Answering Service FAQs

MAP Communications answers the most frequently asked questions about answering services. Find the answers to your questions here!

Image of an answering service agent answering the most frequently asked questions about answering services

Answering Service FAQs

There are a lot of questions out there about telephone answering services. At MAP Communications, we find ourselves in a position to answer those questions. Our 30+ years of experience providing telephone answering service has given us the opportunity to collect the most frequently asked questions and provide answers. Here, you’ll find a collection of frequently asked questions about answering services along with answers to those questions.

What is a Call Answering Service?

A call answering service is a type of business that answers incoming phone calls with real people on the behalf of other businesses. The answering service processes the phone calls in a manner that each of their clients specify. Usually, the answering service takes a message and forwards the details to their client via email, text message, or other means of communication.

What Do Answering Services Do?

Answering services answer phone calls for their clients, which are other businesses of various sizes across many different kinds of industries. The answering service is composed of a team of live receptionists that provide information for callers, take messages, and deliver message details to clients. These are the core functions of an answering service, but some providers offer a more diverse array of services that all center around answering the phone and providing customer service that helps improve business processes.

What is an Answering Service for a Doctor’s Office?

An answering service for doctors helps answer phone calls made to a doctor’s office. Doctors use an answering service, because they are often busy treating patients and their administrative staff is occupied with helping people visiting the office. A doctor’s office also uses a medical answering service to provide call support when they are unavailable during breaks, in staff meetings, on vacation, or after hours when the office is closed.

An answering service for a doctor’s office helps keep patients, staff and doctors on the same page. It bridges the gap between existing administrative staff and the necessary 24-hour support that the nature of the healthcare industry demands. Medical offices also use answering services to improve patient care, reduce operating costs, and keep careful records of each conversation. HIPAA-compliant answering services ensure healthcare providers follow strict patient privacy regulations.

How Do Answering Services Work?

When businesses want their answering service to handle phone calls, they simply forward their phone line to a phone number that routes their calls to the answering service. Modern phones have made call forwarding extremely easy. Each answering service has a call handling platform they use to process calls, collect information, and send messages to their clients. Answering services follow a script to interact with callers to keep the conversation on-brand and collect the information that their clients desire.

Clients can turn call forwarding on and off at will. At any time, a business can choose to handle their own phone calls by unforwarding their phone line. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing though. Some answering services provide a call overflow answering service. This gives companies the first shot at answering the call. If they are busy and can’t get to the call within a predetermined number of rings, the call will then automatically forward to the answering service. This flexibility is part of what makes answering service resources so appealing.

Why do people use answering services?

So just what is the point of an answering service? Businesses use answering services for a variety of benefits.

  • Fill in the gaps of call coverage – It’s impossible for many companies to be available all the time to answer calls. A 24 hour answering service ensures that no call goes unanswered whether that is while a client is in a meeting, out to lunch, or asleep at night.
  • Improve customer service – Long wait times, being put on hold, or getting sent to voicemail is a poor customer experience. An answering service exists to quickly answer each call with a real person, be helpful, and provide great customer service for businesses that don’t have the resources to do all that on their own.
  • Increase productivity – If you’ve ever had your busy work day interrupted by the ringing of the telephone, you could probably benefit from an answering service. Ensure your calls are answered with the same high standards your customers have grown accustomed to – all without interrupting your focus and work flow.
  • Grow business – Answering services are well suited to helping businesses grow by capturing opportunities they would have otherwise missed. People who dial a business that doesn’t answer their call will move on to another option. However, telephone answering services can get people the help they need right away, which provides additional revenue for the companies using the answering service.
  • Save money – An answering service can be especially helpful for businesses that don’t want to spend the money to hire more in-house administrative employees. They do the work of a full-time receptionist for a fraction of the cost!

These are just a few of the reasons people use answering services. There are many more, because the point of an answering service is based in what the client wants to accomplish.

Where are Call Answering Services Located?

Call answering services are located all over the world. In the United States alone, there are over 100 answering service companies. They operate in cities and towns all over the country. Some answering services have multiple locations.

Searching for “answering service near me” will net you all kinds of results. However, if you want to use an answering service, it’s not necessary for them to be located in the same city, state, or even region. You can still get great service from an answering service located in the state of Washington even if your business operates in Florida.

Businesses that are based in the United States will receive much better service if they use an answering service that is also based in the U.S. vs outsourcing their calls overseas. While offshore answering services are often cheaper, they offer drastically inferior service.

What Advantage Do Answering Services Have Over Answering Machines?

When considering the benefits of an answering service vs. voicemail, it helps to consider the last time you left a message. You might have felt annoyed that the person or business didn’t pick up. You might have hung up and dialed a competitor instead. You might have left a message, but you might have dreaded the inevitable game of phone tag that could potentially ensue. In the 21st century, voicemail just doesn’t make much sense.

With an answering service at your disposal, your callers will always be treated to prompt, polite service by a real person at the moment they pick up the phone. Rather than waiting for a call back, they’ll be instantly connected with a helpful customer service agent. 24-hour service guarantees there’s always a friendly voice on the end of the line.

What’s the Difference Between an Answering Service and a Call Center?

The difference between an answering service and a call center is that an answering service is provided by a call center. Some call centers only provide answering services. Other call centers offer a wider array of service options. Another way to say it would be that all answering services are call center services, but not all call center services are answering services.

Answering services are generally associated with a more basic level of interaction where the caller receives a bit of information, their details are collected, and a message is taken if necessary for the client to follow up later. These calls usually average about 1 1/2 minutes. Call center services can involve more complex interactions where the call center agent dives deeper into the process to assist callers in a variety of different ways. Call volumes can be higher and these calls tend to take longer than your standard answering service calls.

While the terms are often used interchangeably, answering services and call centers aren’t quite the same thing. These services are more alike than they are different though. Both answering service and call center employees follow call scripts customized for each client. Both can provide 24-hour support, 365 days a year.

Find out more about our call center services or view call center FAQs.

How Do Answering Services Charge?

Answering service pricing comes in various forms. The most common way that answering services charge is by the minute. Companies are charged for the amount of time remote receptionists spend helping their callers. This has proven to be the fairest way for both answering service providers and their clients.

There are other pricing models out there too, though. Those include answering services charging by the call and by the unit (which is a variation of by the call). There is also the rare instance of flat rate plans where clients pay a fixed fee and the answer service answers as many calls for them as they receive, but this has proven to be a poor business model.

Answering services will bill their clients on a monthly basis or on a 28-day billing cycle.

How Much Does an Answering Service Cost?

Here comes the answer nobody was looking for: it depends. Generally, it depends on your volume of calls with the rate getting cheaper as the call volume increases. If you want to know how much an answering service costs, we recommend checking out this guide to the cost of an answering service. We promise it will answer your question quickly. It will also explain everything you ever wanted to know (and more) about answering service pricing.

Have another question about telephone answering services?

We’ll do our best to continue updating this set of FAQs with more questions and answers we notice being asked a lot. But if you have a question about answering services, we’d be happy to answer it for you! Simply submit your question here and we’ll answer it for you ASAP!