Choosing an Answering Service: Part I

Tip! An answering service can be used to process applications and schedule appointments. These tasks can also lead to more sales.

What does it take to create an amazing call center? Many businesses have tried answering services and been turned off for reasons ranging from they don’t understand my business to pricing issues to rude operators. But, the reality is, small business owners need a break from their business. Finding an efficient live operator answering service to answer calls is a priceless commodity. Throughout this article, I will highlight a few necessities business owners should look into before committing to a service.

First, and most important, test out the answering service before you commit to any contracts. Many services offer a free trial period…one word – “priceless”. The only way to know if a service will work for you is to test them out. Watch out for services that offer a trial then have long contracts you must sign. This is reminiscent of a “bait & switch tactic”. Services will answer your phones amazingly during the trial, get you to sign a long contract, and then drop the ball. Bad news is, you’re locked in to a horrible service.

Tip! Joel Meadowridge is a writer for We Answer where you can find a telephone answering service that delivers superior service for an affordable price.

This brings up the second point, watch out for long contracts. Many answering services are known to switch owners often and hire grossly incompetent operators which result in a serious disruption of quality services. The ideal answering service contract is on a month-to-month term. This forces the call center to be in the hot seat every month. If you have a problem, leave them without penalty.

Thirdly, ask for references. Make sure you get at least 3 references and make sure those references vary by industry. This will prove if the answering service is able to adequately manage calls for many industries. Don’t be shy to ask these references the questions most important to you, for instance, 1) how are their hold times, 2) how is their customer service, 3) Are there hidden charges, 4) how long have you been a customer, etc. Also, make sure you call these references after hours so you can see how they manage calls first hand for other businesses.

Tip! A telephone answering service is comprised of a group of individuals who are trained in customer service. Their job is to answer phone calls when someone else can’t.

Fourth, price is NOT paramount. More often than not, the cheaper the answering service, the worse the service is. Imagine if you have a $15.00 an hour employee compared to a $6.00 an hour employee. Who do you think will care about your calls more? Which employee is more dedicated to their job? Which employee is “job” oriented, and which one is “career” oriented? Along the same vein, it is not a bad idea to ask what the average operator gets paid.

If you are looking at a few answering services and the price is right for one but the service is more impressive with the other, go for the more expensive service. Remember, main goal of using an answering service is to expand your business. If you have an unreliable service, regardless of how much money you believe they are saving you in the short run, they are ultimately costing you thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

Todd Cardin is the regional sales manager for Specialty Answering Service’s Philadelphia office (http://www.specialtyansweringservice.net). This article may be reproduced as long as it remains intact.

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