If you are a small business owner, you probably wear a lot of hats. You probably serve as your own accounting department, marketing team, maintenance man, and IT guy. However, as your business grows, you have to recognize that you cannot do it all. Identifying areas that you can delegate to free yourself up to focus on the bigger picture is an important quality in successful entrepreneurs.
One relatively simple way to reduce your workload is to let third-party answering service telephone operators cover your lines. Answering service telephone operators provide a wide range of benefits to a small businesses: from virtual receptionist services, to dispatch, to first-level tech-support, to after hours answering services. All of these tasks free you up to do more important things.
Because of the broad range of functions that an answering service telephone operator can provide and the varying level of quality that they offer, it is important to investigate the call handling services before you hire one. A great way to identify which answering service telephone operators that you want representing your business is by asking the following questions:
- How long has the telephone answering service been in business?
Finding a business that has stood the test of time is a great way to ensure that they have stable business practices, and that they will take care of your clients. Additionally, established phone answering services will have developed a reputation, whether for the good or the bad. By looking at their track record, you don’t have to take as much of a risk when hiring a phone answering service.
- How many answering service telephone representatives will be available to your clients?
Many answering services will promise to pick up the call on the first ring. However, sometimes they answer the call and then put the customer on hold. One metric that ensures your business will have proper coverage is how many representatives the call center employs. If a call center that has one-tenth of the representatives that another one has, they probably won’t have the same call coverage.
- How are prices charged for answering services?
Some answering services charge a flat rate, some charge per minute, and some charge per call. Determining which type of pricing plan is most advantageous for you depends on the most common nature of your calls. If you have frequent, short calls, paying per minute might be the best option. On the other hand if you have few, detailed calls, paying per call may be advantageous. If you are planning to use the answering service frequently, it may be best to pay a flat rate.
In many cases, small businesses find that paying per minute results in the lowest fees. However, if you decide to use a service that charges in this manner, make sure that they only include active talk time in your billing calculation. For example, if the technician transfers the call to your office, you might be charged for the time that you are talking to your own customer!
- What are your service hours?
Many call services provide 24 hour answering service. This is incredibly valuable if you want to maintain an emergency line around the clock. However, some call services charge more for calls outside of regular business hours in their own time zone. This means that you may be charged higher rates for calls that are taken during your regular business hours, if it call center is located in a different time zone. Additionally, you should ask which holidays are observed by the center, and the premium rates are charge if they are even open.
- Are the call technicians located overseas?
Using a call answering service who employs technicians offshore has its advantages; in some cases it is less expensive. However, depending on the nature of your business, there may be significant drawbacks to using an international phone service. If the subject matter that your customers are calling about is complicated, the language barrier could be a problem. If this is important to you, you should make sure to ask where the actual call centers are located before hiring a service.
Do you know of any other important questions while investigating a call answering service? Please share them in the comment section below.
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