For any size company large or small, a business answering service is an invaluable investment, especially in an unstable economy.

Business answering services set you apart from competition while remaining more cost-effective than employing an in-house receptionist. Business answering service agents are available when you need them most – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – to perform a variety of tasks. Once you establish the need for a business answering service, follow this guide to select the appropriate one.

  • Check references. Treat hiring an answering service as you would a new employee. Ask for names and phone numbers of previous or current clients in your industry to hear their experience with the company. Positive feedback warrants trust in the brand.
  • Visit their website. A good business answering service will have a quality website to match. Look for awards and certifications from industry trade associations on call-handling skills. You may also find articles, testimonials, and additional resources that add to the company’s credibility.
  • Make sure the services offered match your needs. Are there extra charges for live receptionists outside of regular business hours? Are bilingual agents available, and is there a fee? These are questions you need an answer to prior to committing.
  • Examine flat rate plans closely. Always check the fine print when finding an affordable flat rate plan. Many times these plans only include very basic services, without customizable scripting or after-hours call handling. Billing may also be deceptive, charging for more time than was actually spent working (caller hold time, for example).
  • Local vs. offshore call centers. Offshore call centers often utilize agents whose English is a second language. If you prefer to connect with clients using native English speakers, this is an area you need to address.
  • Emergency backup plans. What happens in case of power failure or natural disaster, closing the facility? A business answering backup plan is necessary to grant callers a high level of customer service all of the time. Backup for all electrical systems, hardware, software, and telephony redundancies should be put in place to guarantee 100% up time.
  • Contracts. Business answering services may require contract signing at the start of service. Find out if contracts are flexible in case you need to make amends to the plan. Many companies will allow flexibility so you receive the best service.

Once you are confident that the business answering service is a good fit, you can begin benefiting from it. Organize your days and simplify the road to success!