5 Criteria to Find the Right Answering Service for Your Retail Store

Samir Sampat

An answering service… for a retail store? 

You might be thinking that someone got things mixed up. Retail stores don’t use answering services—do they? As a matter of fact, several retail stores have their own call centers or outsource the service to a third-party so that they can provide expert-level customer service to their audience. You usually only see it with big-name brands and major retailers like Amazon, Wal-Mart, and others, but the fact is that any retail store can benefit from having an answering service. 

Today, there are a lot of options to outsource your business communications. Call centers, answering services, virtual receptionists—it can be hard to keep up. The latter two are more similar than not, but call centers are a completely different entity. Before we get into the criteria that you’ll want to include in your search for a good answering service, let’s take a closer look at the differences between these services and which is best for your needs. 

Answering services vs. call centers

A lot of people don’t understand the difference between call centers and answering services. Some question if there are any “real” differences. The short answer is yes. Call centers are designed as larger operations that usually handle a high volume of calls. They can be internal or outsourced, but they’re generally less personal than an answering service. 

The benefit of having an answering service or team of virtual receptionists is that you will have experienced people who are able to deliver one-on-one assistance to callers without your audience feeling like they’re calling some random outsourced company that seems disconnected from your business. 

Answering services also have a lot more personalization options and unique features for your business. Plus, they’ll help continue that personal connection that you like to make with your customers to increase loyalty, so you really have a lot to gain. For simple lead intake, scheduling, question answering, and other services, an answering service is the way to go. 

When you choose an answering service, you’ll get several benefits, including a few that are also on the criteria list: around-the-clock availability, a customized answering solution, and plenty of features and services to make sure that your callers get everything that they need with ease. To find the right solution, keep the following criteria in mind. 

1. 24/7 availability

The world we live in has changed the way people shop and conduct other business. The Internet has given everyone access to an always-on society and the majority have almost come to expect it from retail stores and other businesses. Of course, you can’t man the phones 24 hours a day, which is why you should enlist the help of an answering service. That way, no matter what time or day it is, people will be able to talk to a real person who can help them, or at least reassure them that help is on the way. 

2. Easy setup 

This is a big factor. Answering services are supposed to make your job easier. If they’re difficult to setup or integrate with, that can make the entire process more stressful for everyone involved. Take the time to discuss what the setup and starting process is like when you’re consulting with a company so that you know what to expect. 

They should be able to get the new system in place and running quickly and have you back to focusing on the customers in your store and other tasks that need your attention. And if you need to scale or change things, that should be easy, too. 

3. Features and services

Every retail business will have different needs for an answering service. You might want a full-service solution or you might just want someone to pick up the phone when you can’t. In either case, you need to look at all the different features that are available and make sure that they suit your needs. Not all companies offer the same services and some may have more limited plans or fewer a la carte services, for example, so you’ll need to do your homework and find what fits. 

4. Customization

Speaking of what fits, customization is another big consideration. In addition to having the right features and services, you should also find an answering service that will allow you to customize as much of the plan as you want. From the greetings and voicemail recordings to the actual answering services themselves, you should be able to create a custom solution that works for your retail store. The good news is that with all the options available today, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a custom solution for call answering and other communications needs. 

5. Experience

Although your answering service team doesn’t need experience in your specific retail niche, they should have some experience working with retail brands in general. They’re going to be representing your store, after all, and they should be able to do so professionally and with the experience that your callers will need. 

Experience in the answering service industry is also valuable. It’s best to work with a company that has a solid reputation and that has been working in the industry for several years. They should deliver the best image on behalf of your retail store with every single call they take. 

Partner with Smith.ai for all this and more

When you want to maximize the benefits of outsourced communications, the virtual receptionists at Smith.ai have you covered. Not only do we offer 24/7 answering services, but we can assist with lead intake, appointment scheduling, overflow calls, live website chat, and even your outreach campaigns if your marketing needs a little help. 

Plus, we’ll create a custom strategy to make sure that we never miss a beat and you never miss a single opportunity. To learn more, schedule a consultation or reach out to hello@smith.ai to find out how our virtual receptionists can change your communications strategy for the better. 

Samir Sampat

Samir Sampat is a Marketing and Events Associate with Smith.ai. He has experience working with businesses of all sizes focusing on marketing, communications, and business development.

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