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A Better Answer - Blog Page 5

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The 5 Most Popular Answering Services

Many call centers and phone answering services offer a wide range of services. From basic call handling and after-hours support to web applications and order entry, there are a lot of options out there for businesses that receive inbound calls.

The only question is, which ones are most popular? Which ones do businesses request the most? To answer both of these, here is a list of the top five most popular services from an answering service (as well as the other names they go by).

1. Telephone Answering Services

AKA: Inbound Call Service, After Hours Answering Service, Phone Answering Service

It’s no surprise that having your phone answered is the No. 1 most-requested service of an answering service! Most answering services have many additional features when it comes to taking a message for you, starting with the fact they can record your incoming calls.

They can also handle calls uniquely based on your instructions. Say you want your phones answered differently and messages sent only once a day while you’re on vacation. Or, perhaps you have a list of people who you want always be transferred directly to you. An answering service can even call you every morning for a wake-up reminder!

2. Bilingual Answering Services

AKA: Spanish Answering Service, Spanish-English Answering

Spanish answering services are always popular, especially for businesses in the Southwest. Throughout the country, many companies have a Spanish-speaking customer base, so there’s a major growing need for bilingual Spanish-English telephone receptionists. An answering service can provide this.

3. Order-Taking Services

AKA: Order Entry, True Call Center Services

Order-taking services aren’t just for big catalog businesses or infomercials. There are many companies that use order taking to send out brochures and information. There are also smaller businesses with a few products to sell that just don’t have the resources to do it all themselves. By having an answering service handle your payment processing, it becomes substantially easier to get your information and products out there!

4. Customer Service

AKA: Customer Care

Regardless of the types of phone calls a telephone receptionist takes, at a good answering service, they are all trained to be as courteous, professional and helpful as possible. It’s no surprise that great customer service comes naturally to a call center, which is why it’s a service sought after by companies who want a great relationship with their clients and customers.

5. Appointment Scheduling

AKA: Reservation Taking, Meeting Scheduling, Service Appointment Scheduling

Call centers use appointment scheduling to set, track and organize appointments and meetings for any business that works around a schedule. Operators can schedule appointments for lawn care services, attorneys, restaurants (as reservations), doctors, freelance workers, beauty industry businesses and more. The great advantage to using an answering service for scheduling appointments is that you can focus on your business. Calls centers can even add new appointments and clients to your calendar and keep it current without then need to hire a secretary.

For more information on these popular services and all the other services we offer, don’t hesitate to contact us today!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2012 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


Publish Date: May 11, 2016 5:00 AM

5 Valuable Add-On Services for Answering Service Clients

Contrary to popular belief, answering services these days aren’t limited to just answering calls and taking messages. At A Better Answer, we take full advantage of the latest technology in telecommunications to offer innovative services that go beyond the basics of an answering service. These optional add-ons not only provide valuable convenience and organization, they give you peace of mind and let you get back to running your business.

Here are just five of the valuable add-on services we offer to our clients:

1. Texting

With our texting add-on service, you don’t have to worry about scrambling for your phone or not hearing your email alert on your desktop PC. We can text your call information to you and it will show up the same as all of your other text messages. Best of all, you have control over things like audio levels and reminder notifications through your device settings.

2. eResponse

Don’t worry about wasting valuable time checking in with us to confirm that you received our message. With eResponse, you can send an immediate reply to our message, alerting a representative on your ABA account that you have received our message and it doesn’t require any further escalation.

3. Digital Voice Recordings (DVR) Storage

Need to find a message or recording from last year? With DVR storage, we will store your digital voice recordings for an additional 30 months past our normal 28-day archive retrieval time, giving you easy access to them whenever you need it.

4. Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Are your clients calling after hours for non-urgent issues that could easily be handled during business hours? We can easily implement a voicemail greeting that plays before the phone ever rings to our representatives. The greeting can list things like your office hours, address, website and other information. If the call is an emergency, your callers can press an appropriate number to reach a live representative. They’ll handle your emergency calls and get ahold of you using your preferred dispatching protocol.

5. Web Directory Control

Want to control your employee listings or on-call rotation system that ABA utilizes? This add-on service gives you complete control over your directory via web integration that houses staff names and numbers. So if you didn’t send us an on-call schedule for the month or if you forgot to call us about adding a new employee, you don’t have to worry.

This is just a sampling of our valuable add-on services. We offer a variety of ways to make your business life easier and don’t think there is an answering service solution out there we can’t handle. To learn more about our add-ons, give us a call today.


Publish Date: April 11, 2016 5:00 AM

How to Increase Your Service Level While Decreasing the Bottom Line

Customer service is a huge part of any business. After all, studies show that two out of every three people will switch brands due to a poor customer service experience. When people move away from your company or brand, it can affect your bottom line. So, there’s obviously a direct relationship between customer service level and the bottom line. But how do you increase the former while decreasing the latter?

At its core, the answer is simple: differentiate yourself. Standing out from the crowd doesn’t have to be expensive. (It can even help you save money if you do it right.) One easy way to differentiate is by providing excellent customer service. But who says you have to do it yourself? Hiring the right call center can solve all of your customer service problems and decrease your bottom line in the process.

Why Call Centers Increase Your Service Level

You might think better customer service training or an automated answering system would be the best way to improve customer service, but each has their cons. Training costs time and money, plus you have to deal with things like employee turnover, which can be overwhelming. Automated answering systems can be cost-effective, but they take away personalized service and often result in more hang-ups, missed messages and lost customers.

Hiring an exceptional call center, on the other hand, can drastically improve customer service. Here’s why:

  • A personal touch: Unlike automated answering systems, call centers can give each call the personalized touch of talking to a real human being.
  • High call-volume capacity: Your customer service department may not be able to handle a high volume of different calls, but call center agents have the training and experience to do just that.
  • Streamlined messaging: Some customer messages are timelier than others, which is why a call center can prioritize messages better than automated systems. Call centers also utilize the latest messaging technology.
  • 24/7 service: You may not be able to provide customer service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but call centers can. This gives your customers added convenience and opens up your revenue potential.

These are just a few ways hiring a call center improves customer service. They make sense for your bottom line as well.

Why Call Centers Decrease the Bottom Line

Let’s compare the cost of hiring a call center to the cost of an in-house customer service department. The latter requires a full-time staff, a large office space, equipment, training and a variety of other expenses. By out-sourcing your customer service to a call center, they deal with all those extra expenses and allow you to focus on other things like increasing your margins.

As for automated answering services, it’s true that they may sometimes cost less initially, but are they a smart investment for the future? It costs much more to obtain a new customer than it does to retain a current one and automated answering services are notorious for not being able to keep customers. Call centers, on the other hand, have a history of retaining customers and growing businesses.

Increasing your customer service level doesn’t have to increase your bottom line. After hiring a call center, you’ll see why it’s an affordable way to make your customers happy and keep them coming back.


Publish Date: March 30, 2016 5:00 AM

A Better Answer Call Center’s History: What’s Changed in 45 Years

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost half a century since A Better Answer started serving its customers. A lot has changed over the years, to say the least. In honor of this — and to celebrate our 45th anniversary this year — we thought we’d take a look back at what’s changed since 1971:

Then (1971): A Better Answer (known as Keystone Park Secretarial & Answering Service at the time) opens its doors, becoming one of the first female-owned and operated businesses in Texas.

Now (2016): In business for 45 years, A Better Answer continues to excel as a Certified Minority-Owned Business.

Then (1972): A gallon of regular gas averaged $0.59, a first-class stamp was $0.13, a new home averaged $48,000 and Gerald Ford was president.

Now (2016): A gallon of regular gas averages $1.74, a first-class stamp is $0.49, a new home averages $298,790 and Barack Obama is president.

Then (1975): Starting out as a small business, ABA managers had to learn the ins and outs of the call center industry and develop great customer service strategies from scratch.

Now (2016): ABA managers currently have more than 116 years of combined experience in call center management.

Then (1977): Star Wars: Episode IV is the top-grossing feature film released this year, earning $461 million at the domestic box office.

Now (2015): Star Wars: Episode VII is the top-grossing feature film released this year, earning $899 million at the domestic box office.

Then (1979): Owner Dee Hawkins graduates from Southern Methodist University, Suma Cum Laude.

Now (2014-2016): A recipient of the 2014 eWomen Network Femtor Lifetime Achievement award, owner Dee Hawkins is a respected speaker, expert in the field and has given many seminars on all things related to call centers (training operations, customer service, running a business, etc.).

Then (1982): ABA is voted best answering service of the year by Dallas Magazine, the first of many awards and certifications.

Now (1999-2016): Recipient of seven different types telephone answering service awards, including the ATSI Award of Excellence (17 consecutive years), CAM-X Award of Excellence and more.

Then (1985): Agents took messages by hand and kept track of who was on call, when to call and which clients could be reached. They even billed clients by physically weighing messages.

Now (2016): Agents answer live calls from all over the world and utilize the latest technology to compile custom reports for clients and deliver messages and other information by voicemail, fax or email.

There have been plenty of changes over the years, but one thing hasn’t: our commitment to delivering quality customized services that fit our clients´ needs. That’s why we’re the best in the business and proud to be your Call Handling Heroes®.


Publish Date: March 10, 2016 5:00 AM

Dee’s 5 Culture Tips for Entrepreneurial Success

Every company has to find its own culture. Sometimes you know what you want; other times you fall into it because of circumstances and experiences. Either way, it’s a big part of entrepreneurial success. You need an identity and a way to make employees feel invested in your business if you’re going to last.

When I started A Better Answer back in 1971, I had a good idea about our culture, but I had to learn from experiences along the way. There may have been ups and downs, but our culture was always a priority. It’s frankly one of the main reasons we’re still the best in the business after 45 years.

So how do you develop a culture that turns into entrepreneurial success? Here’s one woman’s take:

1. Hire People You Like

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: we only hire nice people to work… not people who have to work at being nice. Negativity is contagious and you want to promote a positive environment. If everyone gets along for the most part, it’ll be easier to focus on the overall success of the business.

I’m type A, so I’ve mostly hired people who are type A since I first started in this industry. At the same time, you don’t want a bunch of people who are saying, “yes” all the time. You need someone to say “no” every now and then to reassure yourself that you’re making the right decisions.

2. Create a Family Environment

I’ve always tried to treat everyone in my business like they’re part of my family. I make a point to know everyone by his or her first name – yes, that’s hundreds of current and former employees. People feel valued when you get to know them.

We also do things like our Fall Family Festival, which I’ve hosted for nearly 40 years. We put up all these big tents, eat some barbecue and have tractor-led hay rides for the kids. We also acknowledge employees for their awards and achievements. Events like this are a great way to maintain a family environment year after year.

3. Promote from Within

I only promote from within. Once employees establish themselves with ABA – it usually takes about six months – I treat them like they’re family. Families are there for each other, which is why I give mine an opportunity to move up. If that means paying for additional training or education to make sure they’re qualified, so be it.

4. Give Employees Financial Peace of Mind

It’s hard to be invested in your job if you’re stressed out with things at home. Finances are another area where families help each other, so I do my best to give each employee peace of mind. How? I’ve always paid for all employee benefits, from medical and vision to dental and 401K. I’ve also never missed a payroll in 45 years and we’ve never had any layoffs.

5. Always Be Positive

Thinking negatively isn’t an option. I’ve always said that “I’m not happy if I’m not laughing,” so I try to promote a positive environment whenever I can. It may be a simple tip, but it’s vital for cultural success.

In the end, a good culture is a family culture. We empower our employees to be Call Handling Heroes® and treat them like we’re related. Having this mindset will lead to a positive environment and get you on the road to entrepreneurial success.


Publish Date: March 1, 2016 5:00 AM

A Day in the Life of an Inbound Call Agent

At A Better Answer, we reward staff members who go above and beyond to provide great customer care and exhibit a commitment to community through giving of their time and talent. We call them Call Handling Heroes® and recognize them monthly for helping make us the best in the business.

But what does a day in the life of a Call Handling Hero® look like? For an inbound call agent, each day has its own unique opportunities, challenges, and rewards. Since each call can be different, you have to be able to switch gears at a moment’s notice while maintaining a helpful attitude and offering an efficient solution for the caller.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a Call Handling Hero® for a day, this is your chance. Here’s a day in the life of inbound call agent Delta Perez:

“The day in the life of a Telephone Service Representative (TSR) starts out like almost any other employee: driving in to work. I am rested and hopeful for what the day will present my team members and me. I look forward to relieving the TSR who gets to go home to their family when I arrive.

“My day can start off in hundreds of different ways, depending on that first call I get when I sit down at my desk. Am I going to be selling a product? Am I going to be assisting a caller who is dealing with flooding issues? Am I helping a tenant with a maintenance emergency? Am I going to open a trouble ticket for an employee locked out of their email? Am I the first voice a loved one will speak to when notifying a healthcare agency of their family member’s condition? The situations are endless.

“A day in a life of a TSR can be hopeful, exciting, magical, and sad, all in an eight-hour timeframe. My job isn’t just to work for one company; I work for hundreds of companies. At the end of the day, I have usually spoken to someone excited to try something new, someone nervous about receiving results from a medical scan, someone anxious about an upcoming appointment, and someone grateful that I was there to assist him or her. These people are the reason why working as a TSR at A Better Answer is so fulfilling. I am the voice that changes the day for someone in some way every day.”

Delta is just one of our many inbound call agents who deal with a variety of fulfilling tasks each and every day. We’re always looking for talented call agents like Delta who have a positive outlook on life and a “can-do” attitude. If you’re interested in joining us at A Better Answer, fill out a job application form today!


Publish Date: February 23, 2016 5:00 AM

Business Phone Etiquette 101

Even with the proliferation of social media, the telephone remains one of the most important communication devices between businesses and customers. Social media doesn’t allow for inflection or any well trusted way to sense mood and rapport like hearing someone’s voice over a phone line. Because a phone conversation is limited, in comparison to meeting face-to-face, there are rules of business etiquette that should be followed.

Adhering to these rules will help ensure a positive phone experience.

Answering the Phone

When and how a phone call is answered may dictate the flow of the rest of the conversation. Here are a few tips to answer the phone correctly.

  • Be aware of the reason for the call before answering. If you are calling, make sure you know why you are calling and what objective you wish to convey. If you are receiving the call, remember that you are a representative of a business.
  • The call should be answered within a certain number of rings. Answering on the first ring may be a surprise to the caller. More than three rings and the caller may wonder if they will be a distraction to someone who’s in the middle of something else.
  • Smile before picking up the phone. A smile can be heard through the phone line and immediately sets a friendly tone.
  • Answer with a positive greeting and show support. Include your name and business and include phrases such as, “How may I help you?”
  • If you are eating, drinking or chewing gum, do not talk on the phone. Do not make it a habit to eat at your desk and you won’t be tempted to answer the phone.

Talking on the Phone

After the phone has been answered, both parties have already sensed a tone of the call. Next we’ll cover some tips for talking on the phone so each party feels they have been heard at the end of the call.

  • Speak clearly. In order to be understood, your voice should be calm and clear, not too loud and not too soft. Also, use words that the caller will comprehend – no slang or swear words should be used.
  • Whether you initiated the call or not, listening is the most powerful message you can convey without saying a word. Do not interrupt the other party and, if needed, take notes so that you will be able to respond appropriately.
  • Stay on track. While it’s easy to get off topic on a phone call, remember to get back on track to reach the objective of the call or end the call on a positive note.
  • Ask permission. If you need to place a call on hold, transfer a call, or call someone back, ask the caller’s permission and listen for their response. Check in frequently if they will be placed on hold for a while.
  • Get their number. If you answered the call, get the caller’s number so that you can call them back if you get disconnected.

Ending the Phone Call

Ending a phone call means being aware that the caller’s questions are answered or that your objective has been met.

  • Schedule a follow-up. If you are unable to satisfy you or the caller’s objective, make sure to schedule a time and take down call back number to follow-up.
  • Transfer or escalate. If you are unable to help the caller, make sure to communicate that you will transfer or escalate the call. Follow appropriate procedures and make sure the call is being handled properly by the person on the other end of the transfer.
  • Ask final questions and close positively. The caller should have a clear understanding of what is going to happen or if their questions were successfully handled. Finishing a call with, “Is there anything else I can do?” will help the both of you feel the call has concluded on a positive note.

Even though your customers may not be local or available for a face-to-face meeting, a conclusive and genuine phone experience is a solid step in relationship building. Customers are decisive about the companies with whom they will do business based on a positive customer service experience. These rules of basic business phone etiquette will go far in creating customers that stick with you.


Publish Date: February 2, 2016 5:00 AM

Increase Your Productivity By Hiring An Answering Service

Running a business means that you must stay focused and productive to get the most out of every work day. If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, you may be performing most, if not all, of the daily duties of running your company and then some all while trying to increase revenue. The good news is that you know all of the intricate details of your business. The challenge is that there is only one (or very few) of you all wearing different hats and hoping that you stay ahead of the game.

Did you know that hiring an answering service can actually take your game to the next level?

All in, All the Time

As a business owner, your obvious dedication means that you’re all in, all the time. Even if you’re not actually at work, you’re always planning, thinking and probably a little stressed on how you’ll manage to do it all. It is widely known that running a new or small business is a full-time, day and night, job. You’re trying to balance it all – accounting, human resources, office management, marketing, sales, customer service – all while focusing on the actual product or service that started your company initially. With every growing business, there is a crucial question that looms in the mind of the business owner:

When is it time to hire help?

Every Call is Important

If you think about it, the telephone is your business’ lifeline. The phone is used to handle sales and customer service, not to mention answer various other questions about your business. When the phone rings, will you drop anything you’re doing to make sure you’re not missing a sale or upsetting a current customer? Every call is important and should be answered. How can you make sure to focus on other tasks at hand and get to every single phone call?

Increase Productivity with an Answering Service

Hiring an answering service answers all of these questions and helps business owners increase their productivity. A small business doesn’t have to appear small when you have 24/7 support and a phone that is answered by an actual human being. When a caller is in need of directions, has a support question or simply wants to make an appointment, an answering service can handle all of these things. In the meanwhile, you’re left with handling other things that are important to your business.

An answering service offers:

  1. 24/7 availability
  2. Professional and seamless integration with your business
  3. Training and equipment already included
  4. Cost-effective and flexible to your needs

Yes, you actually can be everywhere, all the time, and still have time for the rest of your life by hiring an answering service. Your current customers will have a positive experience with your company and new customer relationships can begin with a level of trust.

Don’t let your phone calls go to a voice mail. Customers want to know first-hand that they are working with a company who will be there when they need them. In the tough world of running a small business, you can rest easy with a professional answering service to help your business grow and increase your productivity.


Publish Date: January 20, 2016 5:00 AM

How To Keep Your Cool During A High Stress Call

When you consider high stress occupations, you might think about police officers, firefighters, emergency room doctors or other first responders. Call handlers also face high stress situations which could directly impact a caller’s state of mind for better or worse. Depending on the client, a telephone representative could be speaking to a frustrated customer or dealing with a life or death situation as well. The success or failure of these stressful situations are heavily determined by the person’s reaction to it.

So how do these call handlers stay cool under pressure?

Always Be Prepared

Before even answering a call, a call handler must be calm and collected. They should already be prepared to handle any type of call, the temperament of the caller and what questions they may need to answer. A safe and happy work environment will include ways for the call representative to take care of themselves in between calls so their voice is a soothing and welcome sound to a possibly tense caller.

Pay Attention

On either end of a stressful call, both parties will be reacting to each other. In order to remain calm, a telephone representative must pay attention, not only to their triggers and emotions, but also to the caller’s language. Body language is difficult to decipher on a phone call but a smile or clinched teeth are easily recognizable.

Respond appropriately

Once the situation has been assessed, a call handler must decide the next course of action. Responding appropriately may not always mean “talking”. In some cases, simply listening intently is enough to diffuse a situation. Not speaking may also be a way for the representative to take notes, look up an answer or make a plan to escalate the call. Communicating the plan effectively will also help the caller to feel that they are in good hands.


Another way to keep grace under pressure is to decompress in between calls. Strong emotion or energy from a stressed or angry caller can remain long after the call is over. A telephone operator may need to take time to step away from the phone after a high stress call. Good ideas for decompressing include a visit with a co-worker, taking a short walk, or getting some fresh air to clear the mind.

An experienced call center or answering service will be prepared to handle emergency calls gracefully. Being aware of what is happening and remaining neutral with these steps will help alleviate the tension on a high stress call. Staying cool under pressure may take some practice but the results will be worth it.


Publish Date: January 15, 2016 5:00 AM

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