Important Questions You Should Ask Your Telephone Answering Service

Telephone operator

Deciding to hire the services of a telephone answering service is only the first step.

It can be a daunting task after that to find one that caters to your exact needs, and at a price that suits your budget.

It’s the Goldilocks dilemma; you want the service you choose to be just right. It shouldn’t overwhelm you by having features you don’t need, or frustrate you by lacking the features you do need. The best call center solutions can easily accommodate your needs, but it is always a good idea to know the kind of questions you should be asking them.

Don’t rely on them to just tell you what kind of service you should have, for to be fair, the average call center is very unlikely to be aware of your particular needs. However, any reputable inbound call center should have the kind of customer service that works hard to keep customers happy. Here then, are some of the important questions you should be asking.

How will you charge me, and what will I actually pay for?

Pricing structures vary from service to service. Generally speaking, there are three structures that are used by the majority of call centers. The simplest to understand is being billed per call. You pay for each call the center takes on your behalf. The delivery method, getting the phone messages to you, is usually kept simple as well.

Alternatively, you may be billed for the telephone agent’s time. You will be billed per second of the time it takes the agent to answer the call, and then to carry out the necessary action, usually delivering the message to you. This structure is open to possible abuse, as agents can take longer than necessary to complete certain tasks, time you will pay for, but any reputable telephone answering service will obviously not allow this to happen.

The other pricing structure you should be aware of is being billed per unit. Under this structure you are billed for each defined action a telephone agent takes. For example, answering a call on your behalf would be considered a unit, and delivering the message to you would be another unit, and so on. In many ways this is the best pricing structure, but of course, there are pros and cons with each one.

How will you relay messages to me?

It is important to know how the incoming calls that the telephone answering service take on your behalf will be delivered to you. There are a number of possibilities, including by email, fax, SMS or telephone message. In some cases you may be able to access your calls by calling a special number, or by logging in to a dedicated web site. Usually, phone messages are relayed to you by a combination of methods, depending on each particular circumstance.

How many rings can my customers expect before an agent answers?

There’s nothing worse than an endlessly ringing telephone with no one answering. While call centers can’t always achieve their aims, most will try to answer every call after a maximum of three rings. That is short enough to satisfy the majority of customers and clients, and it represent very good efficiency on the part of the telephone answering service, if they can achieve it most of the time.

Will my customers ever be put on hold, or sent to voice mail?

The answer to this question should always be, “no”. Your customers should never be put on hold to listen to tinny-sounding music they don’t want to hear, with a patronising disembodied voice every 30 seconds telling them, “Your call is important to us. Thank you for holding”.

Being sent to voice mail is another definite no. No matter how busy a call center gets, no customer should ever end up listening to a machine asking them to leave a message after the tone. That is definitely the wrong tone to take for any reputable phone service.

Can you guarantee confidentiality at all times?

It is important that your chosen live telephone answering service always maintains strict confidentiality. You need to know that your business details are not available to anyone and everyone. Any reputable company answering your telephone calls on your behalf will respect your privacy.

Studies have shown that a good telephone answering service can increase return on investment by a factor of up to 60%. If you are currently relying on voice mail for the calls you, or your receptionist, cannot take, it is sobering to know that 65% of people who encounter voice mail won’t leave a message.

A study by AT&T reveals the surprising statistic, that when it comes to business calls, 75% of them are not completed on the first attempt. And if they have a bad experience on that first attempt, they are unlikely to try again. However, these depressing figures can be substantially improved on when you use the services of a good, reputable telephone answering service.


This has been a Guukle guest post

Cassie Lummus is an independent writer for Answering Service United. She is an expert in professional customer service.