An answering service is like an outsourced receptionist. You route your phone number to a call center where receptionists answer calls like a member of your business. They can forward the call to you or one of your employees, take messages and even answer some questions about your business, like your location and office hours.
Now, you might be wonder is that it? A real receptionist in my office could do a lot more, like schedule appointments, take orders and accept credit cards. The reality is many answering services can do these things. You just have to find the right one and spend a little more time personalizing your order.
Answering services plans are flexible. You can route calls to them all the time, just on nights and weekends, or just when your office phone line is busy. They’re also flexible in the features you can add. MAP Communications, for example, can schedule appointments as an upgrade from their standard service. With the “scripted” service, receptionists will login to your Google Calendar, Yahoo Calendar or Appointment Quest account and use it to schedule appointments. You can also write call scripts for receptionists to answer more complicated questions, such as what services you offer, what your policies are on payment and refunds, etc.
If you use any other web-based programs, such as a CRM or HelpDesk, MAP Communication’s receptionists can likely login and use it. There is an extra fee, however, to cover the cost of training since all employees will have to learn how to use it.
On that note, you don’t want to go overboard with the number of tasks. The key to success with an answering service is to keep your instructions simple. Because many of these services are large call centers, it’ll be a common occurrence that somebody is answering for your business for the first time. If your instructions are lengthy and/or confusing, you can expect there to be some fumbling on the phone. Make sure your instructions are as clear as possible and try to keep them limited to one page.
About the Author:
Jeremy Marsan is a staff writer for Fit Small Business. He specializes in reviewing software and technology applications for small business.
Please visit www.hardinglaw.com for more information about John Harding