As your company grows, managing your business while also answering the influx of incoming calls can be overwhelming.

Answering Service customer service professional answering a callInvesting in an affordable answering service ensures that you don’t miss out on any business opportunities and that you can service all your customers while also saving money.

But, choosing the right answering service can be daunting, especially if this is your first time using one.

How can you find an affordable answering service?

To choose an affordable service, you’ll need to consider several factors including pricing, features, services offered, qualifications, contract requirements and more.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

Price: How Much Will An Answering Service Cost You?

Of course, when it comes to selecting an affordable answering service, the first thing you want to consider is pricing.

As tempting as it may be, you should avoid companies with the lowest prices because they usually don’t offer high-quality services.

Also, steer clear of companies that aren’t transparent about their prices. Typically, answering services that won’t give you access to their pricing (like live rates and base rate) tend to charge more.

Make sure you look beyond just basic live answering rates and check for any hidden fees by inquiring about set-up and cancellation fees.

  • Do they charge extra for holiday coverage or coverage outside of regular business hours?
  • Are there additional charges for emailing or texting messages to you?
  • How is live answering time invoiced? Do they provide true one second billing or do they round up to the nearest minute?
  • Does the answering service include a local forwarding number at no additional charge?

What’s Your Budget For Outsourcing Phone Answering?

Once you find out how much a company charges, you’ll now have to determine whether they fit your budget. Most answering services charge per call or per minute. For example, 500 minutes or 100 calls per month.

The best way to figure out exactly how much you can expect to pay is to break down your monthly phone service bill.

  • How many calls do you get a day?
  • How many minutes would it take you to get important caller info for a callback? (Remember that the answering service will only need to get caller information and possibly transfer the call to you so they won’t be on the phone as long as you are when you’re helping a customer.)

Calculate your business’s average call volume to determine what plan you’ll need.

Also, some services offer minute packages. For example, they might offer you a 500 minute per month package. Be careful about choosing an answering service that forces you to buy packaged minutes because these services often charge overages if you use more than your allotted minutes. And, if you don’t use all of your minutes, you might end up spending significantly more per minute.

Review Answering Service Account Features & Options

You get the best bang for your buck when you work with a company that offers features that align with your business’s endeavors.

For example, it’s a good idea to have features such as 24/7 coverage, online access to your account and call recordings, call patching and flexible delivery options.

Understanding the full capabilities of the live answering service that you hire can help you determine whether they can adequately meet the needs of your business as it grows.

Identify the Features That You Need From Your New Answering Service

What services do you absolutely need from an answering service?

Do you need a 24/7 answering service? Some callers may have time-sensitive needs and don’t want to wait until regular business hours to get a live person on the phone. Do your customers need someone to answer the phone when they call your business or can callers be sent to voice mail outside of normal office hours?

Also, most services offer call patching or transfer; this is when the service answers a call for your business, vets the call and then calls you while the call is still in progress to transfer the call to you. However, different services bill call transfers in different ways and at different rates so you should ask.

Perhaps you require integration with existing CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software or marketing automation tools. In this case, you’ll want to choose an answering service that offers API integrations.

Learn About The Answering Service Staff and the Training Process

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the Customer Service Professionals answering the calls for your business.

  • Are these in-house agents, or do they work remotely? Do they have industry-specific knowledge? Is your staff able to accommodate bilingual callers?
  • Do they have customer service experience?
  • What kind of training does the staff undergo before they can take calls?

Before committing to any answering service, you need to ask these crucial questions.

Downtime Procedures & Uptime Guarantees

Whichever answering service you invest your money in, you’ll want to make sure they have procedures in place to address any problems or downtime that might occur.

  • For example, do they have a redundant infrastructure to avoid or limit downtime?
  • Do they notify customers if and when service is down?
  • Is there a Service Level Agreement with a commitment to certain uptime?

Find out what safeguards they provide and what guarantees they offer. Any downtime they experience will directly affect your business.

Does The Answering Service Require A Contract?

Some answering services might require you to sign a contract or they might require that you sign a contract if you want to get their best rates.

Test Calls: Setting up test calls will give you a better idea of what your customers can expect when they call. As a bonus, it offers a chance to ensure the customer service experience goes smoothly.

Test Specific Features: Don’t forget to explore the various features the company offers. For instance, you can check out how well their service integrates with your lead automation software or the quality of their call diversion (call transfer) services for your incoming phone calls.

What About Privacy and Security?

The conversations between your clients or patients and your business are sacred. The answering service you hire to handle these interactions should prioritize your customers’ privacy. Since your answering service will house sensitive information and transfer such data between systems, you’ll want to make sure they remain HIPAA or PCI-compliant.

Keep in mind that if you work with a live answering service that is not HIPAA or PCI compliant, you will be legally liable for privacy violations. This can result in thousands of dollars in fines, and it can even compromise the integrity of your business.

Here at AnswerFirst, we rank as one of the top-rated live answering services in the world.

We provide top-quality remote answering services to businesses across the country. Both small and midsize companies have benefited from our affordable answering service. Learn more about the additional features we offer and determine if we are a good fit for you by calling us now at 1-800-645-2616.

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