What Is An Answering Service?

Sean Lund-Brown

Modern technology is revolutionizing the way that businesses handle communication. Thanks to AI and software, working alongside outsourced receptionists, customer communication is easier and more efficient than ever before. However, to make the most of this new technology, you’ve got to understand what it is and what it offers, as well as which elements will benefit your business.

An answering service is a third-party phone service that provides live answering for people calling your business when they otherwise would have reached voicemail. Even if you have someone answering calls in your office, an answering service can cover after-hours and weekends, vacation days, or times when you're on the phone already. It's a surefire way to get every single call to your business answered — every time.

Some companies also use answering services to field and route all of their incoming calls, as a way to streamline operations and reduce in-house demands.

When you partner with a live answering service, you will be able to create a solution that fits the needs of your business and keeps your communications budget in check. Of course, it’s 2021 and digital technology is taking hold, so many people don’t even think about their phone service solutions.

Are answering services still relevant?

Absolutely.

Today’s customers still want to be able to reach a company via phone. In fact, as many as 48% of consumers prefer phone contact to other means of communication, even in the modern digital age. Answering services can manage some or all of these inbound calls, and set up clients and new leads for success. Some people choose answering services that handle all of their call volume, while others may only use it to augment their own customer service efforts.

Answering services are useful for any business that wants to improve its customer service and communication, but can’t necessarily afford an in-house receptionist or dedicated staff of their own. There are so many different services available that companies can create custom solutions of all sizes.

So, maybe you’re wondering if you can really benefit from these services. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Can you field every phone call that comes into your business?
  • Do you lose momentum on other work due to distracting phone calls?
  • Are you able to catch up with voicemail messages?
  • Is the call volume at your business becoming overwhelming?
  • Do you deal with a lot of clients or customers? Are you able to handle their calls efficiently and quickly?

If any of these sound familiar, it may be time to consider taking on an answering service to expertly take care of your customer service needs.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of answering services, and then we’ll talk about the debate of in-house versus outsourced receptionists and just what answering services can do.

The benefits of an outsourced answering service

There are several benefits to be had from hiring an answering service to take care of your company’s phone service needs. Law firms, medical offices, accounting firms, real estate agencies, IT services, marketing agencies, and others can all find perks to using this type of service. Let’s take a closer look.

Dedicated professionals

62% of customers surveyed by American Express and Ebiquity reported that they had a recent positive experience that was largely influenced by the service agent’s knowledge and resourcefulness. When you choose an outsourced answering service, you get that dedicated attention on every call. It’s not that your staff can’t do the work, it’s just that third-party receptionists and answering services are specifically dedicated to this kind of work and know the best ways to interact with and resolve issues for customers.

Industry knowledge

Answering services use technology to enable receptionists to know about your business. The receptionists, skilled in all areas of communication, can also provide the answers you'd give to frequently asked questions. Is there a topic better covered in-person with you, the expert? Receptionists will never pretend to know answers — instead they'll set up a paid consultation on your calendar so you can address the issue. Consider that a lead collected and close to converting.

Increased productivity

When you have a dedicated answering service to handle your calls, your customer service will be more productive, but so will the rest of your business. The virtual receptionists will field and route calls while integrating all of the information into your digital system so that you have a record of all communications. Using their services to handle your phone calls and customer contacts will allow you to focus your efforts on improving productivity elsewhere in your operations and know that your calls are taken care of.

24/7 availability

Your customers will appreciate that your brand is available when they need you. You probably don’t have the means to actually be available 24 hours a day, and there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, that’s what professional services are for. Customers want answers in short order. They want people to be available when they have questions. In fact, lack of speed and availability is a huge customer service issue for many, with 12% of people reporting this as their main concern.

Reduced business overhead and workload

Letting someone else do the work means that you will be able to reduce your own workload, thereby reducing your operating costs. While your phone calls are fielded and streamlined by the answering service, you can reduce your operating costs and reorganize your workloads to increase efficiency in other areas. This leads to further cost savings for our business because an answering service will be a much cheaper investment than in-house support.

Seamless integration

Today’s virtual receptionists and answering services can integrate all of their work and data into your business. It’s no longer a separate function that can be hard to streamline or integrate. Everything from customer interactions to sales, changes in customer details, and other factors will all be integrated into your systems so that you can see how every contact went and keep track of how your brand is doing when it comes to phone service.

When you choose a virtual answering service, you can:

  • Capture every opportunity
  • Never miss a call or potential sale
  • Give the right impression every time
  • Create a professional contact center without in-house staff
  • Maintain momentum and focus elsewhere

In-house vs. outsourced receptionists

Several people wonder why they can’t just use their own staff to field phone calls. Some companies, as discussed, will handle some of their own calls but outsource part of their efforts. Either way, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of hiring in-house versus outsourcing.

The first and most obvious consideration is the cost savings. When you hire an answering service that uses virtual receptionists to handle your business needs, you are going to spend a lot less than you would on staffing. This helps increase productivity and customer service at the same time, and all without killing your bottom line.

In addition to controlling labor costs and increasing productivity, virtual receptionists like those offered by Smith.ai offer North America-based service. This can create a seamless transition into your business and your customers may have no idea that they aren’t actually speaking to someone from your company when they call.

Plus, virtual answering services often come with integrated technology platforms that will allow a third-party provider to record every call and customer interaction, transfer the information to your CRM, and make sure that everything is in order throughout the call.

The services that you get from these companies go well beyond just picking up the phone and taking a message. Read on to learn more about what answering services can do and why you should contact the team at Smith.ai to get your own solutions set up today.

What can an answering service do?

The better question might be, what can’t they? Virtual answering services today can function as a full extension of your customer service department, handling just as many tasks and duties as your own staff would. They could just field your overflow phone calls and take messages, or they could be fully integrated with your brand to handle all customer inquiries and contacts that come in.

You’ve already seen some of the things that this service can offer in discussing the benefits of hiring a virtual answering service. They can also provide an array of services and solutions that can be adapted to just about any business need. Some of the most common services offered by these companies include:

  • Call answering, transferring, and message taking
  • Appointment booking and scheduling sales calls
  • Taking payments for consultations or invoces
  • Sending follow-up emails and text messages
  • Customer inquiries and technical issues
  • Customer service
  • Overflow call handling
  • After-hours support
  • Temporary assistance
  • Logging call data in your existing systems

Of course, the main thing that all of this comes to is what matters most to the modern business:

Flexible, scalable, agile communication solutions.

What more could you ask for? According to your customers, not much. Let’s check out some statistics.

Customer service statistics don’t lie

If you’re still on the fence about an answering service, take a look at the numbers. People still need phone support, which is why answering services are still so popular. Here are some numbers that will remind you why you’re doing this.

  • 70% of customers say their buying experience is based on how they feel they are treated, including on phone calls.
  • 80% say that their experience with the company is just as important as the product or service offered.
  • 27% of people report “lack of speed” as a leading frustration with customer service.
  • 71% of consumers state that a quick response can improve their experience.

Of course, you have to make sure that you use answering services correctly. After all, 70% of customers report frustration from multiple transfers, while almost as many get annoyed with having to repeat themselves to multiple agents. This is where a virtual answering service with intelligent routing and warm handoffs can come in handy. The customer experience is far more important to your brand than what you’re actually selling, and that’s what you need to remember when considering an answering service.

When you utilize professional virtual answering services, you are increasing the reliability, consistency, and overall impression of your brand. In many cases, you are creating an entirely new “first contact” experience for your customers. Make sure that it’s a positive experience by investing in the right solutions and hiring the best people for the job.

And if you start to question whether you really need the services, remind yourself of the statistics above. Your audience is demanding a higher level of service — using an answering service lets you provide that without making a major investment in or overhaul of your company’s current structure and staffing situation.

And more than 90% of consumers will reward you for making those positive changes because their experience is what convinces them to return to doing business with a company.

Get started with a Smith.ai's answering service today

The team at Smith.ai has the experience that you need to create the ideal call center solution or virtual answering service. No matter what business you’re in or what kind of services you need, our dedicated team can offer live support that integrates seamlessly with your day-to-day operations and allows your team to focus their efforts on other areas of the business that require their attention.

Our virtual receptionists offer dedicated service and support, along with customized plans and integrations that can handle things like:

Our team will streamline your operations and increase efficiencies while helping you save money on hiring and training, as well as the overhead associated with in-house staff. Plus, we can do it all with the latest technology and industry best practices in mind at all times. If you’re ready to take your customer service to the next level, contact the team at Smith.ai today.

Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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