Answering Service Features and Costs Explained
Answering services are an ideal way to keep your customers connected with you, even if they can’t reach out themselves. This guide explains common answering service features and their associated cost.
They work best for companies who have busy schedules and need the help of professional voices on their behalf during those times where there might not always be someone around in person or at least available by phone.
VARYING ANSWERING SERVICE COSTS
Averaging $0.97 – $1.13 per call depending upon what kind of service is purchased; most will offer either monthly subscriptions ($35-$50) which allow clients access up to 45 minutes every day plus additional capacity as needed throughout each month.
Answering services are designed to take the headache out of communicating with customers. They help you by answering all their calls, making it easier for them and your employees to communicate effectively without having to worry about understanding what’s being said on either end because an expert will be able to represent both parties’ interests well within any situation.
It’s important to ask about all possible fees before signing up for an answering service. You should also verify the cost of any recurring or incidental charges, so be sure you know what they are in advance and don’t get stuck paying more than necessary.
OPTIONS AND FEATURES
Call centers promote a wide array of features but generally come with the standard package. These include things like automatically forwarding your messages or recording calls so you can listen later on when time permits it’s important for this reason alone to do research in order not only to find out what is offered by an answering service but also which one best suits both needs of yours and those who rely upon the most.
As a research answering service company, we recommend that you consider which features below are most important to your business. We have listed some nice-to-haves at the bottom in case they become necessary for future projects and won’t waste their time with something not needed.
ORDER PROCESSING: In the world of e-commerce, it’s helpful to have an answering service that can take care of your customers’ needs. Some services will even help them through their shopping experience and process payments so you don’t need any extra time on top of what is allocated for marketing purposes.
APPOINTMENT SETTING: One of the best ways to get in touch with your clients is by setting up appointments on a shared calendar. This way, they are always sure how much availability you have and can plan accordingly when it comes time for them to make an appointment.
HUMAN SUPPORT: You might think that an answering service is only live when it answers your phone, but there are various other ways in which they can help. One way to get information or assistance from the company would be by picking up on their website and providing what you need without having any visitors call into voice mail because of how efficient this system may work for both parties involved.
RAPID MESSAGE RESPONSE: Message-taking is a service offered by many businesses to their customers. The person on the other end of your message will receive an automated call from one or more agencies and be given information about what they need for you in just seconds.
CALL PATCH/TRANSFER SERVICES: Agents can transfer calls either on behalf of the client or if they are unable to assist.
24 HOURS SUPPORT: Commonly known as “Customer Support” makes it easier for companies to get in touch with customers. This can answer their questions and field complaints from callers, acting as an outsourced type of customer support.
SMS NOTIFICATIONS: If you need to be notified of new calls, messages or other updates then answering services are for you. You’ll receive notifications through email or text messages so that your phone doesn’t ring with unnecessary noise at the night.
LIVE CHAT: A live chat service is an excellent way to provide customers with another avenue of communication. You can use the feature on your website and it will help you interact more efficiently, all while making sure that no one goes unnoticed.
ONLINE PORTAL ACCESS: Most call centers offer their customers online portals that include account information, the ability to run reports and customize them with new features like changing call scripts or adding extra fields.
Types of Answering Service Solutions
When you need reliable, quick customer service for your business needs – answer calls with an automated answering service that will direct customers to the right person in their company. If live assistance is preferred due to its immediacy and personal touch- then look into many comprehensive solutions including operators who are trained on every type of question imaginable. Here are the types of answering service solutions:
AUTOMATED SOLUTIONS: Automated answering services are a great way to cut down on the number of phones ringing. An interactive voice response tree will direct callers who need assistance right away, while auto attendants also have simple features designed for quick answers without any hassle or delay from confused visitors looking around in confusion at what office they should be going into next.
LIVE AGENT SUPPORT: For customers who want to speak with a human being, there is a live operator service. Answering services are not usually this personable and friendly so it’s hard for them to stand out in your mind when you think “operator.”
Live operators provide an excellent alternative if quality responses from customer support aren’t possible or convenient on short notice due dates – but make sure that their appearance doesn’t give away what company they represent.
AFTER-HOURS CALL ANSWERING SERVICE: You can rely on answering services to answer every call. In the event that you receive a large number of calls, with just one touch of a button, your company’s phone line will be activated and any overflow from those who have been left waiting in suspense or silence for their turn at bat is captured by this valuable resource – they’re ready when we need them most.
24X7 CALL ANSWERING SERVICE: An answering service is an excellent way to free up internal resources and ensure your customers receive timely, helpful customer service. A 24-hour answering service can be the perfect solution for almost any business.
With all the different answering service options out there, it can be hard to know what will work for your business. We recommend partnering with an answering service under a limited agreement and seeing how things go before making any decisions about upgrading or transitioning services completely.
COMMON Q & A’S
In order to find the best answering service, ask yourself these questions: Do I understand all of their policies? What are they going to charge me for a short message or call and how much do you expect my business’s calls will be worth in terms of revenue per month if we calculate with an average price range from four dollars up – ten thousand then choose one based off that number not just guessing which could end up being more expensive than necessary.
HOW DOES THE ANSWERING SERVICE PROCESS WORK?
The answering service will be on the phone with you every step of your way. During this process, they’ll work together to capture crucial information about what is important in order to promise success. Once everything has been captured and documented by the call center (and saved under an online web portal): calls are handled just like how it was specified during onboarding or through any other contact method if available- without delay or distraction from anywhere else.
Do you want to make sure that your answering service is providing a good experience for you and the best way of doing this? They provide real-time reports through their portal. With these tools available on-demand 24/7 it will give clients insight into how quickly calls come in as well as what agents are typically handling each one depending on where their location may be located geographically speaking with an area code prefix number associated with it.
IS AN ANSWERING SERVICE RIGHT FOR YOU?
The best way to handle a high call volume is with an answering service. Hiring one will free up your internal staff and help you increase customer satisfaction by making sure that all calls get answered as quickly, efficiently, professionally & positively possible.
CAN AN ANSWERING SERVICE SUPPORT YOUR INDUSTRY?
Answering services are a great way to manage client communication with the help of answering machines. They work in any industry, including healthcare and attorneys – but you don’t need an especially niche area for this type of service.
HOW CAN YOUR SMALL BUSINESS BENEFIT FROM AN ANSWERING SERVICE?
An answering service is a great way for your company to take control of its message and be more present in the customer experience. Call screening, recording messages on behalf of clients who are busy during high volume times such as over holidays can help manage these demands while still making sure every client gets responded too promptly.
CAN A CALL CENTER SERVICE HANDLE MY CUSTOMER’S NEEDS?
A live answering service delivers reliable customer service. A quality call center solution is a goldmine for expert customer service agents who can resolve your calls in no time flat. With so many businesses opting to outsource this crucial aspect of their business, you’ll have an edge on competitors and stay ahead whether it be through long phone conversations or quick voice messages from its team.
With an answering service, you can spend less time on the phone and more of it growing your business. Outsourcing all aspects of communication to one company will free up hours each day that are otherwise wasted handling mundane tasks like email or social media management.
The best way to track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns is with data. Many answering services provide access and reporting tools that help you see who’s calling, when they called, as well as their reason for doing so- this information can be useful in devising more targeted advertising or simplifying aspects about running a business.
ANSWERING SERVICE BUYER ADVICE
When you’re looking for an answering service, one of the things to consider is their agents. You want someone who knows your business inside and out so they can help with any questions or concerns that come up in regards to what’s going on at work best suit all types of businesses from big corporations down through smaller mom & pop shops.
Your company should look for fair pricing structures that work best for your budget. Ask yourself, would paying on a per-call or per-minute basis be best for your needs if the company charges for agent time which is any minutes spent working on accounts when they’re not on phone with customers.
The answering service company’s billing system should be transparent. Consider if they round up increments and what the rounding amounts are, for example, a call center that charges second by second may only charge you for your actual time on phone calls but one charging in minutes will also include any idle seconds when calculating costs of each minute duration during which you speak with them.
ANSWERING SERVICE VS VIRTUAL RECEPTIONIST
A virtual receptionist helps connect customers to the appropriate department or employee. This is accomplished by managing your business’s appointment schedule, field client calls, and provide assistance on behalf of both yourself as well any other member in their team who may be busy aiding another caller at that moment; taking down messages for later follow-up (you can even set up email notifications), assisting people in finding what they need from our catalog–and ultimately creating relationships built around trust.
ANSWERING SERVICE VS AUTO ATTENDANT
Auto-attendants are a more cost-effective and efficient way to provide customer service. Unlike shared agents, they can route calls automatically without having an employee on the line with them every single minute of their shift; this lets you save money while still delivering a world-class experience.
Virtual receptionists are the perfect solution for answering calls on your company’s behalf. They can take messages, forward them to whichever department they need to be sent too and never miss another important call because you’re always available with a virtual assistant.
Answering services are pretty much identical, but can offer have a higher capacity and offer some more sophisticated functions. They can also generally handle after-hours or overflow calls that are not included in most virtual receptionist service packages – something worth considering when your business needs it.
UNDERSTANDING ANSWERING SERVICE PRICE STRUCTURES
Answering services are not always the answer if you want to save money. There are many hidden fees that can add up quickly, so make sure to get an estimate on what your monthly charges will be before signing anything or even giving any personal information. At the same time, we should acknowledge that often times answering services make you money because you avoid many lost opportunities from missed calls. For example, you may pay a dollar to have a call answered that results in a $3000 job. In such cases one called pays for an entire month or more of service.
MONTHLY TERMS AND FEES
Some answering services will require a contract or monthly minimum to continue service. Many offer the option for month-to-month subscriptions, but it’s important before signing on any dotted lines that you know this upfront and understand what cancellation terms may apply if something changes in your household circumstances.
TIME-BASED BILLING – BUYER BEWARE
In most cases, we think time-based billing is your best option, but you have to be aware of what those billing increments look like. In some cases, a simple 15-second phone call can be billed a full minute. That adds up to some serious cash when you start looking at 50 or even 100+ calls. When you’re looking for a phone answering service, be sure to consider how much they round up per minute. This will affect your monthly bill and may lead the type of customer who would most benefit from this option in their business or household needs.
The industry standard for answering services is to bill in 1 to 6-second increments. So a call lasting 1 minute and 1 second would be billed as a 1-minute or 1 minute and 6-second phone conversation. Some of the companies we looked into offered 15 – 30 second billing rates–the one with higher increment rounded up their charges so all conversations are precisely accurate. Obviously, your goal is to get through billing in one-second billing increments. Make no mistake, this is a very big deal. The company billing in 60 seconds increments and cellular service at $.97 a minute and still end up costing you considerably more than the company billing in one-second increments selling their service at two dollars a minute.
WATCH OUT OFFER 28 DAY BILLING CYCLES
Some scrupulous answering services will build our services and 28-day billing cycles, which ultimately ends up with you paying for an extra month’s service at the end of the year.
WHAT’S A GOOD PRICE FOR AN ANSWERING SERVICE?
This question needs to be addressed carefully. Sometimes there are features needed that will cost a little bit more than just a basic out-of-the-box answering service. For example, you may need someone to take orders and process credit cards. Perhaps you need someone to schedule appointments on an online calendar. Answering services are a must for companies who want to ensure that they’re responsive and presentable on the phone. A fair per-minute rate generally ranges from $0.88 -$1.12, but some will round up time spent on calls or charge additional fees if you go over your allotted minutes with them as well. Some call centers will bill by the call, and honestly, a fair cost per car will really be contingent upon the duration of the average phone call. So for each call lasting one minute, we would refer you back to the fair price per minute in the aforementioned sentence.
HOW DOES THE ANSWERING SERVICE ANSWER YOUR CALLS?
In most cases, you completely decide how the answering service will communicate with your customers. Usually, a script is written and followed word for word. Most calls are typically answered by saying “thank you for calling [business name], this is [agent name], how may I help you today?”
An answering service is an extension of your company, so it’s important for receptionists to be professional and speak Slowly. They should take messages including contact information in addition to brief notes on what the call was about if there are any questions or concerns while taking their message with them.
Answering services can’t go off script unless you have explicitly given permission-they must stick strictly by scripts that don’t allow room for improvisation.