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7 Great Tips on How to Choose an Answering Service
Aaron Boatin

By: Aaron Boatin on April 4th, 2024

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7 Great Tips on How to Choose an Answering Service

How Answering Services Work

This blog was originally published on 3/1/20 and has been updated for relevance.

If you search “answering service” on Google, you’ll likely find more results than you expected. While it’s great having so many options to choose from, it might be hard knowing which to choose.

In our near-100 years of taking phone calls for businesses, we’ve heard plenty of reasons to choose a specific answering service over another. While many of them are valid, we believe the best answering service for you is the one that directly answers your needs. Not the answering service’s.

So, in this blog we’ll look at 7 tips for you to choose the best answering service for your business. By the end, you should know what to look for in an answering service. Then, you can decide which answering service would be right for your business.

Here are the 7 tips and questions to ask for choosing the best answering service for your business:

  1. Beware of Answering Services Offering Same Day Activation
  2. Ensure The Answering Service Has Experience With Your Industry
  3. Check That The Answering Service Is Audited Frequently
  4. See How Long The Answering Service Has Been In Business
  5. Consider How Robust Of A Service You Need From Your Call Center
  6. You Might Want To Avoid Answering Services Owned By Private Equity Firms
  7. Visit Your Answering Service’s Physical Location

Tip 1: Beware of Answering Services Offering Same Day Activation

You wouldn't hire a new employee and turn them loose with less than a day’s training, right? The same holds true for the service that you select. They’re the front door to your business’ brand and reputation.

It's critical to make a great first impression. It starts with a knowledgeable person on the other end of the phone line. Well-trained agents should know your account, or business, well before they start answering on your behalf. This way, when the answering script pops up on screen, they would be comfortable and confident about things like:

  • Details about your business to allow the service to put their best foot forward representing you.
  • The type of call your business will receive and what information should be gathered on each call.
  • Your procedures and workflows for call handling.

So, how long does it really take to get your answering service set up? We usually tell our clients to expect on-boarding time to be 5 business days. It might take less time, but it does depend on whether the answering service is familiar with your industry, or not.


Tip 2. Ensure the Answering Service Has Experience with Your Industry

Does the answering service specialize in your industry? If they do, chances are you will be able to take advantage of some best practices from their years of experience. It also means you will not have to babysit them to bring them up to speed on basic items for your industry when handling your calls.

For example, if you run a medical practice they should be familiar with all the ways you’d want to escalate a call:

These are just examples of ways an answering service that is familiar with your industry will better serve you. Some answering services might even go the extra mile by getting an audit done.


Tip 3. Check That the Answering Service Is Audited Frequently

The word “audit” might make the average business person cringe at the thought of paperwork. To your answering service, however, it’s an essential way to show that they mean business.

Websites and brochures can help show quality and excellence, but anyone can do that. So how do you know if the answering service you’ve chosen stands above the rest?

Most reputable answering services should have a full-time internal call evaluation program. Here, trainers listen to calls and coach agents on how to improve their service of your business. As they say, customer service is a journey, not a destination. Ongoing coaching helps to hardwire service excellence. If possible, ask to speak with them to learn what goes into an evaluation.

External audits are another way for the call center to show how serious they are about quality. Here, a third-party auditor reviews the quality of specific calls and grades them (like a secret shopper). If they meet the standards of the auditors, they will receive an award of excellence. Specifically, look for answering services who have been awarded by CAM-X or ATSI.


Tip 4. See How Long the Answering Service Has Been in Business

Acquisitions are taking place left and right in the answering service industry. This might make it hard to assess how long a company has been in business. Why is this relevant?

An older answering service is better equipped to deal with the changes that arise in the industry internally and externally.

Storms and bad weather, for example, are sudden changes most consider “undesirable” yet are not prepared for. If you’re in the property management industry, you wouldn’t want your phones going unanswered during a storm. Your residents would be calling in with a whole lot of questions, some even in a crisis!

An answering service that has been in the industry longer knows that having disaster preparedness is essential in the event of an emergency.

Why doesn’t every call center have this? Well, ensuring business continuity can cost thousands of dollars yearly.

One way you can ensure answering service continuity is by confirming that the back-up power solution is a fixed unit with automatic fail-over and doesn’t run on gasoline. That way, you can ensure your business will be taking calls as if there weren’t an emergency.


Tip 5. Consider How Robust of A Service You Need from Your Call Center

Some services might opt you into plans with features that might not be important to your business. That doesn’t make those features a scam - they’d just be irrelevant to your needs right now.

You should ask yourself if you need services like appointment scheduling or integration with your CRM. Some features like voicemail prescreen can be added onto your service for free depending on the answering service you go with. Remember, with most answering services, you can opt back into these services at any time, so don’t feel any pressure!


Tip 6. You Might Want To Avoid Answering Services Owned By Private Equity Firms

We know this sounds biased because we are a family-owned answering service as well.

But, like we said, acquisitions are happening all around the industry. We’ve had many of our customers come over from answering services that were bought out and then consolidated. They were all very dissatisfied with the service.

So, what made the service go from “great” to “I gotta get my business outta here”?

Most private equity firms value their return on investment over providing your business with good service.

When you work with an answering service, your business should be in the spotlight, not the answering service. This can’t happen if a return on investment (ROI) is the priority.

Let’s use an example that has happened to many of our clients here at Ambs Call Center. Let’s say you’re working with a call center currently. A private equity firm buys them up, then begins the process of consolidation.  Your calls may be funneled into a completely different call center so they can save money. Because that firm cares mostly about their ROI, they would likely move people around - firing some because it is better for their profitability.

In many cases, everyone your company has worked with has moved, or has been let go. Those same people that know your accounts at the back of their hand are gone. The institutional knowledge is lost. What happens next is the new people in charge will have to relearn everything about your business. That is, until they are moved or let go as well.

That “it” factor that is essential to a business partnership may get lost.

Which may leave you, the business owner, with a mediocre answering service that feels transactional. The service that was once an extension of your business can feel very removed from the core work you're actually doing. This could even lead to a raise in rates from the private firm, without considering how it impacts your day to day.

And, if you do leave - they’re not concerned. Their budget for businesses they can lose is a lot higher than a family-owned answering service who prioritizes your business above all else. Because a healthy business relationship is the most important thing. Which brings us to our last point:


Tip 7. Visit Your Answering Service’s Physical Location

You can tell a lot about a company by making a visit to their physical call center location. During your visit, ask to meet with the person who will be handling your account on a day-to-day basis. These days, a site visit may not be feasible. You might be able to get a virtual tour via Zoom or FaceTime.

We recommend doing this so you have a better idea of who you’re really working with. Many B2B services don’t involve constant contact between businesses.

That’s not the case with an answering service.

Your answering service is going to be there for you when business is slow and when it’s booming. When it’s snowing and when it’s sunny. If you’re looking for an answering service for the long-term, you’d want to work with people you’d get along with.


Which Answering Service Is Right For My Business?

Utilize these tips as you take the next step in deciding which answering service is going to be best for your business.

Once you've narrowed down a few companies you might want to work with, the next thing you'll want to consider is how much an answering service will cost.

Knowing that we are in fact an answering service, and you're on this blog, you may be curious about Ambs as your call center. Take a second to fill out the form below and someone from our team will be in touch with you soon.



About Aaron Boatin