5 Criteria to Find the Right Answering Service for Your Small Business


Being a small business doesn’t mean that you can’t find big opportunities to improve things by outsourcing or forming partnerships. In fact, it’s often the small businesses that benefit most from these types of solutions, including the addition of a dedicated answering service. 

Today’s answering service is different than what most people think. The industry has evolved over the years to provide a lot more than just phone call answering and message taking. Of course, with all those new options comes the need to sort through them and figure out what best suits your needs. 

How much time in a day do you spend returning missed calls? How many calls do you miss? Do you even know what they wanted if they didn’t leave a message? As a small business owner, your day is busy enough. You can’t also be expected to field every single call that comes in. Not to mention all the calls that come in after hours or people who have questions on the weekend—if you’re always on the phone, you never have a chance to take a break and enjoy your life. 

Like anything in business, choosing an answering service comes with a few different considerations. If you’re just getting started, you might not even be aware of what your options are. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered. In the list below, we’ll go over five criteria that should be on your list if you’re going to invest in a small business answering service. 

1. 24/7 availability 

We live in a world today where people are used to things always being available. The Internet has created an instant gratification expectation among most consumers and it deserves your attention. Even if you don’t think it will make a difference, choosing an answering service with 24/7 availability is going to change the way you handle business. 

Answering services and virtual receptionists can provide service on weekends, holidays, and whenever you need them, meaning you have more time for your business, your family life, and whatever else calls your name. Having a live person answer the phone no matter when someone calls is going to make a big impression. 

2. Proficient, pleasant operators

A good answering service will also have well-trained, experienced operators who are positive, happy, and eager to help people. They should have a standardized training process in place and be familiar with at least the basics of your business so that they can help people who call, no matter what they may need. These people are acting as an extension of your business and they need to be able to act accordingly. 

Feel free to check out reviews and testimonials from other businesses or third-party reviewers to ensure that you’re getting the best provider for the job. Firsthand reviews will help you see what you can expect, while third-party reviews and ratings will give you plenty of reasons to choose (or not choose) an answering service based on what it offers and other elements, such as how well those features rate and how they compare to the competition. 

3. Flexible pricing and plans 

One of the biggest complaints that people have about answering services and other professional businesses is that they don’t have pricing readily available. And when they do, it’s limited to a few rigid plans that aren’t going to work for every need. Fortunately, more companies are now offering transparent, flexible pricing information on their website, including details about plans that are available and what you can get based on your budget. 

Even if they require a custom quote for the services that you need, they should have some kind of base pricing information or plan details that will help you get an idea of what to expect. Companies that won’t disclose pricing or that only offer “call for quote” pricing usually have something to hide. Make sure that they have plenty of plans and pricing info to help you make your decision. 

4. Customization options

Of course, it’s more than the pricing that you want to fit your budget. You also need an answering service strategy that fits the needs of your small business. Check out how much you can customize their services, whether you can select from a la carte solutions to enhance your answering service, and so forth. Totally custom solutions are the best route for small businesses who want to free up their time and get the most use out of this service. 

Having the opportunity to customize a solution will give your small business the best chance of success with a reputable answering service. Even if you just need a few tweaks to one of their packages or plans, you should be able to make those changes so that your answering service fits your business like a glove. 

5. Features 

Of course, an answering service is only as good as the features it can provide your business with. Consider the different features available and which ones would most benefit you besides just the live agents answering the phone. You might be surprised at just how much you can get from answering services and virtual receptionists today, including things like assistance with lead intake and appointment scheduling, and even payment collection solutions so that you don’t have to handle all the payments yourself. 

Take the time to explore different features from the different answering services that are out there. Compare the features to their pricing and plan options to make sure that you’re getting the best value for your money. If you don’t see critical features that you need, feel free to reach out and ask because you might have just missed it. 

For total answering solutions, partner with Smith.ai 

Smith.ai is dedicated to helping small businesses like yours get the support and assistance that they need from a team of virtual receptionists. We can provide the 24/7 answering service that you need along with support for lead intake, appointment scheduling, and even live website chat. Plus, it all comes with a custom strategy to fit your business. 

To learn more, schedule a consultation or reach out to hello@smith.ai

Business Education
Small Business

Elizabeth Lockwood is the content marketing associate at Smith.ai. She focuses specifically on writing and editing engaging articles, blog posts, and other forms of publication.

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