What is an Answering Service?

what is an answering serviceMissed calls cost money. They also reduce overall customer satisfaction. For these reasons – and many more – businesses are turning to answering services for coverage. Such a service can help your organization optimize its communications while increasing profitability. Dedicated answering service receptionists work tirelessly to get to know your business and function as an extension of your team. Before you decide to partner with an answering service, it helps to understand exactly how they work and their main benefits.

Defining the Term

So what is an answering service, you might ask? Simply put, they’re companies that answer the phones on behalf of other businesses. This straightforward answering service definition is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the value such a service can bring to your organization. Depending on the plan you choose, an answering service can be about so much more than just paying someone to answer your calls.

A quality answering service presents your business in the most professional light possible. It can help improve your customer retention rates and boost overall satisfaction. Most importantly, answering service professionals work to foster meaningful connections with callers, helping your business stand out as both customer focused and attentive.

How Answering Services Work

You might be wondering: how do answering services work, exactly? They rely on call forwarding, which most phones and phone companies are capable of providing. It’s likely something you already rely on without even noticing. To see if your phone has call forwarding features, dial *72 followed by any 10 digit phone number. Then call your phone from another line. If it rang through to the other number, you have call forwarding turned on. Be sure to dial *73 to take call forwarding off after this little experiment.

When activated, call forwarding automatically sends your incoming phone calls to another line. After signing up with an answering service, you’ll be given a number unique to your account. To send calls to the answering service team, simply forward your line to the number you’ve been given. When someone tries to call your number after you turn on forwarding, they’ll be automatically connected to answering service operators.

The flexible nature of answering service is one of the main benefits of forging such a partnership. For instance, if you want a service to handle all your calls during your lunch hour, you can have your calls automatically forwarded from noon to 1:00 every day. Working through lunch and want to keep your phone calls coming straight to your desk? Turning off answering service coverage is as simple as tapping a few buttons.

Benefits of Using an Answering Service

Flexibility of service coverage is just the beginning of the benefits associated with answering services. Partnering with an answering service means your organization never needs to miss a call ever again. A single phone call can make the difference in a deal you’ve been working to close. It can delight callers who dialed in expecting to be sent to voicemail. It can inspire customer loyalty and reassure callers that your business is in fact reliable and trustworthy. By capturing every inbound call, you’ll never have to worry about disappointing a caller or leaving your reputation at risk.

When working to understand what do answering services do, it helps to keep business overheads in mind. It’s expensive and time-consuming to hire an in-house administrative team. Not only will you need to find a workspace for each new member of the staff, you’ll also have to spend valuable time and money vetting candidates, buying them the necessary equipment, and paying them a full time salary and benefits. Many small businesses simply can’t shoulder these expenses. An answering service can serve as a replacement for an in-house receptionist at a fraction of the cost it would take to recruit, hire, and pay someone full-time.

Deciding to work with an answering service can have a ripple effect on the entire business. Every incoming call represents a new opportunity to create meaningful customer experiences. Too often, though, employees tasked with answering the phones are shouldering multiple projects at once. The ringing of the phone can be a major distraction. With an answering service at your disposal, don’t be surprised if your team’s productivity increases. It’s the perfect way to filter and forward calls without disrupting employee focus.

Answering Services vs. Call Centers

When doing research into what is an answering service, you’ve likely seen many different terms thrown around. With all the varying vocabulary out there, it’s easy to become confused by it all. Understanding the differences between answering services vs call centers can help you make the most informed choice for your organization.

An answering service is technically one type of call center. Call centers, on the other hand, are not necessarily answering services. An answering service is the particular function of a call center. It has a different name simply because it handles inbound calls differently than the way your typical call center would. While both answering services and call centers handle inbound calls, answering services serve specific segments of the market.

Let’s say you own a dog grooming company and need help covering phones while you’re bathing Fido. You might turn to an answering service for support. The people staffing that service are highly-trained in your specific organization’s policies, procedure, and preferred branding. When potential customers dial in with questions, answering service representatives can find solutions to common challenges, take messages, and more.

Now pretend you’re calling a major corporation to follow up on a late payment. When you dial their 800 number, you’ll likely be connected to a call center staffed by hundreds of agents. Their goal is to relay information as quickly as possible to move onto the next call. There’s little decision-making in the handling of such calls, and representatives may speak with hundreds of customers in a day.

Both answering services and call centers have their benefits. Understanding the difference can help you understand which is right for your organization. For further guidance on which option you should choose, see our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Industries That Use Answering Services

Many organizations rely upon answering services to handle their inbound calls. While we most often associate such services with large, multinational corporations, even the smallest local business can benefit. In fact, there’s virtually no industry that remains unmoved by the power of a quality answering service. Small business owners often turn to such services in lieu of hiring a full-time administrative professional. Internet based companies solicit answering service professionals to serve as the virtual face of their organizations. Law firms and other professional service providers use answering services to qualify leads and schedule appointments. So, too, do dentists’ and doctors’ offices.

If you’re wondering whether an answering service can support your organization’s customer service and administration efforts, the answer is a resounding yes! No matter your industry, odds are good that your team can benefit from the convenience and flexibility of answering services.

What to Look for in an Answering Service

As you shop around for the right outsourced partner for your business, it’s important to keep features and benefits of such services in mind. It’s essential for business owners to make informed decisions about which answering service to choose. Understanding the limitations and potential drawbacks of a given service can help you make the right choice.

For starters, answering service agents should be highly trained and ready to address the concerns and requests of your callers. Not every answering service is prepared to handle highly specialized operations. If an agent lacks experience or knowledge about your particular industry – and is unable or unwilling to learn – they may not be the right fit for your organization.

You’ll also want to look for an answering service that offers technological competence. Call forwarding issues, failed transfers, poor audio quality, and outdated systems are all signs an answering service has fallen behind the times. Be prepared to take the time necessary to set everything up and give it a test run.

Try MAP Today for Free

Knowing the answer to the question “what is an answering service” is just the beginning. To really understand the potential benefits of such a service, you’ve got to give it a try first-hand. That’s why we’re offering a free week trial of our live answering service. After seven days of experiencing the MAP difference for yourself, we have no doubt that you’ll have new appreciation for what an answering service can do. Sign up today and one of our friendly agents will be in touch shortly!

What is an Answering Service
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What is an Answering Service
An answering service is a company that handles calls, messages and appointments for another business in order to support their in-house employees. Learn more.
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MAP Communications
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