Answering Service Advice, Tips, and FAQ’s – The Full Buyers Guide
What is an Answering Service?
An answering service is a company that serves the role of your own receptionist or employ that manages clients over the phone. Businesses simply forward their phone lines to their partner call center so their operators can seamlessly fill the role of what an in-house employ could do. The call center fields all customer service needs and then forwards the message by text or email, and in some cases calls are transferred to a staff member according to the client’s instructions. The services generally include basic message taking, complex order taking, appointment scheduling, and help desk support. These companies often staff bilingual operators and are available to answer telephone calls 24/7 without interruption. The primary function of a business answering service is to receive and answer calls for their clients as needed and fully address a wide array of customer questions and needs, just as an in-house employee would do.
How Much Does an Answering Service Cost?
The industry average cost of an answering service is about $0.73 a call or $0.79 a minute. Depending on the amount of information needed to be collected or the type of technology needed, costs can rise to as much as $3.75 a call, and more. The number one driving factor for pricing is time, or specifically how long will you require the operator to be on the phone with your callers. Cost can be controlled by limiting the call center to taking just the name, phone number, and a general message.
What Types of Billing are Available with Answering Services?
There are three types of billing from answering service companies, each with their own benefits.
Pay By The Call: This plan allows you to pay a set fee for each call answered regardless of the length of time invested with the caller. A 30 second call will cost the exact same as a call lasting for 10 minutes, and thereby this plan is ideal for businesses expecting long talk times and collecting lots of information from callers.
Time Based Billing: As the name suggests time based billing allows you to only pay for the actual time spend on the phone with callers, which tends to be an excellent plan for businesses that have very short calls and need minimal information collected. Companies that only requires a name, number, and message will general save by selecting this type of answering service package.
Flat Rate Billing: A flat rate answering service allows for a fixed price guaranteeing unlimited calls without any increased in cost. Most providers have discontinued this type of offer do excessive loss, however, it is still available for from companies that you will permit to place your clients on hold (often for long periods of time) until an agent is available.
Do all Answering Service Providers Answer Phones 24 Hours a Day?
Currently about 90% of answering service providers answer calls 24/7/365. In about 10% of the cases call centers only answer for businesses needed support for overflow calls during normal business hours, and as such only answer call Monday thru Friday 7am – 7pm (occasionally as late as 10pm)
Who is the Best Medical Answering Service Company?
Medical answering services require secure messaging handling and in some cases HIPAA complaint solutions. The technology used for handling healthcare related calls is usually very complex and requires private services and usually an in-house IT department to build custom interfaces and firewalls. While Stericcyle ranked as the best answering mediacl answering serviec, the following companies have been proven leaders in the medical answering service field and support the bulk of call answering for hospital and doctors offices.
- Stericycle – Moyock, NC
- NotifyMD – Northbrook, IL
- Patient Calls
- MAP – Chesapeake, VA
- TeleMed Communications – Camarillo, CA
Who is the Best Attorney Answering Service Company?
The best answering service for attorneys is determined by the ability to effectively handle legal intake calls and speak the industry language. Additionally these companies are excellent are screening calls and motivating callers to schedule appointments and/or come in for consultations. Ruby Receptist generally reviews very well, but you will pay a bit more for this kind of quality, and unfortunalty you wont get 24/7 service. Here are three of top rated answeing services for attorneys.
- Ruby Receptionists – Portland, OR
- Answering Legal – Saint James, NY
- Suite 1000 – Charlotte, NC
Which Answering Service Company is the Cheapest?
The answering service companies with the cheapest rates offer services for as little as $0.69 per minute. It should be noted that when prices are far less than the industry average, may be required to accept an inferior service. This includes excessively long hold times, agents speaking broken English, and billing practices that may be questionable. The below reputable companies are noted for some of the cheapest pricing coupled with quality services and may be a good fit for some businesses.
- AnswerNET ($49.95 per month, 50 minutes, $1/minute overages)
- TelAssist ($75 per month, 70 minutes, $0.92/ minute overages)
- AnswerConnect ($99 per month, 100 Minutes)
- Customer Contact Services ($29 per month, 20 Minutes, $0.98/minute overages)
- Answer1 Communications ($61 per month, 50 minutes, $1.03/minute overages)
How Do I forward My Business Phones to a PhoneAnswering Service?
Forwarding your phone lines is usually done simply by pressing a few buttons on your phone. Pressing *72 activates call forwarding. So, if you wanted for forward your phone calls to 555-555-555 you would first activate the feature, then enter the number you wish to forward incoming calls to. Example: Dial *72 (wait for the tone), then dial 555-555-5555, and once the phone rings once you can hang up and all incoming call are now being forwarded. Disable call forwarding by dialing *73. If you don’t hear the tone after dialing *72 you don’t have this feature activated for the process is different with your carrier. If that’s the case call your carrier for instructions.
Do I need Equipment Installed to use an Answering Service?
There is no hardware needed to use an answering service. Simple forward your phone lines to the call center and you’re edone.
What Should I Look For in a LiveAnswering Service?
Like any business there’s fine print issues when looking for an answering service. Here are the basics tof what to look for.
28 day Billing: 28 day billing cycles is a common practice in the answering service industry. This process causes you to have 1 extra bill each year.
Unneeded Features: Why pay top dollar for technology when all you need as basic messaging services? Some answering services are set up for costly things like complex order taking processes and software integration and there’s no point in paying for a high end service if all you require is standard customer support, which general means taking the callers name and message.
24 Hour Service: About 10% of call centers do not remain open 24/7. If your business requires call to be answered after hours (such as a plumber or personal injury attorney) make sure the service offers this service.
Bilingual Speaking Agents: In areas like Florida and California small businesses have many Hispanic clients and need a bilingual answering service that speaks Spanish. Most answering services do not offer Spanish speaking services, but here’s a few that do:
- Answer United
Try it Before you Buy it: From terrible sounding and/or rude agents to horrifically long hold times you never know what you’re getting from an answering service until you get started. The good news is the vast majority of call centers offer free trials with no obligation or credit care required. We can’t emphasis enough the importance to taking them up on this free trial offer. You may save yourself a huge headache.
Do Answering Service companies Languages other than English or Spanish?
It very rare to find an answering service that speak Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese etc. But here are a few that do:
- LiveSalesman – Korean Answering Service
- Magellan Solutions – Chinese Call Center Outsourcing
- Brita Communications – Vietnamese Answering Service
Can I Still Use my own Phone Number With an Answering Service?
With an answering service you can use your own phone number by forwarding it, or you can use a number provided by the call center. The numbers provided can be a local phone number or a toll free number.
Can an Answering Service Set Appointments?
Most answering service providers can schedule appointments with your clients, but some are far more limited than others. Most call centers can schedule appointments using you Google calendar or Yahoo calendar, and some have their own custom appointment setting software. If you’re looking for an answering service company to integrate with your in-house software you may need to shop around and will likely need to pay a training fee so agents can be taught how to use your system.
Can an Answering Service Process Sales Orders?
Yes, about 40% of answering services companies can take all types of sales orders process them on your behalf, however, many call centers opt of this solution due to the complexity of training required and lack technology owned to simplify the process.
Can I forward my Cell Phone to an Answering Service Provider?
You can forward your cell phones to an answering service, however, various cellular phones and carriers have different processes. Example:
AT&T Cellular Call Forwarding Process
- Dial **21*, followed by the 10-digit number you wish to forward the calls to, then dial #. …
- Push the Call, Send, Talk, or Receiver icon.
- Your wireless phone displays a confirmation message when Call Forwarding activates.
Verizon Cellular Call Forwarding Process
- Dial *72.
- Dial the phone number (including area code) where you want your calls to be forwarded to (e.g., *72-908-123-4567).
- Press the Call button and wait for confirmation. You should hear a confirmation tone or message.
- End your call.
Contact your cell phone carriers for instructions.
How Do I Find Answering Service Jobs?
If you’re looking for employment at an answering service you might try Indeed.com or Monster.com. These companies list thousands of answering service jobs across the United States and also offer links to the call center websites offering employment opportunities nearest to your location.
How Much Do Answering Service Companies Pay Employees?
The average answering service company starting pay is between $10 -$14 per. This is largely driven by location, so working in major metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angles, and Houston will have higher pay rates then employment in rural area like Franklin, VA or Gastonia, NC