What is an answering service?
What is an answering service and what does it provide? Who uses an answering service? An answering service is designed to replace or supplement a traditional, in-house receptionist. An answering service can handle a company’s phone calls, appointments, and customer inquiries from a remote location.
A quality answering service negates the need for an in-house receptionist, but some businesses choose to use an answering service only for overflow or when in-house receptionists go on vacation.
Types of answering services
Live answering services
When you search for an answering service provider, make sure to concentrate your search to “live answering service” providers. This type of service ensures your callers get to speak with a friendly human being rather than an automated menu of options. Many callers refuse to engage with automated answering services and choose to either hang up or take to email. Without a live receptionist, you miss the chance to connect with your callers. That means you’ll miss out on customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Automated answering services
Automated answering services route your callers to a recorded menu of options instead of connecting them with a real, human receptionist. Think “Please press 1 for Accounts and Billing” instead of “Hi, you’ve reached Salon and Spa. This is Cindy, how may I help you?” Numerous studies have shown that callers get frustrated with automated menu trees and hang up much more often when faced with these options instead of a live receptionist.
Answering service costs
An answering service is often the first step a small business takes toward real growth. Hiring a full-time, in-house receptionist is quite an expense for a new or small company (around $35,000/year, according to PayScale). But using an answering service costs much, much less – our basic live answering plan is just $129/month.
Get basic live answering for $129/month – first month is free!
Because of the significantly lower cost, many small businesses choose to use a live answering service (also called a virtual receptionist) instead of hiring a full or part-time receptionist. Many answering service providers won’t ask you to sign a contract, meaning their services are offered on a month-to-month basis. You’ll only renew when you need to.
Answering services offer a varying amount of features, and whether or not those features are available or cost extra depends on the provider. For example, Conversational offers appointment booking and outbound appointment reminders free with any plan, but some providers charge extra for appointment booking and outbound calls and some don’t offer it at all. This is why it’s important to research a few providers and find out the details of the service each is offering before choosing an answering service.
When you settle on an answering service provider, make sure you’ve read the fine print and understand any applicable fees or charges you might incur each month. Some less reputable answering services charge hidden fees in addition to the monthly or per-minute cost. A good answering service provider will be upfront about any fees you’ll incur by using the service.
Industries that use answering services
Lots of industries and business types are a good fit for an answering service, including the following:
- Real estate
- Beauty and health
- Local services
- Small businesses
- Home businesses
Conversational also offers specialty answering services at no additional cost for certain industries. Different industries use answering services in different ways. For example, a beauty salon will use an appointment booking feature much more often than an eCommerce business will. Be sure that you’re selecting a plan that includes the features your specific industry is likely to need.
Other names for an answering service
You might hear an answering service called a few different names, but some don’t actually refer to live answering services. Auto attendants and IVR menus are automated systems, meaning your callers will be faced with a menu of options instead of being greeted by a live receptionist. To best serve your customers, you should always select a live answering service.
You might hear an answering service called any of the following terms:
- Virtual receptionist (live answering service)
- Call answering service (live answering service)
- Remote receptionist (live answering service)
- Online receptionist (live answering service)
- Auto attendant (automated answering service)
- IVR – interactive voice response (automated answering service)
What is an answering service? In short, an answering service can be the most cost-effective way to start growing your business and focusing on the big picture instead of the day-to-day. To get started with your free 30 day answering service trial with Conversational, click here or use the button below.