Four Critical Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Answering Service

Phone answering service

As a business owner, you wear a lot of hats. You probably are your own accounting department. Receptionist. Repairman. Dispatch. Marketing army of one. You’re the guy you call when you need IT help. Your ability to keep it all chugging along like a well-oiled machine is astounding.

At some point though, you need a break. If you provide your own on-call answering services, you are literally never off-duty. Especially if the nature of your work requires after hours call service availability, this can be exhausting and lead to burnout. If we’re describing you, it might be a good idea to consider outsourcing your after hours call service to a third-party. After hours call services are scale-able, so that you will be able to find a service that meets your needs and budget, and can take a huge burden off of your shoulders.

While doing your research to find the best answering service for you business, it’s important to ask the following questions:

  • What is your pricing structure?
    Each after hours call service has its own billing practices. Finding the one that costs you the least depends on your needs. If you need a service for a high volume of calls, you might be better off with a service that charges a flat rate, regardless of how many calls they field. If you only need the answering service for overflow calls, paying by the call or by the minute rather than paying a steep fee for a service you don’t use often is your best bet.

    While considering pricing plans, make sure to ask about any additional fees you might be subject to. Some services entice you with unbelievably low prices, but add surcharges onto your bill that make them less of a great deal. The only way to get an accurate gauge of the best price is to make sure you have all of the fees you’ll be subject to included.

  • What security measure do you take?
    The answering service that you entrust with your phone lines might be handling sensitive information about your clients or your business. If there is any compromise in the handling of this sensitive information, it is your reputation that will take a beating with your clients, not that of the answering service. For this reason, the security precautions that a business answering service takes should be one of your highest considerations.

    At a minimum, you want to know that thorough background checks are taken on each phone center employee prior to being hired. Additionally, you should verify that security best practices are followed, such as using locked bins for disposal of sensitive information, and a strict policy on not allowing electronics that could be used to capture data allowed on the floor.
  • What training and monitoring do the employees who handle calls receive?

    As with the previous point, the interaction your clients have with the call answering service is a representation of your business. The customer service representatives who take calls on your behalf should be courteous and have good grammar skills. Extensive training should be provided before they take their first call to ensure they are prepared to be the voice of your business. Additionally, if the services provided by the answering service go beyond just taking messages for you, the employees need to be properly trained to represent your business knowledgeably.

    It is equally important that ongoing monitoring of the services provided for your business is provided. Some services record all calls, some randomly select calls listen to for training purposes. Either approach is effective for ensuring the quality of service provided to your remains high. In some cases, you might be able to request access to recorded calls, so that any discrepancies in information provided to clients can be identified and corrected quickly.

  • What commitment must be made?

    Since the call center has to train their employees on your business practices, it is not unusual to require a contract for a certain length of time. However, if the terms of the contract require a longer commitment than you’re ready to make, you might want to keep looking.

Do you have any recommendations for finding the best answering service? Please share your input below.

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