A lot rides on good business communications. Your brand reputation and long term business relationships can be impacted largely by the way you handle clients and customers directly, including over the phone. 

Growing businesses often need assistance with their telephone communications and may look to delegate this task to an answering service, but in doing so, they need to be able to trust the service they go for can offer the same level of professionalism the business normally provides.

What is a telephone answering service?

A telephone answering service is a human or automated service that receives and manages inbound calls to your business.

It ensures that businesses don’t miss important calls from clients or customers and that anyone who does call is dealt with professionally with a fast and accurate response to their request.

Businesses may select to have a telephone answering service if they don’t have the immediate personnel for the job. This could be smaller businesses or startups or businesses that handle a large volume of calls.

What does a telephone answering service do?

Since there are several types of telephone answering applications, you’ll need to understand the definition of the service you’ll receive. This could be one of the following services: 

  1. Traditional telephone answering
  2. Automated call answering 
  3. Virtual assistant 

Traditional telephone answering

This is either an individual or team of telephone operators who answer your calls, deliver messages or reroute calls to you or a member of staff.  More advanced levels of service you can receive, from outsourcing your phone handling, can include booking appointments or services for callers or completing transactions such as receiving orders or completing payments.

Automated call answering

Automated call answering systems or auto-attendants are a prerecorded or programmed set of menu of options that callers dial into when they call your business. It offers them a set of instructions to follow to help callers reroute to the person, department or service they need. 

Some companies choose to use automated phone systems if they need to deal with a vast number of calls, possibly outside of regular working hours, and a designated receptionist to respond to all of them would be costly. Many companies also need to enable their employees the freedom to attend to other tasks, requiring a level of automation.

Virtual assistant

Virtual assistants are usually advertised as an application of virtual offices. Despite the name, virtual assistants are real people who will answer and manage your calls as if from your business location which, in this instance, is a virtual office. 

Again, don’t be fooled by the name, virtual offices are actually real offices. These locations are used to provide a physical address for a business that operates remotely (although businesses can actually use the location if they need to for meetings or interviews, for example, as well). 

The beauty is, your business is linked to the location only in name, so you can switch to a different location for your business whenever you like. That means your virtual assistant for your virtual office could be wherever you choose to work that day. 

More features — local numbers

Another great feature of call answering services is the use of local numbers, internationally. International numbers can be intimidating to callers due to the unknown cost and response language they may face. 

If you have overseas customers or need to provide a contact base in different markets, some call answering services can be set up with local numbers to give a more reassuring option to your callers overseas. 

How much does an answering service cost?

The cost of an answering service depends on your usage or the level of assistance you need — and prices differ greatly between having a personal receptionist answer your calls or a purely digital service.

The price you get often arises from a personalised quote for the services you need, on top of this, there may also be a setup cost.

Depending on the type of call answering service, many offer payment options at PAYG, daily, monthly or yearly rates or provide business bundles with a range of different packages for companies of different sizes for a fixed cost. 

How do I set up a telephone answering service?

Before setting up, you’ll need to identify what services your business needs, whether that’s simple call answering, more advanced call handling such as making transfers to appropriate staff members, or bespoke call management. From there, it can be as simple as calling up your provider of choice or arranging the set up online. 

Once you’re ready to go, your business can be sure it’s providing a seamless service to clients and customers over the phone, leaving you and your staff free to continue the working day uninterrupted.

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