Answering services are valuable for many different types of businesses. When you need to be available outside of your regular office hours, an answering service may be the way to go. Here’s how an answering service works.
Answering services make it possible to call your doctor, dentist or other professionals any time of the day. This means you can get in for an emergency or get the technical support you need, when you need it. Some of the types of companies that often use answering services include:
- Local services– Local service companies often take appointments (which an answering service can usually handle) and may even have to be ready to take care of clients after regular business hours. Examples include beauty salons, barber shops, plumbers, handymen, shop owners.
- Doctors and dentists – Medical emergencies don’t always happen during office hours. Doctors and dentists often need to be on call for any type of emergency.
- Insurance and real estate – Independent and agency-based agents find answering services useful to ensure that no prospects are missed or get directed to voicemail.
- Sales professionals – As a sales professional you may need to be in meetings, and you don’t want to miss a call from a potential lead.
- Solo entrepreneurs – Instead of a receptionist, many solo entrepreneurs will choose an answering service to save money without missing calls or appearing unprofessional without a business phone number.
How an answering service works
Answering services are not a new concept. In fact, they have been around for many years. They will screen any incoming calls for you, answer basic questions, take messages, take orders, schedule appointments and even provide product support – that’s typically how an answering service works.
There are two basic types of answering services:
- Live answering service – With this type of service, a live person will always answer the phone. Ex.: “Thank you for calling (Business Name), how may I help you?”
- Automated answering service – This type of answering service uses automated greetings and call menus instead of a live receptionist. Ex.: “You’ve reached (Business Name). Press 1 for Customer Service…”
If you choose an automated answering service, be prepared to hear complaints from your customers. Menus force callers to listen for a long period of time before knowing if the option and number they’ve chosen is the right one to input. The caller might be unclear about which menu option to select for their circumstance.
It’s better to have an operator interface with your callers directly, which live answering services provide. Automated answering services are generally a little cheaper than live answering services for one reason – they don’t staff experienced, knowledgeable receptionists to answer calls for clients, but instead input a company’s information into a computer program to be recited digitally to callers. For the highest client satisfaction and to make a better impression on your customers, a live answering service is by far the best choice.
Answering service features and benefits
Using the right answering service comes with plenty of benefits. A low monthly cost, free trial, bonus features, and customization options are examples of what you should expect from a quality answering service. If a provider wants you to sign a contract right away or pay upfront for an answering service, search elsewhere.
Below are answering service features and criteria you should look for in your search:
Features to look for:
- 30 day free trial
- Free local phone number
- Appointment booking
- Appointment reminders
- Outbound calls
- General customer service
- Messages delivered to text or email
- Custom greetings for your callers
- Month-to-month service
- No cancellation fee
Low total monthly cost. A low monthly plan cost can sound tempting, but what other fees or charges will be added on at the end of the month? Ask questions about the plan you’re thinking about choosing.
- Is there a setup fee or other one-time charge?
- Will I be required to sign a contract or agreement?
- Do you offer coverage during my business hours?
- What is the total cost for the first month on X plan?
- Will a live operator be greeting my callers?
These are just a few examples of questions you might want to ask an answering service you’re considering. It’s best to avoid answering services that charge a setup fee or those that will ask you to sign a contract to use their service. In our experience, a month-to-month model with no contracts or obligation works best for small business clients.
Receptionists that care. In your search for the right answering service, you might find a few services that are priced within your range but that answer your calls without the warmth you want your callers to experience when they reach out to your business. Finding an answering service with receptionists that care isn’t a challenge – most receptionists that choose to handle calls for multiple businesses at an answering service genuinely love the job and let it show when they interact with callers.
But sometimes it’s difficult to know whether you’re looking at an answering service with top-notch receptionists that are friendly and warm or one with barely-there receptionists that are bored and fail to connect with callers. One way we recommend finding out is by phoning the answering services you’re considering. You’ll get a sense of how the receptionists there greet callers and how your own callers might be treated if you select that service. It’s a great way to “test” an answering service before signing up.
A track record of success. A good answering service will have a good reputation with no shortage of positive reviews online. Verified reviews are one way to see how an answering service works from the perspective of real, unbiased customers. ConsumerAffairs is a great place to search for unbiased, verified reviews of answering service providers. You can view more than 60 reviews of Conversational’s answering service from real customers here.
Excerpts from verified Conversational reviews:
“They’re fantastic, do exactly what they say they’re going to do, courteous, and professional. They’re very responsive if I’m making some adjustment in the day to my call time or if I want a specific person to get through when I’m screening calls. It’s a great experience and I’ve recommended Conversational to a few other people.” -Erica S.
“Conversational Receptionists handles my overflow calls and meeting scheduling. It has increased the number of clients who are scheduling consultations and coming through the door. Their team is responsive. If there is any issue and you call them, they will try to handle them right away. In terms of general instructions on a day-to-day basis, it’s easy. I send them an email and they usually respond within a few minutes.” -Randeep H.
“We turn it on when we’re slammed either in the office with a lot of appointments or meetings that day, or when there is a ton of office works that need to be completed and we don’t want to miss the calls necessarily. We like the service and have definitely benefited from it. It’s doing what it’s supposed to do.” -Susan B.
“I looked up Conversational Receptionists online. They are much better than what I have previously used because they are answering properly and the other one wasn’t. Their team has been very friendly and they’ve addressed any issues that we’ve had quickly. It has been a very pleasant experience.” -Matthew O.
A free 30 day answering service trial
Do you know how an answering service works? Now, you can narrow your search for an answering service to those that utilize live operators, offer the features you’re looking for, and are affordable enough to use. Sign up for a free 30 day answering service trial with Conversational Receptionists now and get 1,000 minutes to use over the next month. Test drive our service for a while before you decide if it’s right for you.
If you like Conversational and want to keep using our answering service, you can choose from one of our low-cost monthly plans. You won’t owe a dime for your free trial month whether you sign up or cancel. And your free local phone number is yours to keep! To sign up now and see firsthand how an answering service works, click the button below.