Outsourcing any task in a small business can be a frightening proposition. Hiring an answering service especially so, as it is an extension of your business. After all, the first line of communication with your customers, other than in person, is through the telephone. Just as your industry has its own lingo, a business owner needs to speak the language when hiring an answering service. Understanding key terms and how to contract with an answering service can make the process more agreeable.
Some answering services will attempt to lock you into a long contract period on a plan that may not fit your needs. Also, some services bill by the call while others bill by the minute. Be aware of your expectations. How many calls do you expect to receive and how long will they be? Will you need a 24/7 answering service? Are there times of the day that your call volume is higher or lower? An understanding of your needs will greatly assist an answering service sales manager when constructing your contract.
Answering Service Glossary
There are definitely a few terms at the top of a very long list that business owners should understand when looking to work with an answering service.
“Dial 1 for customer service. Dial 2 for directions.”
An auto attendant is a “menu tree” that allows inbound callers to route themselves to the correct person through a computerized system.
Also known as an agent, telephone service representative, TSR, operator, telephone operator, telephone secretary, customer service representative, CSR, secretary or what terminology feels comfortable to the client. These are the people who will be answering your customer calls and making sure they feel their questions are answered and their issues are being heard.
Overflow is an option where calls flow to the answering service if they are unable to be answered by the client. This feature works for those times where call volume is at its highest but every call needs to be answered.
A client should receive reports of call statistics and details to understand how the answering service is benefitting your business. Unified reporting allows these reports to be generated and available through a user interface.
The complete list of terms is available in our free downloadable ebook Answering Service for Service Businesses. The ebook also includes other information on what to expect in an answering service and more questions to ask when hiring a service for your business.