When you don't have a steady, reliable source of people in your company who are available to handle incoming calls, a telephone answering service is an ideal solution. They can answer your phones, take messages and patch calls through to the appropriate individual or department. These days, many answering service companies can also schedule appointments, offer customer support, track and process orders and make reservations. These kinds of inbound call center services such as help desks, customer service and technical support are part of the valued-added offerings many telephone answering service companies will provide. If you choose to hire an inbound call center, there are various call metrics that should be measured and reported on regularly such as the Average Handle Time (AHT), Average Talk Time (ATT) and First Contact Resolution (FCR). You can also rate customer satisfaction and customer retention costs based on the Hold Time and Transfer Rate.
The manner in which each call is handled will depend upon your preferences. You may choose to have calls sent directly to a voicemail system, then have each one saved as a file and emailed to you as an attachment. Or perhaps you'd like each call to be routed to an extension or a different number such as your mobile. This is known as call forwarding, patching or a re-direct. Emergency situations, perhaps medical in nature, usually prefer this option. If you don't want any messages to be taken but you do want callers to hear a recorded greeting (announcing office hours, how to enter a contest, product information, etc.) then a hotline service is a good choice for you. And finally, a Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) can also send messages to you via email, cell phone, pager, desktop, pda or fax. Whichever method you choose, a telephone answering service will ensure that no customer calls are missed.
Speech recognition and speech synthesis software can also be utilized to automatically route a call. New technology is continually coming to market in order to bolster the call center industry. A telephone answering service can provide web-based solutions and online message management. Email and live chat functions are two forms of web-enabled customer support which guarantee that issues are resolved as soon as possible. Generally speaking, the faster and more efficient and professional your telephone answering service is, the better customer satisfaction and loyalty your business will see. The service level and response time that an answering service offers is a critical factor in helping you choose the ideal one for your business needs. One of the best ways to learn more about these service providers is to conduct research and obtain referrals. There are also industry events like seminars, workshops and networking opportunities to teach you about the key players in the industry, recent trends and best practices.