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A Better Answer - Blog

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5 Thoughts You Need To Stop Ignoring When It Comes to Customer Service

When you're preoccupied with a workload coming from all directions, customer service needs commonly fall to the wayside. You might be aware of the issues, but taking action can slip through if you're overwhelmed by tasks. 

Ignoring the issues won't make them go away; taking steps to address them and fix them is the first step to growing your business.

Here are five thoughts you need to stop ignoring when it comes to your customer service.

Customer Service Is a Low Priority

Most business owners and managers focus solely on bringing in new business and increasing revenue, putting customer service needs to the side. It’s easy to forget without proper customer service procedures in place, you'll lose your customers and that affects your bottom line.

Did you know three out of four clients turn to a different brand due to an unsatisfactory customer service experience? If that number didn't scare you, did you also know companies lose $2,378 per second due to inadequate client support procedures?

On top of all that, a recent survey found 82% of customers stated they switched companies after a lousy consumer care experience.

Poor client care could be severely hurting your business. It is time to stop ignoring the poor customer service your business delivers. To grow your business, you must first assess the quality of your company's client services.

If you don't have the infrastructure to support customer service needs, consider hiring an answering service. They can help you with an influx of calls, schedule appointments and mirror your brand's culture while interacting with your customers. This way, you can continue focusing on growing the business and other crucial tasks without spreading yourself too thin. 

Multiple Complaints About the Same Agent

One loyal customer can bring you dozens more, but just one bad review can scare away many more prospects. Your biggest assets are your loyal customers. Every complaint will hurt your business — you must take them seriously and try your best to resolve them, especially if the complaint is repetitive.

It is human nature to spread bad experiences more than satisfactory ones. A report from Harvard Business Review shows 65% of clients would speak to at least several people about their poor experience with a company, which most businesses can't afford.

As a manager or business owner, the thought of replacing an employee on top of your busy day-to-day activities seems daunting, but sometimes it's necessary. 

If you continue to receive complaints about a customer service agent, don't ignore it. It could be hurting your business — both in revenue and reputation. Keeping a team member who is hurting your brand will also show your customers you don't listen to their needs.

If you believe you can salvage the relationship with your employee, go ahead. Maybe the team member needs more training, or perhaps they aren't a good fit. If the latter is the case, you will need to let them go.

Not Learning From Negative Experiences

Inevitably, you won't make everyone happy, but there are many times when business owners get negative feedback and ignore it. Excuses like "they were unreasonable" or "that customer had no idea what they were talking about" are commonly thrown around. 

Instead of brushing these experiences under the rug, take it as an opportunity to learn from the situation. Yes, there will be some people who have a chip on their shoulder and some pretty unreasonable complaints, but it doesn't mean that you should ignore them. If you dive deep into the problem without passing judgment, you can still pull valuable lessons out of it.

Find out exactly what went wrong from both parties and why the customer is dissatisfied — perhaps you’ll be able to avoid or resolve this issue if it comes up again in the future.

Conflict resolution procedures are often overlooked, but it's crucial your team gets proper training in this area. This way, your employees will know how to deal with uncomfortable situations and conflicts that potentially hurt your reputation (and team morale).

Don't Think Response or Wait Times Matter ?

For smaller businesses, it can be difficult to answer every call and resolve things quickly. Typically, small businesses only have a single receptionist to handle phone calls and email correspondence. But it is of utmost importance to address your clients' needs in the shortest time possible.

Today is the age of the consumer, and with a good reason. Their needs are what drive your business in the first place and just one unsatisfactory client care experience can chase them away.

In this fast-spinning world, customers expect short wait times and quick responses. The length of response times directly affects the likelihood of a customer buying from you again. There is a 55% chance that the prospective customer won't buy from you again if your answer takes longer than a week and a 45% chance they won't come back if you don't respond in a matter of days. 

Catching up with the "here and now" demand can be challenging even for larger companies, let alone smaller brands. That's why it's essential to make your process as efficient as possible.

Consider investing in training your current employees or hiring more staff if necessary. Does your team need better programs to use? Can parts of their processes be automated? Can they be trained to handle multiple inquiries at a time? Always think of the ways to improve first call resolution more agile and successful. 

Telling Customers You'll Get Back to Them

Sometimes it's easier to take a note and get back to customers when things are busy at the office, but doing so is not in your best interest. 

Try to get in your clients' shoes — wouldn't you be frustrated if you had to continuously call a company back or wait days for them to respond? According to HubSpot, 33% of customers feel most frustrated when they have to repeat their problem to more than one person.

The average customer experience is usually poor since few companies realize the value of proper customer care. Once a customer leaves the chat or hangs up, the likelihood of their getting an answer to their problem and being satisfied with their experience is low.

If your reps are dealing with an intricate issue on a call and they need more help handling it, give the customer an expected response time. If you promise a client they will hear back from you in a specific amount of time, you must live up to those expectations. Otherwise, you will lose your customer’s trust — and potentially lose their business as well. 

Need Help With Your Customer Service Needs?

Many client service issues stem from not having the right staff, infrastructure or procedures in place. 

Instead of neglecting your customer service department and hurting your business, consider A Better Answer - outsourcing. Hiring an answering service means you don't have to worry about not fulfilling your consumers' needs, as they will be able to handle incoming calls, schedule appointments and manage your brand's relationship with your customers. 

To make a knowledgeable decision that is best for your company's current situation, consider every factor before outsourcing customer service help.

Always remember that a happy customer equals a successful business.

Publish Date: August 19, 2021 5:00 AM

How To Provide 24/7 Customer Service Without Working Around the Clock

Offering around-the-clock customer service help is something most customers expect companies to provide. In fact, 75% of customers expect a resolution within five minutes when contacting customer support for help. 75% also rate fast response times as the highest factor in a positive customer experience. 

The thing is, one person or one team can't provide 24/7 support, which means it's time for more creative solutions.

Many businesses get stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to customer service. You've got an influx of calls and not enough staffing or processes in place to keep up with them, or maybe you don't have the budget and infrastructure to hire an entire in-house team.

Scaling a team can be difficult, especially for small companies. Even if you're not overflowing with calls, offering 24/7 customer service is a vital perk to add to your company as more and more customers are looking for "after-hours" customer service help.

Failing to meet clients’ expectations is detrimental to any brand. It will result in bad reviews, a poor reputation and dissatisfied clients.

How To Know if Your Business Needs 24/7 Customer Service

It’s time to dive into your analytics and reports to see if 24/7 customer service help will benefit your company and customers.

First, do a little check of your company's current position: 

Are you available on all channels? Are you meeting quotas or expected service levels (SLAs)? How many calls are going missed and emails unanswered per day? Are you receiving negative feedback from customers who don't hear from you?

The biggest downfall of the typical 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. structure is that it's very inconvenient for clients who aren't living in your time zone. And if your business has prospects from all around the globe, offering 24/7 client support is vital to having satisfied customers. Another thing you should consider is providing client care in their native language — especially if you have an influx of calls from the same country. 

Another pitfall of the standard working hours is problems usually don't wait for your office to open. They can happen anytime, anywhere ... and some of them could be urgent. 

Expanding your customer service team and offers can help improve sales, increase customer happiness and boost your reputation. When your customers' needs are pointing toward around-the-clock customer service, it's time to start looking for ways to provide that.

4 Ways To Provide 24/7 Customer Service

There is no better time than now to start offering readily available customer service to your prospects and customers. 

Utilize Remote Workers

Even before COVID, work-from-home jobs were becoming more popular. Now that many companies and industries have embraced remote work, it's easy to find remote employees to help expand your customer service team.

You can hire remote workers from all around the globe, which is especially helpful for overnight shifts. Hiring remote workers in foreign countries is the most beneficial way of covering America's overnight hours — that way, the workers will be working in their standard working hours.

Remote teams can also bridge any language gaps you see consistently (i.e. many Spanish callers with no one on the team who speaks Spanish). Offering customer service help in multiple languages (if it makes sense for your business) is a smart choice, and it will make the whole client care experience more personalized. 

Hire an Overnight Team

An in-house overnight team can be costly and risky, but it is still an option. Consider the cost it will take to pay for the whole team, any benefits if they're considered full-time, the expenses to keep lights and electricity on all the time, etc.

The good thing is, you won't need to pay for more desk space or equipment because they can work at daytime employees' desks. If your overnight team is more extensive, you may need to hire a manager or find someone trustworthy. You are leaving them your office in the most vulnerable hours, after all.

If your brand is small and just starting, chances are you probably don’t need an entire overnight team of full-time workers. But if you have many calls that come in overnight or you need additional help with answering emails, this would be beneficial.

Before considering this option, make sure to write down all the risks involved.

Work With an Answering Service

Outsourcing work to a partner, like an answering service or call center, can help you handle your after-hours customer service inquiries. It is usually the most convenient option, as you're handing your business to a professional while not having to pay as much money as you'd spend implementing other solutions.

Answering services can also help with more than just answering phone calls. Many of them can make outgoing calls to help with business development, schedule appointments, send out reminders, answer emails and other secretarial duties. It’s like having an entire team working for you without the risks that in-house employees bring. The answering service will handle your phone lines on nights and weekends so that you don't have to worry about another sales call going unanswered. 

Another perk is if your company has a specific script or verbiage to use while communicating with clients or has a certain "vibe" you'd like to obtain, an answering service will tailor their communication style to your brand.

The cherry on the top is hiring an answering service is significantly less expensive than hiring an in-house or remote team, as they generally charge only the time spent answering your calls.

Implement Automated Systems

Another convenient solution is an automated system. Nowadays, many computerized systems can walk customers through specific steps on the phone — like Southwest Airlines. They give you many options via an automated system so you don't have to wait for a customer service representative. Clients can do things such as check flight status, check rewards and more.

It will also enable you to stay available when customers need you the most, similar to an answering service.

According to 99 firms, 41% of consumers rated live chat as their preferred channel for contacting support teams. That means if you are not available for chat help when customers are shopping or close to purchasing, you're missing almost half of your opportunities for sales. Depending on the nature of your products and services, using live chat could set you up for success.

Start Offering Around-the-Clock Services for Your Customers and Prospects

Knowing what options you have available is crucial to making a knowledgeable decision for your business. When researching solutions more, be sure to keep your budget, location, wants and customer needs in mind. After all, their needs are of utmost importance.

Don't implement remote help in other countries if it's not needed or use an automated chat system if it doesn't get utilized. In most cases, the least expensive and most beneficial option is an answering service. 

If you opt for this solution, you'll be paying inbound calls on a per-minute basis. There are different types of services as well that you can cater to your needs. 

So, how much does it cost to hire a call center? That depends.

For shared calls — where a large team of operators answers the phone — the price range is usually from $0.90/minute to $2.50/minute. If you choose a more dedicated approach, where a smaller group of operators answers the calls from one company on a per-hour basis, the additional price range goes anywhere from $20–$28 or $30–$50 for international calls.

There is A Better Answer for your needs.

Publish Date: July 22, 2021 5:00 AM

How AI Is Changing the Customer Service Space

The idea that robots or artificial intelligence (AI) will start taking over human positions is now very real. Even the customer service industry is utilizing it to improve customer experiences. 

Want to know how? Here are six ways AI is changing the customer service space.

Providing a Proactive, Personalized Customer Service Experience 

It’s hard enough for companies to handle the customer service needs of their current customers. Adding on proactive customer service can be difficult, but AI is helping. 

AI is becoming the first contact for customers and clients. It can be used to proactively answer common questions or concerns prospects have before they purchase your product or service.

Typically, AI is used in the form of a chatbot. Prospects or customers can type in their questions or choose from a list of frequently asked questions and the AI bot answers them, making it a win-win for the company and the prospect. 

A chatbot enables companies to catch inquiries in the moment while prospects are shopping or investigating. Communicating with prospects in this process of their buying journey will increase sales.

The majority of e-commerce purchases are made on Monday and Thursday nights between 8 and 9 p.m. when most offices and businesses are closed — so utilizing an AI system, a virtual assistant or an answering service to handle inquiries after hours is crucial. 

AI systems also use a feature called intent prediction.

Intent prediction uses an algorithm that predicts a customer’s next steps based on their online actions like web page views, button clicks and purchases. Using a feature like intent prediction helps companies proactively address issues before they arise, offer help when a customer or prospect needs it most and deliver a personalized experience.

If a customer visits the shipping page or clicks the “how to track my package” option on a website multiple times and calls a company support center, AI can predict which department the customer wants to be transferred to. In this case, it would be the department that handles accounts or tracking information.

The tracking information and metrics an AI system documents can also provide a hyper-personalized experience.

Algorithms are being used to predict when a client is about to leave or cancel their subscription. The client will then receive personalized deals or packages to increase customer retention. 

Online streaming services predict what their users want to watch and suggest personalized options based on demographics and viewing history. Algorithms have saved Netflix $1B in customer retention.

Transferring Calls

A common hurdle many companies hit is an influx of incoming calls with only one person to handle them.

At most companies, a receptionist handles incoming calls — along with office, administrative and other duties. When a receptionist gets tied up with calls all day, they will not get their other tasks done and calls will go unanswered.

An AI program can handle answering and transferring calls. The process is similar to an automated answering system where a caller is asked a few questions about why they’re calling. AI gives them the help they need or transfers them to the appropriate person or department.

Having a system answer and transfer calls not only decreases hold time and limits frustrations from incoming callers, but also takes an entire task off of your receptionist's plate to free them up for other initiatives.

Analyzing Emotion

In the customer service space, AI is also being used to analyze emotions.

Emotion analytics analyzes an individual’s verbal and non-verbal communication to understand their mood or attitude.

In a chat or phone call, AI can gauge the client’s feelings, attitude, and demeanor before they speak to a human representative. This is beneficial because when AI notices seemingly angry customers, they can transfer the customer to the customer retention or relations department to make amends. On the other hand, AI can transfer happy customers to a sales team or account rep to pitch an upsell while the customer is in a good mood.

Making You Available 24/7

AI can give companies 24/7 customer service availability; however, they can’t give the full effect of a human yet. AI is helpful for proactive calls, simple inquiries, and guidance.

Customers these days expect companies to be available around the clock and want short wait times to speak to a representative.

AI systems can tell a customer the location of a package, the status of a flight or the link to a web page, but they are not able to handle complex situations or make managerial decisions ... yet.

Helping customers when they need you is the best way to increase sales and improve your customer service experience.

Boosting Agent Mood and Productivity

It’s no secret happy employees give better customer service. In fact, companies that have happier employees show 147% higher earnings per share than their competitors, while disengaged employees cost U.S. companies up to $550 billion a year.

In the customer service world, AI systems help customer support reps understand which calls to prioritize, give them personalized points to connect with customers and streamline their processes. 

Supporting representatives with the best tools available will provide the best customer experience outcome.

Is AI Taking Over Customer Service?

While utilizing the glitz and glam of AI sounds appealing to many companies, 90% of customers still want to be greeted on the phone by a friendly human voice, proving human interactions are here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future). 

On top of that, companies spend $6,000 to $300,000 for custom AI solutions — a hefty amount, especially for small to mid-sized companies. 

Did you know hiring an answering service can meet many of your customer service needs and is less expensive than an AI system?

If you need A Better Answer or help meeting customer service demands and you’re weighing your options, here are the benefits of outsourcing over hiring in-house.

Publish Date: June 28, 2021 5:00 AM

Virtual Assistant vs. Answering Service: Which Is Right for You?

So you’ve finally decided to upgrade your customer service? Good choice, and congratulations!

That means your business is growing and you need more help.

When it comes to building a customer service team, there are many options. If you’ve chosen to forego hiring an in-house team member, two other options are hiring a virtual assistant or an answering service. Both solutions have their own set of pros and cons.

In the end, choose the option best for your business and your customers.

Key factors to consider when weighing the options of hiring a virtual assistant or an answering service to improve your customer service experience.

Determine Your Customer Service Needs

Before you decide between hiring a virtual assistant or an answering service, you must first understand your customer service needs.

Do you have an influx of calls you can’t handle right now? Do you need help cold calling and following up with leads? Maybe you require team members to have a specialized skill set.

Figuring out your business needs will help you better serve your customers. When your customers are happy, your business will grow.

Other factors to consider before hiring customer service help are:

  • How many inbound calls do you get per day?
  • Will you need someone who is bilingual?
  • Are you looking to implement automated messages?
  • Does your industry require specific knowledge and training?
  • Are you looking for extra help with mundane tasks? 
  • Do you need 24/7 customer service?

Answering these questions will help you decide what the better answer is for you.

What Is a Virtual Assistant?

A virtual assistant (VA) is an individual or group of people who work closely with your business to provide support in various ways.

First and foremost, a virtual assistant can help with customer service needs such as answering inbound calls and transferring them to the correct department. This is similar to what answering services do — but they also do much more.

Typically, virtual assistants are used on a smaller scale for smaller companies and work the same hours your company does.

VAs tend to be more integrated into your business processes than answering services. They will be trained as an in-house hire to learn your systems, processes and tasks you seek their help to complete.

Virtual assistants can do much more than just answer incoming calls; they act more like personal assistants and have the ability to do almost anything you need.

VAs can provide account updates to clients, schedule meetings with prospects and help with mundane tasks like data entry or updating CRM systems. Virtual assistants also gain more knowledge as they continue to work within your business. They receive ongoing training and act as an extension of your company.

Benefits of a virtual assistant include:

  • Virtually no overhead: Virtual assistants will already have their equipment 
  • Increased productivity and efficiency: VAs are hyper-focused and able to accomplish tasks that your team can’t get to
  • Ability to focus on scaling your business: You’ll get the time-consuming tasks off your plate, enabling you to focus on business development and processes
  • Gain specialty skills missing within your company: Hire a virtual assistant to help with technical questions, marketing, or almost any other niche
  • Hourly rates: You only pay when work is being done and have no additional costs such as health insurance, PTO, or other benefits

What Is an Answering Service?

An answering service provides client-facing call agents to support your business with incoming calls, outgoing calls and transferring calls — similar to traditional receptionist duties. An answering service provides multiple agents, not one person as a virtual assistant solution does.

For the most part, answering service responsibilities stick to phone support, meaning they don’t handle your CRM system, marketing tasks or other duties that a virtual assistant can manage. However, they can answer FAQs and help resolve immediate issues.

Answering services usually charge a monthly or annual retainer based on your needs.

Benefits of answering services include:

  • Cost savings: An answering service cost less than hiring one in-house team member
  • Improve customer acquisition and retention: Always being available to answer questions and concerns will increase sales and customer satisfaction
  • Customize your customer service experience: An answering service will follow your script, guidelines, and brand voice so your customer experience is seamless 
  • 24/7 customer service: Answering services provide support around the clock, even when your office is closed

Choose the Best Solution for Your Needs

Being aware of the differences between a virtual assistant and an answering service will ensure you pick the right choice for your business’ customer service needs.

Remember that an answering service provides a team of support, 24/7 accessibility and can take on all of your phone support needs. A virtual assistant is one person who can help with tasks across the board, like data entry, marketing tasks and updating client information.

Whichever solution you choose to implement, there’s more to consider before doing so. If you opt for a virtual assistant, these are the main qualities to look for in one. If an answering service sounds best for you, we have six questions you need to ask during the interview process.

Publish Date: June 22, 2021 5:00 AM

6 Most Common Call Center Myths Debunked

The term “call center” can have a negative connotation — but why?

The old-school vision of a call center that many people have imprinted in their minds is much different from what it is now. Call centers have heavily trained employees, focus on quality over quantity and partnering with one to take care of your incoming calls can help scale your business.

Providing an outstanding customer service experience should be of the utmost importance for any company and a call center can assist with those needs.

Follow along as we debunk the six most common myths about call centers. 

Call Centers Are Offshore and Offer a Low-Quality Service

One old myth about call centers is that they are offshore, which means they offer a low-quality service or have difficulty communicating. That is not the case.

There are estimated to be over 7,400 call centers in the U.S. giving you many options to choose from if you’re concerned about the location of the call center.

Many call centers offer bilingual services as well so you can effectively communicate with all of your customers, whether in the United States or another country.

Plus, the assumption offshore services are low-quality in any industry is untrue. Many call center employees are remote now and work across the globe, providing excellent services from wherever they are. Anyone can be working offshore these days.

Another worry company owners face is that an outsourced call center will not portray the company’s values, mission, branding and messaging — another myth we’ll demystify. 

Not an Extension of Your Company

As we alluded to, a common myth about centers is their employees will not act as an extension of your company. This means they speak to customers the way you would, exude the same morals your company would and align with your company’s voice and procedures.

Understandably, owners and managers don’t want to tarnish a company’s reputation by hiring a call center that doesn’t know what they are talking about or that would act rudely to their customers. As with any hire, you want that person to convey the same tone, voice, and experience that your brand always offers.

A customer service experience should be seamless and call centers can do that for you.

The idea a modern call center will act differently than your in-house staff is false. At a professional and reputable call center, all representatives will be trained on your branding, processes, tone and voice so they can offer the same experience to a customer that anyone in-house would.

Phone Support Is Dying

With the rise of live chat and customer service needs being conducted via email and text, many people think phone support is dying, and as a result, call centers are a dying breed — but again, this isn’t true.

A staggering 76% of consumers prefer to reach customer support via phone calls. This stat alone debunks customer service phone support is dying.

We don’t think phone support will ever die completely. A best practice when it comes to customer support is offering an omnichannel approach. Be available on the channels your customers want to contact you on.

There will always be customers and clients who prefer to call for customer service instead of filling out a form, sending an email or waiting online for a chat response.

Managers Don’t Care About Their Employees or Offering a Quality Service

The way call centers are portrayed in shows and movies tends to show call center managers with their feet up at their desks while the customer service team works frantically, but this is another myth. 

While there are certain metrics to be met, call center managers (at respectable places) will care about the whole customer experience — from initial communication to the follow-up phase.

It’s also common for call center managers to incentivize their customer service team, boosting productivity and efficiency.

Call Center Representatives Are Slackers

Another common myth business owners associate with a call center is that productivity is low, and employees don’t care about the work they’re doing … wrong again.

The majority of call centers have a thorough hiring process. Call centers spend four to six months training employees and nearly $10k in hiring and training costs to get competent and eager customer support representatives.

Of course, that is not the case all the time — but it’s a helpful question to ask if you’re considering hiring a call center.

On top of the training protocols, many call center employees have degrees, are in their 20s or 30s, and make a similar salary as a teacher. Call center reps can multitask, have strong communication skills and work hard to support themselves and their families, just like any other position.

Hiring a Call Center Is Too Expensive

The cost of hiring a call center depends on your company’s requirements, like the number of calls answered per day, the number of team members needed to answer calls, and if you need a specialized team with technical skills.

Hiring a call center or answering service is cheaper than hiring in-house help.

Comparatively, hiring one person to handle your incoming calls in a receptionist-type position costs around $35,000. Many variables factor into the cost of a call center, but generally, a call center can cost around $12,000/year.

Partner With the Right Call Center

As with hiring any addition to your company, remember to find the right one for your business. Each company has different needs and preferences — and when it comes to call centers, there’s A Better answer as not all of them are the same.

Make sure to interview a few call centers before hiring one. Ask for testimonials or case studies and check out these important considerations before hiring a call center.

Publish Date: June 21, 2021 5:00 AM

Live Chat vs. Phone Support: Choosing the Right One for Your Business

If you’re lucky, your business will run into growing pains. Growing pains typically mean you have too much business with too many tasks and not enough staffing power or processes in place to efficiently keep things running  The one department that gets overwhelmed during the growth of a business is customer service.

When your customer service needs are too much to handle, orders get missed, questions go unanswered and you end up with unhappy customers.

A common problem business owners and operations managers run into is how to expand their customer service team or processes.

When one person can’t keep up with the influx of email inquiries and customer service needs, business owners often look to fill customer service needs through live chat or phone support. 

Choosing between the two can be difficult as they both have pros and cons. Ultimately, it depends on your business needs.

Here are some tips to help you choose between providing phone support or live chat to help scale your business and improve the customer service experience. There is A Better Answer.

Implementing Both Live Chat and Phone Support Is Ideal

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, we want to note offering phone support and live chat together is ideal for most companies. It’s a “best practice” to provide multiple ways for customers to contact you, but if you don’t have the infrastructure to support both, choosing one or the other will have to do for the interim.

While many people think you need to have customer service teams available in every channel — phone, email, social media and live chat — customer service is only helpful if it’s offered where your customers are hanging out.

For instance, if your target audience is the Boomer generation, phone support might be the channel to implement first.

While live chat has been on the rise for years, phone support is the original form of customer communication and most people highly prefer it.

Despite the availability of automated solutions, three in four consumers still prefer to interact with a real person.

Think about your target market and what would work best for them before making any decisions. Where do they hang out? How do they like to communicate? When are they shopping or reaching out to companies? These questions should be some of the determining factors in deciding what type of customer service channels to add to your support system.

Also, consider the type of business you have and the type of inquiries you generally get.

Tech companies that handle complex products and provide complicated directions may prefer phone support to streamline communication. In contrast, retail companies that deal with many shipping inquiries or simple FAQs may opt for live chat to handle questions quickly.

Omnichannel support is almost always best if you’re able to do so. If that’s not feasible, here are the pros and cons of live chat vs. phone support for your customer service needs.

What Is Live Chat?

You’ve probably seen a little chat bubble on the right side of some websites. The chat bubble icon is what shows that a company offers live chat.

Live chat works similarly to text messaging — type a message in a chatbox and wait for a reply. 

Online chat support comes in two forms (or a hybrid of both). One option is to have a human handling the chat to get real-time answers from a real person. Another form of live chat is automated chat, which lets customers type or choose from a list of frequently asked questions. Beyond the designated answers chosen to be used in the program, the live chat doesn’t offer extended support. 

Pros of Live Chat

  • Quick to answer simple questions
  • Agents can potentially handle more than one chat at a time, answering more inquiries per hour
  • Can provide “automated” chat when reps are not available 

Cons of Live Chat

  • Often seen as spam or not a real person, so users don’t utilize it
  • Complex situations can be confusing and difficult to explain
  • Long wait times; high customer abandonment when they don’t get an answer quickly or think they’re talking to a bot
  • Limitations on what information can be shared via chat
  • Lulls in chat make resolutions take longer than if they were on the phone

What Does Phone Support Entail?

Phone support is as simple as it sounds; it includes a person-to-person conversation via telephone.

Even in the ultra-digital age we live in, 76% of consumers prefer to reach customer support via phone calls, so offering phone support is crucial for many businesses. Customers expect phone support, but implementing live chat is not an industry standard.

An additional benefit of offering phone support is if you hire an answering service, they can conduct other tasks in tandem with answering support calls and questions. Many companies that offer phone support can also complete outbound calls, send text messages and help with an abundance of admin tasks.

Pros of Phone Support

  • Personalized experience
  • Agents can gauge happiness or frustration levels and cater their demeanor to that
  • Support can help with complex inquiries 
  • Easier to read satisfaction and quality of service when hearing the customer’s voice
  • Generally faster resolution times
  • Can offer a call-back system instead of making customers wait in queue 
  • Easy to scale (when hiring a call center or answering service)

Cons of Phone Support

  • Potentially long wait times; customers can’t get through to a representative
  • Cost can be high if you hire multiple in-house team members to handle the phones (but you’ll see cost savings when you hire an answering service)

Having Trouble Choosing Which Service Is Best for Your Business?

8 in 10 consumers are willing to switch companies due to poor service, so whichever support channel assistance you decide to go with, make sure it’s an excellent experience for your customers.

If you can’t decide which is best to implement for your business, A Better Answer can help. 

An answering service acts as an extension of your company and can handle your phone support. If even more help is needed beyond phone support, you can hire an in-house employee to handle your live chat in tandem with an answering service so you’re managing both forms of support.

Are you interested in hiring an answering service? Here’s how much it costs to hire one.

Publish Date: June 21, 2021 5:00 AM

Tips To Help Improve Your Company’s First Call Resolution

In an ideal world, customer inquiries are answered and problems are solved during the first contact with a business — but this is not always the case.

When customers don’t get their answers or resolutions the first time they contact a business, it leads to frustration, loss of business, and a poor outlook for your company’s reputation.

On the other hand, a high first call resolution (FCR) rate increases customer satisfaction and loyalty as well as revenue and efficiency to give your brand an exemplary reputation. 

According to SQM Group, “86% of customers who phone into a call center expect their call to be resolved on the first call and for every follow-up call, customer satisfaction drops by 15%” proving a high first call resolution rate is crucial for any business.

So what are other ways improving your FCR helps your bottom line and customer satisfaction? Let's find out.

What Is First Call Resolution?

First call resolution (FCR) is a metric that call centers and answering services use to measure customer satisfaction.

As you can guess, first call resolution is the rate at which an issue is resolved the first time a customer calls in to a company, without the need for follow-up communication.

A high FCR means your customer service representatives are resolving inquiries during the first interaction with a customer or prospect. High FCR typically includes shorter talk time.

A low FCR often means low representative performance — but that is not the only metric measured. A low FCR is a compilation of other factors too, like inefficient software and processes or a lack of training for customer service staff.

How To Measure First Call Resolution Rate

Measuring your first call resolution rate is the first step in improving your rate.

Knowing where your agents or processes are falling short is the best way to figure out how to help them succeed.

Calculating FCR includes post-call surveys asking the customer if their issue was resolved. This survey can be conducted by a third party or an automated system.

Once you’ve gathered this data, your first call resolution calculation can be found by taking the total number of calls resolved on the first call (say, 7,000) divided by the total number of first calls (10,000), which would give you a 70% first call resolution rate formula.

Tips To Improve First Call Resolution

There are many ways to improve your overall customer service tactics, but when it comes to first call resolution, these are specific ways to improve. 

Provide Thorough Employee Training

One of the best ways to improve FCR is with appropriate and thorough employee training. When your representatives are set up for success, they can do their job better.

When customer service reps have the correct training, they’re able to handle the majority of customer calls on their own without having to pull in a manager or conduct follow-up calls. Of course, there will inevitably be situations where managers need to get involved or issues cannot be resolved on the first call, but this should be a rarity.

Your customer service agents should be knowledgeable in your business, products or services, policies, programs, and know-how to handle the most common customer service calls.

While a thorough training process is crucial, adding an internal knowledge base for your customer service agents to easily reference will give them more power to solve customer issues on the spot.

Employee training will be different for every company and industry, but as a best practice, all customer service agents should provide the following when implementing customer service tasks:

  • Provide personalized and friendly service
  • Effectively communicate and understand issues and inquiries
  • Provide resolutions to satisfy the customer
  • Understand and anticipate customer needs

Answer Calls Quickly and Make It Easy for Customers To Contact You

Getting in touch with your support team should be easy.

If customers have to jump through hoops to get in touch with you, they’re going to be agitated by the time they finally talk to a representative. When this happens, you start the call on the wrong foot.

The more effort it takes for customers and prospects to get in touch with you, the lower your FCR goes.

Long hold times bring your first call response rate down because when customers are calling already frustrated, the call tends to turn into a combative, “Why is your customer service so slow?” instead of a happy, “Can you help me with this?” conversation. Your agents then have to deal with multiple problems, which can be challenging to resolve on one call.

Set Clear Goals for Customer Service Agents

When customer service agents have clear and attainable goals, they’re likely to work harder and as result, successfully increase your first call resolution rate.

Customer service agent goals should coincide with the overall business goals. Let them know that boosting your company’s first call resolution rates is a top priority. When agents know this is the goal, they can strive to reach it.

Make sure you don’t set too many expectations at once, as it can be confusing and difficult to achieve. Instead, plan monthly, quarterly, or yearly goals. 

To help achieve goals and raise your FCR, try incentivizing your reps. Rewarding employees who reach these goals and have a high customer satisfaction rate shows you care and will build healthy competition so your employees can improve.

Gather Feedback and Implement the Right Tools

Another way to boost your first call response rates is to analyze your current processes.

You might think the programs and processes you have in place work fine, but checking the data and gathering feedback from employees will help you better understand which systems work great and which ones need to be adjusted for higher efficiency.

There are many resources sharing helpful ways to audit your customer service process to help you conduct audits.

Company owners should run consistent audits to gather feedback on all aspects of the business. Software changes, technology advances, and customer needs shift — keeping up with these trends is critical.

The software and processes you’ve used for years can easily become an impediment over time.

As an example, when reps have to wait five minutes for a program to load before helping a customer, both parties become frustrated. But in most cases, this is an easy issue to resolve.

Providing the right tools, systems, and streamlined processes to help customer service reps work efficiently will help increase FCR and customer satisfaction.

Hire a Call Center To Help

Building an in-house customer service team can be challenging, time-consuming, and expensive.

Instead, hire a call center to help with your customer service needs. They’ll be able to help boost your FCR without the comprehensive troubleshooting process we described above.

Offering a productive and helpful customer service experience for your customers will increase sales, boost customer satisfaction and retention, and build a solid reputation for your business.


Publish Date: May 30, 2021 5:00 AM

The Importance of Stellar Customer Service for E-Commerce Businesses

It’s no secret customer service is important in any industry, but as the e-commerce space continues to grow, it’s even more important in this space to offer a stellar customer experience.

In 2020, e-commerce revenue (partly as a result of COVID-19) brought in a staggering $175 billion, and the Statista Digital Market Outlook estimates that by 2025, revenue will increase to $563.4 billion dollars.

When switching to a competitor is as easy as a click, retailers have to go above and beyond with customer service to set themselves apart.

If you’re an e-commerce retailer, here is what you can gain by providing excellent customer service and five ways to improve your customer experience processes for an increase in sales and satisfaction rates.

What Excellent Customer Service Can Do for Your E-Commerce Business

An excellent customer service experience feeds into your marketing strategy. When your customer is happy, you build trust and lifelong loyalty. Here are ways that a great customer experience can benefit your e-commerce business.

Build Brand Advocacy

Helpful customer service naturally builds brand loyalists.

The more customers trust your brand and the more sure they are you will resolve their issues, the more likely they are to continue using your product or service.

Customers want to feel valued, and valued customers build brand ambassadors.

Building brand advocates and customer loyalty will help increase revenue. On average, retaining customers is five times cheaper than acquiring new ones, so pleasing your current customers is crucial for business growth and success.

Brand advocates are often motivated to leave good reviews online and spread their happiness via word-of-mouth. The majority of online users will trust online reviews just as much as they would from a real-life friend, and 93% of consumers say that online reviews influenced their purchase decisions.

Helps Guide Prospects Through the Buyer’s Journey

Attentive customer service reps and brands readily available will help guide potential customers through the buyer’s journey to their purchase.

Suppose a potential customer has questions about your product, shipping or returns, but doesn’t have someone to ask. In that case, they will likely go to another company to purchase instead of waiting 24–48 hours for an answer from your support staff. Being available when prospects need you is crucial to profitability. 

If you’re unable to provide customer service help 24/7, try providing blog posts, resources and FAQs that are easily accessible on your website. Providing helpful information about your processes or commonly asked questions can help prospects naturally move through the sales funnel.

Displaying commonly requested information will increase the likelihood that prospects purchase from you instead of turning to a contact form.

Increase Sales

A great product is not the only thing you need to increase sales; customer service plays a vital role as well. 86% of customers will pay up to 25% more when they have a good experience with customer service.

Business growth is a collective effort of many factors, including marketing, advertising, customer service, and an easily accessible website.

How To Provide Great Customer Service for Your E-Commerce Business

An okay customer service experience won’t cut it anymore; you must provide an excellent, helpful, and friendly service.

Offer Easy Returns

One of the biggest hurdles potential customers face when contemplating an online purchase is the return policy — or lack thereof.

If a shopper is unfamiliar with your brand or the quality of your product, it’s unlikely they’ll purchase from you if your return policies are strict, confusing, or non-existent.

Instead, make it easy and enticing: offer free shipping. 

Approximately 15–30% of customers return products. While this isn’t ideal, offering the policy will make prospects more comfortable buying from you.

Why do you think people love Amazon so much? One of the reasons is their quick, helpful customer service with an almost no-questions-asked return policy. Amazon makes returning a product simple — almost enjoyably so.

Make Their Shopping and Support Experiences Personal

To stand out from your competitors and provide an excellent customer experience, make your communication with your customers personal. While greeting your customers and prospects by their name helps add a degree of personalization, it is not the only way to do so.

Try offering a rewards program for loyal customers, upsell products your customer would be interested in and remind users of products they previously engaged with.

Winc is an excellent example of personalized customer service. Winc is an online wine delivery service and over time, their recommendations change for each user based on their previous wine purchases and ratings. 

When you order from Winc, you have an option to rate the wines you received, and it connects to your Winc profile. When their algorithm gets a better sense of what wines you like and dislike, they will make suggestions based on your preferences. It’s a great way to bring customers back for more. It shows you value their business and are interested in providing products they truly want.

If the customer starts talking to you about where they live, ask about it. It’s okay to add a personal touch and go “off-script” to add a personal touch and build a connection.

Gather Customer Feedback

Gathering customer feedback is one of the best ways to improve your customer service experience.

Collecting feedback straight from the customer’s mouth is the best way to see where your customer service is excelling or falling short.

If you find out many customers have issues with your loyalty program, you can brainstorm ways to fix it. If you discover your customer service chat help is getting endless poor ratings, it allows you to resolve the issues and make a better experience for your customers.

Provide Around-the-clock Help

Customers don’t want to feel like they have to go out of their way to get ahold of you.

Offering 24/7 help on multiple platforms (phone, email, chat, etc.) is the best way to make yourself available to your customers and prospects when they need you.

For many businesses — especially smaller ones — providing continuous customer service is not feasible. To help staff your stations, consider A Better Answer - hiring an answering service.

A professional answering service can answer customer inquiries and concerns past 5 p.m., on weekends and on holidays — all times when your in-house team may not be available.

Leveraging Customer Service To Improve Your Business

Offering exemplary customer service can be difficult for smaller businesses but should be a top concern for any company.

Providing grade-A customer service will help build brand loyalty, increase sales and boost your reputation.

If you don’t have the bandwidth to provide the customer service you want, an answering service can help. If you choose to go this route, there is A Better Answer and here are some things to look for in an answering service company to ensure you pick one that complements your business.

Publish Date: May 25, 2021 5:00 AM

Growing a Business: Automated Messages vs. Hiring an Answering Service

There comes a time when every successful business owner hits a fork in the road when growing their business — deciding between hiring more in-house team members or implementing automations to streamline processes.

This fork in the road can occur when owners are overwhelmed with their workload or they’ve hit a spot where they’re ready to scale their business.

If your customer service department is receiving an influx of calls that they can’t keep up with, choosing to automate parts of your process or hiring an answering service to help are two common choices to help resolve these issues.

Choosing between implementing automated messages or hiring an answering service can be challenging. Here are the pros and cons of each option to help you better choose what’s right for your business.

What Are Automated Messages?

Automated phone systems (also called auto-attendants) are used to answer incoming calls.

When a person calls a support number, they will be asked to follow the automated guidelines (“press 1 for sales, press 2 for customer service,” etc.) until they reach the department or person they are trying to contact.

With automated messages, no humans are involved until the end — but automated messages are helpful in saving your staff’s time. They don’t have to answer calls, redirect calls, or help with customer service inquiries on top of their main duties.

As an example, at small companies, employees tend to wear many hats. The marketing manager may be answering customer service calls and ordering office supplies on top of their marketing duties. When an influx of calls happens, it pulls the marketing manager away from their primary responsibilities.

By using an automated messaging service, you can save time and increase productivity.

Pros of Automated Messages

  • Get calls to the right department: Callers won’t be redirected to different departments multiple times. The automated system will ask a few questions and direct the caller to the right department or person.
  • Lower up-front cost than an answering service: Most automated systems are cheaper to implement than a live answering service. 
  • No need for a receptionist: Since automated call answering systems act as a receptionist, your staff is free to stick to their more impactful duties and stay productive. 

Cons of Automated Messages

  • Aggravating customers: In a Boston University study, 90% of respondents said they start their customer service interaction hoping to speak to a real person.
  • Long hold/wait times: While automated systems free up your staff, it takes more time for the customer to get to a live person. Callers are forced to sit through a menu tree, then wait on the phone for a person to answer. The longer a person waits for an answer, the more likely they are to hang up.
  • Loss of human connection: Instead of being greeted by a friendly person, callers will be greeted with an automated, impersonal voice. 
  • More hang-ups and fewer business opportunities: More than a third of callers will hang up if they receive a voicemail or automated message.

What Is an Answering Service?

An answering service is a company that answers calls on behalf of another company. Companies hire answering services as a third party to act as an extension of their company.

With an answering service, there is no automation, and callers are always greeted with a friendly voice.

Answering services for businesses are mainly utilized for answering phone calls but many companies do more than that. They can also make outgoing calls, send reminder texts and emails, enter orders, and perform other secretarial tasks.

Pros of Hiring an Answering Service

  • Increase efficiency: An answering service takes the majority of customer calls off your in-house staff’s plate. An answering service can update systems, answer questions, troubleshoot problems, and send emails without your staff’s involvement.
  • No need to hire an in-house team: Answering services are hired as a third-party service to your company. You will not be responsible for hiring, training, and reviewing new team members.
  • Never miss a call: Call centers and answering services are available to answer calls around the clock — even on weekends and holidays.
  • Personal greeting and a human touch: Customers and clients will always be greeted by a personal message from a friendly human being, starting the call on the right foot.
  • Acts as an extension of your business: Answering service representatives are trained on your company, procedures, and products. They will be as knowledgeable about your business as your in-house team is.
  • Cheaper than hiring in-house help: As a general gauge, an in-house receptionist costs $30,000+, whereas an answering service can cost around $3,600/year.

Cons of Hiring an Answering Service

  • Answering services can only “help” so much: While an answering service can handle the majority of client calls, they will not have the authority to override systems or handle situations outside the scope of their responsibilities.

What’s Best for Your Business?

After discovering the pros and cons of automated messages and answering services, it’s up to you to choose what’s right for your business.

Remember, no matter which option you choose to help grow your business, both will ensure you never miss a call. They’ll both help you increase sales and boost your company’s reputation. 

To get a better sense of how much answering services cost, we break it down for you in another blog post.

Publish Date: May 21, 2021 5:00 AM

5 Benefits of Using an Answering Service for Educational Facilities

The first impression a student or parent has of your school should be an exceptional one — not an endless ringtone with no answer on the other end.

With the help of an answering service, schools, universities, and other educational facilities can improve their customer service — resulting in increased enrollment, students and parents feeling valued, and a respected reputation.

Higher education facilities like Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, VA, and Cambridge College began utilizing an answering service to provide a better, 24/7 experience for students.

ODU was the first university in the country to offer unlimited support for students calling into administrative offices to ask questions, seek help, or schedule a meeting.

Because of ODU’s changes in their customer service offering, they received recognition from the National Association of Colleges and Employers as “the most innovative career center in the country.”

Staff at Cambridge College was blown away by the difference partnering with a professional answering service did for their students and administrators. One professor notes that “[The service] strengthened the mission of Cambridge College to provide academically excellent, time-efficient, and cost-effective higher education for a diverse population of working adults for whom those opportunities may have been limited or denied.”

The benefits of an answering service for educational facilities are undeniable. Here are five ways an answering service can help alleviate stress on your staff and increase student satisfaction.

Never Miss a Call and Get to Them Quickly

As with any industry, there are typically times of the year when a business hits its busy season and receives an influx of calls, emails, and walk-ins.

For schools and universities, this busy time is around enrollment periods.

When students have an issue signing up for classes or need guidance on courses, they call administrative offices hoping to reach anyone who can help. When parents want to request a specific teacher for their child, they call. Either way, when problems arise, a phone call is usually the first attempt at resolving the issue.

Admin, payroll, and support departments can only answer so many calls and inquiries a day, especially if it’s only one person (or a few) per department.

Long hold times leave students and parents frustrated and can lead to long-term frustrations. 

Companies — educational or not — should have 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds. After that, callers start to feel ignored and undervalued.

When calls can’t get to administration and students can’t sign up for the classes they need or want, administrative departments will get a never-ending influx of calls. Being able to handle calls and inquiries as they come up to satisfy everyone will help your school’s reputation.

Get Tours Scheduled

One of the most important ways to get students interested or committed to enrolling at your school is through tours.

Tours and follow-ups often fall through the cracks when support staff is tasked with handling busy phone lines and don’t have time for any other tasks.

When students and parents visit your school or college campus, it’s a great opportunity for you to “sell” them on all the benefits of attending. If tours aren’t being conducted and information isn’t getting passed on to students, you’re missing out on enrollment opportunities and sales. 

Many answering services can take on scheduling appointments and tours for you, freeing up your staff to spend their time on more crucial tasks. 

Send Reminder Texts and Emails

Reminder texts and emails will bridge the gap between parents, teachers, and students.

Utilizing reminder texts and emails means kids won’t be dropped off at school when it’s a holiday because their parents forgot and college students won’t miss enrollment periods or deadlines.

Reminders are more valuable than you may think.

Emails and texts can be used for school closures, emergencies, payroll, enrollment, and letting parents know when their child is sick at school. They can also be used for school events like parent-teacher conferences.

Free Your Admin Staff To Cater to In-Person Visitors

A common problem with understaffed offices at educational facilities is that receptionists or assistants are forced to choose between answering the phone and helping in-person visitors. 

It’s challenging to juggle all forms of communication when there is limited staff or inefficient processes in place.

Students are filtering through administrative offices and professors’ offices at universities all day to ask questions, get help with assignments, or seek financial assistance options. If one or a few people are responsible for greeting visitors and answering phone calls and emails, someone is going to get neglected.

Leveraging an answering service or call center to help with your phone calls will free up your admin staff to greet and help in-person visitors; it’s a win-win situation for everyone. 

Record All Calls

Most answering services provide stats, data, and transcripts of calls. By hiring an answering service, you’ll learn what common calls your school is receiving and be able to address them in other ways.

When you know frequently asked questions or common issues arising with enrollment, you can utilize the information to update websites, landing pages, and advertising collateral. Using this information for your website marketing materials will enable students and parents to find information by themselves, freeing up time for your staff to get to tasks other than answering phones all day and answering the same questions.

Recording calls will also let you see where you’re falling short with your customer service.

Are callers on hold for more than 30 seconds? Are the people answering the phone able to answer the callers’ questions fully?

Learning from mistakes and seeing where you’re doing well will help you offer a better service to students and parents.

Hire an Answering Service for Your School

An answering service is a low-cost and highly effective way to take secretarial and administrative duties off your staff, enabling them to tend to in-person visitors and other important tasks so that no job or person gets overlooked.

By outsourcing help, your school or university will be able to handle the influx of calls, schedule tours, send reminders, and record data.

To find A Better Answer and the right call center for you, here are things to look for in an answering service partner.

Publish Date: May 20, 2021 5:00 AM

What Customers Expect When Receiving Customer Service Assistance

Knowing what your customers expect is the first step in providing an excellent customer service experience.

When customers come to you, they have high expectations for the type of customer service they’ll receive. When customers don’t receive the expected experience, don’t get their problem solved, or feel ignored, they’ll become frustrated — and you could lose a customer.

On the other hand, delivering a customer service experience that goes above and beyond a customer’s expectations leads to repeat customers, increased sales, and more brand advocates.

Nearly 95% of managers say providing a good customer experience is a top strategic priority according to a Forrester report.

Are you feeling overwhelmed?

Don’t!  We put together a list of expectations customers look for to help you move in the right direction with your customer service processes.

Quick Response Time

When clients or customers run into an issue and spend time trying to troubleshoot on their own, they are already irritated by the time they call in or get in touch with you. Any delay in your response time will give more time for their anger to grow.

To meet customer expectations, avoid missing calls or putting customers on hold for extended periods (let them know for how long they will be placed on hold). Don’t allow support tickets or general inquiries to go unanswered.

It’s essential to respond quickly to potential customers interested in purchasing your product or service.

Potential customers that are ignored or forced to wait on hold — even for a few minutes — might move on to one of your competitors instead.

Talking to A Human with A Personal Touch

Customers want to feel valued by your company.

To achieve this, add a personal touch to your customer interactions. Call them by their name and go off script if there is an opportunity to. For instance, a caller talking about their new puppy won’t be baked into a call script. Instead of sticking to a rigid script, add to the conversation by asking what kind of puppy it is, how they are handling potty training, how long they have had them, etc. Having genuine connections and communication with clients and potential customers will make them feel valued and listened to. 

One way many companies neglect giving a personal touch is by providing automated messages.

Automated messages are annoying to customers and using them should be on a strictly as-needed basis. If you choose to use automation, it should be short. Avoiding automated messages will also lessen the frustration taken out on your customer service representatives.

When callers are already frustrated when calling in and then forced to wait 15 minutes on hold, only to explain their entire situation to a person again, they tend to take out their anger and frustrations on the customer service rep. This makes the rep’s job harder than it should be.

This is why it’s critical to listen and engage the customer in a personal and empathetic way. A great way to show callers you are listening is to ask questions about their day and how they are doing. Simple questions and gestures like that make customers feel appreciated.

Customer service reps should listen more than they speak. If they aren’t attentive listeners, they could miss a critical detail that could create a better experience for your customers.

Customers Want Their Problems Solved & Questions Answered

When a customer calls your company’s phone line, your ultimate goal is to serve them by any means necessary and they expect their problem to get solved.

When issues arise, remember simple confusion is often the root of intense emotions on the other end of the line. Helping clients understand why the issue occurred is the first step to calm down the situation. Be completely transparent with the customer; tell them what you discovered about the problem and then how it can be amended. Be clear and detailed in your explanation.

When dealing with a frustrated customer, do not be combative. Instead, try to show empathy and give a genuine appreciation for their inconvenience. 

Be Honest With Your Customer

It’s important to be honest with your customers.

Own up to your company’s mistakes and take accountability for any issues that occurred on your end. Don’t add any fluff or dance around the truth.

If you are direct and sincere with your customers, they are more likely to build a connection with you, respect your company’s morals and stick around through any tough times.

To support honesty, don’t break promises of discounts and don’t tell them your service or product will fulfill more than it can. While a broken promise may get you the initial sale, it will come back to bite you later on. Being honest and transparent is the best way to keep conflicts with customers at a minimum.

Understand Your Product or Service

Ensuring you and your customer service team fully understands your product or service offering is a helpful way to deliver an excellent experience.

Customers will ask every question imaginable, so be prepared to answer whatever comes your way. You should know terms and conditions, product details, account status, order status, frequently asked questions, shipping methods and more.

Failing to give your customers clear explanations on what your company offers will lead to frustration on their end and embarrassment on your end. 

When you provide detailed information to your customers, they gain more confidence in what you have to offer because they are fully aware of the capabilities.

Provide Multiple Contact Options

Everyone has different communication preferences. Some customers only want to talk to human beings, while others like to chat or email because it takes less time.

To cater to every customer’s preferences, provide multiple channels of communication. In general, you should have a customer support number, form or email option, and a live chatbot on your website. Other than your chatbot, try to keep automation at a minimum.

Providing a variety of options will ensure you connect with your customers whenever they need assistance. 

Meet Your Customers’ Expectations

Accommodating your customers’ preferences and exceeding expectations is the best way to win them over. Customers have high expectations. If those aren’t met, they may take their business to another company that has a more effective customer service experience.

To appeal to all clients or potential customers, be sure your company is available via different communication channels like email, phone and live chat. When customers contact you, make sure to solve their problems quickly and efficiently — your customer service reps must understand all aspects of your product or service to provide detailed and honest explanations.

Taking on all of these expectations can be a lot for a business owner, but hiring an answering service or call center can help. If that’s something you’re considering, we have questions to ask candidates in the interview process to help narrow down your options.

Publish Date: May 15, 2021 5:00 AM

How To Know if Your Company Needs a Virtual Assistant

When you’re deep in the weeds, so to speak, running a business and trying your best to get everything done every day, recognizing you need help can be a hard pill to swallow. If you are a business owner feeling overwhelmed, overworked and in need of a break, it’s probably time to bring on help -- a virtual assistant to lighten your load.

Here’s good news: hiring help or your first employee is a sign of growth, not failure! A virtual assistant assists with any task you need them to — data entry, social media, business development and everything in between.

Are you curious if it’s time to hire a virtual assistant for your company? Don’t worry; here are things to look for to know when it’s the right time to hire a VA.

Missing Opportunities

Can’t keep up with inquiries, client quotes and opportunities? it’s time to hire a virtual assistant. Employees and owners need the capacity to complete client work.

Suppose your employees are too busy with their core responsibilities, can’t keep up the company’s customer service needs or are pulled away from their duties to work on smaller, mundane tasks. In that case, they can’t fulfill their position in its entirety.

For example, in small companies, owners and employees inevitably wear many hats. A sales representative might help with social media and answering phones. When there is an influx of calls or emails in one day, the salesperson is forced to focus on those tasks and so may neglect their more significant tasks or ignore opportunities to improve the business. Not answering prospect or client calls could lead to a loss of business and revenue. But missing calls is not the only way you’re missing business opportunities.

If your company lands a deal with a large client that requires extra attention you can’t give, you’ll fall short of expectations. High-paying clients who need an attentive partner won’t stick around when their needs aren’t being met.

Another missed opportunity many small business owners run into is double-booking meetings with clients, which causes obvious issues. Opportunities will be missed and prospects will not feel like a priority to your company.

Not showing up to meetings, constantly having to reschedule, or blowing clients off (albeit accidentally) are all signs that you need to hire a virtual assistant.

Want to Scale Your Business

Do you finally have your process down to where you can start scaling your business but don’t have the necessary resources to do so? A virtual assistant can be your stepping stone to leveling up your business.

Virtual assistants provide an affordable alternative when compared to hiring expensive in-house team members. By providing step-by-step processes for your virtual assistant, they can complete any job you put in front of them. VAs are skilled in following directions and improving processes.

Once you bring in more revenue by utilizing a virtual assistant, you can consider bringing in more specialized help.

Customer Service Is an Afterthought

Have you noticed customer calls going unanswered? Emails stacking up in your inbox?

If yes, it’s time to hire a virtual assistant. 

As we touched on previously, missed calls and unanswered emails mean you’re missing out on business opportunities. Not only does it mean you’re missing out on business, but you’re also letting down your current customers. When customer service goes by the wayside, businesses start to go downhill.

Microsoft reports: 96% of consumers say customer service is an important factor in their choice of loyalty to a brand.

It is crucial to answer every inquiry in a timely manner. Taking too long to get back to a customer may cause them to move on to another company that responds more promptly.

When a company consistently provides poor customer service, it spreads. You’ll begin to collect negative reviews online and a lousy reputation for your brand.

It’s challenging to amend a negative reputation and that will inevitably cost you future business.

Problems Balancing Work and Personal Time

If you don’t know the last time you took a vacation or had a day off, it’s time to hire a VA.

Stepping away from work is an essential factor in a healthy work/life balance. Having a break from work every so often reduces stress and helps you get back to work feeling rejuvenated and determined to pursue business goals.

If you don’t have enough hands on deck to handle tasks that come with running your business, you’ll never get time off. The whole point of being an entrepreneur is to work hard and play hard, right? But working too hard with no relaxation and downtime leads to burnout. As someone running a business, it’s crucial to know when to step back and delegate tasks where possible.

Having a well-balanced team you can trust will relieve pressure from your life and allow you to take time away from your work so you can come back refreshed.

Leverage a Virtual Assistant for Your Business

Remember, there is nothing wrong with bringing in extra help to handle tasks to keep your business running smoothly and help you scale.

Bringing a virtual assistant on board will get mundane tasks off your plate, improve your customer service processes and land more business.

If you’re considering hiring a virtual assistant, there is A Better Answer - make sure to look for one with these qualities.

Publish Date: April 30, 2021 5:00 AM

Businesses That Can Benefit From Hiring an Answering Service

Are you looking for ways to reduce overhead while increasing the efficiency of your business? 

Hiring an answering service may be a better answer than hiring someone to help in-house or handling the issues yourself. Many businesses think hiring an answering service is only useful to larger companies or offices that place a heavy emphasis on customer service but that’s not the case. Industries across the board — from law offices to real estate agents, hospitals and unlimited others — can benefit from an answering service.

Let’s dive into a few types of businesses that are leveraging answering services and how they benefit from the solution.

Small Businesses and Start-Ups

Small business owners struggle with balancing day-to-day administrative tasks, delivering quality client services and focusing on business growth and development. That’s why small businesses of all types can leverage an answering service to deal with incoming client calls and online inquiries. A stellar customer service experience will help young businesses create a helpful and friendly reputation from the very beginning.

Many answering services also offer virtual assistants who can handle tasks like data entry, CRM updates and full-funnel customer service help. Adding these services onto your answering service will unload the more mundane tasks from your plate so you can focus on activities that grow your business. 

An answering service is also less expensive than hiring a full-time receptionist or part-time help, so you can cut costs and set yourself up for business growth at the same time.

Healthcare Facilities

Healthcare offices and facilities receive an influx of customer calls — all of which need to get answered or addressed. Most incoming calls to healthcare facilities or hospitals are for scheduling, billing, medical emergencies and general questions. In the healthcare industry, customer support needs to be available 24/7 and needs to deliver a welcoming and delicate service.

Hiring an answering service specialized in keeping things cool during chaos and providing a calm customer experience can help boost your reputation. They will also help you achieve an around-the-clock solution for high-quality customer service for your patients.

Law Offices

Law is another industry that receives a high volume of calls; many of these calls are from clients concerned about their legal cases and who need immediate help. If lawyers are handling mundane tasks like answering calls, scheduling appointments and typing up legal documents, they can easily become overwhelmed and neglect their more important tasks.

An answering service will be able to provide law offices with the help they need to update clients on developing cases with care and clarity. Answering services can also help manage your calendar and schedule appointments without error.

By outsourcing administrative tasks that require a specialized role, you’ll be able to get back to what you do best, which is practicing law and helping clients.


Retail stores receive many inquiries a day concerning returns, shipping errors, product information, and other general questions. It’s important to have a dedicated team available to answer calls as soon as an issue arises or if a potential customer has a question.

You could be losing out on a huge chunk of potential sales if you don’t have a designated person to answer your phone calls and answering customer questions as 74% of people are likely to switch brands if they find the purchasing process too difficult. If a prospect has a problem purchasing online and no one is there to help them, it’s highly likely they will go to one of your competitors and buy from them instead.

Answering phone calls in a timely manner is also important to help defuse customer frustrations quickly. Staying available to your current customers helps show you care and you’re there for them whenever they need you. A Better Answer is an answering service which will provide constant customer support to make sure your company is maximizing customer satisfaction rates and revenue.

Financial Institutions

Financial services tend to come with a lot of customer hand-holding. If you own a financial institution, your customer service representatives should be knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.

Financial discussions are also highly sensitive and confidential; you should take this into consideration when you’re searching for an answering service.

An answering service well-versed in finances can provide the level of insight your clients are looking for. Clients will need to be treated delicately as financial topics can be highly stressful for some people. 

Customers typically call financial institutions to ask about billing errors, loans, insurance, credit card qualifications, balance inquiries, deposits, and investments.

Real Estate Offices

Real estate agents are constantly on-the-go showing properties and scoping out new potential showings. At the same time, they have to balance these tasks with constant client calls concerning walk-throughs, market updates, new sellers, clients looking to buy and tenant emergencies. If an office line is their main source of client communication, they could be missing out on many potential sales a day and leaving many clients hanging without an answer to their question or concern.

An answering service can easily help provide updated information to clients who are in the process of selling their house as well as clients looking to buy. They can also provide detailed updates on the state of the housing market as well as scheduling meetings and walk-throughs.

As long as this information is documented somewhere, an answering service can pass along the message.

When real estate agents are out of the office, an answering service will provide the care your clients deserve. This will help you build a positive relationship with your clients and free you from unnecessary tasks at the office.

Many Industries Can Use an Answering Service

The industries mentioned in this article are just a few that can benefit from hiring an answering service. In reality, every type of industry that deals directly with prospects or clients can benefit.

In addition, most answering services can help with many other tasks such as data entry, bookkeeping, scheduling, and marketing efforts. Here are some of the ways an answering service can grow your business other than simply answering phones.

Publish Date: April 15, 2021 5:00 AM

How a Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Company Money

Are you tired of the long, drawn-out hiring process?

How about the stress and costs that come with making a new hire?

At every small business, there comes a time when infrastructure needs expansion and hiring more team members is required to grow the company — but finding the funds can be difficult.

The time and costs of hiring a full-time employee are important to consider. Going through applications and interviews can take months — on top of that, you’ll have to go through a negotiation and training process after the person is hired. Tack on reviewing their work and paying for a full-time salary, and you’ve got a heavy load to bear if you’re a business owner or operations manager who already juggles a million other things. 

If you’re looking for ways to reduce overhead while growing your business, a virtual assistant (VA) may be a better answer for you than hiring another in-house employee. 

Here are five ways a virtual assistant can save your company money.

Save on Recruitment and Hiring Efforts

Companies spend $4,000 on average during the hiring process. Multiply that by two or three new hires per year, and you’re spending nearly $12,000 just in the recruiting and hiring process. This ballpark price includes recruitment, interviewing, background check fees, onboarding, and training.

There is A Better Answer… With a virtual assistant, you don’t have to worry about an extensive hiring process. As long as you can clearly articulate the tasks you need to be completed by a virtual assistant, you can find one to do the job. You can find virtual assistants with a simple Google search or by leveraging freelance platforms like Upwork. 

Some websites and platforms specifically focus on pairing companies with qualified virtual assistants based on their requirements, making this process even easier — the qualified candidates are served right to you. For instance, a company hiring a VA to work in a law office might search for particular qualifications and knowledge in their industry. They’ll only be presented with resumes of candidates who check the boxes they require.

While a virtual assistant won’t mitigate all of the recruitment costs and time it takes to find a valuable addition to your team, the process will certainly be shorter. 

Remove Worries That Come With a Salary

A virtual assistant can cost as little as $14,500 a year, while administrative assistants make an average of $42,891 a year.

It’s difficult to give more specific costs because there are many factors, but generally, a part-time virtual assistant or one who is paid on an hourly basis with no specialties (doing data entry or answering phone calls) costs a business about $15 per hour. If they are working part-time at 20 hours a week, the cost to the company is only around $14,500 a year — almost a fourth of what a full-time employee costs. Even at 40 hours a week, a virtual assistant costs less than $29,000 a year, which is still tens of thousands of dollars less expensive than an in-house employee.

On top of paying the salary for a new employee, certain taxes come with an additional staff member. In addition to that, you will also be responsible for paying their paid time off, sick leave, insurance, and whatever other benefits you offer at your company.

In most cases, virtual assistants only get paid for the hours they work, with no additional benefits. VAs also don’t require insurance and don’t get paid more for overtime. Virtual assistants don’t require benefits or insurance.

Increased Attention on Revenue-Driven Tasks

By hiring virtual assistants, you’ll be able to focus on more substantial internal tasks like business development and streamlining processes instead of data entry and cold-calling.

While all business tasks are important, some can easily be transferred from a business owner to a virtual assistant.

If filling orders, updating systems, or scheduling newsletters is taking up hours of your week, it’s time to consider hiring a virtual assistant for help. They will take this off your plate and let you get back to the more pressing tasks and responsibilities that can only be completed by you. 

Streamlining your process and delegating tasks will allow projects and services to be completed quicker — in turn enabling you to bring on additional client projects and discover your real capacity.

Reduced Utility and Phone Bill

It’s not rocket science — the more employees you have in the office, the higher your utility bill will be and the more equipment you will need.

If you hire more in-house staff members, you might have to upgrade or move to a bigger office to accommodate everyone; bigger offices mean higher A/C and electricity bills.

If you’re in an office where you are paying the water bill, this will be higher as well.

To accommodate more team members, you’ll also have to increase your telecom plan to add new lines for new employees.

Most of the time, virtual assistants will handle their operational costs, but this should be discussed in the interview process.

Save on Equipment Costs

When a new employee is brought on board, you will be responsible for providing all the necessary equipment so they can perform their job efficiently. 

The equipment costs accrue quickly with an in-house employee. The obvious equipment additions are a desk, computer, monitors, a phone, and a headset — but on top of that, your supply costs will go up, too. You’ll have to order more paper towels, drinking cups, snacks (if applicable), and coffee — all of which often get overlooked when hiring a new team member in-house. 

A virtual assistant works remotely and should already have their equipment, like laptops, phones, and headphones. Again, this is not always the case, so make sure to address this in the interviewing process. Some companies do offer laptops and work-related stipends for their remote employees.

Leverage a Virtual Assistant To Reduce Overhead

Leveraging a virtual assistant’s skills will help streamline your internal processes and take mundane tasks off your plate so you can focus on business growth efforts.

A virtual assistant will also reduce your hiring costs, salary stresses, utility bills, and equipment costs.

If you’re ready to start looking at virtual assistant solutions, here are the qualities to look for in a virtual assistant so you can choose the right one for your business.

Publish Date: March 25, 2021 5:00 AM

5 Ways To Give More Personalized Customer Service

Standing out among your competitors is no longer about having cool branding or witty content — it’s about the whole customer experience.

The customer service your prospects and customers receive has a significant effect on your business. A negative interaction can make prospects write you off, while positive experiences can garner lifelong brand loyalty.

Businesses must provide a high-quality customer experience, and that involves every stage from beginning to end.

One way to stand out is by delivering more personalized customer service. Let’s take a look at how your company can provide it.

Address Customers by Their Name

A well-rounded and positive customer service experience boils down to the details.

While calling a prospect or current customer might seem like a minuscule detail, it makes all the difference.

Studies show that hearing your name stimulates brain activity.

Saying a prospect’s name when you are talking to them or greeting a current customer by name will help build a strong personalized customer experience.

If you or your team don’t know the customer’s name, try your best to find it out. Check caller IDs, past receipts, or your client database if you have a moment. 

Using a client’s name helps build a strong relationship, shows that your business cares about its customers, and makes them feel like you’re on their side.

Offer Multiple Customer Service Channels

A Better Answer(R) is to provide a personalized customer service experience and offer your support through many different channels.

Each person — whether they’re a client or a prospect — has a preferred method of communication. In-person communication is limited in the digital age; plus, COVID-19 has kept more people at home. To cater to your target audience’s preferences and hindrances, your customer support team should be available via text, chat, call and email. Your customers should have every possible opportunity to get in touch with your business. 

While many customers (48% to be exact) still prefer to call over the phone for customer support, the next preferred communication methods are text and chat.

Offer chatbots, contact forms, social media support, review forms, phone service, and email to get in touch with your customers — this way, your customer can choose the channel of communication that suits them best.

It’s also important to provide the right equipment and tools to enable your customer support team to thrive. Make sure you’ve implemented an easy-to-use customer relationship management system and filled in staffing gaps.

Rely on Customer Feedback and Preferences

Learning what your customers like and dislike is one of the best ways to gather feedback on your customer service experience.

Using customer feedback will allow you to see where your experiences fall short and need to be improved. On the other hand, it will also let you know where you’re doing a great job.

Guessing this information or assuming you know what your audience wants is not reliable. Try to gather data before making any changes to your processes. You can collect this information by offering a short survey after each customer service call or chat. Then, set up a review schedule, and be sure to request a formal survey when a client is offboarded or leaves a negative review online.

Finding what caused a negative experience, what kept a customer coming back and what would improve their experience is the best way to locate and diagnose problems in your customer service department.

Make sure you have the appropriate time and infrastructure in place to handle your support channels as well. For instance, if you are continuously receiving an influx of chat tickets, but you only have a few people answering phone calls and ignoring chat, it’s in your best interest to change employee responsibilities or outsource help. You can do this by hiring a virtual assistant or a company to help you handle your customer service.

Add a Human Touch

As our society has moved into a highly digital age dependent on automation, companies often forget that a human touch is the secret ingredient to satisfactory customer service. 

Customers and prospects don’t want to feel like they are talking to a robot or a frustrating automated system.

When communicating with current or potential customers, try to be engaging and give hints of normal human interactions, like asking how their day has been. If they mention a pet, try asking what the pet’s name is or what kind of breed it is.

On the flip side, make sure your staff has the emotional intelligence and experience to know when a customer is upset and needs a speedy resolution. When this happens, friendly chit-chat is not always advised. Your customer service should adapt to the preferences and demeanor of the customer.

Instead of relying on scripts, provide a situational outline for your employees to reference to produce more organic dialogue.

Try offering a friendly and personalized greeting, giving compliments, and ending the interaction on a positive note.

Highlight and Reward Customer Loyalty

Highlighting customer loyalty will encourage other customers to practice that same brand loyalty.

Your company can highlight customer loyalty through social media posts, customer testimonial videos, and reviews.

To reward your most loyal customers, offer them discounts, first peeks at new products, exclusives and free trials. Recognizing your customers will improve your customer lifetime value.

Benefits of Personalized Customer Service

Adopting a personalized customer service experience offers many benefits, such as increases in:

  • Customer loyalty
  • Customer engagement 
  • Customer retention
  • Customer lifetime value

A high-quality support experience will also allow you to gather more data from your customers regarding their communication preferences and thoughts on your support process. 

Adopt a More Personalized Customer Experience

A personalized customer service experience will help you retain customers and stand out from your competitors.

To implement an exemplary support service, make sure you address your customer by name to show they are not just a number, provide multiple channels to reach you through and add a human touch to every interaction.

Once you take time to implement a unique and personalized customer service process, you will see a boost in customer satisfaction. If you don’t have time to carry out these changes, hiring an answering service might be a better answer for your needs.

Publish Date: February 20, 2021 5:00 AM

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