A Virtual Answering Service Makes Business Sense
What exactly is a virtual answering service?
A virtual answering service offers companies the opportunity to outsource call answering. Rather than having employees poised to take calls, or team members taking time out of their working day to answer the phone, this job is handled by an external service. In essence, a phone answering service is similar to having a receptionist based off-site. There are various packages and bundles available, and you can choose a service that suits your requirements and preferences. You can opt for a basic solution, which covers taking calls and messages, or select a more comprehensive service, which offers additional customer service perks. As interactive features, such as instant messaging and web chat become more popular, many businesses are also taking advantage of services that cover these channels of communication too.
How do call answering services work?
There are different types of call answering services, and some will suit your business better than others. The main options include:
- Automated services
- Live call answering
With an automated call answering service, a customer will ring your business and then be put through to a recorded message, which offers a series of interactive options. The caller will select the option they want by pressing a key. Automated call answering is ideal for providing customers with basic information and for screening calls to identify high-quality leads and prevent cold calling. Live call answering enables businesses to connect customers with real people who are ready and waiting to take their call, respond to queries and provide information. Virtual receptionists can take messages, send details of the call to staff members through SMS or email, or put calls through to the relevant department.
If you choose to use a call answering service, your incoming calls will be handled by your service provider. You don’t have to worry about missing out on potential sales or losing loyal customers due to poor communication. You can keep your existing phone number, and your virtual receptionists will be trained in advance to ensure they can respond to simple questions and provide information. Your customers will assume that they have reached a receptionist or a member of staff at your business. Companies of all sizes and scales can ensure they convey a professional image through seamless call answering.
What are the benefits of virtual answering services?
Virtual answering services offer an array of benefits for businesses. These include:
Easing pressure on staff
If you work in a busy office, a bustling salon, or a packed store or restaurant, and the phone is ringing off the hook, it can be incredibly difficult to oversee the smooth running of the business. If staff members are spending most of their time answering the phone or waiting staff are trying to combine serving customers with taking bookings, maintaining the highest levels of efficiency, productivity and customer service becomes challenging. One of the most significant benefits of virtual answering services is easing pressure on staff and freeing up time for them to focus on the core elements of their job. Did you know that it takes around 25 minutes to recover from a distraction at work? Researchers from the University of California Irvine discovered that even a minor disturbance can impact focus and productivity, with the average person taking 23 minutes 15 seconds to get back to the task in question. With an answering service, your staff can work without distractions and make the most of every hour in the working day.
Never miss a call again
In business, every call could represent a golden opportunity. You never know who is at the other end of the phone and why they might be calling. If you can’t handle the volume of calls, or you find it difficult to answer calls while trying to concentrate on other jobs, you could be missing out on sales, orders and repeat business. Statistics suggest that the average customer will only try and call a company twice, and 20% will only give a business one chance to answer the phone before taking their custom elsewhere. Research undertaken by BT in the UK revealed that missed calls costs SMEs around £90 million per year ($162 million). If you choose to hire a virtual answering service for your business, you can take every call without any anxiety about increasing pressure on your staff or detracting from tasks that are fundamental to the success of the business.
Creating the right first impression
First impressions count for everything in business. Research suggests that human beings take just 7 seconds to form an initial impression. If an employee who picks up the phone leaves the customer waiting, they sound disinterested, or they’re clearly trying to do two things at once because they’re rushed off their feet, this can create a negative experience for the caller. A telephone answering service ensures that your business is presented in the best possible light every time a customer or a potential prospect contacts you. Studies show that over 70% of clients would cut ties with a business as a result of poor phone etiquette. Your virtual receptionist will be friendly and professional.
A cost-effective solution for busy businesses
Balancing the books is a challenge for small and medium-sized businesses. Many companies may not be able to afford to finance a customer services department or a full-time receptionist. A virtual answering service offers a cost-effective alternative. Rather than adding to the wage bill, business owners can pay a monthly fee or benefit from a pay as you go answering service. With this option, you can maximise your chances of converting leads and boosting sales without increasing your outgoings significantly. The average wage for a receptionist in Australia is currently $27.06 per hour.
Freeing up time for essential tasks
If you run a store, a hair salon, a legal firm or a real estate office, you want your employees to be focused on cutting and styling hair, serving customers, working on cases or arranging viewings. You don’t want your employees to be spending most of their time answering calls. Using a virtual answering service enables employees to concentrate on the tasks that match their job description and contribute to the efficient day-to-day running of the business.
Improving customer service
Most of us are familiar with a scenario that involves listening to hold music for several minutes and losing patience when a call doesn’t connect. Customers who are made to wait and those who make a call to find that it cuts straight out might not give you a second chance. If a client has a question, or a shopper wants to place an order, they should be able to achieve their objective within a matter of seconds. Today, we’re used to living life at high speed, and customers have high expectations. If you fail to impress a customer, you might lose them to a rival, but their experience could also impact the way others perceive your brand, due to the popularity of reviews. Over 70% of consumers will not make a decision before reading reviews and high ratings encourage 68% of people to choose a business. If you manage a firm, you don’t want to lose customers or prospects as a result of poor customer service. With an answering service, you can ensure all calls are answered swiftly and every customer is greeted by a friendly voice.
Every business is unique, and one company’s requirements may be very different to another. One of the advantages of using a telephone answering service is flexibility. You can choose a package or a plan that suits you, depending on the number of calls you usually receive, your working hours and the features you wish to include. Another essential consideration for business owners is seasonal trends, as many companies have peaks and troughs. If you supply Christmas decorations or gifts, for example, it’s likely that your call volume will increase in the run-up to the festive period. You can adjust your package to cater for busier and quieter periods.
Catering for customer preferences
More and more people are choosing to shop or book tables, appointments or hotel rooms online, but the telephone remains an essential point of contact for business owners. A recent report found that 60% of customers still prefer to call a local business, rather than emailing or communicating through text messages or live chat. As a business owner, it’s beneficial to cater for customer preferences and to offer a range of options to facilitate interaction and communication. By ensuring calls are answered and keeping in touch with clients via online channels, you can cover all bases.
Call answering services enable your business to function around the clock, but they don’t just ensure that you never miss calls. You can also benefit from additional features, including email messaging and voicemail to email services. Your virtual receptionist can also direct calls to the relevant staff member if they are able to speak to the client.
Is a virtual answering service the right choice for my business?
Telephone answering services can be beneficial for companies of all sizes across a broad spectrum of industries and sectors. If you’re wondering if a virtual answering service is the right choice for your business, here are some questions to consider:
- Are you missing calls?
- Are your staff spending time on the phone when they should be focusing on other jobs?
- Are you struggling to manage call volume?
- Are you keen to increase lead generation and conversion rates?
- Have you received complaints or feedback from customers who have found it difficult to contact you?
- Are you looking for a cost-effective alternative to hiring a receptionist?
If you’ve answered any of these questions with ‘yes,’ it’s worth considering taking advantage of a virtual answering service. You can choose a plan that suits your budget and your individual requirements, and with a pay as you go option, you don’t have to worry about being tied into a long-term contract. If you are interested, it’s a good idea to try a free trial.
Virtual answering services are becoming increasingly popular, and it’s not difficult to see why. With a telephone answering service, business owners can enjoy peace of mind that they won’t lose leads or sales due to being unable to take a call. You can improve efficiency and productivity by enabling staff to focus on their jobs, and you’ll benefit from improved customer service. Clients don’t often give businesses a second chance to impress, so getting it right the first time is crucial. With a professional service, you can ensure that every customer enjoys a positive experience. You can tailor plans to suit your budget and your needs, and your business can function 24-hours-a-day, providing support for customers and maximising the chances of converting leads. A seamless telephone experience can also set you apart from your competitors and encourage clients to leave you positive reviews and feedback.
If you’re interested in learning more, or you’re keen to start a trial, don’t hesitate to get in touch.