?
Top Tips to Optimize a Small Business Answering Service.
These days, many small businesses are taking advantage of an affordable solution to their customer service needs: Answering services. If you’re considering using an answering service for your business, here are three tips to make sure you get the most out of the relationship.
Be Honest About Your Expectations.
You have to be aware of what you need and your budget. A small business answering service can take care of simple tasks like greeting customers and answering questions, transferring calls to the right person, recording messages, and offering call forwarding. Don’t wait until your customers need it to request more advanced services, anticipate your customer’s needs.
Also, many businesses underestimate their call volume, resulting in differing service levels. Before signing up for an answering service, ask yourself how many calls you expect to receive per day and how many staff will answer those calls. This way, you can ensure that your business has enough call coverage to handle its incoming traffic and provide a quality experience for your customers.
By being honest about your expectations, you’ll end up getting the perfect answering service for your company’s needs.
Set Clear Boundaries With Your Answering Service.
It is imperative that you clearly define what is expected of the business answering service before beginning work together. You need to set boundaries and expectations to avoid misunderstanding once work begins. For example, let’s say that you need someone to assist with customer calls during certain hours of the day and then handle more complex calls on a case-by-case basis. Before hiring a small business answering service, take some time to make sure that they understand precisely what they’ll be doing regularly, so everyone remains on the same page.
Find out if your service has limitations regarding hours of operation, days off, and holidays. If it does, make sure that these align with your requirements so that there won’t be any inconveniences when calling in or sending messages during these times.
Stay Away From a Fly-by-Night Small Business Answering Service, Look for Experienced Teams.
The next thing you’ll want to consider is experience. The best small business answering services have been around for years and understand how to manage their client’s needs. Look for teams with experience handling small businesses because they will likely understand what matters most when dealing with your outsourcing needs. If you’re only looking for a couple of operators, consider their availability and willingness to work around your schedule.
Call Experts is an international full-service, award-winning call center located in the heart of Charleston, SC. With over 35 years of industry experience, we offer a wide range of excellent customer service solutions. In addition, Call Experts provides business support services to clients across the world. We are committed to meeting the needs of our clients and providing top-quality services in our industry.
Our proprietary back-end technology system has made us one of the fastest-growing small business answering services in the country. Our staff consists of highly trained individuals who continually strive for excellence in all aspects of their job. As a result, the company takes pride in being an industry leader and growing with each client’s needs. Additionally, we have developed an extensive network of resources to assist us in maintaining a high level of commitment and performance from our staff.
Make Sure You’re Aligning Your Expectations With the Agents’ Capabilities.
It’s tempting to try and micromanage a small business answering service—to try and get them to do stuff you couldn’t do yourself. But there’s an actual cost to this approach. For example, if you ask the agent to answer all calls with “This is XYZ Company, how can I help you?” that costs time on the phone for them. It also makes it harder for customers who need more specific information than when they call in. And it means any issues with your company will be harder for customers to address directly because your agents can’t answer questions about your products or services without getting permission from a manager first. Set clear boundaries with your answering service instead.
You might want to tell them that they should answer every call with an automated greeting rather than only spend minutes when it is more extreme cases. Or maybe they should focus on certain types of calls, like phone support requests or quotes from leads.
Accepting That There Are Going to Be Hiccups.
Your small business answering service should be working with you, not for you. Unfortunately, the trouble-free operation of an answering service is impossible. There are just too many different factors working together in a business telephone system. However, you can take steps to minimize or eliminate the likelihood of problems occurring. There will be hiccups when you first start to use a small business answering service. You will get crank calls, misplaced faxes, and wrong numbers. However, it is useless to get mad and blame the answering service — it’s just part of doing business and operating in the 21st Century. Not everyone who calls your business will be a customer or client.
Regardless, someone needs to answer the phone when a patient or client calls so that you can take care of them as soon as possible. That’s where an answering service comes in. Answering services are there to answer the phone for you — 24 hours a day. So let them do that job. Keep track of everything that happens with your answering service and keep a log if you have to. The more details you can give them, the easier it is for them to find out who was calling and why they weren’t getting through. Giving that kind of information will help them fix the problem for future callers. Accepting that there will be hiccups means that you are ready to put in some extra work — both before using a service and after your service is live.