How to choose the right answering service
Choosing the right phone answering service for your business is critical. Unanswered phones (or calls that go through to voicemail) are not only annoying your callers, they're also costing you sales! Callers will often hang up without leaving a message and call your competitor when they can't reach you.
You need someone to be there when you’re not available—both during business hours and after hours. It's time to start turning those missed calls and hang-ups into sales leads!
What type of answering service do you need?
The most common (and least expensive) type of answering service is a messaging service. An operator answers calls in your business name, and tells the caller that you are not available. The caller then leaves a message, which is forwarded to you immediately by email and SMS. This type of service starts at around $39 a month.
With a call connection or concierge service, an operator answers calls in your business name and then transfers the call to you if you’re available to take it. If you choose not to take the call (or if the operator is unable to reach you), a message is taken and forwarded to you immediately by email and SMS. This type of service starts at around $70 a month.
A virtual receptionist service, meanwhile, can be set up to do more than just take messages and transfer calls. They can handle simple questions or book appointments for you, leaving you free to focus on other tasks. You’re charged only for time they spend on your account, so it’s cheaper than hiring a full-time receptionist.
Where is the service based?
We've all had bad experiences with overseas call centres that have poor quality phone lines and operators who don't speak English as a first language. That's not the impression you want to give to your customers!
An Australian-based service will provide good quality phone lines, and operators who speak English and are familiar with the local customs and culture. And make sure that ALL calls are answered in Australia. There are some services that answer calls here during local business hours, and then ship the answering off-shore after hours.
What hours do they operate?
One of the main purposes of having a live answering service is so that your phones get answered when you’re not available to provide callers with round-the-clock support. That means it’s essential to get a service that operates 24/7, including public holidays. You’ll receive notification of all calls as they come in, so that you can prioritise calls-backs and respond to any emergencies quickly.
What do their customers say about them?
It’s important to remember that first-time callers will be forming their first impression of your business based on the way in which your phone calls are answered. That makes it essential to choose a service that answers calls quickly and professionally, and always presents your business in the best possible light.
Ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations, and ask potential providers for customer testimonials. If possible, get a phone number for the call centre so you can ring them yourself and make sure you’re happy with the way in which they answer calls.
How flexible is the service?
Most answering services include a set number of calls in your monthly plan, and then charge extra for additional calls.
There may be times during the year when you expect to receive a larger than normal volume of calls (for example, accountants getting extra calls at tax time). That means you can save money by choosing a service that makes it easy (and free) to upgrade and downgrade plans as your business needs change.
It’s probably also worth looking for a provider that doesn't lock you in for a one or two year contract. That way, you'll be able to move if you’re not happy with the service.
What are you waiting for?
Even though more and more business is being done online these days, there are still a lot of people who want to speak to a real person—especially when they’re purchasing a service.
And when people do call, 75% of them hang up without leaving a message if their call goes through to voicemail.
Isn't it time you started investing $1 a day to convert those hang-ups into paying customers? Find out more about Alltel's Phone Answering Services.