Specialty Answering Service - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
Whether you’ve just started using an answering service, or you’ve had one for years, you should be aware of the 5 most common mistakes businesses make that will result in an outsourcing epic fail.
1. Your Procedures are Too Complicated
Every company wants their customers to be happy, and a factor in customer happiness is how fast you respond to their problems. If a customer is reaching out to you with an issue, you want them to be helped swiftly and confidently. After all, happy customers are what drive growth. However, if you’re letting a virtual receptionist answer your calls, you should know that expecting too much from the operator can be detrimental. For example:
- If your script has more than a few call options, or reasons why someone would be calling, you’ll probably want to simplify your protocol. This is especially true if the operators are opening the call with a simple “how may I help you?” Since the operators aren’t as familiar with your business as you are, having too many options can result in operators genuinely unsure of why someone is calling, which would result in more work on your part. We recommend answering the phone with phrases like “Are you calling for service or support?” or “Can I schedule an appointment for you today?”
- If your script has the operators going out to a complicated web form to submit data, you could be setting the operators up for failure. Usually, when someone is asking questions to complete a form, it’s not going to be a linear conversation. There’s going to be some back and forth like “Why do you need that information?” or “I’m not sure, can you tell me how other people answer that question?” Since the operators won’t be able to answer every question they’ll be asked, it’s likely going to lead to an awkward interaction - and an unhappy caller.
Having an overly complicated protocol is a sure fire way to force unnecessary mistakes and set the receptionists up to fail. When setting up your call handling with your answering service, it’s important to go over the essentials and configure the script accordingly so that both you and your customers’ experiences are as smooth as butter. Check out these tips to make the best answering service scripts for your business!
2. Your Script is Too Simple
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you also don’t want your script to be too simple and create more work on your end. For example, if you schedule appointments in your office but are just having your answering service take the caller’s name and number for a call back, you’re definitely not getting the most bang for your buck. Contact your answering service, discuss what they can do well, and take advantage of the features that your answering service offers.
Unless you’re looking for basic message taking, we recommend that every script should have at least two paths, or call options. One option should be geared towards something specific like scheduling appointments, requesting service, placing orders, etc., whereas the other path should be a general option for any other call that doesn’t fit into the first option. Of course you can have more than two, but as mentioned previously, you don’t want to go over board and add in every possible scenario someone may call in for.
3. Too Many FAQs
Similar to having an overly complicated script, you also don’t want to have too many FAQs. It’s definitely important to provide essential information to the people handling your calls, like what your business hours are, your prices, if you provide service after hours, etc., but you don’t want to over burden them. If you add 3 pages of information, the operators are going to spend a lot of time searching through that data to try and find the answer they are looking for. This overshare of information can result in:
- Higher usage, which means higher invoices.
- Annoyed customers who just want their questions answered quickly.
- Long pauses while the agents page through your FAQs.
- Operators giving up after not being able to find the question they are looking for.
- Many transitional phrases (bare with me for one moment, just a minute please, etc.)
So, while it may seem like a good idea to add as much information as you can, you’ll really want to live by the K.I.S.S method and keep it short and sweet. Try and pinpoint the most important and frequent questions you get asked, and leave the rest up to you and your staff to answer.
4. Not Enough FAQs
While having too many FAQs is a mistake many people make, not having enough is also poor planning. Ideally, you want the virtual receptionists handling your calls to be equipped with the perfect amount of information. Think of it like Goldilocks - you don’t want too much information, and you don’t want too little. Again, figure out the most important questions so that you can arm the operators with the appropriate answers. Here are some basic FAQs every account should have:
- What are your business hours?
- Where are you located?
- Is there an actual store front or are you an online retailer?
- Do you have a website?
- Is there a fax number?
- Can customers email you? If so, what’s the address?
While basic FAQs are helpful, you should also include industry related questions like:
- What services do you offer?
- What are your prices?
- Are you available after hours? If so, is there an after hours fee?
- Do you offer both residential and commercial services?
- Do you accept insurance? If so, what types?
- Can patients pay out of pocket?
- Which physicians are at your practice?
- Does your practice offer different services? (chiropractic, therapy, orthodontic, etc.)
Property Management/Real Estate
- Do you sell and buy properties?
- What properties do you manage?
- Do you provide lock box codes?
- Do you provide after hours maintenance?
- Is there a free consultation?
- What cases do you take?
- Who are the lawyers at your firm?
- What are your fees?
Of course not every business will be the same, but when coming up with FAQs, you should put yourself in your callers’ shoes and think “what would I ask my company?”
Pro tip: As your company changes, make sure to keep your answering service up to date on all changes as well. That means prices, business hours, location, etc.
5. You Don’t Have an Automated Greeting
An automated greeting is a feature that many answering services will offer. An automated greeting is a recording that greets the caller prior to connecting them with an operator and it assures them that they’ve reached the right place. If your answering service offers it, you should definitely have one on your line. For example, Bob’s Plumbing may have a greeting that plays before a call is connected to an operator saying something like ‘It’s a great day at Bob’s Plumbing! You’ve reached our appointment scheduling service. Please hold on the line and an operator will be with you in a moment.”
While having a service is great, no service can promise that there will never be hold times. So, if there is a hold, you’ll want to make sure that your callers hear that greeting prior to hearing any sort of hold music. The custom greeting will let them know that they’ve dialed the correct number, and that someone will be in touch with them soon. Having your calls go right to hold music sounds unprofessional and is a sure fire way to get your customers to hang up. Yikes!
6. You Aren’t Telling Callers They Are Speaking With The Answering Service
Usually people can tell if they are speaking with someone from the office or an answering service, especially if you are a small business. If you try to cover up that you are using an answering service, your callers may get annoyed and feel distrust towards your company. Transparency is an important aspect of business to customer relationships, so we recommend having the operators tell your callers up front that they are speaking with a service. For example: “Thank you for calling Dr. Joe’s Dentistry, you’ve reached the answer service. Can I help you schedule an appointment?” That way your callers will know right away that they’ve reached a service and will not be let down when they think they’ve reached the office only to find out later that they did not.
Often times we find that when businesses want the answering service to act as though they are actually in the office, it can lead to confusion and unhappy customers. While you may provide helpful FAQs for the operators so that they are able to answer caller’s questions, they still aren’t going to know everything. So, if your service is pretending to be the actual receptionist and they aren’t able to answer something, it doesn’t look good for your company. However, you can avoid that mess altogether by just being truthful up front.
Publish Date: April 19, 2018 5:00 AM
At Specialty Answering Service, we often get asked many questions regarding the ins and outs of how answering services work, what they do, and how much they cost - among other things. We thought is would be a great idea to consolidate our most frequently asked questions to help out readers like you, who may be in the market for a new answering service. While most of the answers aren’t specific to any particular service, we did include some information based on what we offer here at SAS 🙂
What is a virtual receptionist?
A virtual receptionist, or a virtual assistant, is just like a regular receptionist except they are not in the same location as you. They typically can do all of the same tasks a normal receptionist can do, like book appointments, place orders, transfer calls, take messages, etc. but they most likely won’t know all of the details of your business like an in-house receptionist would.
Do receptionists work remotely?
Sometimes! Some answering services employ both in-house and remote agents, depending on availability. While it’s usually easier to have all of the agents in one location, some operators just work better from home. Call centers tend to get noisy which can sometimes be overheard through the operator’s mic, so, allowing some agents to work from home (assuming they don’t have loud pets or children) could be a great alternative to help eliminate some background noise.
How should an answering service answer my calls?
There are many different ways an answering service can answer your calls. They can answer with a general greeting like “how may I help you?”, they can answer the same way you would answer in your own office, or they can answer with something more specific like “hello and thank you for calling, are you calling to schedule an appointment?” While having a generic greeting may seem like a good idea, it’s always important to keep in mind that handling calls in your office will be a different experience than having an answering service handle your calls. Since the receptionists at an answering service are not as familiar with your business as your own receptionists, having a more specific greeting usually works better in terms of streamlining calls.
How do answering services know how to handle my calls?
After you’ve decided to sign on with an answering services, you’ll most likely speak with an intake specialist who will ask you questions regarding your company and what it is you are looking to get out of the service. After going through that process, they’ll take the information you’ve given them and program the account accordingly. Then once everything is programmed, the operators will use that call handling, or script, to handle your calls specifically.
What is customer service outsourcing?
Some businesses may be too busy to handle everything themselves, so they may outsource their customer service. Anyone who needs an issue resolved will go through the answering service, who would be able to take a message or transfer calls accordingly. If your answering service also handles email and chat support, there are companies available to outsource that as well. Some services can even integrate with various CRMs, so not only can they handle your customer service calls, but they can also push data through to your support CRM which means less work you’ll have to do.
What are the benefits of outsourcing customer service?
If your business is only open from 9am-5pm, then that only leaves an 8 hour time frame of when your customers can call with questions and concerns. Sure, 8 hours may seem like a lot of time, but for people who are also working during that time frame, they may not be able to reach out. So, outsourcing your customer service allows your customers to receive help even after you’ve closed up shop for the day. In addition, if you’re too busy during the day to get to every phone call, your answering service can help during business hours as well!
What services do hotlines provide?
Hotlines provide many different services, depending on how you use them. Compliance, or whistleblower hotlines can be used to report incidents or fraudulent behavior in the workplace, and can be done so anonymously. An employee call off hotline could be used for employees calling out of work, and recall hotlines can be used for companies that are recalling products. Essentially, hotlines can be used for many different things!
What is a whistleblower hotline?
A whistleblower, otherwise known as a compliance hotline, is a hotline that allows employees to report workplace incidents. Many companies choose to outsource these calls to a third party in order to help ensure anonymity. In addition, outsourcing these calls may encourage employees to report incidents without fear of retaliation.
What is considered “after hours” with an answering service?
Typically, answering services handle calls 24/7, so what is “after hours” really would depend on your company specifically.
Can you use landline phones with an answering service?
Sure! Answering services work on the premise of call forwarding, so as long as your phone (whether cellular or landline) can forward, you shouldn’t have any problems connecting with a service.
Are all services BBB accredited?
Since it is not a requirement for answering services to be BBB accredited, not all of them are. While the BBB is very fair when it comes to posting reviews and resolving cases, it shouldn’t be a make or break type deal when searching for an answering service. However, if they are not accredited by the BBB, you should do some more research to see if they are a part of another organization, like a local chamber of commerce.
What is a good answering service for my business?
While there are many options out there in terms of answering services, finding one that is suitable to your business can be tricky. First you’ll want to outline what it is you are trying to get out of a service. Do you need help capturing leads? Do you need help scheduling appointments? Do you need after hours coverage for emergency calls? Once you have figured out what you would use your answering service for, then you can begin the journey of finding which one works best for you. Most services will offer some sort of free trial period, which is a great way to test a bunch and see which one works!
What gets outsourced to call centers?
Really, anything could get outsourced to a call center. Marketing agencies could outsource their outbound lead capture to a service, medical practices could outsource their urgent after hours calls, lawyers could outsource all of their inbound calls while they are in court, etc.
Why or when would an answering service put me on hold?
Answering services may put you on hold due to high call volumes. If there are more calls coming in then there are agents answering, you may get put on hold until the next available representative becomes available. While no answering service can guarantee there will never be holds, Specialty Answering Service prides itself on having the highest answer rate in the industry.
What kind of equipment would you need to start a phone answering service?
Aside from telephones, there is a lot of equipment you would need to start a phone answering service. You would need computers, headsets, various software like ACD (automatic call distributor), computer telephone integration (CTI) and interactive voice response systems (IVR), not to mention employees and an effective business plan. If you’re looking to open up your own answering service, check out our helpful infographic to learn the basics.
What numbers are available to use?
Answering services will partner with a phone provider who will give them access to a bank full of numbers. Usually that bank includes both local and toll free numbers. However, most answering services are unable to provide vanity numbers (numbers that could spell out something, like your company name). If you were looking for a vanity number you’d have to purchase one separately, and then use that number to forward to the service.
How do I forward my lines to the service?
Typically to forward your line you’ll dial *72, followed by the 10 digit forwarding number your answering service provided you. Then to remove your line from forwarding you would dial *73. However, the protocol in which to forward really varies based on phone provider, so you would want to contact them first to learn how. You can also check out our help desk article for instructions on how to call forward as well!
Can I use Google Voice with an answering service?
Yes and no. While Google Voice is great because it’s free, it does come with some complications. Due to it’s inability to accept more than one call at a time, not all of your calls could connect to the service. For this reason, there are some answering services who will not work with Google Voice, but there are others that will. If your service does allow you to use Google Voice, there may be some features that you won’t be able to utilize, like recording your calls (as the pre-recorded message makes the calls from Google Voice bounce back). At SAS, we find that some of our clients have no issues while using Google Voice, while others can’t connect at all.
What it the average cost of an answering service?
The average cost of an answering service really depends on how you’re using it, in addition to the service itself. Some services bill per minute, others bill per call, and some just charge a flat rate. In addition, if you’re only getting a few calls a month as opposed to a larger volume, the prices would fluctuate accordingly.
Is a credit card needed to start service?
Typically, yes. Most services will require a credit card to be used for the first invoice and/or a certain period of time after you’ve started. However, other services may be more flexible and allow for other types of payments.
Is call patching included?
Most answering services are able to patch calls. However, how they charge for that time will vary. If your service bills per call, then that patched call would typically count as one call, whereas a service that charges per minute could calculate the time spent on the actual call. At our advanced service level here at SAS where calls are charged per minute, the cost of a patched call is reduced to a fraction of the actual minute rate of a normal call. So, services can really fluctuate how they price in that area.
Is billing done by the call, by the minute or by the month?
It can really be any of the three, but most likely a combination of per call/per minute and per month. Most services will track your usage (either by the minute or by the call) each day over the course of a calendar month, then send you an invoice based off that usage. Depending on what plan you’ve chosen and what that plan allows, you may have to pay a base rate in addition to overages (if there are any) or you may just pay a flat rate. Since your usage will really fluctuate each month, if you’re not on a flat rate service, your invoices will most likely vary from month to month as well.
Do I have to sign a contact?
Most services will usually not make you sign a contract, as they typically operate on a month to month subscription basis. However, that doesn’t ring true for every service. Some services may require that you sign a contract that binds you to at least 1 year of service, so if you are not ready to make that sort of commitment you’ll want to make sure you research the service prior to providing any billing information.
Do I have to pay extra to use a toll free number?
It depends on your service. Some services will charge a small monthly fee to utilize one of their toll free numbers, whereas other services will not charge you extra.
Is an answering service a scheduling service?
They can be! Some services just offer basic call handling (taking messages and transferring calls), whereas others are able to schedule appointments, place orders online, take payments, etc. While many answering services can schedule, how they schedule will vary. Some can schedule right on your software, others provide their own scheduling software, and some can schedule on web based applications like Google Calendar.
Is there an autoplay message before a call is answered?
Usually answering services have the option to record calls for quality assurance. Depending on the state in which the call center is located, they may or may not have to announce to the caller that the call is being recorded. So, some answering services may have a standard “for quality assurance this call may be recorded” greeting on the line, some may be able to create a custom greeting specific to your business, or some services may not have any automatic greeting.
Are all calls recorded?
Not always! Some services may record all calls for quality assurance, where as others may give you the option of whether or not you want your calls to be recorded. Some services may even store all of your recordings in an online portal which would allow you to listen to them and provide feedback.
Can the agents have British accents?
If your answering service is in the United States, chances are the agents are not going to have a British accent (although you may get one every now and then). There are several answering services that offer bilingual support, but usually just for people who speak Spanish. An answering service’s option to offer this feature is more so based off availability than not wanting to offer that sort of service. For example, a call center in Florida may have more availability to Spanish speaking agents than a call center in Vermont would.
Can hold music be changed? What hold music is available?
Usually the hold music that an answering service will use is standard across all of their clients, and is typically very general (much like elevator music). If Company A wants country music as their hold music, but Company B wants rock, there usually isn’t a way to accommodate both. However, it may be able to be changed overall if enough people speak up about it.
Can answering services make outbound calls?
While most answering services handle inbound calls, there are some that can also be used for outbound calling as well. This may be an extra charge depending on your service, or there may be prequalifications, so make sure you do your research beforehand.
Do answering services send messages by SMS?
Typically, most answering services are able to send message via both email and text. However, some are able to send faxes and pages as well. Depending on how your service bills, you may or may not be charged for any messages that get sent.
Do all services have apps?
No, not all answering services will come with a mobile app. However, some may come with other applications, like the ability to integrate with various CRMs or the ability to schedule appointments using a web based platform like Google Calendar.
What professional answering services use Salesforce?
Aside from SAS, there are probably other answering services that use Salesforce. Not only do we use it to manage our own client data, but we also offer it as an integration on our advanced service level. This means that you can link up your CRM within the portal, then whatever information we gather from your callers can pass through the integration to your CRM.
When using a smart phone with an answering service, do the messages need to be encrypted in order to maintain HIPAA compliance?
Usually if your answering service is HIPAA compliant, your messages will not need to be encrypted. Your service should give you access to a secure online portal and/or mobile app that stores all of your messages without being encrypted. The messages you receive should just have standard language that alerts you of a new message.
What companies outsource their customer service?
When most people think of answering services they think of doctors offices and HVAC services. However, many different companies can use answering services. While Specialty answers for many different industries, there are some answering services that only handle calls for specific industries.
Are there any liabilities for physicians using an answering service?
When physicians (or any medical professionals) use a third party business associate, there could be some liabilities. You’ll want to make sure your service is HIPAA compliant, and you’ll also want to see if they are able to enter into a Business Associates Agreement with you, as they will be collecting personal health information (PHI) from your callers. If your service has ensured you that they are up to code on HIPAA, then there shouldn’t be any issues.
Are answering services HIPAA compliant?
Yes and no. Some answering services have adapted to being HIPAA compliant while others are still a bit antiquated. For the services that are HIPAA compliant, they will usually give you access to a secure online portal where all of your messages are stored. While faxing messages is considered HIPAA compliant, emailing and texting them are not. So, in those cases services will usually send a standard message that just lets you know that there is a new message and to check your portal for details.
Can services answer for any sized business?
Absolutely! Answering services can handle calls for any sized business, big or small. Small business usually need the extra help but can’t always afford to hire a new employee, whereas a larger company may be too busy to handle everything themselves and therefore need to outsource specific calls, like customer service for example.
What is the purpose of a doctor’s answering service?
There are many reasons a doctor may use an answering service. However, typically doctors (or any medical practice) use answering services to help schedule appointments and to dispatch urgent calls after hours.
Publish Date: April 17, 2018 5:00 AM
We’ve all been there. By “there,” I mean the void between calling a business to get help and being stuck on hold. For an eternity. Then having the phone just hang up. Like, really, that just happened? Yeah, it did. Bottom line: holds stink.
Whether you’re trying to make an appointment with your doctor, or you’re trying to reach Comcast’s customer support because there’s a movie that you definitely didn’t order on your bill, chances are you’re going to wait on hold for what probably feels like forever.
Specialty Answering Service hates waiting on hold as much as the next guy or gal, which is why we’ve employed over 300 professionally trained operators to monitor the phones 24/7. So, out goes missing calls and leads, and in comes happy customers and more business!
Publish Date: April 12, 2018 5:00 AM
How you answer the phone in your office versus how your answering service answers may not always be the same. While it’s important that both you and your answering service are on the same page, what works in your office may not always work in a call center environment. For example, you may answer with a general “how may I help you?” whereas a service might need to be more specific, especially if they are doing more than just taking basic messages.
Having a screening question up front can not only help streamline calls, but it also allows the operator to get right to the point of taking down the caller’s information. Usually when you have a simple “how may I help you?” you open up the door for callers to go on about their issue or why they’re calling. This almost always drives up the cost of your answering service, and it may also annoy callers when they realize they aren’t actually talking to someone from the office. This is especially true for legal firms who may not want their callers discussing any private information with anyone other than the lawyers themselves, but can really be applied to any industry.
Check out these great industry specific alternatives to “How may I help you?” listed below:
- Hello and thank you for Tiny Tot’s Pediatrics, may I help you schedule an appointment?
- Thank you for calling the after hours answering service for Dr. Joe. Is this an emergency?
- Women’s Health Clinic. Are you a new or existing patient?
- Bright White Smiles. Are you calling for our orthodontic office or our dental office?
- Hello and thank you for calling Perfect Teeth Dental. Are you calling to schedule a cleaning?
- Thank you for calling the after hours emergency line for Berwyn Dental. Is this urgent or can this wait until business hours?
- Ridge Auto Dealership. Are you calling for sales or for service?
- Thank you for calling Jake’s Towing Company. Do you need a tow?
- Hello and thank you for calling Limo Express. Are you calling to book a ride?
- Busted Pipes Plumbing, what’s your emergency?
- Thank you for calling JM HVAC. Are you calling for HVAC or plumbing services?
- Hello, you’ve reached the answering service for Rogers’s Heating and Air. Are you calling today for residential or commercial service?
- Thank you for calling Skip’s Veterinary Hospital. Are you calling for our large or small animal practice?
- Thank you for calling the Animal House. Are you calling for our grooming services or for doggy day care?
- Hello and thank you for calling Creature Care. Are you calling to schedule an appointment?
- Buck’s Legal firm. Are you a new or existing client?
- Thank you for calling NY Legal. Are you calling for our criminal defense or injury law firm?
- Hello and thank you for calling Edward Smith law firm. Are you calling to set up a consultation?
Real Estate/Property Management Industry
- Hello and thank you for calling Best Homes Realty. Are you looking to buy or sell a property?
- Thanks for calling Lakeview Apartments. Do you have a maintenance issue?
- Thank you for calling Regal Properties. Which property are you calling in for?
- Hello and thank you for calling Amazing Vacations. Are you calling to book a trip?
- Thank you for calling Trips Around the World. Are you calling in regards to your reservation?
- National Park Tours. Is this an urgent request?
As you can see, there are many different ways an answering service can answer the phone instead of “how may I help you?” Since virtual receptionists are virtual, they aren’t going to know the ins and outs of your business like you would, and they also shouldn’t be the ones judging if a call is urgent or not. While a simple greeting may work for your receptionists in house, you also have to take into consideration what would work best for your virtual receptionists. After all, you want your callers to be taken care of as quickly and efficiently as possible no matter who is answering the phone. Happy customers = Happy business!
Publish Date: April 10, 2018 5:00 AM
As someone who works for an answering service, and as someone who tries to explain to other people (aka my grandmother) what it is that I do, it was brought to my attention that not everyone knows what an answering service actually is. “What?!” I proclaimed. “How could you not know what an answering service is?” But then it dawned on me - if you don’t use one, then why would you need to know what it is?
So… What is an Answering Service?
To put it simply, an answering service is a type of service that can manage both inbound and outbound business communications for various industries. Communications can can include answering phone calls, responding to emails, replying to text messages, transferring calls, cold calling, etc. This is interesting because the phrase Answering Service, taken at face value, would only reference the ability to answer calls, when in fact an answering service does much more than that!
Answering services go by a few different names, some of which can be used interchangeably, while other definitions should be used for the specific service they represent. For example:
- Virtual receptionist service: Usually companies who refer to themselves as virtual receptionists are performing the same tasks as answering services, so these terms often refer to the same thing.
- Virtual office service: While the basic functions of a virtual office are the same as an answering service, where virtual office providers differentiate themselves is by offering mailing addresses, meeting rooms, and short term office space.
- Automated answering service: Automated answering services usually don’t involve any live agent support and aren’t technically answering services. They are more IVR, or Interactive Voice Response providers. Automated answering services would allow callers to leave messages, or go through automated prompts in order to receive more information (e.g., for directions, press 1, for pricing, press 2).
- Internet answering service: Answering services will often have internet answering service capabilities, but a true internet answering service is not always an answering service. If a company is defined as an internet answering service, they will offer email support, chat support, and social media response - support channels that are internet based. They will usually not offer phone support, or live operator service. This is different from an answering service which, at it’s core, offers live operator support and may offer internet answering services as companions or add on services to the core live agent service.
- Call Center: Call centers will typically have all of the capabilities of an answering service, but an answering service usually does not have all of the capabilities of a call center. Call centers usually employ many more agents than an answering service, handle outbound calls (like telemarketing calls), and offer dedicated agents where segmented groups of agents will only be answering your calls.
Where Did They Come From?
The first call center was established in 1957 and was owned by Time Inc. to help increase magazine subscriptions. By the 60’s, Private Manual Branch Exchanges (PMBXs) were invented, which allowed receptionists to manually connect callers via giant switchboards. Eventually manual systems evolved into automatic systems, like IVR, which transferred callers automatically. Come the 90’s, technology really started to take off with the invention of the internet, which led companies to start creating websites for their customers. So, the call center atmosphere turned more into providing customer and technical support for callers as opposed to just transferring them to the appropriate place.
Fast forward to present day, where technology is evolving at lightning speeds and is forcing industries, like answering services, to evolve with them. Now, instead of pressing 1 for sales and 2 for support, you can just speak into your phone and the system will route you to the right place accordingly. In addition, instead of just taking messages, answering services now can schedule appointments, dispatch calls, process orders online, and integrate with CRMs, in addition to taking messages and answering questions. If you have leads to call, you can also have your answering service make those outbound calls for you, which takes a lot off of your plate. If you can have a whole team of people doing that for a small portion of what you would pay one person in house to do the same job, why wouldn’t you jump on that opportunity?
Who Uses Them?
While there are some industries that stick out more to people in terms of using a service, the truth is that any industry can benefit from using one. A (small) list of examples include:
- Medical (doctors, dentists, pediatricians, obgyns, etc.)
- Veterinarians/Animal Hospitals
- Transportation (limousines, taxis, party busses, etc.)
- Beauty Salons
- Property Management/Real Estate
- Accounting/Tax Services
- Legal (criminal lawyers, injury lawyers, divorce lawyers, etc.)
- Entertainment (DJs, party planners, etc.)
- Non-Profit (associations, churches, shelters, etc.)
- IT (computer repair, help desks, etc.)
- Financial (banks, insurance companies, etc.)
- Automobile (car dealerships, car rentals, etc.)
How Do They Work?
Answering services work by using call forwarding, which most phones and phone providers are capable of doing. Call forwarding is probably something you have on your telephone right now but just never knew it. You can see if you have it by dialing *72 followed by a 10 digit number, then calling your phone from another line. If it rang to the other number, you have call forwarding! You’ll just want to dial *73 to take the phone off of forwarding.
Forwarding, when activated, automatically bounces your phone traffic to another destination - much like an email forwarder. With respect to answering services, the service will provide you with a number unique to your account. To send your calls to the answering service, you would forward your lines to the number provided. So, when you get phone calls, instead of calls ringing to your office, they will ring at the call center for the operators to pick up. Some phone providers even offer different methods of forwarding, which would allow you to customize when you want to answer your calls vs. when you want the service to answer. For example, if you just want the service to handle your calls after hours, you could have your line automatically forward to the service at 5pm, then back to your office at 8am the next day.
How Do They Know How to Answer my Calls?
There is some planning and coordination that goes into getting a new service up to speed with your protocols, and making sure you are both on the same page. The first step is usually speaking with an intake specialist, and discussing with them your needs and what you are looking to get out of the service. Some questions they might ask you are:
- What type of calls will we be answering for? (emergencies, appointments, orders, etc.)
- How do you want calls handled during business hours as opposed to after hours?
- Are calls being transferred or is the service just sending messages via email/text?
- If callers ask for you, what would you like us to tell them?
- Should we say we are the answering service or would you like us to act like the receptionist?
- Should we screen callers depending on if they are new or existing customer?
What Features Come With an Answering Service?
Aside from 24/7 call handling, there are a variety of features answering services may (or may not) provide. Some of those features could include:
- On-call dispatching
- Texting, emailing, paging, etc.
- Text response
- HIPAA compliance
- Bilingual support
- Appointment scheduling
- CRM integration
- Mobile App/Online Portal access
While some services may give you access to an online portal, not all of them will offer the same features. For example, with portal access, some services will just store all of your messages, whereas others, like SAS, could give you access to more features like updating your call handling, downloading reports, listening to calls, and rating the operators. Before you hire an answering service you should research what they offer so that you can make sure you are getting the most out of your service.
Are They Expensive?
This is always the most interesting question we get asked at SAS. The reality is, the cost of the answering service is related to how much you are using the service. For example, if you only get 1 phone call a month, the cost will be much lower compared to a business getting 1,000 phone calls over the same period.
In addition, the cost of each answering service will vary, as each provider offers different features. However, it’s safe to say that while some may cost more than others, they are all less expensive than hiring a full time (or even a part-time employee). Some answering services offer different service platforms, depending on what it is that you need. For example, our advanced service level (the one that comes with all the bells and whistles) charges by the minute, whereas our basic service level (the one you would use for essential call handling) charges by the call. So, you may even have multiple options within one service.
Answering services are subscription services and will almost always operate on a month to month subscription basis, where you’ll receive your invoice from the service each month. However, some services come with contractual obligations where you are committed to contract with the service for at least a year.
Some services will charge you a base rate plus whatever usage you accrue, or some may charge you a flat rate. However, the services that charge a flat rate may not have all the same features available that other services may offer. These services may also find other ways to make money (like charging holiday fees). So again, you’ll want to make sure to do your due diligence before signing on with a company.
While answering services can be a great asset to any business, you may encounter some issues along the way. Whether it’s because not enough time went into the initial intake and crucial pieces of information were left out, the costs wound up exceeding what you had originally planned, or the service itself didn’t meet expectations, the point is that they’re not perfect. While no service can promise perfection, a good service will work with you to resolve any issues. For example:
Issue: Calls aren’t being picked up quickly
Resolution: If your calls aren’t getting picked up as quickly as you would like, there are some things that your answering service should be able to do to resolve the issue. For example, many answering services can run answer rate reports that show you a specific snap shot of your answer rate history. This data can show you if there was a random spike in volume, or perhaps a larger issue at hand. If it was not a random spike in volume, they usually can add some sort of upfront recording that let the callers know they’ve reached the right place and that someone will be with them shortly. Your service may also be able to move accounts to different distributions that would open your calls up to more operators.
Issue: Higher costs than expected
Resolution: A good service will thoroughly go over their pricing structure prior to taking your billing information. Pricing should be clear cut and as transparent as possible. That means no hidden fees! At Specialty, we have a system in place to ensure you do NOT pay more than you should be. Each plan we offer is broken down into cost effective thresholds, which we help monitor on our advanced service level. See if your service has systems in place to help you save money, or if they are able to send out alerts once you’ve exceeded your usage (similar to cell phone plans that send text alerts when you’re almost out of data).
Issue: Operators making mistakes
Resolution: Virtual receptionists are human, so they may make mistakes from time to time. However, there should be systems in place to help fix those mistakes as they come up. Many services will record phone calls for quality assurance, but other services, like SAS, allow clients to listen to those calls via their mobile app/online portal. From listening to their calls they can rate the operators and leave feedback, which our support team monitors. So, whether the operators are doing a great job and you’d like to provide positive feedback, or if they need a bit more guidance in handling your calls, you can be a part of the coaching process.
Issue: Programming/scripting errors
Resolution: If not enough time went into your initial intake, or if after listening to calls you hear that the call handling isn’t exactly what you had in mind, a good service will work with you to correct any programming issues and add helpful information, like FAQs. However, a great service will take a proactive approach and try to eliminate errors before they happen. Here at SAS we encourage our clients to set aside some time every now and then to review their script with our support team. That way we can walk through the call handling together so that we can get a good idea of what is it they are trying to accomplish, and what the best way to go about doing that is. After all, team work makes the dream work!
The Benefits of Using a Service
If you’re wondering why businesses would pay to outsource their phone calls and not just handle them in house, I would say that you have a valid point. However, I would also tell you that not everyone can answer their phone all the time, and while voicemail is always an option, it’s not a good one. Think about it. If you were just in an accident and trying to find a lawyer, would you leave a message on their voicemail box with the hopes that they’ll hear it soon and call you back? Probably not. You’re most likely going to hang up the phone, and continue calling other firms until someone picks up.
You can take that same example and apply it to literally any other industry. It’s a Friday night in the dead of winter and your heat goes out. Are you going to wait until Monday to have someone come out and fix it? Doubt it. Or maybe your newborn child has a really bad rash. As a new parent, chances are you are not going to wait until the morning to call your pediatrician. Having someone answer your phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year is really a godsend for any business, not just ones that handle emergencies. Small businesses can’t always afford to hire more employees to answer their phones, and larger companies may be so busy that they can’t get to every phone call, which is why they seek out an answering service for a helping hand.
There’s no doubt about it that you are the best person to answer your calls, but an answering service is the next best thing. 7 out of 10 people will hang up the phone if they reach a voicemail, which means a 70% chance that you will miss leads and potential business. So, I ask again: why wouldn’t you jump on the opportunity to work with an answering service?
Publish Date: April 6, 2018 5:00 AM
The first couple of days (or weeks) after hiring an answering service can be a challenge. Not only do you have a new communication channel to keep track of, but you also have a whole new team of virtual employees who are answering your calls - which of course you want to go perfectly. On top of all of that, you have a business to run. How the heck do you manage it all?!
Since we’re experts on all things answering service, we created a quick 7 point guide to help you out, young grasshopper. Read on to learn what to do after you’ve hired an answering service, so that your transition can be as seamless as possible.
#1 Know your forwarding number
In general, telephone answering services work on the principle of call forwarding. They provide you with a designated phone number at the call center, and you forward your office phones to that number when you want the answering service to handle your calls. Typically, you have the option of advertising that number separately (so calls will go direct to the service), forwarding your current lines to it (where you decide when the answering service is handling your calls), or both! Whichever method you choose, it’s important that you keep that number handy so you or anyone in your office can route calls to the answering service. Write the number down and stick it to your computer, save it in a word document, or tattoo it on your hand. Whatever will help you remember it best!
#2 Contact your phone provider
Once you’ve signed up with an answering service, you’ll want to touch base with your phone provider. If you’re not sure how to forward calls, they can help you. If you don’t have call forwarding on your business phone, they can help you with that too. You can also discuss with them the different forwarding methods they offer and what would be the best option for your business. For example, conditional call forwarding would allow calls to come to you first before routing over to your service. This way you have the opportunity to answer them before anyone else. Another option would be all calls call forwarding, which just sends your calls directly to the number you’ve forwarded to. This option would be great during after hours, weekends and holidays so that there is no wait time for your callers. Keep in mind that not all phone providers offer these options, which is why it’s important to touch base with them early on.
#3 Make test calls
Assuming that you’ve already given your new answering service the protocol on how you want your calls handled, the next thing you’ll want to do is make test calls to see how they’re handling those protocols. Think of this like training a new employee you would hire in your own office. You’ll want to see how the new employee handles calls, and you’ll probably end up adjusting some of your protocols to get the most out of your new hire. Virtual receptionists operate with the same learning curve. So you aren’t paying for that learning curve, typically services will offer some sort of free trial period, so it’s a great idea to make all of your test calls during this phase. That way you can iron out any kinks you may come across, and you won’t have to pay for the calls you’ve made. Often times people will go right to forwarding their lines before making any test calls, which could result in a lot of errors and unhappy clients.
Pro tip: It’s important to keep in mind that the operators may make mistakes during the beginning stages as they are still learning your account. Using any free trial period to make test calls will give the operators ample time to learn your protocol, so that when you are finally ready to go live with your callers, you can feel confident that the hand off will be smooth.
#4 Modify your call handling
After a few test calls, you may find that the way the receptionists are handling your calls isn’t 100% what you had envisioned. Sometimes what works best for handling calls in your own office isn’t what works best for a virtual receptionist answering your calls. Make a list of all the changes or modifications you would like, and submit them to the appropriate point of contact as one list. If your service allows you to access this information via an online portal, you can even try making the changes yourself! Another great way to make tweaks is by listening to calls. If your service records phone calls, you can get a lot of great insight into what your callers are asking about or looking for. This is a great opportunity to add FAQs and update your call handling accordingly, so that your calls are as streamlined as possible and there is less for you to follow up on.
#5 Know your points of contact
It’s important to know who your points of contact at the answering service. Is there a customer support team? Do you have one specific account representative? Are you able to call your forwarding number directly and have the operators make changes? These are all great questions to ask your service provider so that you know exactly who to call whenever you need assistance. If you have to go through a customer support rep, you should also find out when they are available, and if there’s a protocol you can follow should you need immediate help after hours. For example, Specialty Answering Service gives all of our per minute level clients access to an online portal where they can log in and make updates at a moment’s notice. While we do offer support after hours, it can be limited so it’s always a great idea to get familiar with the tools that are at your disposal!
#6 Go live!
Now that you’ve memorized your new number, got your forwarding procedure squared away with your phone provider, placed test calls and made the appropriate changes to your script, you are ready to go live with your customers. After you’ve forwarded your line, make one last test call from a different phone, like your cell phone, just to ensure that you’re properly forwarded, then you’ll be free to handle business as normal, just without all the interruptions!
Pro tip: Letting your customers know in advance that you will be utilizing an answering service could be beneficial to both you and your service. If your callers are used to speaking with the same people every time they call, they may be put off when they start to hear new voices. In addition, it’s a great opportunity to ask for feedback, which you can then relay to your service. After all, feedback (whether good or bad) is always helpful in the end.
#7 Don’t forget to check in
It’s always a good idea to check in on your answering service every month or so to make sure things are still running smoothly. Some people will let their account go for months, or years, without ever making updates. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?), it’s important to keep in mind that the virtual receptionists are your virtual employees, and employees need direction. For example if your prices increased, you’ll want to make sure your answering service is aware of that, or else the operators will be providing inaccurate information to your callers.
Publish Date: April 4, 2018 5:00 AM
Answering services are great resources for real estate agencies! They can make sure you aren’t missing calls from your listings, handle your calls while you’re on a showing, provide lock box codes to your properties, transfer calls to any agent on your real estate team, and schedule appointments. If your real estate firm is using an answering service to answer your phone, we’ve put together 5 tips to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
Tip #1: Route calls properly
Having someone answer your calls 24/7 is huge. Like elevator in your house, 5 car garage huge. If any potential clients call your number and get your voicemail, you’re leaving it up to chance that they’ll leave a message - or call back later. To properly route calls, we recommend setting up conditional call forwarding on your phones during business hours, after hours, and holidays. Conditional call forwarding is included as a free feature with 99.9% of all phone providers, so you’ll need to contact your provider (like AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast) to get it activated and configured. With this feature activated, if you are too busy to answer, your phone can be configured so instead of routing to voicemail, it will roll over to your answering service. During after hours, weekends and holidays you can roll them directly over to the answering service instead of having the phone ring at all on your side. While voicemail is perfect for when you’re screening calls from your in-laws, it’s not great for capturing leads.
Tip #2: Use virtual assistants
If your answering service is just passing messages to your office, see if they can do more - as most answering services often can do significantly more than just answering calls. Most services also double as virtual assistants. Virtual assistants can answer questions, dispatch calls, schedule appointments, and do basically everything else a normal receptionist can do. For example, an answering service agent should be able to schedule showings. If you want your answering service to schedule showings, most can pop out to your web based software to schedule, or they can often schedule on popular calendars like Google Calendar.
If your real estate company also manages rental properties, you may be receiving calls from tenants that have maintenance issues. With a virtual assistant, you can have them field and dispatch urgent calls any day or time. Many services can text, email, fax, page, and/or dial out to the assigned on-call technician to relay the appropriate message. If your tenants are looking to pay rent, virtual assistants can also usually take payments over the phone, or assist callers in paying via an online portal. Essentially, the less you have to do yourself, the better.
Pro tip: Usually the more an answering service does, the more they will charge. If you are paying your answering service by the call, there will most certainly be extra charges for things like accessing your website to schedule, accessing FAQs, etc. For services that charge by the minute, there usually won’t be extra charges as the cost of the call is a function of the length of the call - and if the agent is doing more than taking a message, the call will cost you more.
Tip #3: Use multiple numbers for lead tracking and faster calls
If you manage more than one property or have more than one listing, you should set up different numbers with your service to help keep calls moving quickly and to help you understand which channels are generating your call traffic. See if your answering service can provide multiple local or toll free numbers. Assigning one number to each property will give your callers a streamlined experience so that they can be efficiently managed. Or, you can have one number for property management and another for your real estate services. Having one number for all properties to call with issues can result in errors and confusion. This could lead to longer than normal calls and frustrated callers.
Even if you don’t manage properties and strictly sell them, having multiple numbers is great for lead tracking. For example, all of the houses you’re selling in one area can be directed to one number, whereas the houses you’re selling across town can be directed to another. Or, if you happen to sell both commercial and residential real estate, you can have two different numbers for both. This way, you can understand which phone calls are coming from which properties to give you stronger customer service insight.
Tip #4: Add FAQs
Just like you would want your receptionist to answer questions about your business when asked, you should expect the same from your answering service. It’s best to provide them with as much information as possible. For people asking simple questions like: “what are your business hours?” or “what are your fees?”, you can save a lot of time by having the agents answer those questions for you. The more information the agents are equipped with, the better they’ll be able to handle your calls. This also means less messages they’ll have to take, and less time you’ll have to spend returning calls.
Pro tip: Update your FAQs frequently to keep up with the properties you have available. For example: “Is the house on Peach street still available?” “It sure is, would you like me to schedule a showing?”
Tip #5: Customize your call handling
Continuity is a great thing. When someone calls your office and speaks to your receptionist, you want them to have the same call experience when they get your answering service. We suggest customizing your scripting, or your call handling, to reflect your business as much as possible. For example, you can have a call option for people looking to put their property on the market, a call option for people looking to buy, a call option to schedule a showing, etc. You should also see if you can set up screening questions to see if the caller is a new or existing client. Then, you can have new clients transferred to you so that you can capture the lead ASAP, whereas existing clients would just leave their information with an agent for a call back. See what works best for your business and run with it!
Publish Date: March 30, 2018 5:00 AM
Millennials are trending! The 75.3 million or so population of millennials communicate way differently than the Baby Boomer generation before them. While your mom loves to talk on the phone and dish about her back and knee pain, millennials aren’t huge fans of phones (SMH), but do love texting. When your dad did a backflip the first time he figured out how to ‘Like’ a post on Facebook, millennials were raised on social media. To capture the buying power of this group, businesses are realizing they need to flip the script on how they engage with millennials. For customer service, that means helping customers doesn’t always start with ‘Thank you for calling. How can I help you?’
While the basic tenets of good customer service remain the same across generations, the way millennials communicate is what’s really changing the customer service game. Preferred channels of service aren’t just telephones. They’re phones, and texts, and chats, and Twitter, and Facebook - pretty much just about every channel your small business is probably not engaging in right now.
So how can businesses that have developed their customer service strategies around Baby Boomers change gears to hook up with millennials? How can you achieve customer retention while millennializing your customer service? We’ve put together 7 tips your company can start putting into play today!
Tip #1: Social Media
Use of Social Media: As social media continues to evolve, millennials are evolving with it, which means you have to, too. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are all free apps that millennials love, and that businesses can use to keep in touch with their customer base. 55% of people aged 18-34 stated that they have used social media to praise a brand on it’s customer service. Similarly, 50% of people in the same age range stated that they would also refer to social media to complain about a bad customer service experience. Oh no! If you’re not using at least some form of social media to engage with your customers, you’re dropping the ball.
How your company can use social media to engage with millennials: Just being accessible on social media is a great customer service strategy. Millennials are always on their phones - so you have to be there too.
- Setup Social Media Channels: At minimum, make sure you have a Facebook and a Twitter page setup, with text on the page letting customers know they can DM you for support requests.
- Post Regularly: We recommend posting regularly to show your customers that you’re up to date, engaged, and ready to communicate. Even if you’re just owning a Twitter troll because they talked smack on your beef, at least you’re posting something, and millennials know you’re there.
- Make Sure Customers Know Where They Can Contact You: Traditional support channels like logging a support ticket on a website may not be adopted, where accepting support requests on channels millennials already use can be. If millennials know that they can send a direct message via Twitter or Facebook, instead of logging a formal support ticket, or calling a support line, they are more likely to reach out to you when issues arise, which means you have the ability to resolve their problem quicker. Make sure you have a place on your website letting customers know all the million+ ways they can contact you for support. And so you aren’t checking those million+ places every day, make sure all requests and messages funnel into a single email to easily triage requests.
Tip #2: Unified Communications
Unify Your Communications: Millennias have been exposed to the internet from infancy. That means data is always delivered in real time and on-demand. You need to have the right tools and technologies for seamless integration and a smooth flow of information across multiple channels. A millennial may expect to carry out a transaction online and call your contact center agent to verify when the shipping can be expected. Also, messaging and communication need to be consistent. Your website, your email marketing, and your contact center agents all need to speak the same language. Advertising a special when your answering service rep has no idea what the caller is talking about - that’s a super ‘No No’.
How your company can maintain consistent customer service with millennials: To really kill it, you need to be everywhere at once!
- Use One Customer Service Team: Phone, email, and live chat support should all be handled by the same team of people. That way if someone who was using chat decides to call in for more assistance, they won’t have to explain themselves all over again.
- Unify Your Software: If customer support isn’t able to be handled by the same group, we recommend looking for software that is able to integrate with other channels. For example, for your helpdesk software, look for a product that integrates with your CRM, POS, ordering platform, and billing system. For customers who are trying to get assistance, it can be frustrating when they are tossed around from person to person, especially if that person is not in the same location as the support rep they were just talking to. Consistency and teamwork are key in maintaining long lasting customer relationships.
Tip #3: Human Touch
The Human Touch: Despite their comfort with self-service, millennials still prefer the human touch when it comes to complex inquiries. They also want human interaction to be available on every channel – primarily to offer contextual and personalized service. So, out goes your static FAQ page and in comes web chat from an agent who knows which page you are browsing! Be sure that your agent is knowledgeable, can communicate well and is empowered to make decisions. 32% of millennials stated that working with a representative who does not have the ability or knowledge to resolve their issue is the most frustrating aspect of their customer service experience, and 63% have stopped doing business with companies due to a poor customer service experience. Millennials prefer an informal, honest, solution-oriented approach. Human agents must be available for them to contact at their convenience, and not because other service channels are sub-optimal.
The best way to provide 24/7 live support for millennials: Live support rocks! Make sure you’re offering it.
- Hire a Virtual Receptionist: Outsource calls to a 24/7 virtual receptionist service so that your customers can receive assistance even after you’ve closed up shop for the day. Generally speaking, if millennials reach an answering machine, they will not stay on the line to leave a message. So, you’ll want to make sure you have around the clock coverage to field any incoming calls.
- Make Sure the Virtual Receptionists Do Everything You Can Do: You’ll want to be sure that if someone calls at 2:00 PM and reaches you, and then they call at 7:00 PM and reach the answering service, that the service has the same capabilities and access to information as you. Many answering services can act as an extension to your business by screening calls, dispatching urgent messages, scheduling appointments, etc. In addition, you can save money by hiring a virtual receptionist as opposed to an in-office receptionist, who you’d have to pay a full salary and benefits. Many services, Specialty Answering Service included, even offer a free trial so you can make sure they are a good match!
Tip #4: Convenience
Convenience: Millennials take it for granted that your business will have a website, an app, and a contact center, not to mention a physical store front – all of which they will use depending on convenience. So you can no longer shy away from multiple service channels. They also prefer proactive engagement – reminders on bills to be paid, flights to be caught etc., rather than responsive engagement, like outreach on a payment after the due date has passed. It is important that you first obtain permission to call, text or email them, personalize the message, keep it accurate and relevant, and offer something actionable.
How to make your customer service channels convenient for millennials: You need to adopt texting into your customer service strategy.
- Encourage Texting: Make sure your customers know they are able to text you if they need help.
- Unify Your Numbers So They’re All Text Enabled: If you have numbers that aren’t text enabled, resporg them to a service that will allow texting.
Tip #5: Speed
Speed of Service: This one is universal, but especially relevant for millennials who are great at multitasking. Their service expectations are influenced by the instant gratification that they are used to from online experiences. No one likes to be kept on hold – especially so, the millennials – who are likely to abandon the queue faster than the Boomers. One way to overcome this is to offer self-service options such as an IVR or app-based service delivery.
How to speed up your customer service channels for millennials: Create an internal SLA for responding to customers.
- Set A Support Timeframe: Instant gratification is king. If your millennial customers reach out to you and they don’t hear back quickly, they are going to take their business elsewhere. Set a time frame within your company and try to stick to it as best you can. For example, maybe your goal for email replies is 30 minutes during business hours, and 2 hours after hours.
- Use Technology for Confirmations: If you’re using a helpdesk, you can easily setup an automated email that goes out as soon as you receive an incoming ticket that just lets the customer know you’ve received their request and that they will be hearing from you soon. If you’re using email to handle your requests, setup an autoresponder. Either method assures customers that they are being heard, which makes them more likely to stick around for the resolution.
Tip #6: Self-Service
Use of Self-Service Channels: 78% of millennials agreed that they have a more favorable view of brands that offer a mobile-responsive customer support portal. Ideally, easy and straightforward transactions such as balance inquiry and password reset can be self-service while complex interactions are best left to a live agent. Also, it is important to provide confirmation of a successful transaction. Otherwise, millennials are likely to call back to verify if the transaction did actually go through – defeating the entire purpose of having self-service in the first place. This would be considered poor service.
The best way to provide self-service customer service options for millennials: Help your customers help themselves.
- Invest in Web Based Technology to Connect Your Systems: Generally speaking, if millennials know that they can make a change with their order or account without having to speak to someone, they will do it on their own. Giving your customers access to an online portal that allows them to manage their settings at their leisure can help reduce phone calls and increase customer satisfaction. You’ll want to make sure the portal is user friendly and that the people using it aren’t able to make any drastic changes, like accidentally deleting important information.
- Develop a Help Desk: Articles are awesome. Make sure to create an online library where customers can go to for answers to their questions - and make sure you update it regularly. You’ll find that this will cut down on your support costs while keeping your customers uber happy.
Tip #7: Quality
Quality of Service Delivery & Service Recovery: Consumer activism is high among millennials. They take action as a response to perceived service quality, whether it is good or bad. They talk about their service experience online in social media and in chat forums, are quick to recommend a good service provider to friends and family, and equally quick to warn them about a bad one. In fact, their tolerance for bad service is lower than other generations, and therefore companies need to work on improving quality of service delivery and speed of service recovery in the event of an unsatisfactory incident. In other words, if something goes awry, apologize and take corrective action straightaway.
How to improve the quality of your service for millennials: Make sure you’re taking feedback at every opportunity.
- Send A Survey After Every Issue You Resolve: Send out an email or text after every resolved issue asking your customers for their feedback. Giving them this option to tell you directly how you did can help deter them from bad mouthing you on social media. If their feedback was positive, you can then follow up by asking them to post a review online. If their feedback was negative, work with them to resolve their issue and analyze the entire thread so you can improve the process for next time.
- Look for Patterns And Be Proactive: Analyze your support requests each week to look for trends. For example, if you’re seeing an escalation in support requests for new customers, maybe you need stronger on-boarding procedures.
While generations differ in how they interact with the businesses they patronize, their expectations are essentially the same – they want good customer care, and they want their problems to be resolved in as little time as possible.
Publish Date: March 13, 2018 5:00 AM
Voicemail is a digitally recorded message stored in a digital mailbox - a best friend to all people who screen their calls and actively avoid their friends and family. If you call anyone, one of two things are going to happen: the call will be answered by a human being, or you’ll be transferred to a voicemail box. But that wasn’t always the case. Before 1970 when voicemail didn’t exist, trying to reach someone who wasn’t there meant waiting on the line while it kept ringing, and ringing, and ringing. Endlessly. And you were all like ‘I know you’re there. Pick up. Pick up. PICK UP!’ But they never did. Thanks to voicemail, someone is always there. Even if it’s a digital someone.
For businesses, voicemail is a cheap lead capture tool. Think about how many calls your business gets during the day. Now imagine not having voicemail (or *cough*, a live receptionist *ahem*) and leaving potential customers waiting on the line, wondering when, or if, you’re going to pick up. Not cool.
Today, there are a ton of voicemail providers out there that basically all perform the same function: storing recorded communication for convenient retrieval. In this infographic, we’ll school you on how voicemail works, when voicemail was introduced, how voicemail messages are digitally stored, how voicemail is a part of Unified Communications, and how AI voice to text voicemail transcription services are replacing having to listen to your messages.
Publish Date: March 2, 2018 5:00 AM
Great customer service is the best! It’s like playing with a puppy while eating a marshmallow only box of Lucky Charms while falling asleep on your grandmothers lap - yeah, it’s that good. So we thought it would be fun to put together a list of customer service all stars from film and television. The best of the best customer service heroes. Characters you can imagine, if answering calls, would go above and way beyond the call of duty to keep your customers happy. Enjoy!
Buddy the Elf:
Customer service skill mastered: Staying positive
Buddy is a human that was raised by elves, so naturally he learned to spread joy no matter who he was talking to (unless that person is a Santa impersonator). Buddy may take some extra time learning the ropes, but once he gets it down pat he would be a great asset to any team.
Customer service skill mastered: Contagious happiness
Joy literally knows no other emotion except for joy. What more could you want in a customer service rep?
Customer service skill mastered: Creative thinking
Mary Poppins is a peculiar nanny that was originally hired to take care of a dysfunctional family. While she has a unique way of doing things, she was able to bring the family together in a fun and loving way. Essentially, every company should have a Mary Poppins at their disposal to help keep the business afloat.
Customer service skill mastered: Applying outside skills to the job
She might forget who you are throughout the conversation, but Dory knows how to make the best out of every situation. What’s even better, is she has a unique set of skills that she can use to help troubleshoot any issue. Yes, talking to whales is a skill everyone should know.
Customer service skill mastered: Relate-ability
Phoebe is that one employee who may be a little quirky, but she’s a genuinely good person that just wants the best for everyone. Even if she may not know an answer, she can fake it ’till she makes it. Not only will Phoebe help fix your customer’s issue, she’ll probably also convince them to purchase more product. It’s a win-win, really.
Customer service skill mastered: Making the best out of every situation
Long story short, the man was turned into a donkey and STILL maintained a positive outlook on life. Not only that, but his best friend is an ogre that pretty much hates everybody and everything. Do you think that stops Donkey from having a good time? Nope! A good CSR will leave their baggage at the door and do their best to help anyone in need.
Customer service skill mastered: Positive attitude and a hard-working minset
Spongebob Squarepants is everybody’s favorite underwater character that lives in a giant fruit. He works hard flipping patties at the Krusty Krab, and works even harder to get his cranky neighbor, Squidward, to smile. If your CSRs are having trouble connecting with the job and/or your customers, have them take a course in Spongebob etiquette.
Customer service skill mastered: Thinking outside the box
Kramer, like Phoebe, is an oddball. However, he is constantly on his toes, thinking about the next plan. Even in stressful situations Kramer is always there to lend a helping hand.
Customer service skill mastered: Spins the negative into positive
Unlike his foul-mouthed friends, Butters is an optimistic (albeit naive) character who just wants to do well. Often seen as the “voice of reason,” he would be great at keeping your customers happy no matter what the issue.
Customer service skill mastered: Team spirit
It doesn’t matter if they’re cheering at the big football game or a chess match, Craig and Arianna are there to pump up the team. If your employees aren’t excited about the product they’re representing, what does that say to your customers?
Customer service skill mastered: Putting others first
If you’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life, then you know it’s about a man who essentially gave up his dreams to help others. While you shouldn’t expect your employees to give up their dreams, you should want them to want to help others. If you’re trying to boost morale at work, George Bailey would definitely be your go-to guy.
Customer service skill mastered: Being a friend to all
Arnold had an unfortunate childhood, but he doesn’t let that get him down. Whether it’s a friend, a neighbor, the garbage man or even the school bully, he is always encouraging his peers to be their best selves. Arnold is mature, collected, and exactly who you want on the front lines handling angry customers.
Customer service skill mastered: Staying cool under pressure
Ned Flanders is another character that stays cool and collected even in troubling times. He gives great advice and he has that “sweet grandpa” vibe. You can certainly rely on Ned to remain chill and trust that he won’t snap back at a customer.
Mike and Carol Brady:
Customer service skill mastered: Problem solving
Who doesn’t love this family oriented duo? Not only are they there for you when you need them, but they’re great at solving problems and coming up with a solution. How else do you think they successfully managed to blend a family of six kids? Six kids!
Customer service skill mastered: Eagerness to learn
While Kimmy might be “behind on the times” due to her prolonged stay in an underground bunker, she doesn’t let that get her down. Kimmy is motivated to learn everything she can and she always has a positive attitude, no matter what the situation.
Customer service skill mastered: Positive attitude
It’s safe to say that Forrest Gump doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He only wants the best for everyone and works hard to insure that people are taken care of. Like Buddy, he might take a little longer learning the ropes but once he gets it you’re set for a lifelong amazing CSR.
Customer service skill mastered: Team player
Via freak tornado, Dorothy ended up in some sort of parallel universe and befriended 3 obscure characters. Not only did she help each of them reconcile their own fears and shortcomings, but her team player mentality eventually got her to where she needed to be. They say “teamwork makes the dream work” and she’s exactly who you would want on your team.
Customer service skill mastered: Great listener
Woody is your friendly neighborhood bartender that always knows exactly what to say. Whether he’s giving advice or just there to lend a listening ear, you know that he means well. With Woody manning your phones, you can rest easy knowing that your customers will be taken care of. He also probably hosts a great happy hour.
Customer service skill mastered: Eagerness to spread knowledge
Yoda would be your ultimate Help Desk guide to answer all of your customers’ questions. Granted you may need to hire a translator so people can understand him, you can’t go wrong with the little green, all-knowing machine.
Customer service skill mastered: Gives great advice
Jiminy Cricket is a wise, old insect that doubles as Pinocchio’s conscience to encourage him to make good choices. You couldn’t ask for a more wholesome creature taking care of your customers!
Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother:
Customer service skill mastered: Making issues disappear
While Cinderella would make for a good CSR, her fairy godmother would make for a great one. She is, after all, always there when you need her. Fairy Godmother makes things happen and she makes it look easy all the while. Just a swift wave of her wand and poof! Your customers are happy.
Customer service skill mastered: Always answers the phone in a friendly tone
Pam would be a great asset to your team because she’s already well versed in office life. Not only that, but she’s friendly, reliable and she’s even got a creative touch.
Customer service skill mastered: Spreading love to all
Barney may be a purple dinosaur toy that turns into a real life being, but he sure knows how to drop some knowledge. Not only that, but his whole life basically revolves around loving people. Sounds like a great CSR to us!
Publish Date: February 21, 2018 5:00 AM
Why, hello there, and Happy New Year! As the clock struck 12, and 2018 rolled around, billions of people across the globe contemplated their New Year’s Resolutions. Lose weight, read more, give up cheesy poofs, stop binge-watching Netflix - you know, the usual. Call center service companies like SAS absolutely love resolution season. If you’re a small business selling diet aids, 8 pack ab videos, books on learning how to play the accordion in 8 easy steps, or mail order meals, you likely can’t keep up with the customer demand and have a real need to outsource some, if not all, of your customer service. For us, that means more customers, and more opportunities to say Hello!
Since we’re so busy perfecting our Hello, we thought it would be fun to hear how people say Hello in other languages. We’ve included a list of languages and their corresponding Hello greetings recorded in both .MP3 and .WAV format for you to consume. Some have different variations depending on the country in which you are speaking, or the area of the country that you’re in. With only 57 languages in our list, it’s just the tip of the iceberg – nowhere near the 7,000 or so that are spoken across the globe, but it’s a good place to start. Take a listen to the sound clips, practice a bit, and surprise the people around you with your stellar linguistic talents!
NOTE: In many (but not all) of the recordings below, the first example indicates an informal greeting, whereas the second example indicates a formal greeting. In addition, in some languages, there is no literal translation for the words “Hi” or “Hello.” So, a similar word or phrase may be used.
- Afrikaans [mp3 | wav]
- Amharic [mp3 | wav]
- Arabic (Egyptian) [mp3 | wav]
- Arabic (Moroccan Darija) [mp3 | wav]
- Armenian [mp3 | wav]
- Bengali [mp3 | wav]
- Burmese [mp3 | wav]
- Croatian [mp3 | wav]
- Creole (Haitian) [mp3 | wav]
- Czech [mp3 | wav]
- Danish [mp3 | wav]
- Dutch [mp3 | wav]
- Persian/Farsi [mp3 | wav]
- Finnish [mp3 | wav]
- French [mp3 | wav]
- Gaelic [mp3 | wav]
- German (Germany & Austria) [mp3 | wav]
- German (North-South Germany) [mp3 | wav]
- German (Switzerland) [mp3 | wav]
- Greek [mp3 | wav]
- Hausa [mp3 | wav]
- Hawaiian [mp3 | wav]
- Hebrew [mp3 | wav]
- Hindi [mp3 | wav]
- Hungarian [mp3 | wav]
- Icelandic [mp3 | wav]
- Italian [mp3 | wav]
- Japanese [mp3 | wav]
- Khmer [mp3 | wav]
- Korean [mp3 | wav]
- Kurdish [mp3 | wav]
- Malay [mp3 | wav]
- Mandarin [mp3 | wav]
- Māori [mp3 | wav]
- Mongolian [mp3 | wav]
- Nepali [mp3 | wav]
- Norwegian [mp3 | wav]
- Pashto [mp3 | wav]
- Polish [mp3 | wav]
- Portuguese [mp3 | wav]
- Punjabi [mp3 | wav]
- Romanian [mp3 | wav]
- Russian [mp3 | wav]
- Samoan [mp3 | wav]
- Spanish [mp3 | wav] Hint: We excel at saying Hola! Check out details on our Spanish Answering Service.
- Swahili [mp3 | wav]
- Swedish [mp3 | wav]
- Tagalog [mp3 | wav]
- Tahitian [mp3 | wav]
- Thai [mp3 | wav]
- Turkish [mp3 | wav]
- Ukrainian [mp3 | wav]
- Urdu [mp3 | wav]
- Vietnamese [mp3 | wav]
- Xhosa [mp3 | wav]
- Yoruba [mp3 | wav]
- Zulu [mp3 | wav]
Have a correction or want to share a recorded greeting from a native speaker? Contact us - we’d love to hear from you!
Publish Date: January 3, 2018 5:00 AM
The North Pole Elves, aka Santa’s Helpers, are an industrious and creative bunch of customer service representatives, without whom the world would be devoid of magical toys and fudge stripe cookies. (Nevermind about the cookies – wrong elves.) These pointy-eared beings may be hidden from view nearly the entire year, but much like SAS’ call center agents, they never stop filling orders. Not only are they experts at maintaining a mass production environment, but they are also great teachers. In fact, they have a few lessons to impart, if you are so inclined to learn them. Let’s get started!
Tip 1: Elves have serious attention to detail.
You’ve gotta hand it to those Elves. They painstakingly craft millions of toys every year, and each one is more perfect than the last. Of course, Elves understand the importance of the big picture – having enough toys to go around. But they also know that it’s the little things (no pun intended) that make all the difference in any old toy that you could purchase at the mall vs. a carefully-honed item that was built with its recipient in mind.
Both big and small businesses alike need to have enough quantity to satisfy demand. But quality is what will ultimately sell your product and keep customers coming back year after year. The same goes for the answering service industry. Sure, you can answer calls faster than Elves can make a rocking horse; but it’s how you answer them that counts.
Tip 2: Elves take pride in their work.
Elves are happy people. They get to live with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and the Elfin Eatery is fully stocked with buttery cookies and hot cocoa. Who wouldn’t be happy? While that sounds magical, their sprightly outlook isn’t just about the company they keep or the awesome snack bar. Elves love what they do, and they take pride in it! Are there days when the mere sight of another tinker toy is enough to send them packing for Fiji? Probably. But all in all, they excel at toy manufacturing because they believe in the good they are doing.
No job is perfect, and customer service can be especially challenging during the holidays; however, every employee offers a valuable contribution to the people you serve. When the going gets tough, think about the positive impact you have on your customers.
Tip 3: Elves thrive on teamwork.
Any great business starts with exceptional leadership, and it doesn’t get much better than Santa. The jolly old elf himself has been running North Pole operations without a hitch for eons. So, he must know a thing or two about getting the job done. He relies on the Elves to work on their projects as a team, ensuring that each toy truck has wheels, sirens and a nice paint job, and each dolly has curlicue hair and that sweet, baby powder scent. When the day is done and everyone has whittled their last spinning top, they head to the Candy Cane Corral for free eggnog and some good old fashioned camaraderie.
To put it plainly, Santa is about as good without his Elves as a call center is without its agents! No man is an island. There is no I in TEAM. And here’s one more cliché for good measure: teamwork makes the dream work.
Well, what have you learned? We hope that this has been a quick refresher course in how to be the best customer service representative you can be. No matter what your industry, it never hurts to take a step back and reevaluate how you approach your job. Humans spend an average of 2,080 hours a year at work, so you may as well make the most of it!
Publish Date: December 22, 2017 5:00 AM
You know the phrase. “For quality assurance, your call may be monitored or recorded.” Those words ring out millions of times a day as consumers contact businesses for customer service and support. But how about this – call recording started out in the air traffic control industry after the invention of magnetic tape. Who knew!
Today, call recording is a hugely important piece of the compliance puzzle, especially for industries that are extremely regulated, such as finance and insurance. And call recording in telephone answering services is a great way to check up on agents and evaluate their performance, while simultaneously providing the call center with a legal buffer.
Here’s an infographic we put together to help you learn about the basics of call recording software.
Read our extended resource to learn more about the history of call recording and the answering service industry.
If you’re writing about call recording software on your own website, please copy the code below to use this infographic:
Publish Date: November 2, 2017 5:00 AM
Reflect for a moment on how often you’ve dialed up a business and heard this: “Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes.” Sounds all too familiar, right? That phrase is commonplace these days, and it generally means that the company you’re trying to reach, or the answering service that is managing their inbound calls, is keeping tabs on communications to ensure that calls are fielded professionally and thoroughly.
Some answering services provide call recording for their clients as a courtesy. For many businesses, this is a great feature that enables you to have a full understanding of your customers’ needs, especially if you can’t quite catch all the details from the message you receive. It is also a means of protection against customers who may try to manipulate the system by stretching the truth. At the same time, it protects the consumer, should an issue arise with how they were treated.
What about Federal wiretapping laws?
Federal law and many State laws say that recording telephone calls and in-person conversations is permissible, as long as one party consents. That means that your call may be recorded, without your knowledge, because your consent isn’t required. However, there are some places where both parties must consent in order to legally record any communication. And that is where the “your call may be recorded” soundbite comes in. At the call center level, that brief, upfront recording lets both the caller and the operator know that they are on a monitored line.
Do all call centers record calls?
Some advanced answering services include call recording as part of your plan, and call recordings are made accessible via a public-facing portal. You’ll also find answering services that record calls, but recordings cannot be retrieved without directly requesting them. And if a bunch of clients call in at once for their recordings, the service will have a logistical nightmare on their hands. For smaller centers, recording software and file storage are expenses that they can’t justify. So, you may not have the option to record anything.
One thing that it’s important to be aware of is that your call center may technically be recording calls illegally. For example, let’s say that calls are being answered in a one-party state, such as New York, but the caller is located in a two-party state, such as California. Even though New York doesn’t require callers to be informed that they’re being recorded, if the call originates from a two-party state, then you usually defer to the stricter of the two States’ laws. You’ll want to keep that in mind if you run a national business with customers in both one-party and two-party States.
Is call recording right for my business?
With certain industries, e.g., criminal law, whistleblower hotlines, and medical clinics, if someone knows that their call is being recorded, they may be less inclined to stay on the line. And that can be a hindrance to growing your customer base. For the most part, though, call recording is ubiquitous, and consumers have come to expect it. Not only that, but there are a number of benefits to listening to a call after your customer hangs up.
That being said, if you are using an answering service that offers call recording, but you aren’t currently taking advantage of the feature, here are the top six reasons why you should!
- Identify areas for script content improvement based on call flow: Are there commonalities in the places where operators stumble, e.g., phrasing or industry-specific words? If you can find the spots that are tripping them up, then you may be able to tweak the language to make calls more fluid.
- Identify the most common questions / call types, and program the script accordingly: You might start off with a basic script - one path where you’re only gathering name, number and regarding. Then, as you listen to calls and review messages, you may notice that most after-hours callers need emergency service, whereas most business-hours callers are asking for the owner. That one path can then be split into three: Calling for Service, Calling for the Owner, and All Other Calls. You could even include a business hours function in the Service path to accommodate an after-hours reach on-call schedule.
- Identify operators who are unsure of themselves or unprofessional so that they can be trained or addressed accordingly: It’s easy to pick out the operators who just don’t feel comfortable on the phones. Maybe they are confused about your business, maybe they’re new, or maybe they’re just having a bad day. By listening to call recordings and providing feedback, you are giving the service a heads up on any holes in their training and helping them ensure that only the best of the best are fielding your calls.
- Identify operators who excel at what they do so that they can be recognized for their achievement: In the same way that you provide feedback for less-than-stellar performance, it is also a boon to any operator’s self-confidence when they know that they’ve represented your business exactly as you had hoped. A little kudos goes a long way to inspiring continued success!
- Gather call details in the event that the operator’s message is confusing, incomplete, or inaccurate: Despite any operator’s best efforts, there will be occasional mistakes in documentation. They are only human, afterall. In the event of errors or unclear message details, having that recording to refer to as a backup can mean the difference between hooking a new client or losing a lead.
- Have recordings on file when it comes to disgruntled or harassing customers: As a business owner, you hope that you’ll never have the displeasure of dealing with a customer who is determined to give you an earful. But as a realist, you know that you can’t please everyone all the time. That being said, for those times when callers are raging on the phone, having a recording of abusive behavior may afford you some leverage in how you choose to respond.
When the first device that recorded sounds was invented in 1857, no one could have predicted just how useful it would become in the modern era. So, as your business continues to move forward, keep up with the technology that was designed to make your life easier. Ask your answering service about call recording, and use it to your advantage!
Publish Date: October 30, 2017 5:00 AM
When you think about it, it costs an awful lot to fill your office with staff. We’re not just talking about the salaries that you’re paying. There are slew of expenses that, taken as a whole, may make your head spin. It’s a little thing called overhead, and there’s usually nothing little about it.
For many small businesses, there is a world of savings out there when you consider the benefits afforded by outsourcing your reception desk or customer service to a 24-hour answering service. For starters, you can forget about paying for things such as salaries, health insurance, computers, phones, desks, printers, paper, etc. And heck, if the business is super small, you may not need a brick-and-mortar office space at all! Rent and electricity savings. Check check.
Depending on the complexity of your business, call center services can do quite a bit to support operations at a fraction of the cost that it would require for you to do the same. So, the next time you’re walking through your office, make a mental note of the bags of money that you spend daily to keep things running. Once your head stops spinning, contact Specialty Answering Service, and sign up for a free two-week trial. Both you and your wallet will breathe a sigh of relief.
Publish Date: September 27, 2017 5:00 AM