If you’re looking to outsource your customer service then at some point you’ll ask yourself just who are the best telephone answering service providers. Unfortunately many people that start out looking for the best qualified call answer service end up making the mistake of finalizing that decision based on who the cheapest providers are.
Of course it’s a natural human response to try and save money, and after all why would anyone chose to spend more money when they can get the same product for less. Unlike products which you can see and touch, or may even be the exact same brand or model, providers often base their answering service prices on the things that you cannot see, but are actually very important to you. For example, if someone needed an attorney to represent them in a case where they could potentially be sued for a considerable amount of their possessions they probably would not shop by price alone because they’d know there’s a lot riding on the end result. Instead they would look for experience and success rates first, and price second.
So this brings up the question, just how do you know who the best companies are that offer inbound call center services? Consider the bad experiences that many businesses have faced by going with the “cheap mom and pa” company. Their customers call in and are faced with extremely long hold times, or worse no one answers the phone at all. This may happen more often than you think as smaller answering service providers are not equipped to handle power outages, high call volumes, or things like inclement weather conditions.
Here are a few things to consider if you’re really looking for a quality answering service that you can count on, all the time, 24 hours a day.
Back Up Plans: What happens when the power goes out? For small companies that means the phones and internet are down for hours, and sometimes days. It’s a good idea to ask your provider what type of back up plans they have for these emergencies, for example ask if they own back up gas powered generators that can run for weeks, or longer if needed.
Long Term Employees: Keep in mind that the person answering the phone is the first impression of your business, because after all, image is part of the reason most people hire a service in the first place. New trainees on any job can make lots of mistakes, and while we need to be somewhat flexible for a new worker here and there you won’t want to trust the bulk of your calls to them. You should expect the provider to have long term experienced agents answering your phones. Unfortunately, smaller companies offer very little in compensation and hence it leaves no reason for quality employees to stay around for any length of time. MAP is an employee owned company with the average employee holding more than 5 years of tenure, and many with 15 plus years of service.
Multi Locations: Around 90% of all answering service providers have just one location, and while for most businesses one location is all that is needed, that is not the case for businesses that need to offer 24×7 uninterrupted service. A big snow storm hits and no one is answering your calls. A small office has a virus go around and employees get sick and there’s not enough man power to take calls and thus there are extremely long hold times (which results in angry customers and hang ups). Then there are floods, hurricanes, and all other types of natural disasters. To protect yourself make sure the call center you work with operates with at least two locations.
Technology: One company just answers calls and texts you a message. Another can offer call dispatching services, book appointments, process orders, or pretty much anything you can dream up. Technology allows your customer support contact center to offer world class service which helps your business to run smoothly.
Long Hold Times: Of course when unexpected (and unpredicted) huge call volumes occur no call center is without long hold times, however that should be kept to a bare minimum because your customer (or would be customers) will not endure it very long. In some cases just one lost call could literally pay for 3 months of services, and smaller offices with single locations or small staffs are far more likely to be subject to high call volumes per operator because a staff of say only 15 people can’t handle 16 calls at a time, let alone 25. Simple logic, but often overlooked.
So in conclusion, while price is important, the best answering service provider is not the one that offers the cheapest plans, but rather the ones that can support your customers 24 hours a day 7 days a week and where interruptions in service are the exception, not the rule. Most people are surprised to learn that hiring a top provider only requires a minimum increase and is always well worth the added benefits and up time.
Here are some related articles you might be interested in:
What to Look for in an Answering Service
How Much Do Answering Services Cost? [Infographic]
How an Answering Service 7-Day Free Trial Can Change Your Business