There are many different roles that an answering service can perform for you. For example, you can hire people to simply answer your phones when you are not available and take a message. Front desk receptionists are one type of answering service that fulfills this duty. Messages can be sent to you via email, cell phone, pager, desktop, pda or fax. These notes can be delivered either immediately or at scheduled times. There are also companies who can patch a call straight through to you in real time, ensuring that customers are serviced right away. This kind of advanced service is especially useful for emergency situations.
Many types of businesses use an answering service to provide assistance around the clock. Answering services are used by doctors, lawyers, handymen like plumbers, electricians or mechanics, locksmiths, counselors, taxi companies, corporations, small to mid-sized offices and more. Some operators can do more than simply take messages. Added value inbound services could include answering questions about products or services, order taking, credit card processing, order tracking, reservation services, dealer location, event registration, lead generation, surveys and direct response (from an advertisement).
Perhaps you'll need a bilingual answering service if you operate in different countries or have many foreign language speakers in your customer base. Be sure to ask if these receptionists come with a higher price tag. Some companies will charge you a rate per hour; others bill by the number of calls. You might also find that their services include a toll-free number as well.
When using inbound services, First Contact Resolution (FCR) is critical in terms of high customer satisfaction and low customer retention costs. During your final selection process, pay attention to the testimonials and results from previous clients. A good answering service will be professional, efficient and reliable. When they answer your calls, they represent your company so they should give the best impression possible and serve as a seamless connection between you and your customers.
some companies will offer virtual receptionists who can screen, announce, and transfer your calls anywhere. You might find this useful during peak hours when your current staff doesn't have the time to get to every call. Each business has different needs, and therefore, you should specify if you want the same operator handling your calls all the time, or if you don't mind a rotation system. Larger answering services are usually able to customize their offering and scale their services according to your business needs and requirements.
The Resource Centre for Customer Service Professionals has vital information for inbound call center, help desk, answering service and customer service professionals. They even offer web seminars and certificates to aid in ongoing learning and development.