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The Pros and Cons of Hiring an Answering Service
Peter DeHaan

By: Peter DeHaan on March 7th, 2024

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The Pros and Cons of Hiring an Answering Service

How Answering Services Work | Virtual Receptionists 101

This blog was originally published on 2/4/2019 and has been updated for relevance.

You likely know that hiring a call answering service provides many benefits. And with businesses growing more each day, many turn to answering service companies to help solve their issues. Oftentimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Many businesses currently depend on answering services, month after month, year after year. 

Not every business embraces their answering service experience. This happens for many reasons we will go through later in this blog. But by the end of this, you should be able to get a better feel on whether an answering service is right for your business or not.

So, here are the top pros and cons of hiring an answering service:

Pros of Answering Services:

  1. 24/7 Answering Availability
  2. Saves Money Instead of Hiring an In-House Receptionist
  3. Answering Services Improve Customer Interactions
  4. Give Your Customers Consistency with Their Calls

Cons of Answering Services:

  1. Answering Services Don’t Replace In-House Employees
  2. Call Center Agents Aren’t Virtual Assistants
  3. ‘Micromanaging’ Doesn’t Work with Answering Services
  4. Answering Services Don’t Have Expert Knowledge Of Your Business

Now, let’s start by looking at the pros of answering services with a little more inspection:


Pro #1: 24/7 Answering Availability

Few businesses are open around the clock. But lately, customers have been wanting access beyond the typical 8-to-5 hours, Monday-through-Friday. If you want to keep up with this shift in customer demand for business availability, an answering service may be right for you. Because many answering services operate 24/7, your business would never miss a call.

Though organizations can hire in-house receptionists to work after hours, weekends, and holidays, this isn't a cost-effective approach. This can amount to well over $10,000 a month in added payroll, operational, and overhead costs.

But, what about during regular business hours with a single in-house receptionist?


Pro #2: Save Money Instead of Hiring an In-House Receptionist

It costs a lot of money to hire in-house receptionists to handle phone calls from customers or prospects. Hiring one person, who at most will work forty hours a week, could cost you at least $3,000 a month. This doesn't even include all the extra costs like management, infrastructure, and overhead costs.

An answering service on the other hand would cost you a fraction of that amount. 

You see, you’re not paying for the call center agents’ monthly salary or their overhead expenses, at least not directly. When you work with an established call center, what you’re paying for is minimal compared to the service you receive.

Looking at the industry average, we found most answering services in 2024 only cost $175, at the minimum.  

But an answering service will not be able to replicate the innate knowledge a receptionist/secretary has of your business.

Essentially, if your volume of calls justifies the need for a receptionist, there’s a chance you’ll be saving big time by hiring an answering service.

Answering services, however, don’t just exist to minimize costs. With the right answering service for your business, you may actually see your business improving, starting with customer relationships.


Pro #3: Answering Services Improve Customer Interactions

Many businesses and organizations trumpet the ideal of excellence. They want to do all things with excellence. Well, what does excellence even mean in today’s world of business? 

Many business owners say, “Providing quality and value at every chance while generating profits”. But, who are you providing quality and value to, if not the customer who holds all the power in today’s market?

If you want to be excellent as a business, you need to provide excellent customer experience at every turn.

This starts with the first point of contact: the telephone.

Everyone has called into a business and been greeted by a less-than-friendly staff. It turns you off from that business. You now dread to call their line and start thinking about taking your business elsewhere.

You can’t even blame the staff for this. They’ve received no relevant training and may even lack the requisite skills to do the job. They may 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 and these agents are trained to provide quality experiences, and delight callers. This makes for high-quality interactions on every phone call, every day.

And, in line with improving customer interactions, answering services also provide consistency in their customer interaction.


Pro #4: Give Your Customers Consistency with Their Calls

Consistent phone interactions are hard to produce in-house. Often, many people are answering the same phone. Lots of businesses do it this way, but it rarely works. 

Think of a time you called a business, spoke to someone to make an appointment and hung up. Then you realized, “Oh, shoot! That day doesn’t work for me!”. So you call again, but it’s a different person and they have no idea what you’re talking about or who you even are! You’re now starting from the top. You're explaining your situation, what you’re calling in for, and letting them know the new appointment date all the while getting increasingly frustrated.

Your business doesn’t need to work this way. Not when you can hire a call answering service to create a positive, consistent interaction for each and every customer that calls in.

This is because most answering services have database directories which store and recognize customer information (from even a caller ID!). Your customers who call in are going to feel like they’re deeply valued by your business when they’re remembered and greeted in a friendly way.

The fact is that most people perceive higher quality service when they experience consistency from one call to the next.


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So, we’ve covered some points about why an answering service might be great for your business. But, we’ve been taking business’ calls for nearly 100 years now so we can tell you - sometimes an answering service is not the right fit for your business.

Disappointment is sure to abound if you hire an answering service for the wrong reasons. These four cons rise above the others and will likely result in dissatisfaction from both parties.


Con #1: Answering Services Don’t Replace In-House Employees

As we mentioned above in our second pro, an answering service cannot replicate the job duties of a receptionist or secretary. Though call center agents are skilled at working remotely, they can’t fully replace an in-house employee. Remote agents can't recreate the miscellaneous job details an in-house employee carries out. It’s simply not practical to expect them to do 100 percent of the job an employee does onsite.

An in-house receptionist knows that the boss just rushed out to make an urgent meeting. The answering service doesn’t know this. Call center agents do their job amazingly well, but it’s not fair to expect them to have information no one ever told them. Assuming they can do so is a fast track to disappointment.


Con #2: Call Center Agents Aren’t Virtual Assistants

A recent trend for entrepreneurs and small businesses is to hire a virtual assistant instead of an answering service. While the two share similarities, a virtual assistant and an answering service are not the same thing

A virtual assistant can work on all manner of projects: Writing proposals, making travel arrangements, and updating websites are within their job duties. It’s not workable to expect your telephone answering service to do the same thing. Remember, you pay your telephone answering service much less than you would a virtual assistant, so you’re not going to get the same personalization as you would with a virtual assistant. 

If you need an assistant, but remotely, consider hiring a virtual assistant. But, if your focus is to have phone answering, a virtual receptionist might be the ideal solution.


Con #3: ‘Micromanaging’ Doesn’t Work with Answering Services

The “management by walking around” method doesn’t work with an answering service. 

With that management approach, managers fix problems as they see it unfold in front of them. They can address these problems because they’re physically present to witness them.

But you simply can’t manage, or micromanage, a call answering service. To handle your telephone calls, call center agents are focused on the customer - the reason we do business. Making sure they’re informed, happy, and satisfied is their job. 

Rather than micromanaging, let the call answering service know what you expect. Assuming your expectations are realistic, they'll deliver on the professional service you need. If they aren't realistic, you might want to consider an alternative to an answering service.


Con #4: Answering Services Don’t Have Expert Knowledge of Your Business

Answering services aren’t suited for providing high detail work for low traffic situations. They need frequent interaction so they can excel at them. This is why answering services work for most businesses. 

Most businesses receive similar calls, day in and day out. So, routine questions would not be an issue for the agents as they'd be familiar with them. If your business has routinely asked questions, an answering service would likely help. And answering services usually accommodate detailed instructions if they receive those calls often.

But, it’s not practical to request the answering service to provide detailed information for a question that's asked once a month.

If your business requires someone to address unique situations that don’t receive many calls, it’s best to hire and train someone in-house.

Is An Answering Service Right for Me?

We hope that now you’re a little more equipped to decide if an answering service is right for you.

If your business requires some of the cons listed above, an answering service is likely not the right fit for you. If not, you may benefit from hiring an answering service!

Now that you are more equipped to answer the question “Is an answering service right for me?”, you might be asking:

“Which answering service is right for my business?” or

“How much does an answering service cost?”

We hope these resources help you on your journey as a business decision-maker! You can always connect with us to learn more about answering services.


About Peter DeHaan