Customer experience has become a key differentiator for businesses, especially when there is so much competition out there vying for your customer’s attention. Companies who understand the importance of brand image and reputation also understand how important that personal touch is.
Though all businesses are different and there is no way to determine just how many calls your business will get in a day, one thing is for sure – if those calls go unanswered, your customers will find somewhere else to do their business. In past years, the simple solution was to hire a receptionist to answer calls. Unfortunately, those days are over, and most companies hire office managers or others to take calls and manage other duties.
But what happens to calls that come in after hours? Sure, answering machines can serve a purpose, but they lose that personal touch. And many times, a human on the other end can answer a question, sending the customer on their merry way, happily satisfied. This is why answering services are growing in popularity with businesses of all sizes. However, selecting an answering service for your organization can be complicated, with so many different types available. So how do you choose the right answering service for your company?
Eight Traits of a Successful Answering Service
If you are considering hiring an answering service for your organization, check out this list of traits to help you identify the right one.
- Happy operators. One of the best ways of knowing if you are working with the right answering service is by identifying your customer’s experience with the operators. If your operators are happy and friendly, the chances are that they will demonstrate that upbeat personality to your customers as well. But this is about more than just picking up on the positive personalities of the operators. If your operators are happy, it also likely means that their employer is good to them and that they enjoy their job.
- 24/7 availability. The best answering services can provide support to your business 24 hours a day, seven days a week. After all, your customers will call when it is beneficial to them and not necessarily align with your operating hours. Many customers don’t have time during the day to put a call in. And sometimes, they just want some quick attention and can easily be satisfied with an immediate answer.
- Features. An answering service is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different businesses have different needs. Some answering service organizations can even make outbound calls on your behalf – this can be especially helpful if you need to follow-up on invoices or inform a customer that their order has arrived. Answering services can also help to book appointments for you. Provide access to your calendar and availability. Your professional answering service can take over this task, freeing you up to focus on more pressing matters while ensuring that your appointment calendar stays full. Many other services can be appealing to business owners as well, including customizable call handling, live answer, voicemail, wake-up service, personalized greetings, emergency dispatch services, and more. If you consider hiring an answering service, be sure to check in to the variety of services they have to offer.
- Message delivery. Besides answering questions for your customers, business owners often hire answering services to take messages. Customers prefer to speak to a real person vs. leaving a message on a machine, wondering if they will ever receive a callback. Successful answering services provide prompt message delivery through a variety of methods. Popular tactics for message delivery include email, text messaging, secure messaging (HIPAA compliant), digital paging, alphanumeric paging, faxing, voicemail, or any combination of the above. Many answering services will also work with you on a custom message delivery system.
- Minimal hold times. When your customer is placed on hold, or is forced to wait for ring after ring before their call is answered, that time can feel like an eternity. Just 60 seconds can feel like forever, and with each second that passes by, your customer will become more and more agitated. When looking for an answering service, be sure to find out their service-level agreement (SLA) for hold times. After all, your customer most likely wants a quick and easy answer, so why make them wait longer than necessary?
- Customer support. This is not the same as happy operators that answer calls for your customers. Customer support is all about the level of service that you, as the business owner or office manager, receive from the answering service that you hire. A good answering service company will practice what they preach and ensure that you are well supported.
- Trials. Many answering services offer free or low-cost trials so that you can assess those services. Be sure to ask about what trial services you can test out before signing on the dotted line.
- Reputation and referrals. Any successful answering service will be happy to provide you with a reference to other customers that leverage their services. Placing a call to another client is a great way to assess if the answering service is fulfilling their needs. View it as a red flag if an answering service is unwilling to introduce you to other customers.