Answering Services can provide a great deal of benefits to a business. Selecting the right provider can be a very difficult and tedious process. Itís important to know the right questions to ask before letting a third party call center become the first impression your clients face.
Most people believe that the best way to learn about a business is by asking for referrals. Ask yourself this, who in their right mind would send a referral that would have something negative to say? The fact is everyone has happy customers and not so happy customers. The referrals you get might is well be from their own family because you will not be hearing from anyone that had a negative experience. That said, referrals can often times be a total waste of time and offer very little real value.
While cost is important it can not be the sole reason for selecting a call center. The old expression "you get what you pay for" usually holds true. Further, many providers will charge a smaller fee per minute of usage but will charge additional hidden fees for each message transferred, after hours calls, or even continue to charge you once the call has been transferred. Itís critical to get a clear break down of all billable charges and you need to get it in writing. The truth is most businesses would rather pay a few extra dollars to get the job done right but those charges should be clearly transparent in your written agreement.
Most legitimate call centers have the technology to record calls and it would not be recommended hiring a company that does not have this feature. Recorded calls keep operators professional because they are held totally accountable for everything to say and most companies realize that one bad call could cost them a lot of future business. Be realistic in your expectations and donít expect callers to sound like they just graduated from the most prestigious college in the state. If you were actually had get high caliber receptionists answer your phone calls they probably would expect higher wages and it would reflect in your bill. The fact is that in order to keep your costs down answering service providers must higher people that will work for lower wages. That is not to say that anyone should be accepting of poor attitudes or people that can speak clearly. Just be mindful that your cost are directly tied into the providers labor cost.
Knowing the number of employees and how many locations a provider has can be very helpful as it will tell you how effective they will at fielding all of your businesses calls. An office with only 20 employees will usually have extremely slow answer rates and will find it necessary to place callers on hold to take other calls. In such cases you might be paying a low rate per minute but your also paying for time spent with someone elseís client. When possible it is also a good idea to work with a company that has at least 2 locations. It is a reality that inevitably power and phones go out, natural disaster occur and other unexpected events that can temporarily put a company out of business. A center with multiple locations will have calls rolled over to another office which would prevent any loss of service during these occasions.
In todayís world nearly every call center service provider will offer a free trial of service which will help you to get a full understanding of any problems that may occur. Not only should you take advantage of the free trial but more importantly you should make tons of calls and act as though you were the customer. This will give you an excellent understanding of how your calls are handled, your clients true experience, hold times and much more. Your experience on the free trial should have far more value than any referral could deliver. As a warning most answering service providers will calculate your future bill according to the usage during your trial so it would be wise to document all of your test calls and ask that they not be included when calculating your rate for service.