In the United States and Canada, there are more than 65,000 answering service providers. With so many companies to choose from, selecting the firm that is right for your company can be challenging. To help you make sure you partner with the ideal answering service, we’ve provided a list of essential items for you to inquire about during your vetting process.
What to Look for in a Telephone Answering Service
There are thousands of answering service providers out there of all shapes and sizes. When the time comes for you to find a telephone answering service, consider these things:
Month-to-Month Agreements and Per-minute Billing
Do you want to commit to a year-long contract? Is a yearly contract the most cost-efficient option for your business? Not to mention, a year is a long commitment.
The future can’t be predicted, so who knows what could happen within that time. For example, what if your business is growing faster than you expected and your call volume spikes? Will you pay the same per-minute rate for the duration of the contract?
A month-to-month agreement means you’re not stuck in a long-term contract. Your vendor adjusts your rate monthly according to usage, resulting in a more cost-efficient program to meet your company’s needs.
Additionally, you should also be aware of a vendor invoice. Do you know if they charge a flat rate, a per contact rate, or a per-minute rate? For a Telephone Answering Service (TAS) account, look for vendors that charge per minute. They should prorate your bill based on the actual time an agent was on a call or call handle time.
For example, some service providers bill in six-second increments (and they don’t round up to the next full minute). Some vendors charge you for five full minutes when your call only lasted four minutes and three seconds. Why would you want to pay for the time that you are not using? Over a month, that time and money add up.
Geography and Redundancy
Telephone answering services with a smaller footprint tend to offer lower pricing. This is a great option for businesses that don’t have a high call volume, but may not be a good fit for everyone. Below are three areas in which smaller outsourcers may have your business at a disadvantage:
Choosing a call center partner that only operates one center can be a huge disadvantage to your business. What happens if mother nature strikes and a disaster occurs that knocks out that location? Your calls don’t get answered and your customer service sufferers.
Call center service will inevitably get interrupted ─ for any number of reasons. Disasters can be catastrophic for an answering service provider and its customers if they don’t have backup provisions in place.
Partnering with a provider who operates many sites is the solution. If a center goes down, calls are re-routed to another one of their sites.
Call centers with a larger footprint often have sister sites. These sites are typically located in a different geographic location that handles your account if needed. This redundancy ensures that your calls are always answered.
Staffing tends to be the obvious but important one. Staff efficiency can tell you a lot about a call center. The more agents a call center has working, the more calls it can handle at one time. So, understaffing leads to longer wait times for your callers and a lower customer satisfaction rating for your business.
Up-to-date call center software and hardware can be the leading factor in a successful partnership. Are they a cloud-based call center? If you expect a large call volume, consider service providers who are also large enough to provide the technology to handle your program.
A comprehensive telephone answering service training program should include basic phone etiquette and program-specific training customized to your business. Instruction should include specific products and services overviews, keywords and phrase training specific to your industry, troubleshooting methods, and an overview of your company history and core values.
Also, ask what education method they utilize during their training program. Do they include classroom instruction as well as hands-on learning opportunities? What percentage of the training is hands-on and what percentage is classroom learning?
These questions are important. You want the agents handling your account to seamlessly be an extension of your business.
Monitoring and Quality Assurance
How often are agents monitored by the management staff or Quality Assurance (QA) team? Ensure calls are handled in the proper manner and that customer service scores are met. Don’t hesitate to ask for an overview of the contact center’s QA process. Does the call center use a Quality Assurance checklist to monitor agents? If they do, request a copy. The checklist should include the following metrics:
- Were the greeting and closing phrases for the call correct?
- Did the agent verify the spelling of the caller’s name?
- How was the call handled?
- Were scripting and instructions implemented properly?
Upon completion of the checklist, a coaching session should take place. Your service provider should be willing to work with you and your team to customize a QA processes to meet the needs of your program.
If you don’t think security is important, think again. According to a study, 94% of organizations have experienced at least one business-impacting cyberattack.
You want to take a look at how your prospective answering service plan protects your data. What is the company’s data security policy? Is the call center HIPAA and PCI compliant or SOC 3 certified? These are critical questions to ask so that you know your customer’s information is safe and secure.
Elevate Your Telephone Answering Service Capabilities
Doing your homework can help set up your telephone answering service partnership for success. By asking the right questions, you’ll find the one that best suits your business and your budget.
AnswerNet is a full‐service provider of inbound, outbound, automated, and business process outsourcing (BPO) call center services providing a wide range of service options to allow you to run your business, your way. Contact us today to speak with one of our representatives.