The Pros and Cons of Hiring an Answering Service
Hiring a call answering service provides many outstanding benefits and sought-after outcomes. Businesses routinely tap a telephone answering service to realize its many advantages. They appreciate what answering services offer, and they continue to depend on their services month after month, year after year.
However, not every business so embraces their answering service experience. Though this may be a result of them hiring the wrong service, another explanation is that they hired one for the wrong reasons, and they held misplaced expectations of what they wanted their answering service to accomplish.
Here are the top pros and cons of hiring an answering service. Though the list could be much longer, these are the essential reasons of why you should hire an answering service, as well as why you should not.
Top 4 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Call Answering Service
Call answering services have been around for decades and continue to enhance their service offerings to meet the ever-changing needs of their clients. Their long-term success is a testament to the value they provide to the business community, nonprofits, and busy professionals. Here are the top four reasons, the pros, of why organizations continue to rely on answering services to enhance their customer-facing communications.
Pro #1: To Expand Hours
Few businesses are open around the clock, but increasingly customers want access beyond the typical 8-to-5, Monday-through-Friday business hours. Though organizations can hire in-house staff to work after hours, weekends, and holidays to respond to the needs of their callers, this is seldom a cost-effective approach, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars a month in added payroll, operational, and overhead costs.
Instead, wise business managers outsource their after-hours calls to the venerable answering service to provide 24/7 availability to their customers and prospects.
Pro #2: To Save Money
It costs money, a lot of money, to hire a telephone receptionist or customer service person to handle phone calls from customers and prospects. Hiring just one person, who at most will work forty hours a week, costs a couple thousand dollars a month and more when you factor in management cost, infrastructure needs, and overhead expenses.
Instead, for a tiny percentage of the cost of one full-time equivalent (FTE), you can hire a call answering service to handle your phone calls 24/7. That’s several times the coverage at a small fraction of the price.
Pro #3: To Improve Quality
Many businesses and organizations trumpet the ideal of excellence. They want to do all things with excellence. This means they value providing quality every chance they get. Of paramount importance is providing quality interactions at the first point of contact, the telephone.
Yet quality phone interactions are hard to produce in-house, with various people answering the telephone, some of whom have received no relevant training and may even lack the requisite skills to do the task. They have a different primary job, and they do it well, but answering the telephone isn’t one of their skills.
Call answering services do one thing. They answer phone calls. They provide extensive training to all their employees on how to professionally conduct themselves over the phone, provide quality experiences, and delight callers. This makes for high-quality interactions on every phone call, every day.
Pro #4: To Offer Consistency
A partner to quality is consistency. When people call a business, they expect a consistent experience from one call to the next. They anticipate their call receiving the same treatment each time they phone. They want consistency.
Yet many businesses struggle to provide consistency. Again, this is because they have different people answering the phone, many of which never received training in phone etiquette or providing quality customer service. Instead each employee does what they assume is best or what they feel like doing at that moment. The result is confused and frustrated callers, who never know what to expect and often feel let down by what they experience.
The fact is that most people perceive higher quality service when they experience consistency from one call to the next. Call answering services not only excel in offering quality telephone services, but they also focus on producing consistent interactions. It’s what they do, it’s what they train for, and it’s what they provide.
Top 4 Reasons Why You Should Not Hire a Call Answering Service
Disappointment is sure to abound if you hire an answering service for the wrong reasons. When expectations don’t align with reality, frustration results. In looking at the top four reasons of why you shouldn’t hire an answering service, these four cons rise above the others and will surely result in regret.
Con #1: To Replace an In-House Employee
Though telephone answering service employees are skilled at working remotely, it’s wrong to assume they can fully replace an in-house employee and all the miscellaneous details that person handles. It’s simply not practical to expect them to do 100 percent of the job an employee can do onsite.
An in-house telephone receptionist knows that the boss just rushed out to make an urgent meeting, but the answering service doesn’t know this—unless someone bothers to update them. Answering service staff do their job amazingly well, but it’s not fair to expect them to divine information that no one ever told them. Assuming they can do so is a fast track to disappointment.
Con #2: To Have a Virtual Assistant
A growing trend, especially for entrepreneurs and small businesses is a virtual assistant. Though similar in concept to its cousin, the virtual receptionist, the two are not synonymous. A virtual assistant can work on all manner of projects, such as writing proposals, making travel arrangements, and updating websites. It’s not feasible to expect your telephone answering service and their virtual receptionist to accomplish the same thing. Of course, remember that you pay your telephone answering service much, much less than you would pay a virtual assistant.
If you truly need the full functionality of a remote assistant, then hire a virtual assistant. However, when your focus is telephone communications, a virtual receptionist from your call answering service is the ideal solution.
Con #3: To Micromanage Phone Interactions
A default management style for many managers is “management by walking around.” With this approach they see something going on in the office and they manage it. They fix problems as issues arise. They know about troubles and can address them because they’re physically present to witness what happened. Detractors sometimes call this micromanagement.
They also apply this approach to managing the telephone receptionist, often micromanaging them on every phone call. However, when you hire a call answering service to handle your telephone calls, you can’t micromanage them; it doesn’t work. Instead, you let them know what you expect—assuming your expectations are realistic—and then let them deliver the professional service they’re specifically trained to provide.
Con #4: To Have a Subject Matter Expert
Answering services aren’t suited for providing high detail work for low traffic situations. Though they can handle complex telephone calls, they need frequent interaction so they can excel at them. This means it’s not practical to provide detailed instructions for a unique type of call that might only occur once a month.
If you need a subject matter expert to address unique situations but don’t receive many calls, it’s best to hire and train someone in-house to handle this.
Answering services can accommodate detailed telephone communication scenarios if they receive those types of calls often. For companies that receive infrequent, basic calls, answering services can also handle them. But what isn’t reasonable is to expect an answering service to provide comprehensive coverage for a type of call that rarely comes in.
If you expect an answering service to replace an in-house employee, serve as a virtual assistant, want to micromanage every phone call, or need a subject matter expert when few calls come in, then the results will disappoint you. Having unwarranted expectations that are misaligned with the service provisions of telephone answering services isn’t fair to anyone. If these are the types of things you want to accomplish, then hire an employee instead.
However, answering services can expertly serve their clients by helping them expand their business hours, save money, increase quality, and provide consistent telephone interactions. These are all ideal fits for a call answering service and are the four key pros for hiring one.
Answering services have been around for a long time and continue to expand their services to meet the growing needs of their clientele. When you have reasonable expectations that align with their professional service offerings, the results will delight you.
For more information, check out this free, no-obligation resource, “How to Select an Answering Service.”