There are many things you should consider when shopping for an answering service including reliability, service features, pricing structure, etc.  So, how do you know what topics to address during your search and how to find a service that will fit your particular business model?

How to Choose the Right Answering ServiceIn previous blogs I’ve mentioned that price is typically the first topic I am asked about when I speak with a potential new partner.  However, there are several more important items that should be addressed before discussing price because the cost of service does not matter if you discover the service is not a good fit for your needs. Also, once you learn more about the solutions a particular service can offer, you will be able to compare multiple services and their solutions based on their true values instead of just picking the lowest price point; since answering services don’t “just answer the phones” and don’t “just take messages” anymore, the lowest price point is not always the best overall value.  So, what steps should you take to find the right service for your business??

  • The first step in shopping for an answering service is to consider and identify your call types.  Please visit my previous blog post about creating a call type flow chart to help you through this initial step.
  • After you’ve created your call type flowchart, do some online research.  Visit various contact centers’ websites and compare the services they offer to the needs you’ve defined with your call type flow chart.  View their pricing structures; do they offer a plan that fits your budget?
  • Now that you’ve identified your needs and researched a few services, get ready to make a few phone calls.  Since you’re going to be trusting one of these service providers to answer your phones, you’ll probably want to talk to them on the phone first, right?
  • Next, ask questions!  I’ve provided 10 questions below that I consider to be the most important things to know about a service before choosing to work with them, but there are additional questions available on our Compare Service Before You Buy page.
10 Important Questions for Your Answering Service
  1. Does the normal rate include answering on holidays, weekends or nights?
    At AnswerFirst, our rates do not increase on holidays, weekends or nights.
  2. Does the service offer power, internet and telephone redundancy?
    At AnswerFirst, yes we do.
  3. Are all your calls answered by agents in the U.S.?
    AnswerFirst employs only U.S. agents
  4. Does the service offer all delivery methods without assessing additional fees?
    At AnswerFirst, we never charge extra for multiple delivery options.
  5. Does the service offer a HIPAA compliant mobile app that works on Apple, Android and Blackberry?
    At AnswerFirst, we offer MiSecure Messaging which is both HIPAA & HI-TECH Compliant
  6. Can the service bring your inbound e-mails into the operator queue for processing?
    Yes, we can at AnswerFirst.
  7. Does the service offer text messaging services (alpha, SMS & e-mail)?
    At AnswerFirst, yes we do.
  8. Can your data be exported in .csv format for import into your database?
    At AnswerFirst, yes it can.
  9. Does the service provide 24/7 free web access to all your account data?
    At AnswerFirst, we provide full transparency at our secure web portal, including access to all call recordings.
  10. Does the service bill in one second increments (no rounding up)?
    At AnswerFirst, yes we do.

Now that you’ve defined your needs and researched multiple providers as well as their solutions, you’re ready to make a decision.  Remember, the answering service that offers the lowest price might not be the best fit for you or your business.

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Teri Erickson

Business Development Coordinator at AnswerFirst
I hope you found this article helpful, if you have any questions you can contact me on my direct line at AnswerFirst: 813-636-3975. If I don’t provide our potential clients with top-notch customer service from day 1, then why should they trust my company to provide their clients with the same?