How To Pick The Best Small Business Answering ServiceImage Copyright: macrovector / 123RF Stock Photo
This is how to hire the best small business answering service the first time.
Ensuring you have polite, professional employees to answer customer calls is extremely important. Below are several reasons why a professional answering services can help.
- Convey a professional image
- Provide support to their staff
- Avoid hiring additional staff
- Have calls managed after hours
Even large organizations with abundant resources often struggle to hire professional and reliable staff to answer its phones. The additional expenses associated with adding full-time employees, makes using an answering service a cost-efficient choice
So, as you look to hire an answering service for your small business, consider these different areas I have outlined. If there are any others, please share. When looking to add an answering service to your small business, make sure to understand your business needs.
See How They Do Business with Referrals
As you are researching an answering service adept at understanding the needs of small business owners, ask for referrals. This is highly recommended because it will give you insight into the type of customers and calls they manage daily.
- Contact three to five referrals to get a better understanding of their business practices.
- If the company is hesitant or cannot provide you with several referrals, move on as there are other reputable companies that will.
Do They Have the Features Your Business Needs?
An answering services' features and capabilities is dependent on their resources and technology. Before you speak with a small business answering service, think of the services and features you need. This will help you focus what matters the most to your business. Additionally, answering services often have other advanced offerings, so be sure to ask about any bonus features. You might find they offer something you really need but didn't know was available. Common services provided are:
- Appointment and scheduling
- Order Taking
- Referral Service
- Customer Support
- Call Overflow Management
- Call Filtering
- Lead Qualifying
- And much more.
Most features will be included in the price. Make sure that any additional fees are explained upfront and clear how they will be billed. A quality small business answering service will typically include basic and advanced features in the price.
Choose the Right Pricing Model
Answering services usually bill their customers in one of two ways: time or by call. A "minute" is used to define a billable measure of time. Usually, this time covers any time live telephone answering operators are working on your calls. The number of minutes you are billed for, as a consumer, depend on how long an operator is on the phone with a caller. It is important to clarify with a small business answering service that bills by minute if they perform any rounding with time. If a call lasts 45 seconds, you should only pay 45 seconds, not one minute.
Being billed by call, is a flat fee for each call that is received. Every time that the system receives a call, you are billed for that connection. The issue that often occurs with this model is incorrect or false billing. This happens from poor phone connections, disconnects, and the like. So, if you choose this pricing model, be sure to get specifics on your billing to verify you are charged correctly.
Are You Part of the Family, or Just Another Customer?
If possible, get to know the small business answering service personally. Visit the location of the answering service you are considering. One of the best ways to get an idea of the service a vendor provides is observe their operational behavior. Going to the call center and meeting the employees provides an opportunity to see the company in action. Meet with the executives, listen in on live calls, and speak with agents. How they treat each other and you, as a visitor, will give you a good idea as to how they will treat your customers.
I have seen so many times that a company signs up a new account and shortly after the new account becomes a forgotten account. You should be able to talk to management whenever you like. This is an important question to ask the referrals they give you; how accessible is management to handle your needs?
Look for Online Reviews and Third Party Verification
Find out if the service you are considering has a positive rating with Better Business Bureau or other reputable associations. Companies involved in these associations usually provide better services to maintain their status with the association.
In Google, search “Company Name Review” to see what people are saying about the company. Review their social networks to get a glimpse into their business. A professional company will be highly visible and transparent on the web. If you can’t find information on your own, I’d look at a different company.
Do They Speak Your Customer’s Language?
Take into consideration your customers preferred language. For example, are most of your customers Spanish speakers? Make sure the answering service you hire has agents fluent in the language you need.
Do you have multiple languages? It is common for businesses to serve multiple languages. The small business answering service should have the capability to filter calls so your customers get an agent that speaks their language.
Do You Manage Sensitive Data?
Will you be managing or collecting sensitive data over the phone? Make sure to state whether your answering service needs to be HIPAA, etc. compliant, as there are other requirements the answering services must meet to meet those standards.
Note: A HIPAA Compliant answering service is a service that protects sensitive data as should be done per the law. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ensures that any company that deals with protected health information must ensure that all the correct data protecting procedures are followed such as making sure that all physical, network and process security measures are in place.
When Do You Need, Calls Managed?
Take into consideration the time of day that calls will need to be managed. Do you need the phones answered and customers called just during business hours, are you looking to have calls answered after hours, or are you needing 24/7 round-the-clock telephone presence? Common service levels business utilize include:
- Call Filtering – Only specific calls are forward to the answering service.
- Overflow Call Management – When call volume peaks, the system can forward the addition calls to the answering service.
- After Hours Support – At the end of your business day, you can forward your lines and the service will manage your calls.
- 24 Hour Support – If you need your calls managed around the clock, a small business answering service can help.
Get Important Details in a Report
Reporting is another factor to consider. Do you require an audit trail of everything that happened on each call and when it happened? Or maybe you require that the answering service be able to integrate with your existing software. Systems of accountability is not a factor to overlook if required for your business, so make sure to have these very important requirements filled before moving forward.
Do you have a Recommendation that could Help a Small Business Owner?
Look to align yourself with a company who asks good questions before you start and assigns a single-point-of-contact to handle your account set-up and management. A small business answering service should have multiple processes already in place for maximum efficiency, follow-up with clients in a timely manner, and have relevant experience in the areas where assistance is needed.
If you have had a positive or negative experience with a small business answering service, share it with us. Small business owners can benefit from real-world insight.
About Unicom Teleservices
For 25 years, Unicom has worked with companies large and small. To understand their processes allows us to determine how we can deliver value. With exceptional agents standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you will have the best team at your disposal, regardless of the situation. We never close.
With Unicom, simply request an answering service quote. Together we can determine if there is a good fit to manage your calls.