Answering services are a great solution for many kinds of businesses, from mom-and-pop shops to medical offices to large corporations. But there are quite a few distinctions you can draw between different answering services, and finding the right type will be crucial to your business’ success (and bottom line). Here are the three main types you might consider:
- Full-Service Answering Services
Full-service live telephone answering services work essentially like in-house reception and customer support teams, except outsourcing those responsibilities allows you to keep your training and labor costs low. These types of answering services are set up so that your business has a unique phone number, and any customer that calls that number will be given the impression that they’re being taken care of by your employees before being forwarded to your personal number. Answering service operators can do everything from answering questions about products to giving directions — they’ll even take messages and schedule appointments as a personal assistant usually would. This may be a particularly attractive option if you’re a home-based small business and want to project a more professional image (and avoid giving out your personal cell number).
- After Hours Answering Services
After hours answering services take calls when you’re not in the office, but don’t replace your regular office staff completely. After hours answering services are particularly popular with medical offices or similarly time-sensitive businesses for which patients or clients may be calling at all hours of the night. Keep in mind that if you’re looking for an answering service to cover a doctor’s office, you’ll want to make sure it’s HIPAA compliant.
- General Call Center Services
It’s important to distinguish between personalized answering services and more general call center services. The latter are normally larger and set up to handle a larger call volume — but a narrower range of tasks. The most common reason a business might employ a call center would be to handle customer service complaints (like the lines you call when you’re having technical trouble). You might also engage a call center on a short-term basis for a fundraising campaign or similar activity. But in general, a call center will not replace any sort of in-house reception staff.
Why are you looking into answering service? Describe your business’ needs in the comments.