what to look for when hiring an answering service

In the increasingly crowded operating environment that many businesses face today, there are obviously several strategies to help separate your brand from that of your competitors. Innovative product offerings, a holistic marketing and publicity strategy, and strategic hiring to construct a capable workforce are all three elemental aspects of a successful business. However, the importance and value of customer service continues to be one of the most essential attributes of every successful business. 

In fact, a recently released study titled Customers 2020: A Progress Report finds that “customer expectations are increasing as 2020 approaches. This, coupled with the fact that interactions at every stage of the journey are becoming more complex, presents a striking conundrum for today’s…firms.” 

One of the best ways for businesses in all industries and trades to improve their customer service and attention is through hiring an answering service. Answering services serve business through answering calls, making calls, and sharing relevant information on behalf of a company to their customers and clients. Below, we look at some of the potential benefits that answering services can bring to your company, and then outline what your business should look for when hiring the best answering service. 

What an Answering Service Can Bring to Your Business

Any small to medium-sized business owner or manager knows that economic resources can often be tight. One recent report finds that, depending on the specific industry, small businesses generally spend between 40 to 80 percent of their gross revenues on employee salaries and benefits. The report goes on to say that “salaries alone can account for 18 to 52 percent of your operating budget, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.” 

For businesses spending almost half of their operating budget on employee salaries and benefits, hiring a separate receptionist or customer service specialist might be financially impossible. Instead of sacrificing the quality and excellence of customer service that is essential for attracting and retaining clients, hiring a third party answering service is a strategy worth considering. 

Answering services can both answer and make calls for companies that may not have the financial resources to hire an in-house workforce to attend their volume of calls. In many cases, answering services can improve customer service while actually saving money for your company by reducing the amount of permanent or temporary employees you need to hire. The average salary for a full-time, in-house receptionist in the United States is almost $37,000, not including benefits. In comparison, the top answering services on the market such as Hartley & Associates charge as low as $65 per month, depending on your specific needs. 

A Look at the Numbers  

Answering services not only help businesses save money on their payroll, but they can also improve sales volume, customer retention rates, and drive overall company growth through enhancing customer service and attention. Consider the following customer service statistics: 

  • A 2017 American Express customer survey found that well over half of Americans cancelled a planned purchase or transaction because of bad or inefficient customer service.
  • New Voice Media reports that businesses across the United States lose upwards of $62 billion dollars each year following bad customer experiences.
  • A report by Bain & Company finds that by increasing customer retention rates by just 5 percent, businesses can increase their profits by up to 95 percent.

Answering services, then, can play an essential role in helping businesses attract, retain, and please their customers. 

Qualities and Characteristics to Prioritize when Hiring the Best Answering Service

When trying to contact a business by phone, three out of every four people believe that it takes too long to reach a live agent. While answering services can certainly speed up the process of attending to potential customers and clients, the quality of attention is also extremely important to help convert those calls into sales and increased business revenue. When hiring an answering service, it is important to consider the following criteria. 

Personalized Plans 

Every business has different needs, and the best answering services should be willing and able to construct a customized offering for your business needs. For example, while some businesses might need help attending their high volume of incoming calls, other businesses might also need help in outgoing calls to potential customers. 

The best answering services on the market should be able to offer you a customized quote for the services you demand. 

Relevant Experience in your Business Niche 

The answering service that you hire should also have provable and verifiable experience in your business niche. An answering service that specializes in working with lawyers, for example, will probably not be the best option for an HVAC company looking for an answering service that can attend midnight calls when a client´s air conditioning unexpectedly goes out. 

Furthermore, certain businesses such as doctors and dentists will require answering services to have relevant certification such as HIPAA compliance that guarantees the confidentiality of protected health information (PHI). Finding answering services that have HIPAA compliance or other relevant certifications is important and could be a legal requirement. 

24/7 Services 

Many businesses will look to hire an answering service that can attend calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The best answering services will not only be willing and able to answer midnight calls, but will efficiently screen those calls to only contact your business according to previously agreed upon protocols. This will allow you to rest assured that you or your dispatching service won’t be called upon in the middle of the night for no reason. 

Accurate Documentation and Delivery of Messages

Lastly, the best answering services on the market should also be able to reliably and accurately document and deliver the phone messages you receive. In some cases, this documentation of phone services can be automated for more efficient and professional service. 

The global coronavirus pandemic has only furthered the importance and scope that consumers are placing on customer service. Hiring a quality answering service can allow businesses to meet that demand for improved customer service while also saving you money on your payroll. Contact Hartley and Associates today at 866-918-8700 or fill out our online contact form to see how we can help you.