In our increasingly competitive economy, improving customer service is by far one of the most important elements for growing and sustaining a successful business. In fact, recent research suggests that upwards of 59 percent of customers say that they have higher expectations for customer support than they had a year ago. For everyone from small startups to larger corporations, however, hiring more employees dedicated solely to customer service can cause financial strain on the company. Answering services have long been a solution for businesses of all sizes who want to improve their customer service while limiting the number of direct employee hires.
Unfortunately, consumers across the country tend to associate answering services with outsourced operations, characterized by poor reception and sometimes hard-to-understand English pronunciation. In the worst case scenario outsourced answering services might actually be driving your customers away instead of increasing sales opportunities. Local answering services, on the other hand, tend to offer improved customer service attention, and are surprisingly affordable. Below, we offer a concise description for why your business should choose local answering service over outsourced options.
Customer Demand for Efficient and Effectual Phone Attention
According to a recent study published by TalkDesk, the vast majority of consumers continue to prefer phone attention or support, despite the increasing prevalence of online forms of communication. The study found that consumers prefer the following communication channels:
- Phone support: 61 percent
- Email support: 60 percent
- Live Chat: 57 percent
- Online Knowledge Base 51 percent
- Support Automation: 34 percent
Despite the preference for phone support, other studies have reported that only about one-quarter of consumers responded positively when asked if they believe customer service centers provide great support. Almost half of consumers reported having negative customer service attention. Of course, negative customer service experiences over the phone almost always lead to lost customers and sales.
For small to medium-sized business owners, delegating a member of your team to full-time phone duty is certainly an important business expense. Hiring a part-time receptionist for your business will cost you at least $13.48 an hour (the average receptionist salary according to Indeed), while a more professional full-time secretary will probably cost you upwards of $25,880 per year. Hiring an answering service to attend to your customer phone calls not only can save you money, but also frees up time for other important tasks. The best local answering services can also help grow your customer base, thus leading to a noticeable increase in sales.
The Difference between Local Answering Services and Outsourced Answering Services
Just two decades ago, most businesses probably were outsourcing their answering services to third-world countries. Cheaper labor costs coupled with improved global communication led many companies to move their answering services overseas, and thousands of third-party call centers were established everywhere from India to, the Philippines, to Central America. Fast forward twenty years, and many of those jobs are returning to North America.
One study found that “in 2010, 35 percent of call center contacts had a significant onshore delivery presence in the U.S. Just three years later, the number had increased to 49 percent. By 2015, it had increased again to 53 percent.” Why exactly are more companies choosing to hire local answering services based out of North America?
Firstly, the difference in operating costs between local and overseas answering services has continued to decrease. Not only have operating costs for North American-based answering services become more cost competitive, but rising standards of living in foreign countries is also driving up salaries and operating costs.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, many businesses are discovering that the nominally higher costs of hiring local answering services are well worth the investment due to improved customer service attention. Language barriers are always going to be an issue, even with the best outsourced answering services. For customers who are calling to issue a complaint or grievance about your company, confronting a language barrier often leads to only further frustration.
Also, cultural barriers can also cause communication problems between your customers and outsourced phone answering services. In some cases, the people answering the phones might be making a sincere attempt to be kind and courteous. Due to cultural barriers and differences, however, your customers might perceive these differences as a rude or impolite response.
Today, many businesses are finding that any additional costs that come with hiring local answering services are well worth incurring because of the corresponding improvement in customer satisfaction. Native English speakers allow for improved communication, and this tends to directly lead to increased customer satisfaction, fewer complaints, while also lessening the amount of time customer phone calls take. For answering services that charge per minute, the shorter phone calls that come with improved communication via native English speakers might actually even save your company money.
Better Knowledge and Technology and with Local Answering Services
Local answering services will also tend to have better technology and more thorough knowledge related to your specific industry. This directly translates into better customer service for your clients. For example, the best local answering services might use customer relationship management (CRM) tools and software. This will give those answering the phone direct access to essential customer information, including their recent purchase history or interactions with your online store. Not only will this technological tool improve customer service, but it can also help in directly boosting sales.
Furthermore, overseas call centers will generally be slower in modernizing their technological infrastructure. A 2018 Call Center Industry Report published by Liveops finds that “two-thirds of (answering services) overall were ‘behind the curve’ in terms of evolving their traditional call center into a modern customer service operation.”
Lastly, local answering services will most likely have trained personnel with direct experience in your specific industry. This experience will translate into valuable interactions with your customers, and can also save you time. For example, a plumbing service that uses a local answering service will benefit from having trained phone personnel who will know how to differentiate between a true emergency and a temporary problem, thus saving you from getting a phone call in the middle of the night for a false plumbing problem.
Also, local answering services will be better equipped to receive any necessary legal requirements that certain industries might require. For example, the local answering service Hartley & Associates, has HIPAA compliance (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). This ensures that their trained personnel will respect the confidentiality and security of protected health information (PHI), thus allowing this answering service to lawfully serve the medical community.
Overall, local answering services have become increasingly cost effective in recent years, and have proven to be the best solution for improving your customer service.