The way you communicate with your customers is paramount to your success. If you want to improve the quality of your business’ customer interaction, you’ll have to hire a professional, reliable answering service. Follow these tips to make sure that you hire an answering service you can depend on.
1. Understand that quality costs money.
You’ve undoubtedly seen it in several areas of your life: if you’re only willing to pay a cheap amount, you’re probably going to get cheap quality. Don’t automatically settle for the least expensive answering service – if you do, you’ll get exactly what you paid for. It can be difficult to figure out what’s cheap and what expensive when it comes to answering services because the price range is broad. In general, though, if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
2. Ask for recommendations.
Hiring an answering service may be unchartered territory for you, especially if you’re working for yourself for the first time. Ask other business owners for recommendations regarding not only which companies they’ve used, but also tips for narrowing down your options and what price range you should expect. If you talk to business owners who are in a similar industry as you are, you’ll get practical feedback.
3. Find out how prepared the provider’s employees are.
The less an answering service invests in its employees, the higher the turnover rate will be, which means you won’t be able to depend on the quality of service from day to day. Find out what type of training and career development the employees undergo. Also, ask what the average tenure is for the operators.
4. Pay attention to how many questions the provider asks you.
Answering services shouldn’t offer one-size-fits-all packages. Instead, the provider should ask you a lot of questions about your business model, what’s important to you and what your specific needs are. The services you’re offered should be customized, not cookie cutter.
5. Take the provider’s past clients into consideration.
Ask about the types of businesses the answering service has worked with in the past. You can also ask for contact information for references, but remember that if the answering service is providing the references, you’re bound to only hear rave reviews. A better way to see honest reviews is to check online for comments about the company.
6. Make sure that the provider uses up-to-date technology.
An answering service depends on electronics and should always have modern, high-tech equipment, including reliable systems for backup and disaster recovery. Find out how the company invests in technology, their methods of dispatch and the types of call reports they provide. It’s also necessary for your answering service to be able to grow your communication practices as your business evolves. Depending on the type of business you run, you may want to find out how the answering service protects sensitive information, like patient details for a doctor’s office.
7. Ask if the answering service outsources calls.
Sometimes outsourced calls are lower priority for the third party involved, which can increase wait time and decrease the level of service the customer receives. If calls are outsourced by the answering service, you’ll have to find out the quality control measures of the third party.
8. Clarify what constitutes a “call.”
Certain answering service providers will charge by the call. A “call,” though, may not be exactly what you think it is. For example, some services refer to any type of communication as a “call,” including e-mails, faxes and text messages. Also, some answering services charge extra if a call goes beyond a certain duration.
Editor’s Note: Cassie Lummus is an independent writer for Answering Service United. She specializes in helping small and medium sized businesses grow.