What You Need To Know About Shopping For A Business Answering Service




With the economy not yet bouncing back, it's time to explore all the options to boost your business.That means being smart about your costs. One option you already may be considering is a business answering service. For a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time receptionist, a business answering service can handle your customer calls and schedule appointments 24/7, 365 days a year. An additional benefit is that your potential customers always can talk with someone instead of having to leave a voice-mail message. The question is, how do you pick the right business answering service?

Just as you would check the references of any employee you hire, it's good to do the same with any business answering service you are considering. Ask to be able to speak with customers in the same industry as your business.If the business answering service truly provides the level of support it claims, customers should be happy to confirm that for you.

Its also a good idea to visit the business answering services website. Look to see if the company has earned any awards from industry trade associations. These awards are based on the business answering services performance when a mystery caller from a trade association places calls. The service's agents are rated on their call-handling skills, which is a good indication of their training and proficiency.

If you are specifically looking for a business answering service to handle your calls after hours and/or on the weekends, be sure to ask if 24/7 call handling is available. You may find a service only provides call handling during regular business hours, or there is an additional fee for 24/7 availability. Some business answering services also offer multi-lingual support, which may be important if your potential customers are not comfortable speaking English.

Be careful of flat-rate plans that sound very attractive. For $29.95 a month, you get flat-rate call handling, which may not include appointment scheduling, call protocols (used to personalize how your calls are answered), after-hours call answering or emergency backup plans. Ask specific questions about how and when your calls will be handled so you know what type of service you should receive. When you don't go with a flat-rate plan, find out how the business answering service bills. Some companies begin to bill as soon as the incoming call hits their switch and continue to bill you even when a caller is put on hold. The most cost-effective plan is to pay only for "agent work time" -- the time the agent spends directly working on your account.

Some business answering services are not based in the United States but offshore in other countries. Agents for these companies often speak English as a second language and have accents, which may make them more difficult to understand over the phone.If you would prefer to have your business calls answered by native-English speakers, ask the business answering service where its call-answering center is located and if the agents are native-English speakers

It's also important to discuss the type of emergency backup plan that is in place for the company.A business answering service focused on providing customer support should have software, hardware, electrical, and telephony redundancies so your calls can be answered if a system fails. You might also want to confirm that the company digitally records all incoming calls and that the call recordings are available to you if you request them.

The last point to explore is whether or not the business answering service requires you to sign a contract. Unless you have extremely heavy call volume, you probably won't need to sign one. However, another question to ask is whether or not you can change your rate plan if you sign up for one and then find another that suits your needs better. Working with a company that offers you flexibility can help you get the best in service.

Take your time in choosing a business answering service. It pays to learn all you can about the company, the services offered, and how you are charged.Then you can make a smart decision about your business costs.

by: Judy O'Brien

About the Author:

Judy OBrien is a writer with more than 20 years experience in print and Web media working for Alert Communications to foster information about business answering services or business phone answering services. She is principal of Cobblestone Communications and provides 24/7 call center service solutions.



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