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A key trait of a professional telephone answering services is the way they respond to you and your callers. This applies to a variety of situations but expect an answering service to respond quickly and effectively in each scenario. Consider the following.
Consider your initial contact with a prospective answering service. Whether you call them, send an email, use web chat, or fill out a contact form on their website, they should respond quickly. This response, whether good or bad, is likely what you can expect going forward.
Once you have made your initial contact with a prospective answering service, your inquiry is passed on to a salesperson or the sales team. Although the sales staff functions independent from the staff who will service your account, the responsiveness of the salesforce reflects the paradigms of the answering service and gives you a foretaste of what to expect once you begin using their service.
The bottom line is that if they’re unresponsive during the sales process, can you realistically expect a better response once you hire them?
Once you have signed up to use an answering service, your account will be handed off to a customer service team. This person or department will handle your onboarding as a client to make sure your account is setup correctly to meet your objectives and produce the outcomes you desire. Again their responsiveness in this phase is indicative of the responsiveness should you need to make changes to your account or have a concern later.
In gaging responsiveness, remember that an answering service is a shared service. This means they have other accounts besides just yours. If you have a nonurgent request and someone else has a critical need, they’ll handle the urgent situation first and defer yours for later. This is reasonable and works both ways. If you have an urgent need, you’ll want it handled quickly, so you might need to let your routine issues be handled later.
Essential to customer service responsiveness is assessing the nature of each call or email and then responding in a timely manner as appropriate. A successful answering service understands this.
Until this point our discussion on responsiveness focused on the responsiveness to you as the answering service’s client. Equally, if not more, important is their responsiveness to your callers and customers. To be concise, when your phone rings you expect your answering service to answer it within a reasonable time.
How long is reasonable? Everyone says the first ring, but do all phone calls in your office get answered that quickly? Not likely. A typical goal and one that’s commonly accepted by industry experts is that answering most calls within three rings is a great level of service. That’s about twenty seconds, a time most callers find acceptable.
During business hours all management staff is present at your answering service. That means your answering service operators have a great deal of supervision to keep them focused and on track.
What happens when upper management goes home and frontline management takes over? At a quality answering service, nothing changes. The same level of responsiveness that your callers and customers enjoy during the day will continue to exist into the evening and carry over to third shift, as well as on weekends and holidays.
How can you see if an answering service is responsive in all five of these areas? It’s hard. You can personally judge the first two items when you make your initial inquiry and as you interact with their sales team. As far as the other three items, you can ask for referrals, look at online reviews, or seek feedback from other businesses who use that answering service.
The key is that a successful answering service is responsive in all five of these areas. A great telephone answering service knows this is important and seeks to meet their clients’ expectations.
Richard L. Hutcherson is the director of operations for Answering Service One, a new kind of answering service that wants to become your number one resource to handle your communication needs. Contact Richard at 865-505-0456. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan. Check out Answering Service One to see if they’re the right answering service solution for your business.