Many of our clients have used a telephone answering service for many years and I often hear the same story: “They are charging me an arm and a leg!”. I’ve decided to write this article to help anyone looking for an answering service and who’s unsure of what to look out for. Like any services, the industry is filled with various options and they can all very often become confusing. What seems the cheapest option at first, can end up costing your company a lot more than you budgeted for. Below are a few things to look out for when outsourcing your telephone answering services.
- PAYG call answering services: they look like the ideal solution if you’re not planning on diverting your phone lines very much. Many companies will offer PAYG answering services for as little as 80p per per call. Others will charge per minute. Beware of the minutes packages, the operator who answers your calls will always put the caller on hold (pretending to find out if you’re available) which will bump the time spent on each call and eat up your plan very quickly. Those tariffs generally are conditional to you buying a large amount of advance credit (at the cost of 100’s of pounds up front). Many companies will also charge you extra for each email sent to you and you’ll find that the “hidden costs” soon mount up.
- The tiered answering service: I refer to those as tiered since you can subscribe to a base package of so many calls a month for a monthly fee. Generally they start at 20. Most of them will also have minutes attached to them. For example, get 20 calls/ 10 minutes a month. Similar tactics are used and callers are put on hold which means your minutes will very often go before your 20 calls have been used, pushing you into the “premium” extra rates where companies will charge you per call, minute and message sent. What you thought was a simple and easy plan which you could budget for turns out to be a drain on your monthly finances.
- 24/7 services – often offered by large call centers. Many will outsource “out of hours” to third party which means you never know where your customers calls may end up and if they are being handled in the way you expect. One answering service company has recently opened offices in New Zealand to look after the “night” shift. Needless to say that the people looking after the calls during those hours have never spoken to you and are very unlikely to do so. You’re just a name which pops up on a screen and they follow the script written in front of them. In my humble opinion, not the greatest customer experience offering.
On the subject of call centers, they have their place in the business world but are probably more suited to looking after larger companies who may require a different approach to customer service.I can tell straight away if I’ve called someone and it’s been diverted to a call centre. The background is always noisy and the person answering the phone always seems a bit uncertain.
SMEs have a very different relationship with their clients. It’s a relationship which has been built often over a lengthy period of time and which needs to be nurtured. To all of a sudden change the way that relationship is handled could affect your bottom line.
Telephone answering services can be a great way to capture business you might have lost in the past but ensure that the company you employ will understand who you are as a person, the type of business you are and the value of each of your clients. We often get a response to our email messages from our clients jokingly saying that their clients thought they had just spoken to their wives. In my eyes, it means we’re doing the job we’ve been assigned to do properly which is to offer a friendly, caring and professional service!
To resume, look for a telephone answering service who will offer you an all inclusive price to avoid any surprises when the invoice lands in your inbox. Ensure that you don’t palm off your clients to call centers, a different person will answer your calls each time and customer service quality will be lost. Do your research and compare like for like, you might find hidden gems which may not have come up on p.1 of your Google searches!