Conventional wisdom states you must have a medium to large size business in order to justify having an answering service. This truism arises primarily from the dated idea that those who answer the phone late are employees or are contracted to the company. While growing businesses with 50 employees or more by default really need to have a manned after-hours line, it is worth taking a look at the assumption that smaller businesses cannot afford an answering service. Of course, every industry is unique and no two companies within one industry are exactly the same. Despite this, you can still make some general inquiries into the need for and the cost of an answering service. The results might surprise you.
Small Business Is Helped Most by an Answering Service
Expanding large and medium businesses, as noted, seem to grasp the reality that having a real person answer the phone at all hours is not a luxury but a necessity. Research indicates, however, that the outfits which benefit most from a phone answering service are small businesses. Part of the dynamic has to do with the depersonalized manner in which business-to-consumer contact is initiated in the digital age. Statistically, most consumers believe their better chance of hearing back from a business when they have a question or an issue is by sending an email. Further, when a customer does call your business and gets an after-hours voicemail, only 20% of the time does that person leave a message. Unfortunately, studies reveal that many voicemails from customers linger for three days without being heard. Up to one in five customer voicemails are not responded to at all. The antidote for these ills is a virtual receptionist, an answering service that fosters an immediate connection between the customer and your business.
There Is a Difference Between a Call Center and Answering Service
Many business owners make no distinction between an answering service and a call center. A call center is a network of telephone agents that both receive and make calls primarily for marketing companies. Their work by definition is extremely high volume and impersonal. Should you ever reach the same person at the call center twice, it is strictly by chance. An answering service differs in that it is not a high-volume attempt to make sales on behalf of a number of businesses. The primary purpose of the answering service is to enable communication between a business and its customers as well as within the firm itself. This means the service often provides critical information that allows a sale or a business deal to be consummated. However, the answering service is not a pressurized sales unit, but rather a communication link.
Answering Services Can Offer Lots of Options
Another distinction between call centers and answering services has to do with options. Businesses that use call centers tend to be locked into a service that has limited flexibility in what it offers. A professionally managed phone answering service, on the other hand, offers a number of adaptable alternatives to its clients.
- Payment options. The better services may give you the option of paying for their work by the individual phone call or the length of time the customer is on the phone. Since you know how long an informational call for your business usually lasts, you will immediately know which of these options is better for you.
- Point of origin. Another plus that addresses a long-time concern of business owners is the origin point of the service. Some of the finest after-hours answering firms are based in the U.S.
- Testing the waters. Finally, before locking your company into a contract without knowing how functional the service will be, you may want to find a service that allows a brief trial period.
An Answering Service Takes Your Business Global
Speaking of being U.S based, some businesses are concerned that an answering service will not be able to deal with international calls. After all, having 24/7 live voice support automatically suggests that people from different parts of the globe can do business with you. It is important to recognize that customers who call you will expect to be conducting business in English, which is universally regarded as the international business language.