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Wait. There are different types of answering service? Which to choose?
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Wait. There are different types of answering service? Which to choose?

I know what you’re thinking.

‘All I wanted was some help answering calls and now I’m confused about the difference between outsourced phone answering, call centres, IVRs, switchboards, VAs and all the other terms I’ve now come across’.

It’s true, there are lots of types of answering services you can use and they don’t all offer the same service or suit all types of businesses.

So hopefully this should help clear things up a bit.

Let’s start with outsourced phone answering services

This is what we do.

We provide a team of professional PAs who can answer your calls, take messages and forward callers to the right person on your team depending on their enquiry.

Our outsourced answering services make sure you never miss a call and help you deliver better levels of customer support over the phone.

And we do it all just as we would if we were based in your office – except we’re based in ours.

If having real people answer your phones is important to you so your customers get an actual human voice to talk to rather than an answering machine or automated system, then our outsourced phone answering could be the best choice for you.

We can also help you handle calls out of hours, including at the weekend, so you can extend your operating hours without dedicating your own free time to answer the phone.

Why would our service be good for you?

  1. We’re cost effective: We’re probably not the cheapest service you’ll find but we have affordable packages between £95 and £200 that many of our customers comfortably fall into. We’re also much more cost effective than hiring a receptionist.
  2. We create a more professional image: We have real people answering your calls so you can create a better first impression and have a more professional image for your business, compared with sending your customers to a voicemail.

We could add more here but we’ve previously written about the benefits of our outsourced services, which you can read here

Moving on to call centres

I’m sure you know what call centres are, and have probably had experience as a customer dealing with them.

They’re essentially farms of phones that can answer high volumes of calls for all types of businesses, but lack the personal touch you’d get from a dedicated outsourced answering service.

Why are call centres good?

Most call centres are large scale so the main benefit is that they can handle high volumes of calls.

They’re scalable, so you can add more resource as and when you need it.

They can be good for connecting callers with the right department, like transferring someone to sales or support.

Why wouldn’t you use a call centre?

The first problem is they can be expensive. Because call centres offer large scale, they can come with the associated pricing that can make them unaffordable for smaller businesses.

Call centres are also not very personal.

While call handlers can answer calls and make transfers, they can’t engage with your callers in a way you would if you were answering calls in your office.

That’s because call centres are predominantly about transferring calls quickly, not being personable.

So if you want customers greeted by a friendly voice and a PA who can help, a call centre might not be the best investment.

Call centres are also more of a faceless service. You won’t necessarily know the people who are answering your calls and there’s not much chance the call handler will know much about your business because they’re dealing with such a high rate of calls for all kinds of different companies.

If all you want is an organisation to pick up the phone a call centre can be good, but beyond that the service is quite limited when it comes to providing a personalised service to you and your callers.

Let’s talk automated services (like interactive voice response/IVR)

“For sales, press 1.”

If you’ve ever heard something like on the phone when calling a business, then you’ve dealt with IVR and automated call handling in the past.

These automated systems ‘pick up’ calls and then aim to guide the caller through a series of options to get them to the information or person they need to handle their enquiry.

Are they any good?

It depends.

IVR and automated systems can handle basic enquiries and help direct people to the right department or member of your team to get an answer – so in a basic way, they can be good.

They’re also relatively cheap to install because you just need the voice software and the routing capability to make it work.

Sounds great, so why wouldn’t I use an IVR or automated call answering?

The main drawback, is they can be quite frustrating for customers to use (which you’ll probably have experienced before).

Because the systems are automated, they require you as the caller to have some prior knowledge or information that you can use to get yourself to the right department or person.

If you’re not sure who you need to speak with, IVRs can be difficult to navigate.

Plus, because you’re not speaking with a person you can find yourself stuck in a loop of automated options without being able to talk to someone.

Some IVR systems default to sending you to an operator if you get stuck, but by that point the customer can be frustrated.

Finally, automated call answering systems can be difficult to set up because you need to plan and structure all the possible routing options before turning everything on.

If you miss something you could end up with callers being sent to the wrong department, or callers being left stranded in the machine with no idea which option to take and no-one to talk to for help.

Last but not least – industry specific phone answering

This is also us (we do a lot here).

This type of service is essentially an answering service, except the PAs who deal with your calls have extensive experience answering calls in your industry.

From a benefits points of view, it means you’ll have real people answering your calls, and people who already know things about your industry, like common terms or questions.

They can use this knowledge to better represent your business on the phone and saves you needing to train up staff.

If you use us at Face For Business, this isn’t an add on that you need to pay extra for.

We automatically pair you with a PA team who understand your business industry and already have experience dealing with calls in that industry so you can get the best service from day one.

Found the type of phone answering that’s best for you?

If you want a reliable phone answering service that can match you with professional PAs with prior experience answering calls in your industry, talk to Face For Business.

We can help ensure you never miss another call or new business enquiry, while creating the right impression on your callers.

You can even start for free by taking advantage of a free trial.

20th June, 2024

Posted by Face For Business

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