Choosing a Live Answering Service

A live answering service provides a “virtual” receptionist to answer your business phone calls.

These services are run out of call centres, which are staffed by professionals 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Your virtual receptionist greets callers using your business name at times when you’re not available to answer the phone, and immediately sends messages to you via SMS, email, and web-based portal. With some plans, the receptionist can even transfer the call directly to you.You may find more information at Live Answering Service.

This type of service provides many benefits:

Increase sales and customer satisfaction, with every call answered by a real person. (75% of callers say they hang up when their calls are answered by a machine!)
Increase productivity, by being able to focus on important work without the interruptions caused by a ringing phone. Review messages as they come in from the call centre, and prioritise your work and call backs.
Present a professional image and good first impression, with all calls answered quickly and professionally using your business name.
Increase flexibility, by having calls answered and messages forwarded to you when you (or your team) are out on the road. View your SMS messages in places and circumstances where it would be inconvenient (or impolite) to receive a phone call.
Provide customers with extended contact opportunities, by having calls answered outside of regular office hours.
Save money, with a live answering service costing a fraction of the price of a full-time receptionist.
Once you’ve made the decision to use a live answering service, the next challenge you face is how to choose the service that’s right for your business. The following questions are designed to help you make the right decision.
Where is your call centre located?

For best results, you should select a call centre based in your home country. That way, you can be confident that your callers are greeted by someone with good local language skills who is familiar with local customs and sensitivities.

What are your hours of operation?

Some live answering services operate normal office hours only, which is not much use when you want to catch out-of-hour callers. Make sure that the service you choose operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

What types of plans are available?

Can they take messages for more than one team member? Can a message be forwarded to multiple SMS or email addresses? Do they offer the option of connecting calls to you directly? What are the extra costs involved for these options?

What services are included in your monthly plan?

How many calls can you receive before being charged extra? Are excess calls charged per call or per minute? Do you have to pay extra to have calls answered on public holidays or outside of regular business hours? Is there an additional charge for your dedicated “virtual” phone number (required for the service)? Do any other fees and charges apply?

A cheaper monthly rate does not always translate into a cheaper monthly spend!

What other services do you offer?

If there are other business telecommunication services you use, it’s usually convenient (and often cheaper) to bundle them from a single provider. Ask whether they have any virtual office packages available that can save you money.

In particular, it’s useful to have a 1800 or 1300 number when you use a live answering service. This allows you to advertise a single number to customers instead of an office and an after-hours number. You can route your 1800/1300 number to ring either your office or mobile phone, and if that phone is busy or is not answered within 15 seconds, immediately re-route the call to your live answering.