The modern business model is differing more and more from its traditional counterpart, thanks to the rise of outsourcing. Outsourcing is where businesses use the services of a third party company to help with any number of business operations, for example, using a remote customer service team to help with a rise in call volumes. The benefits are multitudinous, ranging from being more cost effective than hiring full-time staff, just to meet temporary increased demand, to being a far less time-consuming option thanks to the use of another company's HR department. 

Customer service is, in fact, one of the most popular departments that businesses outsource, and they do so particularly in the form of telephone answering services. It's easy to see why, as your customer service team are not only some of your busiest members of staff (92% of all customer interaction happens over the phone) but also have significant responsibility as they act as the face of your company. For these reasons, making sure that this department is working fluidly and with success should be paramount. Outsourcing to a telephone answering service is a surefire way of achieving this, but how do you choose which company to use?

Here, we give you some tips on what to look out for when you're shortlisting providers, to make the process easier for you and enable you to make the most lucrative choice for your business.

Price

Telephone answering services tend to charge based on price per minute, to help you judge value for money. Most will offer a range of packages to suit the various needs of different companies, who will all have different priorities. While it seems straight forward that you would opt for the cheapest provider, pay close to attention to what is included in the price as the cheapest option may not always be the most cost effective. 

The following tips we give in this article, on what to look for in a telephone answering service, give you a good clue of what should be included in a good quality package that will be a good investment and profitable for your company. So, while price is bound to be an aspect in your decision making, try not to prioritise it over more important features such as the quality of training given to those who will be representing your company when they answer your calls.

Accessibility

It's important for your customers to have as much access as possible to your company, for their potential value to be maximised. Not being able to call businesses during business hours due to having your own work commitments, is an issue many people regularly face, therefore, having telephone lines that are open outside of 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, or better yet 24/7, easily sets you apart from competition. One of the benefits of outsourcing to a third party company who specialise in call answering, is that they have a body of staff with different shift patterns, to enable them to be able to answer calls at any time of day if they do choose to offer this.

So, when you're considering telephone answering services, enquire into the hours during which their representatives will be available to take calls for your company. You could also ask how many representatives will be available during certain time periods, so that you can gauge the likelihood of all calls being answered. Most of them understand the importance of offering a wide range of opening times for their phone lines and the impact it can have on the success of their clients, but not all, so be sure to ask what their package includes.

Quality of Service

Acting as the face of your company, you need to be safe in the knowledge that your calls are being answered by people who take their role seriously, behave professionally and have the skills to make the most of leads. Each call has the potential to be profitable when handled by the right person. They could be calls from potential new customers, making enquiries and giving you the opportunity to impress them. They could be calls from existing customers placing new orders, in which case any negative experiences could dissuade them, after all, one third of consumers say they would consider switching companies after just one instance of bad customer service.

Even the way in which calls from those with a grievance are handled can be the difference between maintaining strong relationships with customers and a good reputation, and watching your customer base and reputation dwindle. Your customer service representatives have significant responsibility over the growth of your business, so making sure you choose a telephone answering service that values quality is crucial.

Training 

This leads me nicely to my next piece of advice. It's great that you're able to benefit from fully trained staff when you outsource to a third party company, rather than having to put your own training schemes in place for new employees. However, you can't always rely on the training that your outsourced staff have had being up to scratch. 

When you're making enquiries with various different telephone answering services, to find the one for you, make sure you ask them about the training they provide. Find out what their training prioritises and whether the skills they value match your own. You want customer service representatives who understand the importance of their role and feel confident in handling the wide variety of scenarios that are bound to unfold. 

Integration 

Something that a number of business owners feel apprehensive about when considering outsourcing, is how they can make sure that the service provided by the remote employees is integrated smoothly into the company. Failing to do so can have a negative impact on the reputation of the business. For example, if remote call handlers answer calls with a different approach than your in-house team, or they can't answer questions about the company, it gives the impression that the business isn't prioritising the treatment of its customers and is happy for poorly prepared staff to handle enquiries ineffectively. This also suggests that the company may have a similar level of disinterest in the quality of products they provide. 

While it is important to make sure you choose a telephone answering service that understands the importance of smooth integration, they must also be supportive of the ways in which you can also prepare your outsourced staff. They will need to be provided with knowledge of the kind of questions and scenarios to expect from callers, and of the details in answers that need to be provided. The company they work for needs to have a system in place for the communication of this information, and support in place when help is required. For example, telephone answering service Cymphony have an instant messaging system that allows staff working for the same client to discuss an issue they might be facing, which, in turn, allows them to think up solutions together. 

Communication System 

Finally, once you're sure that your calls will be answered professionally and productively, you also need to consider how any important information gathered during calls with your customers will be communicated back to your company. One of the main advantages of outsourcing to telephone answering services is that calls can be taken outside of your office hours, but this means there needs to be a system in place for the transfer of any important information back to the relevant member of your team within timescales that suit your business - immediately if needed. 53% of consumers believe that their feedback doesn't get back to anyone who can actually act on it, so there is plenty of room to make a great impression by bucking this trend.

When shortlisting providers, ask about their approach to this issue and how they overcome it. Their solution needs to suit your company and how it operates. For example, do they use a ticket system where each individual piece of information is sent immediately across to be picked up in the morning by anyone, or do they summarise it all in a document that can be emailed to one relevant member of staff? What would you prefer and who can provide that for you?

As you can see, there is lots to consider when choosing the best telephone answering service for your business, but taking the time to choose wisely will result in the most profitable addition to your business model. Yet another benefit of outsourcing is that you can use the services on a temporary basis, giving you ready-made trial periods. So many companies are making the most of outsourcing, and by choosing the right provider, you can too.

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