Working with an answering service can help with your customer service needs.
You’ve already decided to hire one—now how do you pick who to work with?
Partnering with the wrong answering service can be disastrous for your business—you could lose clients, money, and opportunities—ultimately doing more harm than good. On the other hand, a reliable and experienced answering service can be a better answer for your business needs.
This nightmare can be avoided by asking potential companies the right questions during the interviewing and hiring process.
Here are questions to ask internally before outsourcing an answering service and what to ask potential partners before signing on the dotted line.
6 Questions to Ask When Hiring an Answering Service
Internal Questions Before Hiring an Answering Service
Before you start to vet different companies for a customer service solution, it’s important first to ask internal questions to determine the goals you want to accomplish with an answering service.
What Goal Are You Trying to Accomplish With a Virtual Answering Service?
Are you receiving an influx of calls with no one to answer the phone?
Do you need help capturing and acquiring leads?
Are you looking for after-hours help when your office staff is not there?
Figure out your goal and make sure the answering services you are considering can meet your expectations. Not all answering services are created equal; some only answer and direct phone calls. Others can schedule appointments and help with customer support.
How Much Effort Do You Want to Put Into the Relationship?
Different industries will need different levels of answering service support. Maybe you need emergency help a few times a year—or perhaps you need someone to take over every call during office hours. The service level you need will affect the amount of effort you’ll have to put in.
You may need the answering service to notate a call and forward it to a salesperson or another point of contact every once in awhile. This requires limited or no effort from you in terms of keeping things running smoothly.
On the other hand, if you work in an industry where customers typically ask many detailed questions when calling in, you’ll have to give the answering service a lot of material and scripts—you might even have to stay available to help if necessary.
Healthcare companies and service businesses (like HVAC or internet providers) will need to give more support to their outsourced team, whereas non-profits or accounting businesses can be more hands-off.
Is Your Industry Too Complex to Rely on an Answering to Answer Questions?
Typically, when hiring an answering service, you’d give them a script to go by that showcases your brand tone and provides FAQs for them to answer questions from.
This system works wonderfully for retailers, offices, and restaurants who receive an influx of calls each day asking basic questions about office hours, pricing, or scheduling an appointment. On the other hand, technical support or more intricate businesses may find it difficult to hand off their entire answering service to another company.
Hiring an answering service that can be trained or is already familiar with a business like yours is the best way to set this partnership up for success.
Questions to Ask Potential Answering Services
Now that you have established your needs and what you want to gain by hiring an answering service, you can start screening potential providers. Here are some questions to ask an answering service before moving forward with them.
What Solutions Are Included With the Answering Service?
Knowing the requirements you have and the services you need from an answering service should be discussed upfront.
Some answering services are only able to act as a receptionist who answers phones and schedules appointments. Other companies can offer solutions across the board, like taking on office manager duties, answering top-level sales calls, and notating messages into your CRM software.
When talking to potential answering service companies to partner with, find out what their services entail. Do they have enough bandwidth, experience, and resources to take on your business needs?
What Industry Experience and Training Does the Answering Service Bring?
Before hiring an answering service to be the first interaction customers have with your company, confirm that they have experience working in your industry.
For example, A Better Answer has experience helping:
- Medical practices
- Law firms and attorneys
- Small businesses
- Startup companies
If they already have a seasoned staff to support your industry, this is excellent news! They will handle the most problematic or common support calls while keeping the brunt of the incoming calls and work off of you. They will also effectively communicate with your customers, since they are familiar with the industry, can use the correct jargon, and can seamlessly integrate with your company.
If you can’t find a call center that fits your industry, ask how the employees are trained. Will they need ample information from you? Will you need to train them on your business, or does the company take on this responsibility?
A call center should always be training and re-training their employees to better cater to ever-changing customer service needs.
How Much Does the Answering Service Cost?
When hiring anyone, it’s crucial to figure out if their service fits within your budget.
Try not to opt for a one-size-fits-all package, as every company has different needs. A small business doesn’t require the same services as a corporate office.
Think about what the service will cost you now and what it will cost you in the long run. Will your bill raise incrementally if you have five hours of answering service versus five and a half hours during the week? Will the company be able to scale and grow as you do?
Also, remember that you get what you pay for. It may be in your best interest to pay a little more—if you can—to get a premium service.
Choose a Provider That Best Accommodates Your Needs
When hiring an answering service, the best plan of action is to know what you need from them, know what questions to ask, and find out how much it’ll cost.
Partnering with a call center has the potential to take your business to the next level—so go find the right one!