How to Choose the Best Phone Answering Service [Guide]

Phone answering services are designed to help companies of all shapes and sizes manage large call volumes.

Phone answering services have multiple applications and come with a variety of services specifically designed to take the burden of call management off of your bottom line.

There are many different phone answering services available, but only the best ones will offer you real value and a healthy return-on-investment. After all, the benefits you receive from these services need to justify the monthly costs you put into them.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to choose the best phone answering service for your company, the features offered by phone answering services, the cost of these services and more.

There are many factors to consider, some of which you might not think of right at the start. These include the purpose of phone answering services, the ways they differ from generic call centers, how specific industries and business sizes can benefit from them and more.

What Is a Phone Answering Service?

Basic phone answering services will process your phone calls and relay them (or messages) to your company. Each call is handled by a live human being, so they go beyond a simple automated answering machine.

Calls can be rerouted to you, or the service simply takes a message and lets you know. These services can take on call overflow or simply answer the phone after hours, providing 24/7 assistance to anyone who calls in.

Read below to see a full list of services offered by phone answering service providers, including features like CRM integration and employee attendance tracking.

Phone Answering Service Vs. Call Center Services

Do you know the difference between phone answering services and call center services? The two terms are often used interchangeably, likely because both rely heavily on telephone agents who gather information for their clients.

But, that’s really all they have in common. There are some key differences to note:

A “call center service” is actually a very broad term. It refers to practically any service that uses a telecommunications base to gather information from people on behalf of their clients. Their calls may be inbound or outbound, and the main purpose is to gather data, make sales, etc.

A phone answering service, however, is much more specific. Yes, it utilizes people on phones, but the purpose is primarily to handle incoming calls on behalf of the client and make sure those callers are properly served.

This may require screening out superfluous or non-urgent calls, and it may involve additional services like appointment setting or lead capture.

The main purpose, however, is to take on a volume of calls that would otherwise be outside the client’s ability to handle and ultimately increase their productivity, efficiency, and profitability.

As such, phone answering services tend to leverage a more tailored approach than simple call centers do. Instead of quickly gathering information with a predetermined set of questions, they handle callers as if they were members of your own company.

There is a level of professionalism involved that doesn’t exist with simple telemarketing or data-gathering call center services, and that’s what sets them apart.

Common Industries That Leverage Answering Services

Telephone answering services often cater to specific industries, namely those in which callers need to talk to a live human being.

Each industry has its own set of requirements and choosing an answering service that’s familiar with that industry can make a difference in the efficacy of the service. Examples include:

Medical practice phone answering

Dentists, physicians, veterinarians, and anyone else who provides professional medical care to patients likely has a need for phone answering services. When people call the office, it’s often for an emergency, and emergencies don’t always happen during office hours.

Answering services allow patients with urgent needs or questions to be helped promptly, which benefits both them and the doctor. Patients know they can rely on their doctor anytime, even outside of normal calling hours.

Click to learn more about medical practice phone answering services.

Phone answering for manufacturing companies

Not all phone answering services are explicitly for customers. In some cases, you may need one to keep track of your own employees, which is where these services come in for manufacturing companies.

When employees get sick or are otherwise unable to make it in for work, they can call a dedicated phone line to let you know that they’ll be late or absent. This gives you advance notice for when employees won’t be making it in so you can make arrangements to compensate for their absence.

In addition, employee absences can be tracked over time to assist in making decisions about shift assignments and human resources.

Click to learn more about manufacturing phone answering services.

Contractor and home services phone answering

Home services providers like roofers, remodelers, plumbers, HVAC companies, and so forth typically experience high call volumes for repairs, maintenance visits, and so forth.

If someone is having trouble with their air conditioner, for instance, they will likely be highly frustrated if they only get a machine answering their call. Odds are, they will look elsewhere, especially if it’s a hot day and they can’t go much longer without AC.

When it comes to gaining and retaining customers, home service providers find telephone answering services highly valuable. They will get more customers without needing extra phones or personnel in the office.

Click to learn more about contractor phone answering services.

Phone answering services for home health care companies

Home health care providers need to be able to respond quickly to their customers. Often, phone calls represent an urgent need, and it’s important to have someone there who is qualified to assist them.

The best phone answering service providers offer skilled personnel who can provide the kind of phone-based assistance your clients need, thereby allowing you to give them the best home care services possible.

Click to learn more about home health care phone answering services.

Phone answering services for realtors

Anyone who works in real estate knows the volume of calls one makes each day is astronomical. Calls from buyers, sellers, other agents, and everyone else realtors work with can quickly fill up a voicemail inbox if the phone is left unattended for any period of time.

Phone answering services assist realtors by handling the influx of calls and acting as their personal receptionist for a fraction of the cost of actually hiring another person.

Click to learn more about realtor phone answering services.

Phone answering services for Marketers

Any kind of marketing relies on conversions—everyone who makes contact with your company is a potential customer, so you want to do everything in your power to make sure they convert into one.

Retention of current customers is also critical. If someone calls your company with questions or concerns, you want to make sure you help them. Otherwise, it’s a lost opportunity as they look elsewhere to have their needs met.

A phone answering service assists marketers with incoming calls, thereby helping build trust and reliably converting calls into new customers.

Click to learn more about marketing phone answering services.

As stated, these are just a few of the industries that leverage phone answering services. In essence, if you have a need for an in-office secretary (or any personnel to answer the phone on a regular basis), then you could benefit from these services.

Phone answering services can fulfill a variety of purposes, as already hinted at above. Your business requirements will determine what phone answering service will benefit you the most.

Why Do Businesses Use Phone Answering Services?

Since a company’s needs will ultimately determine which answering services are best for them, let’s take a look at what those needs might be. There are many reasons why a business might be able to utilize a phone answering service.

The most common of these is scalability. It’s very easy to scale these services to the size of a business, even one that’s growing rapidly. Small businesses in particular benefit from this since one of their primary focuses is often growth.

Smaller sized companies will often require someone to handle inbound calls, but they may not have the demands of larger corporations. As they expand, the services can easily be scaled to meet their growing needs.

There is an additional benefit to small businesses: Again, these companies often focus on growth. Answering the phone is vital to that growth since more answered calls equals more customers.

However, it also costs time and money to do it in-house, whether that means hiring a dedicated receptionist or handling calls on their own. The cost-effectiveness of using phone answering services makes them highly beneficial to small business owners.

This same cost effectiveness is also a key point for medium and large businesses. The sheer volume of incoming calls they need to handle requires a great deal of attention. Often, an entire team is necessary to make sure every customer and potential customer receives the assistance they need.

Managed in-house, that is often impossible or cost-prohibitive. These companies need to focus on their specific industry in order to be successful, which means it’s less worthwhile to train and hire employees specifically to answer the phone.

The rates of telephone answering services, even if it’s on a medium to large scale, still cost far less than hiring, training, and equipping an in-house phone answering team.

This makes them far more cost-effective than alternatives and ideal for the continued success and growth of the company. It also prevents people from being turned away by automated voicemail services, which can be a deal breaker for most callers.

Common Phone Answering Service Features

Specific company sizes and industries will require different services and features. For instance, a doctor’s office will have different needs than a steel manufacturer, so the ideal phone answering service should cater to those specific needs.

Some of the services and features offered by phone answering service providers include:

Virtual receptionist services

A virtual receptionist costs less than an in-house one, and you get the benefits of having someone on hand to answer phone calls without any of the drawbacks, such as wages, underutilization, and so forth.

24/7 live answering

Live answering services are available every hour of every day, which makes sure you never have to miss an important call during the day or after hours. The lines are answered by skilled professional agents, which means no automated messages or missed opportunities.

Lead capture services

The work you go through to get people to contact you for your services is wasted if you can’t answer when they call. Professional phone answering services provide lead capture for companies to ensure they don’t miss out on important prospects.

Call overflow services

For businesses that have a much larger incoming call volume than they can handle during the day, call overflow services are massively beneficial. They allow more callers to reach a live human being and get the assistance they need rather than simply dealing with an automated machine.

Employee time and attendance tracking

Keeping track of attendance with phone answering services serves a dual purpose. First of all, it allows managers to make alternative arrangements for when someone is going to be late or absent.

Secondly, it allows businesses to track their employees’ attendance over time, allowing them to make informed decisions about personnel and productivity. By having a dedicated line for employees to call, productivity can be optimized.

CRM integration

Customer relationship management (CRM) ensures business-customer interactions allow for the best customer service possible.

Phone answering services such as a virtual receptionist can be neatly integrated into a company’s overall CRM strategy, thereby improving a customer’s experience with your company and allowing for a clean, streamlined experience for everyone involved.

Appointment setting

In addition to making sure a live person answers the phone when people call, answering services also provide appointment setting and reminder services.

These services are one more step in relieving companies of the burden of setting appointments with clients, making the service as a whole more capable of supplementing business operations.

Emergency message dispatching

Medical offices and home healthcare providers alike need to be able to respond quickly to emergencies.

Emergency message dispatching services allow them to do just that, no matter what time someone calls. If a call represents an emergency, you receive a message to the inbox, phone, or pager you are most likely to be reached at.

The service provider’s agents are instructed on what would constitute an emergency and where urgent messages should be sent.

The needs of your company will ultimately determine which of these services you will choose, but the end result is the same: increased productivity, flexibility, and growth.

Businesses are better able to focus on those items that they do best without pouring resources into phone equipment, personnel, etc.

Click to see the full list of features and services offered by Keener Communications.

Understanding Pricing And Costs Of Phone Answering Services

One item that businesses will look at when choosing a phone answering service is the pricing.

Unfortunately, going with the cheapest service will not necessarily be the most beneficial. You need to choose something that will meet your requirements and streamline your operations the best way possible.

That said, pricing will ultimately be based on the needs of the company requesting services. The largest companies who need to handle a massive call volume will require more resources to serve than smaller ones that only serve a handful of clients, and the overall cost will reflect that.

The extent of the services will also factor into the cost. A company can easily start small with the most basic services, then expand to a more comprehensive system as their needs change or as they strive to maximize the benefits.

At the end, there are more costs than just the simple monthly rate to consider. The true costs are those of missing out on new customers because no one was there to answer when they call.

By not having these services in place, you will miss a great deal of business each day, even while you’re spending revenue on paying and maintaining in-house phone personnel.

The monthly fee typically costs less than paying a receptionist, and these services will allow you to expand your business, ultimately paying for itself many times over by the end of each year.

The total cost for your phone answering services will be unique to your business. Some customers pay under $100 per billing period while other companies pay $400 or more per period.

Find out what your costs will be. Click here for a free, custom quote for your business.

Identifying A Reliable Phone Answering Service

As you assess the services offered, their costs, and the overall benefits of a phone answering service provider, it’s also important to analyze the reliability of the company itself.

You want to be absolutely certain that they’ll deliver on their promises and give you a highly dependable solution that is tailored specifically to meet your business needs.

Here are a few questions to ask about a phone answering service provider to determine if they’re reliable or not:

What is their previous work?

One item to look at is whether they have worked with a company similar to yours before. After all, experience is the best teacher, and a company that has had experience providing phone answering services in your industry will be far preferable to one that does not.

They will be deeply familiar with the nuances of your trade and its typical requirements in terms of scale, specific services, training, and so forth, and they will be prepared to meet your needs.

For instance, home hospice care providers often need someone with medical training to handle certain phone calls. A service with experience in that sector will be sure to have personnel on hand who can fulfill that role.

Do they have any notable awards or certifications?

Awards and certifications are not given lightly. Awards, being highly competitive, require top-notch services that provide the highest level of satisfaction to customers. Companies that earn awards have beat out many competitors, which means they are the very best you can find.

Earning certifications requires intense preparation and stringent adherence to the highest industry standards. A well-qualified, fully certified, and highly decorated company will provide you with the most reliable services around.

Do they have the right qualifications?

The specific qualifications of a phone answering service provider are also important. The level of training behind their agents, the types of skills they have acquired, the standards they meet in terms of technology and security are all vital to keeping their services as professional and secure as possible.

Do they have positive online reviews?

Key to any assessment of a phone answering company is to look at what their past clients have said about them. Searching for reviews and ratings of the company on Google or Facebook can give you a good idea of what you’ll be getting with their services.

In general, those who have a bad experiences with a company will be more likely to post a bad review, so if the vast majority of reviews are positive, then that’s an extremely good indicator that the service provider you’re looking at is effective and reliable.

Find The Best Phone Answering Service For Your Company

There are many factors you’ll need to consider when choosing the best phone answering service for your business. These factors include:

  • Whether it’s really a phone answering service (and not a generic call center)
  • What your industry needs in terms of phone answering services
  • Whether the service provider offers the types of services you need
  • Whether the monthly rate is worth the extra business, productivity, cost savings, etc.
  • The experience and qualifications of the company
  • What recognitions, certifications, and reviews the company has received

When looking at different phone answering service providers, consider Keener Communications. We have been in the industry for decades and have served numerous businesses during that time. For a free quote, contact us today at 804 200 5696.