Telephone Answering Services

Category: Answering Services

Telephone answering services have been around for decades. Answer United, for example, is one company that has been answering other people's phone calls for over 45 years. Voicemail, even though it's essentially free, has failed to kill off the telephone answering service. There are several reasons for that. Here are some reasons for hiring an answering service that uses real humans...



Voicemail or Telephone Answering Service?

Telephone Answering Service Why hire a professional answering service for your business? There are several good reasons. First, people hate voicemail. They feel vaguely insulted to be answered by a machine, as if they aren't important enough to be greeted by a live human being. That's not the impression that a businessperson wants to give. (Inhuman corporations don't care, of course.)

Second, people have questions when they call, as often as not. It is well-known that automated speech-recognition voice response systems do not understand questions very well. Again, people hate that; they don't want to repeat themselves to a live person, let alone an infernal machine. Many a sale has been lost because questions have gone unanswered.

Third, a live person implies that you have employees and therefore are a "real" company. You must be doing well if you can pay someone to answer your calls, and people with money want to do business with other people who have money.

That said, we can define "telephone answering services" as companies that provide live human beings to answer your phone calls and customers' questions. A live person who merely states your company's name and demands, "How may I direct your call" may as well be a machine. An answering service provides answers, not questions.

A live telephone answering service costs more than an automated system but less than a full-time employee. That's because answering services get higher utilization rates from their pools of live operators. A dedicated live receptionist may sit idle for hours in between calls. But an answering service operator has multiple clients. You pay only for the time an operator spends answering your calls.

It's difficult to tell how much a telephone answering service will cost without calling for a customized quotation. It depends on your average monthly call volume; the complexity of your customers' questions and their answers; and other factors. But generally speaking, a live telephone answering service will run between $100 and $500 for a small business.

Hiring a Telephone Answering Service

You do have to be careful, when hiring an answering service, that they are able to represent you well. Ideally, they will have the savvy to know which company the inbound caller was trying to reach, and answer the phone appropriately. Callers who hear "Answering Service" instead of "Gidgets Widgets" may be put off right away. The telephone rep should always give the impression that he or she is your employee, and never say "I'm just the answering service." And of course, basic English skills are essential, whether the call center is offshore or in the USA.

How often have you called a business and heard a greeting like "Hulloo, dis is Tom. How can I be helping you today?" You know darn well the guy's name is not Tom, and that he's sitting in a cubicle somewhere in Bangalore, India. In some cases, that's fine, but most US-based companies don't want callers to know their call has been outsourced to an answering service ten thousand miles away. And since the service has to relay the name, phone number and message from the caller to you, the ability to communicate well in written English is a must.

Telephone answering services are distinct from inbound telemarketing services. The latter's operators are trained to do one thing: sell something to each caller. "I don't have that information" is the standard answer to any other question a caller may ask, even "Where is your business located?" A telephone answering service is more helpful, hospitable, and gracious – the sort of image that human-owned businesses want to project.

However, an answering service is not a specialized department with deep expertise in any aspect of your business. Don't expect a receptionist to close deals or provide technical support. An answering service's job is to make callers comfortable enough to do business with you, and make them happy to wait for you (or an appropriate employee) to call them back. If you have a business that requires a telephone presence, and you (or your staff) can't answer the phones directly, a telephone answering service will be a good investment.

Do you have something to say about telephone answering services? Post your comment or question below...


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Posted by Bob Rankin on May 20, 2010 06:12 PM


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