How to Choose the Best Small Business Live Answering Service

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A recent Hubspot article on call waiting times found that the average consumer becomes frustrated after being on hold for two minutes. Given that the average wait time is 13 minutes, that’s 11 minutes of frustration, and for around 60% of consumers, that’s one minute too long.

Customers believe 10 minutes is the maximum time to wait on hold. If your customers are waiting more than 10 minutes to speak with a person, it may be time to choose a small business live answering service such as Go Answer. Before selecting a service, ask about the following capabilities.

Does the Service Know Your Business?

How familiar is the live answering service with your industry? The more experience an answering service has with your line of business, the more responsive it can be to customer questions. The service can quickly transfer callers to the appropriate departments or collect crucial information to resolve a problem.

If your small business is specialized, find out if the live answering service has worked with similar niche companies. For some industries, it’s not the content of the response that is important, it’s the attitude. Ensure the service will deliver the quality of service you and your customers expect.

Live Answering Service Technology

People are key to a live answering service, but technology helps them perform efficiently and effectively. When looking for a service, you don’t need to understand the technical details, but you should know the answering service’s technical capabilities. Your customer interactions should not be limited by your answering service.

For example, you may be looking for a 24/7/365 answering service. After a few months, you want the service to schedule appointments. Does the service’s technology provide that capability?

Take the time to explore the technology that a service uses. Meeting today’s needs is not enough. A live answering service should be prepared to address tomorrow’s expectations.

What Services Are Offered?

Identify what services you need for your small business and then start looking at what a live answering service offers. It’s easy to forget features, such as call forwarding, when faced with unexpected functionality that sounds great but you won’t use. 

Availability

Although most answering services offer 24/7 availability, it may come at a cost. An eCommerce merchant may need 24/7 coverage, but a small cupcake business may only need support during regular business hours. Know the coverage you need before you meet with a potential provider.

Documentation

No matter what your small business is, you need a record of what was said during a call. If a client claims something was or wasn’t said, you need an accurate copy of the call to verify the claim. Discuss how inbound calls will be documented.

Does the service offer options for how calls are recorded? Some answering services will transcribe the call as well as retain the recording. Having calls transcribed can save time and frustration if the recording is unclear.

Data Security

Every business has a responsibility to keep its customer’s personal data secure. Before engaging a live answering service, check its data security practices. Although the service may be handling the data, you are ultimately responsible for its security.

If your business is in an industry with stringent data security requirements, talk to the service about its experience. For example, how does it comply with HIPAA? How does it handle financial data obtained over the phone?

Business Continuity 

Live answering services should have business continuity and disaster recovery plans. When a service becomes your connection to the outside world, you need to know it will always be there. Discuss the backup plans for keeping the service operational in case of a disaster. 

If your business suffers a disruption, your plan should include updating your live answering service with the latest information. There should be protocols in place so you can contact them immediately if your business suffers an operational disruption.

Bilingual Support

Bilingual representatives can improve customer interactions. For small businesses with customers who speak English or Spanish, for example, having a representative communicate in their native language enhances the customer experience. Depending on your customer demographics, multilingual support may be a necessity.

Scripting

Does the service allow scripting? If you are looking for a service that not only answers calls but provides first-line customer support, you will need troubleshooting scripts to facilitate a quick response. Be sure to investigate what scripting features are available.

You may want to ask about lead times. If scripts need to change or new ones need to be added, how long before they will take effect? Can scripts be changed quickly if there is a business emergency?

Training

Customer service is not static. A recent article in the New York Times indicated that American consumers have become mean and are creating challenges for anyone answering a phone. Check that the live answering service provides updated training to help their operators.

How Do You Choose a Live Answering Service?

Finding the right live answering service for your small business means identifying a company that can become the face of your business. Be sure the face it projects is the one you are expecting. Recent surveys found that:

  • 50% of customers will switch companies after one poor experience
  • 80% will change after two or more poor experiences

In today’s competitive environment, small businesses cannot afford to miss a possible sale or lose a customer, and they need a live answering service that works as a partner. The best live answering service will help you acquire and retain customers through its professionally trained staff. The service will work to deliver the best possible outcome every time.

Contact Us for a Free Trial 

Consumers expect omnichannel communications, and our live answering service has the technical capabilities to deliver this, whether it is web chat or text messaging. We keep your clients’ data secure as a priority; just ask us how it is stored and what is actually retained.
We know that your focus is on your customers. That’s why we spend time getting to know you and your business. If you want to ensure the best possible outcomes for your company, contact us for a free trial of our live answering service.

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