Answering Service Frequently Asked Questions
This page contains a compilation of the most common questions we’re asked about our services by potential clients.
If you don’t see your question addressed here please contact us at 1-800-645-2616 for more information.
How do I forward my phone lines? Can you forward my phone lines for me?
There are several options that phone carriers provide for you to forward your calls to AnswerFirst. The most common is the manual call forwarding feature. Manual call forwarding requires you to select the line you want to forward and dial an access code followed by the number to which you wish to forward. Some phone companies offer Busy No Answer. Busy No Answer forwarding allows your line to ring to us if it is tied up or if it is not answered by a predetermined number of rings. Remote call forwarding allows you to forward your calls from anywhere.
Some clients use their advanced phone systems to forward their calls. Some phone systems have degradation in call quality when this format of call forwarding is used so it is a good idea to test this option before implementing. Forwarding can be an issue when using free or cut-rate internet phone service. Check with your provider to find out what your forwarding options are with regard to forwarding to an answering service.
Do I have to sign a contract for your telephone answering services?
No. Cancel any time.
Do you outsource your calls to overseas call centers?
No, we only hire Customer Service Professionals within the United States.
How quickly can I start using your services?
Most accounts are active, with messaging capability, within 1 business day. Full customization is typically completed within 1 to 2 business days from receipt of your instructions and contact lists.
Is privacy important to you will my and my client’s information be protected?
Yes, our answering service takes privacy very seriously. All employees sign a confidentiality agreement which remains in effect indefinitely. Our call center utilizes the highest data encryption and firewall technologies to insure the integrity and security of our network. We are HIPAA compliant, employing the highest standard of customer data and information protection. Clients can rest assured that information is safe and secure.
How will calls for my business reach the AnswerFirst call center?
We provide all account holders with a unique forwarding phone number. You forward your calls to that number and when the number rings at our contact center, the agent answers in your company name and follows your account instructions.
How will I get my messages?
We deliver messages via fax, email, text messaging (SMS), MiSecure Messaging Cell Phone App, alpha pager, digital pager, verbally over the phone and via the web. Select any of these options in any combination. For example, we can send a text message to your cell phone, and then you can later retrieve or review that same message on the web, and then via a summary email the next morning. Also, based on your account setup, you can have different dispatch protocols for different types of messages (i.e. emergencies sent via text message and then called to confirm receipt but all routine calls held for the next morning).
Is there a limit to how many people can receive messages?
There is no limit or additional cost for message delivery to multiple people.
Can I track or view my minutes online?
Yes. 24/7/365 in real-time.
Can I listen to calls online?
Yes. 24/7/365 in real-time.
Can I record my own greeting for customers to hear when they call?
Yes. 24/7/365 in real-time.
How often can I make changes to my script?
You can make unlimited changes to your script by contacting your Business Development Coordinator.
Can I get messages when traveling overseas?
Yes. You can access your messages 24/7/365 via our secure client web access portal.
Do you have a mobile app?
Yes. Using our mobile app, miSecure Messaging, you can manage and access your AnswerFirst account while also utilizing HIPAA and HITECH
Why do I need an answering service when I already have an office assistant?
AnswerFirst is a full-service 24/7 contact center; we are always available. We don’t take vacations, sick days or maternity leave and we are more affordable than the cost of having a full-time employee. Technically, if you have a website, you are a 24/7 business and often the best opportunities come during off times. Why miss an important call just because you or your assistant are tied up working on another task or talking on the other line? In today’s business environment, immediate customer service has become the standard.
How can I be sure that smart, friendly people will answer my calls?
Providing excellent quality starts with selecting the right Customer Service Professionals (CSPs) and offering more than competitive pay through incentives. All of our CSPs have prior experience in customer service and must go through personality testing and a rigorous training program to insure that they are familiar with our system and our clients’ accounts before they are allowed to work. Also, they are reviewed, rewarded and given guidance based on their performance each day. Our 2.1% turnover is an industry low.
How quickly do you answer my calls?
90% of all calls into our facility are answered on an average of four rings or less. The rest land in our hold queue informing the caller that an agent will be with them momentarily. One of things that separates us from other services is that we do not bill you for any time that a call is in our hold queue.
How do your CSPs know what questions I want asked and what information I require from my callers?
Every account is custom built based on your specifications, script requirements (if any) and dispatch protocols. You can adjust your account questions and dispatch protocols by contacting your Business Development Coordinator (BDC).
How do your CSPs process orders for my company?
We can connect to your database using a direct connection or by utilizing an API connection. If neither is available we can use our web interface to connect directly to your online order processing system. To speed up this process we recommend the use of a robust search feature. Also, guest checkout should be enabled and we can not always use a Paypal checkout.
Should I let you know if I forward my phone for some reason during business hours?
We answer when you forward, and any instructions can be given at that time, if desired, should they differ from the normal protocols you have in place. If you have different Holiday protocols, that information should be provided in advance.
What is the most popular service you provide?
What are your rates?
Rates vary based on usage. Our numbers indicate that most of our live CSP, basic messaging accounts cost the client an average of $7 – $12 per day, which is a small price to pay for 24/7/365 coverage.
How much do your services cost for a small to medium-sized business?
It depends on how much call volume your business generates. The average medium-sized business spends under $15 per day with AnswerFirst.
What am I billed for?
Line items on your bill will include:
- Base Rate
- Live Services
- Virtual Services (if any)
There are no surprises. You will not find any hidden fees on your invoice.
The main item will be Live Services. Emails, texts, and faxes are also billed through Live Services, which can be optionally added to your account.
Virtual Services applies to call patching, voice mail, and front-end voice greeting. Also, toll-free numbers are billed at an additional per minute rate.
Account Customization is a one-time fee* based on the complexity of the account. *Your Business Development Coordinator can provide you with a specific rate.
You can review your call volume and listen to your call recordings for quality control via our secure online customer portal (Client Web Access) at your convenience 24/7/365.
How reliable are your systems?
Our IT Department takes extraordinary measures to insure our call center stays operational. AnswerFirst utilizes multiple redundant systems, sites and procedures. The AnswerFirst infrastructure has been engineered to provide redundant networks, telephony services and Customer Service Professionals. While our physical location and management may be affected by a disaster our Contact Center has been built in such a way to avoid any major impact due to a single disaster.
Physical Equipment: Traditional telephony switching equipment is located in no less than two (2) U.S. Data Centers, located in distant geographical areas. This includes switching equipment, modems, telephony connections, etc.
Virtual Equipment: AnswerFirst data and software applications are hosted in the cloud utilizing the robust, redundant AWS (Amazon Web Services) infrastructure.
Data (ISP) Circuits: Data is provided by multiple vendors, in multiple formats. No less than two (2) redundant, high bandwidth data and SIP circuits are in place at all locations, both physical and virtual.
Customer Service Professionals (CSPs): To ensure employee redundancy AnswerFirst employs remote Customer Service Professionals working throughout the United States in multiple locations. CSPs are able to access all of the equipment mentioned above.
In short, our systems and center are very reliable, however we also understand the need to communicate about our status should something happen. In the event of an emergency we are able to quickly notify clients via e-mail or SMS through the use of our robust automated communications platform.
You may sign up to receive notifications at status.answerfirst.com.
How can I pay?
We offer three payment methods, credit card/debit billing, ACH checking, or you can apply for credit terms. Applying for terms may add an additional business day to your account set up turnaround time.
How do I sign up?
There are two choices, use the online sign-up or complete and return a written sign-up form.
To sign up online, please click here to go to our online sign-up form.
To sign up using the printed forms please ask your sales representative to forward a copy.