9 Tips to Hiring the Best Answering Service

Hiring an Answering Service Tips

Editors Note:  This article was updated on June 16, 2020, originally published on December 4, 2018, and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

According to a survey by American Express, “two-thirds of those surveyed (68%) said that a pleasant representative was a key to their recent positive service experiences, and 62 percent said that a representative’s knowledge or resourcefulness was key.” In the same survey, when issues become more complex, 63% look to a real person to solve their problem, 40% over the phone, and 23% in-person. More impressively, since 2014, customer service has improved across almost all industries. Meaning, if you are not delivering a positive experience, your competition most likely is.

How does an Answering Service help?

Partnering with an answering service provides many benefits that can allow you to deliver a positive customer experience and scale your customer service operations. It eliminates missed calls or delays in answering phones, sharing product or service knowledge, submitting support tickets, appointment scheduling, and so much more. Providing consistent and meaningful experience builds loyalty but also promotes word-of-mouth advertising and increases profitability.
Employee collapsing due to multitasking

Who needs to hire a call answering service?

First, it’s essential to know if you need a service answering inbound calls for you. Over the years, we have identified a variety of key reasons organizations hire call center services to manage their calls and other processes. If you identify yourself or your business with at least one of these, you need to hire an answering service:

1. Lack of industry knowledge

Not all employees are as knowledgeable, and if any of them answer your incoming calls, your image will be deteriorated.

2. Disorganization

Dragging workers from their jobs to answer phones is promoting disorganization and inefficiency.

3. Losing customers

Customers want to be able to reach your business 24 hours a day during the 365 days of the year. If you are not managing your customers’ expectations, they will probably seek out a competitor.

4. Increasing business costs

Businesses need to keep an eye for actions that increase costs. By outsourcing the right answering service, you won’t have to worry about hiring new employees, what kind of benefits to give them, and their training.

5. Seasonal Business

Some businesses have seasonal needs. During certain parts of the year, you may need assistance to handle spikes in call volume.

6. Casting a poor professional image

First impressions are everything. The way the first call is handled can determine if you win or lose that client. If you need a consistent professional experience for your customers, you may need to hire a service organization.

7. Failing to focus on critical tasks

Answering phone calls from customers is critical, but other tasks require their attention. Calls can keep employees from handling other important tasks for your business.

How do you choose the best answering service?

Searching for answering service near me

When you “Google” the term “answering service,” you get thousands of results claiming to be the best call centers around. Many offer a wide variety of support customer calling plans. The key is finding a service that fits your exact needs. We provide you nine tips to help you pick the right telephone answering service company.

1. Look for a company that works with similar clients.

If they’ve worked in your industry before, that’s ideal. Look for a company that handles clients inside of your industry. IT Help-Desk companies are different from a medical center.

Search for a call center that handles clients similar to your company’s size.

2. Map out functionality and calling processes

Knowing what functionality you’ll need is critical to developing an effective calling plan.

Before making your decision, you’ll need to decide what support services you need.

Next, determine the calling services the vendor candidates provide.  Some will offer more than others.

Now, input everything into an Excel spread or write everything down on a sheet of paper. Prioritize the list of services.

Compare what the vendors offer with what services you need. Eliminate any vendor that doesn’t provide the services you need.

3. Confirm items in their base charges

Having selected an approach, confirm what you get with the base charges. Many offer what looks like enticing base charges at first glance, but that changes when it comes to add-on services.

Verify the services you are paying for. Don’t pay extra for:

  • Email, text messaging, paging, and faxing – these will often double your base charge.
  • Changes to the account protocol or set up – an answering service should make its money by answering phone calls, not by establishing protocols.
  • Weekends or holidays
  • On-call schedule updates or directories – these service requirements are requisite and reasonable.

4. Compare vendor pricing models

Prices you see listed on websites are typically for simple message intake and delivery. They may exclude the protocols and functionality you require.

Once you decide on what services you want, verify answering service pricing with the vendor.

5. Industry experience is important

Does the company understand your industry?

Asking questions about industry experience can determine if they are the right fit for your company.

Some questions you should ask are:

  • How much experience does it have in your field?
  • Are agents highly trained?
  • Do they speak your industry language?
  • Are agents centrally located or remote?
  • Who are their current and past clients?

6. Importance of Call Center Location

You can make a good case hiring one based in the United States or internationally in the right circumstance. Pros and cons exist for both cases.

Sometimes, going overseas is not cost-effective.

Local phone answering services can come to your offices. Seeing your organization in action can help it understand your business and the people behind it.

7. Know where your calls go.

If the answering service manages your account at one site, it diverts calls to a different place, asking for trouble.

When your calls are diverted, it’s easy for agents to make mistakes. Even if the other site is part of the same company, you sacrifice familiarity with your account and your callers by going this route. Diverting calls encourages mistakes and delays, hurting customer service.

8. Check on what they’re doing with your data

The security of your data is critical —mainly if it includes customers’ personal information. You’re responsible for customers’ data, and can incur penalties and fines for losing that data—no matter how it’s lost.

Hackers target small and medium-sized businesses just as much as they do large companies.

A report from Trustwave, a cybersecurity consultancy, said that 90% of data breaches impact small businesses.  Data breaches can cost you more than you think.

Review their cybersecurity capabilities. Ideally, you want a company that:

  • Places a high priority on security
  • Takes your protocols and procedures seriously
  • Follows all protocol

Check out the company’s backup plans and procedures. Do they have a plan that keeps the company up and running if something untoward happens? If the call center goes down because of an emergency, so do you.

9. Confirm service availability

Verify that the service can manage calls during your required schedule.

Some services are only opened during business hours but are limited to message taking and appointment setting.

For some businesses, this type of service is sufficient.

24-hour call answering services tend to offer more robust services and flexibility. And the extended hours does not necessarily mean the cost will be higher.

Find the company that fits your exact needs to grow your business and benefit from using a live answering service.

Dos and Don´ts hiring an answering service

What you should avoid

  • No Around the clock availability – People tend to hang up their phone when they reach a machine or a voicemail. Keep your customers happy by having someone on the other end of the phone line every time.
  • Making the process overly complicated – It should be easy for your customer to get on the phone with a person. Call services should have a limited amount of options on their interface.
  • Not knowledgeable agents about your industry – If the customer gets the sense that they know more about the product than the customer support agents, they’ll hang up almost every time.

Having a poor answering service will cost your company a lot, and won’t be able to have all benefits of what an excellent answering service can provide you with.

Signs You Have a Poor Answering Service:

  • Lacks 24/7 support – 80% of incoming callers don’t leave voicemail messages.
  • Offers Limited Auxiliary Services- If your answering service only takes messages, you are missing out.
  • Has inadequate agent training- Check out its agents’ recruitments and how often they get trained.
  • Features poor performance standards – Focus on the metrics that matter to you the most (average hold time, total hold for the month, calls per operator at one time, average call duration, call quality, etc.)
  • Response time is too slow – Slow response times frustrate callers and costs companies thousands every year.
  • Fails to provide the data you need- your report must include: the total number of calls handled, call processing time, the average speed of data, date, time, call ID for callers, and total messages.
  • The average call duration is reduced – Most answering service calls take about 2 minutes. If your service is telling you that its average is under 1 minute, there’s a problem.
  • Too few reps at their centers- Few reps could mean that they are putting your calls on hold.
  • They aren’t familiar with your industry – They are not equipped to work in the same field as your business.
  • They don’t offer helpful information – Agents should be able to provide requested information such as office hours and what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Client Intake Service is Lacking- If a potential client calls, the agent should be able to do more than take a message.


Boost your company with the best answering service

A great call answering service will help you boost customer retention and proves you have excellent customer management.

Even in the digital age where answers are available at your fingertips, customers would rather seek assistance from another person. An answering service offers immediate access.

Hiring an answering service boosts your company’s reputation in many ways. When customers call, they receive real-time response from one of your representatives, and it helps you have a better reputation by giving excellent customer service, it can improve your branding and can make your business grow your customer retention by solving all of their problems.

Devin Bailey
Devin Bailey
I've been in the call center industry for over a decade. A big part of my job is educating businesses on the role telecommunications and outsourced task procedures can play for their business. Understanding their processes is critical to verify and implement the right services. When I am not in front of clients I manage the technological infrastructure in the call center.