Nowadays, tons of businesses have a need for answering services. They may not have enough internal resources to handle customer calls all day long, or want to free up time for their in-house employees to focus on other priorities. Additionally, they may want to improve their cash flow by outsourcing customer service needs. Regardless, at some point both B2B and B2C companies with a large customer base will consider questions like:
- “Do I need a phone answering service?”
- “What is the best answering service for my needs?”
What types of answering services are there?
In terms of answering services, there are two general types:
- Call centers
- Virtual assistants
Inbound call centers typically use real human operators who speak with each customer during their call. Virtual assistants are automated services that use artificial intelligence voice technology to respond to customer calls. Typically, these services do not use real humans agents to handle inbound calls.
To decide which type of call center will be best for your business needs, think about whether your customers would prefer an automated, self-service calling experience or speak with a real person. Ask yourself,
- Do your customers’ questions tend to be straight-forward or more complex?
- Would your customers rather handle their issues on their own or have an agent walk them through it?
If your customers tend to have complex questions, you will likely want to choose a call center service. If your customers tend to have straight-forward questions, you may consider a self-service virtual assistant service. When in doubt, try surveying your customer base to see what their preference is! To learn more about answering services and different types, read our in-depth blog on phone answering services.
Related: What is a remote call center?
How do I choose the best answering service for my industry?
When looking for the best answering service, it’s important to pay attention to whether or not the company has experience in your industry. Many answering services specialize in helping particular industries. To get the best value from your answering service, ask the following questions to the service representatives from each company:
- How many years of experience do you have in my field?
- Do you have any testimonials from past clients in my industry?
- What credentials and/or industry-specific training do service representatives have?
- Are you familiar with industry-specific terminology?
Chances are, there is an answering service out there that has years of experience providing customer service in your industry or sector. For instance, there are medical office answering services, real estate answering services, legal answering services, and much more. There are also services that are available 24/7, 365 days a year. It depends on what your industry demands are!
To learn more about how your particular industry can benefit from answering services, take a look at our phone answering service blog.
What are the top answering service features?
If you are looking to find the best answering service, make sure you are getting the highest quality service for your monthly cost. Make sure to consider the top answering service features in the industry.
Having a real person answer customer or client calls can be very beneficial to providing the best customer service. Artificial Intelligence (AI) voice technology can come in handy for some customer needs, but sometimes they can’t handle complex questions or issues.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
Even if you want to use a live receptionist to handle calls, you may be able to free up some time, resources, and expenses by using IVR for more simple customer questions. Many services allow you to utilize a combination of the two. For instance, you can use IVR to answer simple questions at the beginning of the customer’s call and then route them to a live receptionist once their needs are determined.
Having an answering service create appointments for you, as well as move them or cancel them, can seriously help you boost productivity!
Many answering services use a mobile app to help you stay connected. All you have to do is log into the app and check for your latest messages, calls, appointments, and more.
Customized call handling
The most convenient way to work with an answering service is customizing how they handle your calls. Do you prefer they are immediately transferred to you? Or would you rather check your messages at the end of the day? Services that allow customizations will let you choose what works best for you.
Some answering services can process payments for you over the phone, which can boost productivity and your company’s cash flow.
To help customers that may speak another language, having bilingual agents can help you provide the best customer service.
If your company uses a CRM, you can seriously benefit from integrating call data with your CRM. This will allow you to access data and analytics from calls, no matter whether they happen in-house or wi9th an outsourced service.
What is the best pricing plan?
Answering services charge their clients using different pricing models. They may charge you based on:
- Minutes per month
- Number of calls per month
- Number of times they communicate with you or your customers
None of these pricing models are necessarily better than the other. But there are ways you can determine which will be the most cost effective for your company. For instance, do you tend to get a higher volume of calls that last under a minute? You will likely want to find a provider that charges by the minute. Do you tend to receive fewer but longer phone calls from customers? You probably want to find a pay-per-call pricing model.
The best way to determine which pricing model is most effective is to talk with your team and look at call data. Figure out your average call times and call volume to help you decide which type of plan will save you the most money.
Who are the top answering service providers?
|Provider||Pricing||Call center or virtual assistant?||Industry Specialties?||24/7 availability?||Strengths||Weaknesses|
|AMBS||100 minutes = $139/month|
250 minutes = $249/month
500 minutes = $479/month
|Both|| - Law firms|
- Real estate
|Yes|| - HIPAA Compliant|
- Flexible features
|- Additional set-up fees|
30 for 30: $30 per month for 30 monthly minutes, no custom scripting
Business: $75 per month for 50 monthly minutes
Professional: $225 per month for 150 monthly minutes
Executive: $525 per month for 350 monthly minutes
|Call center|| - Legal|
- Real estate
- Small business
- Email & SMS delivery
| - No virtual receptionist|
- Limited custom scripting
|Abby Connect||Abby 100: $279 per month for 100 monthly minutes|
Abby 200: $499 per month for 200 monthly minutes
Abby 500: $1,089 per month for 500 minutes
|Call center||- Legal|
- Small business
|Yes, as an add-on cost|| - Highly rated service|
- Customize based on your needs
| - 247 availability costs extra|
- Expensive pricing
|Map Communications||Standard: $39 per month, no monthly minutes, $1.15 per minute|
Business: $149 for 125 monthly minutes, $1.09 per extra minute
Executive: $225 for 225 monthly minutes, $1.07 per extra minute
|Both||- Small business|
- Property management
|Yes|| - Robust customized scripting|
- Tech support available
| - Expensive overage fees|
- No hold music
|RingCentral||Between $19.99 - $44.99 per user per month||Virtual Assistant|| - Education|
|Yes|| - Best for small businesses|
- Flexible virtual attendant
| - No human receptionist service|
- No international calling
Feel free to also take a look at our top 5 call center service providers in the U.S., who specialize in different business sizes and industries.
To learn more about whether answering services are the right fit for your business, read our inbound call center buyer’s guide. Also make sure to consider the benefits of appointment setting services.
360Connect’s high-quality network of answering service providers offer the best rates in the industry without compromising quality. We save you up to 30% with our web-based comparison tool! Get started and explore competitive quotes with us today.