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Dial up Customer Satisfaction: Use a Live Answering Service to Competitive Advantage

Advantages of a Live Answering Service:

  1. It gives a human voice to the company. "People do business with people, not companies" is a familiar adage with good reason: it is true. A good receptionist, whether live or virtual, creates a positive impression of welcome and concern for customer care.
  2. Is usually less expensive than a full-time dedicated receptionist or phone attendant.
  3. Provides reassurance to callers that the company they are phoning is really in business and is not a scam.
  4. Enhances the perception of the size of the company, especially for start-ups and small businesses. A business with a live attendant is generally not perceived to be one with a sole proprietor working from his spare bedroom; likewise, callers will not hear that the firm really has only one extension.
  5. Spares callers from the frustration of getting lost in call trees for companies with many extensions.
  6. Serves callers at the moment they are motivated to take action, when they are most likely to place an order or voice a complaint thus preventing lost business or negative publicity.

How a Live Answering Service Works
The basic functions a live answering service performs are greeting callers, transferring them to appropriate extensions, and taking messages. Beyond these basics, most live answering services:

  1. Allow client companies to forward existing numbers to the service.
  2. Offer national toll-free and local numbers.
  3. Provide vanity numbers which are especially useful to new businesses as they make it easy for customers to remember the phone number while reinforcing the new business name.
  4. Play custom on-hold messages or music.
  5. Answer phones 24/7 or at specified times only.
  6. Enter caller information directly in to lead tracking systems.
  7. Place orders for callers.

Use a Live Answering Service to Test Marketing and Media
Besides managing the reception function, a live answering service can be used in a pure marketing capacity to test advertising messages and media. For example, a print ad placed in different magazines or newspapers can have a different phone number assigned to each publication. When callers respond, the phone numbers are captured, so the effectiveness of the publications can be measured against each other.

Advertisements placed in different types of media can be measured this way as well. Testing phone numbers against other response mechanisms such as Web addresses or bounce back cards also delivers valuable information to help marketers adjust plans to yield better return on investment.

Call Management and Reports
Inbound calls to a live answering service are handled as directed by the client. Attendants can provide information, enter leads and sales orders, route calls to extensions, or forward to mobile or other phones. When live agents take messages, they can be delivered as text messages or emails.

Live answering services generate reports for clients that show the number of calls received and the length and disposition of each call.

How to Select the Right Live Answering Service
Short-list those live answering services that offer the required services. Then ask for references. Finally, follow up, not just with the decision-makers who purchased the service, but call in on their numbers to hear how the answering service answers and manages calls.

How to Get the Most from a Live Answering Service
Live answering services can use client-provided scripts for what is to be said when answering and transferring calls and entering leads and orders. The best scripts are short, positive and unambiguous. The time spent developing scripts pays big dividends in customer satisfaction and in cost, as many services charge by length of call.


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