With so many options available to SMEs in the area of telephone answering services currently, it might seem like finding a solution to suit yours and your customer’s needs shouldn’t be that difficult at all. Unfortunately, with so many new services popping up in the digital space each and every day, it can actually be quite tricky finding an online service that checks all the boxes.
Following are some great tips for choosing an affordable telephone answering service that can meet all your needs, while giving your customers the highest level of service possible on each and every call.
Can the service center meet your current and future needs?
A business owner really has to do a lot of research into the outsourcers they do business with, in order to avoid service pitfalls. For instance, many budget telephone answering services will charge you very low rates, but their staff are nothing more than glorified answering machines – answering calls and taking messages and nothing more. Some businesses only need the barebones, others may need a more tailored package, with options to make changes as the business’s needs grow.
Aside from essential current and potential future needs like technical troubleshooting, call screening, appointment setting, upselling, and providing a dashboard for you and your staff to access call logs; there are other considerations such as call recording to consider.
Upfront pricing with built-in call volume scaling
Price should never be the one and only reason you choose one service over another. However, budget is always a concern and you want to scrutinize the pricing model carefully before looking further. Essentially, you want to do business with digital telephone answering services that don’t charge setup fees, hidden charges (buried in the terms somewhere), increased fees after hours or on holidays, or hit you with early cancellation fees if you decide to leave for whatever reason.
Prices should be scalable (or temporarily adjustable), for times when call levels occasionally increase, or as the business grows in general. Any answering service provider should be able to make the shift to handle more calls quickly, with zero downtime for your business’s calling needs, and charge a fair and competitive price relative to the increased call volumes.
How is the staff trained?
If you’re looking for someone just to answer the phone, take messages, and perhaps read FAQs to callers, training may not present much of an issue when selecting a digital answering service. If, on the other hand, you have specialized education needs such as the ability to troubleshoot equipment or other complex calls such as giving legal advice and the like, how the staff is trained and who’s doing that training is uber important.
If you know that you or another staff member needs to be involved in the training process, it’s important to look for companies that offer this as a base or add-on feature to your plan. If you require college-level skills such as accounting or marketing knowledge, you’ll want to dig deep into the company’s reputation to ensure they have a solid HR process for hiring and training their staff appropriately to your needs.
Can they manage your compliance needs?
Both your internal compliance and any legal compliance that’s required in your field. Most businesses want their calls answered and dealt with in a certain manner, for both branding purposes and to collect and protect client data. One of the easiest ways to ensure compliance, aside from proper training, is to do business with telephone answering service providers who record calls and make them available to you for regular quality reviews, and in case of a client dispute.
A good example of legal compliance would be the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that exists in the medical field. If your business is a healthcare provider such as a family doctor or specialist’s office, HIPAA is essential to ensuring your client’s calls are answered efficiently, effectively and with the utmost privacy given to their personal information. Make sure they have the documentation required to do business in your industry or you might be in for a load of headaches, sooner rather than later!
Are they flexible to the unique needs of your marketplace?
Consider what happens when a client who speaks little English calls in to your answering service. Perhaps you speak fluent Spanish and have a reputation in Spanish-speaking communities for offering service to non-English speakers? Suddenly, you outsource some or all of your call answering and now you have a literal disconnect between you and a large chunk (or all) of your customer base.
Aside from actual spoken language, your business may require those answering sales and customer service phone calls to have intimate knowledge of a certain area, or many areas such as in the real estate or travel industry. Consider that if the call center you hire can’t speak the client’s “language” you may be doing more harm than good to the business by outsourcing your telephone answering needs. Also, consider the ability to offer the most modern communication preferences such as text, email, and online chat.
Do they take data privacy seriously?
The cloud presents plenty of concerns when it comes to data privacy for you and your clients. Back in the good old days, a thief would have to be physically located where your company data was held in order to steal/copy it. Now, a poorly protected server is all a mid-level hacker needs to steal or outright destroy your data.
I mentioned HIPAA in the healthcare industry earlier, but there are so many other standards to consider depending on your industry with regard to data privacy. If your call answering service is taking payments over the phone, they’ll need to be PCI compliant at the bare minimum to ensure the integrity of payment data. There’s a lot to consider here including server locations, the number of backups made, data mining, disaster recovery plans, and the software and standards used to protect data.
What type of telephone answering service are you looking for?
It’s far better to take your time before making any final decisions. The answering service you choose will be a direct extension of your brand, making your company 100% responsible for any mistakes that might be made.