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What is a telephone answering service?

What is a telephone answering service?

A telephone answering service provides businesses with a back-up reception for those times when they can’t answer the phone themselves or when existing staff are already busy taking other calls or are away from their desks; whether this be during a lunch break, on annual leave or perhaps when long-term sickness is a factor.   A telephone answering service can also be known as a call answering service or a call handling service.  But they all strive to offer you the same service, helping you to have all calls answered.

Did you know that 80% of people won’t leave a message on an answering machine and that these are no longer considered modern technology? Plus, people are becoming more insistent on speaking to ‘humans’ in this age of the internet.  They may complete online forms or send emails, as requested to do so, but when they have a problem they want to speak with someone. Many people don’t like enquiring over the internet and prefer to make enquires or bookings over the telephone.

To see what people think about caller satisfaction, view the results of a survey we had commissioned here.

Why do UK businesses need a telephone answering service? 

There are many reasons businesses want to use a telephone answering service, and in this section we’ve tried to focus on the main ones.

Less stress and worry about losing new business

People rely on their mobile phones more and more these days and although this leads to an increase in accessibility to the plethora of services and products available, it also makes people more impatient.

In most cases people will turn to mobiles to search for a service or product.  They’ll come across a fully optimised mobile website and will make the call to enquire/gain costs there and then.

If they were to call a business and the phone was to go unanswered, what would the next natural step be? You’ll find (or know yourself) that they’ll go to the next result on Google.

Meaning the business who didn’t answer their phone, missed out. 

Using a phone answering service omits this aspect, and calls are answered in your business name with the call handling PA/virtual receptionist acting as though he or she is working alongside you in your office/work space.

Upholding your businesses reputation

Often, business owners who are in the process of establishing themselves in their industry need time away from their place of work to network, to pitch to new clients, to be attending meetings or away at training days and conferences.  This is the time to ensure that the reputation you have built up is being maintained.  Your call answering PA will have made it their business to get to know yours before they go live with your calls.  This means that they have knowledge of the type of enquires to expect from your callers, giving you peace of mind that your PA (although virtual to you) will handle your calls just as you would.  Having an experienced phone answering receptionist helps you maintain the professional image that you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Time to focus and concentrate on the task to hand

Do you often become interrupted by the constant ringing of your business line and wish that you could just turn the phone off whilst you work? This can be the case for many independent businesses such as graphic designers, independent financial advisers, accountants, therapists, consultants, etc. These types of businesses may not have staff, yet rely on their incoming phone calls as a means of capturing new business leads and opportunities. They answer their phone when they can themselves, but when they can’t they want a fail-safe outsourced receptionist to answer their calls for them when they can’t.  The same applies to most businesses, large or small from all sectors.

Less worry about man power

Some businesses will already have a receptionist or switchboard but during peak times throughout the year may need to outsource their call handling to keep up with demand and the increase in enquiries.  Cover is also required for annual leave.  Having a call handing service to take your overflow calls will provide reassurance during these busy periods.

Benefits of using a telephone answering service

There are many benefits of using a telephone answering service but the main ones include:

  • Gain new business – capture new callers that may otherwise go to a competitor
  • Better reputation and offering excellent customer service to your existing callers and new customers
  • Bespoke technology – software created especially for call handling purposes, making the transition more seamless from your office to ours
  • Free time – free yourself from interruptions and sales calls
  • Save money – no need to employ a full-time receptionist to help with calls
  • Peace of mind – be rest assured that you have support when you can’t answer the phone
  • Professionally trained people handling your calls
  • No more stress or worry about your calls, your time or your money

Who uses a telephone answering service? 

The short answer and easy answer to this would be ‘anyone in business’.

However, for the sake of this blog, it’s anyone in business who cares about first impressions and doesn’t want to miss business opportunities.

A telephone answering service can be beneficial to a sole trader – perhaps you are an electrical contractor or a beauty therapist and work away from an office and are often at clients’ premises?

The service benefits smaller businesses like accountants, graphic designers and cleaning companies who may have several staff but rely on phone calls for most of their incoming business, so need a solution to constantly engaged tones before needing to employ a full-time receptionist.

Another group of businesses that use telephone answering services are the larger corporate companies or multi-sited offices.

This group of businesses use a call answering service as an ‘outsourced or overflow reception’ acting as a back-up switchboard and re-diverting the calls to the appropriate person/departments.

There may be other reasons that you may need a call answering service

  • You’re busy and in the middle of urgent work
  • You’re in a meeting or on a training day
  • You’re on the road and it isn’t safe to answer the phone – but you’re waiting for a particular call
  • You don’t have enough staff but can’t afford to take on a receptionist to cover the phones
  • You do have enough staff, but they are busy focusing on their work or on other calls
  • Calls aren’t seen as a priority (ouch) so resources are put into other tasks
  • Your business is closed – for training or annual leave
  • You’re on holiday or are off sick
  • You’re having your lunch break (or visiting the rest room!)

All of the above are reasons why you may not be able to answer the phone.

How does a telephone answering service work?

Most telephone answering services use bespoke call handing software that provides key information to the call answering PA when calls are presented.

A simple divert process (via telephone providers such as BT and Talk Talk) is put in place and is usually set to divert on an engaged tone or unanswered. 

The call will then be diverted to the telephone answering service where the call is answered, and the PA is presented with information relevant to your business. 

Once the PA has taken down all requested information, the message is sent on to the client via email or, in some cases, text message.  If the business wants to answer their calls themselves then they remove the divert themselves. 

There are normally only a few steps to take; from account setup, divert, introductions to the PAs who’ll be answering your calls and system testing.

What to consider when choosing a telephone answering service

There are a number of questions to think about when making the decision about which telephone answering service to use.  You’re putting your trust in another business after all and you’ll want to be assured that the service you choose has all the necessary systems in place. Questions to consider include:-

  • How do you know you’ve chosen a company who has the appropriate systems in place?
  • How can you monitor the calls they answer on your behalf?
  • Can you listen back to your calls?
  • Where are your messages stored? Do they offer you your own client portal to log in to?
  • How are the PAs trained? How experienced are they? What do they do to get to know your business?
  • Do you get your own Lead PA?
  • Look on the website of numerous telephone answering services and look at their images and main messages. Review their testimonials and see if they have any case studies.  All this helps you to make an informed decision.

In summary, choosing a telephone answering service is a personal journey and preference.  You need to have complete faith and trust in the service you choose.  Putting your business calls in the hands of a virtual receptionist service can be daunting and overwhelming, but the majority of call answering services are there to help and support businesses just like you and more often than not know exactly what they’re doing.  Check their mission statements and brand values – do you like what you read?   Do your research, ring around and go with your gut instinct.

If you want to know more about telephone answering services and how they could help your business – read our Ultimate Guide to Telephone Answering Services here

Face for Business Telephone Answering Services

If you would like to find out more about how our service works, watch the quick video below, then perhaps visit our homepage to meet our PAs and find out about what make us different from other phone answering services.

13th July, 2020

Posted by Face For Business

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