You’ve just finished a meeting in another part of the office when your cell phone buzzes. You look down to see a missed call from an important client. You return the call only to find yourself at the bottom of their voice mailbox. You lost another opportunity. And it’s not for lack of interest – you called back immediately!

This situation is too common, and you can solve it by hiring an answering service. Missed calls lower customer satisfaction and cost your business money. To avoid damage to their businesses, more and more companies are turning to answering service and contact center solutions. 

Answering service solutions optimize communications throughout your organization and increase productivity. Not to mention, dedicated teams are trained to understand your business and act as an extension of your organization. 

This article focuses on the basics and understanding the how, when, where, and why related to contact centers and answering services. But, most importantly, it helps to understand precisely how contact centers work and their main benefits.

What Is an Answering Service?

The concept of answering services is simple. An answering service is a telecommunication service provided by a third-party organization that handles incoming phone calls for your business. Most commonly, these services are used for after-hours phone support or when a company lacks the manpower to handle the volume of incoming calls.

An answering service can benefit small businesses that don’t have the resources to manage their customer service department. It can also help larger companies maintain 24/7 customer support without hiring additional staff.

As a business owner, you already know that missed calls cost money. However, they also negatively impact customer satisfaction and can lead to missed opportunities, which is why businesses are turning to answer services for coverage. 

Every answering service is different. Some specialize in specific industries, while others serve all businesses. Some are local, while others are global. But all answering services work in roughly the same manner. 

How Does an Answering Service Work?

So, how does it work? When someone calls your business, and you’re away from your desk or not available to take the call, it’s common for the call to end up going to voice mail. Some people don’t like leaving voice messages and might hang up without leaving you any information about their questions or concerns. An answering service ensures that this doesn’t happen by having live people handle all of your incoming calls instead of sending them to voice mail.

Let’s say a potential customer calls your office outside of regular business hours, only to receive voicemail. While voicemail is helpful, it has its limits. Answering services allow customers to speak with a live person who can provide information or even schedule an estimate. This connection goes a long way in building trust with consumers, which can help you secure new business.

When you sign up, typically, an answering service will provide you with a dedicated phone number – sometimes referred to as a vanity number – that your customers can call at any time. Then, after a pre-determined number of rings, the call gets forwarded to an answering service receptionist, who answers and responds according to your instructions. 

Once the call is transferred to an agent, they will ask you to provide information about your business, including what type of products or services you offer, how long you’ve been in business, who your target market is, and so on. 

Depending on the level of detail needed for a particular call, the receptionist may also ask for information about the caller. These details enable contact centers to represent your business better and provide a more accurate response.

Why Do Businesses Use Answering Services?

The short answer to why businesses use answering services is that it’s the best way to provide stellar customer service. In addition to having a trained and intelligent voice on the other end of the phone to answer general questions, answering services can also route calls based on need and set appointments. Hence, customers get the personal attention they need.

The primary benefit of hiring a third-party answering service is that it lets you focus more on growing your business instead of managing incoming calls. You can choose the type of calls you want the service to handle (i.e., first-level customer support, emergency requests, scheduling, or appointment reminders), as well as the specific information you want them to gather from each caller. With an answering service handling your calls, you can rest assured that no communication opportunities are missed or neglected.

Businesses don’t just use an answering service like doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who need to answer the phone after regular business hours. It can also be an affordable way for businesses to ensure they never miss a call from a potential customer, place orders correctly, and answer questions 24/7/365.

With an answering service, business owners no longer have to worry about missing calls while they are out in the field meeting with clients or taking care of their families. Instead, the answering service will provide a trained and intelligent voice on the other end of the phone to answer general questions and, based on need, route calls while also setting appointments. Hence, customers get the personal attention they need.

Answering services also provide a level of professionalism that some small businesses may not afford otherwise. Virtual receptionists are often trained in multiple industries to provide accurate information when needed. The main goal of any business is to boost customer satisfaction. Answering services and receptionists help you do this because they offer an additional level of support that is not always present when you outsource answering services.

As a business owner, you understand the value of having someone answer your phones and respond to your customers when they call. But hiring, training, and paying for staff members can become costly for your business. Answering services provide you with a professional team that’s ready to take your calls without the cost and training required when you hire staff. And by using an answering service instead of hiring more staff members, you can cut down on payroll costs.

When you use an answering service, your customers will feel more valued because they’ll talk to a live person instead of hearing a voicemail or message machine. This will allow them to feel more connected with your business. When it comes time for them to make a purchase, they’ll think of your company first! You can even use an answering service as a sales tool by having them respond with marketing messages so that when your customers call back, they’ll be interested in making a purchase or scheduling an appointment.

Finally, you can increase your visibility while gaining a competitive advantage. When your business utilizes an answering service, it can appear much larger and more professional than it may be. This helps you gain more customers and build a solid reputation in the community. Customer service is critical for businesses today. When you use an answering service, you can earn a competitive edge over your competition. Answering services give customers access to live people who can assist them with their needs.

How Is an Answering Service Different Than an Automated System?

Automated systems provide the bare-bones menu of options, directing the caller to a menu or an extension while they wait in line. Automated systems are designed to be cost-effective and straightforward but don’t provide many options for callers.

An answering service provides a live agent that can route calls to you, take messages, schedule appointments, and do more than just forward calls. Answering services can also offer automations that some call center automation have. For example, a call center can use an autodialer with live agents. This allows contact centers to make more calls without losing the value of a live agent.

Automated systems save businesses money, but they also make customers happy by providing immediate answers without waiting for an agent. Answering services offer this same benefit but with a human touch. If you’ve ever called into a call center, you may have experienced an automated system that directs you to a variety of options. For example, you push numbers and letters on your phone keypad to find the correct department or connect to an agent.

When skilled agents are on the other end of the line, they’re able to offer more personalized experiences than an automated system could offer. They’re also able to connect your customers with the right person or department within your company instead of forcing them to choose from a list of options and hope they end up in the right place.

Automated systems are great at offering quick answers and providing self-service solutions like account information. Still, they can’t handle every situation and calling your customers to need to make. Experienced answering service agents are highly trained, which is why many businesses choose to augment their automated systems with a dedicated answering service.

At Call Experts, we offer live answering services that provide 24/7 availability that an automated system can’t match. In addition, answering services are incredibly flexible; you’ll be able to customize your service plan to fit your company’s exact needs and budget. For example, perhaps you want a live agent available after hours, but you’d prefer to answer calls yourself during regular business hours. An answering service can be set up to route calls exactly how you need them. Contact us to get started on a customized, affordable contact center plan today