Business owners have so many routine tasks to tend to that it’s often difficult to reliably answer new and existing customers over the phone in a prompt and timely manner. At the same time, large companies with a team of receptionists or call centre agents can experience extremely busy periods that cause customers to wait on the other end of the line. That’s unfortunate because customers are looking more and more for reliable and friendly service with real people with which to engage, rather than impersonal chatbots or computers.

This is where phone answering services can help. You might think of an answering machine from decades gone by, or more likely, its modern digital equivalent, voicemail. Although leaving a voice message can be helpful, a telephone answering service provides far more than this.

Telephone Answering Services Defined

A telephone answering service is a professional business service that answers, processes, and redirects incoming calls on behalf of a business. You could think of a telephone answering service as a sort of outsourced switchboard, but we prefer to call them personal assistants (PAs), since a quality service provider offers far more services than simply answering phones.

What Isn’t a Telephone Answering Service?

It’s important to make a distinction here. As a business, telephone answering services are there to answer your phone(s) and relay messages to you. They aren’t call centres where hundreds of employees are not only receiving but also making outgoing sales calls, i.e. telemarketing.

More importantly, reputable telephone answering services aren’t simply human answering machines. PAs are empowered to provide your clients with answers that are backed by industry knowledge.

What’s the Difference?

Telephone answering services differ in that the PAs are trained to answer and behave as though they were a member of your staff. Most callers will be able to speak to a real person and learn more about your business in a more personal way than simply redirecting them to a website. Answering service PAs are typically trained to a high standard, providing a far superior experience than that of automated systems.

Added Value

The mark of quality amongst telephone answering service providers is the amount of training and professionalism expected of PAs. Better services, as mentioned, will appear to most callers to be a part of your organisation through their knowledge of your industry as well as your specific business and what you do. This adds a great amount of value to clients, prospective customers, and of course to you and your business.

Features of a Telephone Answering Service

Although answering the phone on your behalf is amongst the most common reasons to consider a telephone answering service for businesses, quite often providers have quality PAs that can do a lot more. Some of these features include:

  • Screen calls to your business (“gatekeeping”) to avoid unwanted solicitation and scam calls;
  • Process high volumes of phone calls during peak business hours;
  • Cover staff shortages;
  • Triage priority/urgent calls to relevant staff quickly and efficiently.