10 Key Telephone Answering Service Features

Written by Nicky Walker - Senior Marketing Developer
Call answering operator leaning back

The last couple of decades have seen new ways emerge for businesses to communicate with each other and with consumers.

Text messages, chat programs and, most of all, interactive websites have changed the way we interact with each other. However, for many, the preferred way to commuincate is still by phone. Not only is a conversation so much easier and more convenient than typing or selecting from an electronic interface, it allows a flexibility and mutual understanding that electronic forms of communication are still struggling to match.

For most businesses, the telephone is a vital bridge between companies and their customers or suppliers so it is crucial for customer satisfaction that incoming calls are answered promptly and handled efficiently and professionally. This is where phone answering services play a pivotal role.

The Benefits of Using a Call Answering Service

Whether it’s a small startup or a large corporation, businesses rely on phone answering services to answer calls efficiently when a full time receptionist is either not available or simply not part of the business’ structure.

Phone answering services can become part of the organisation’s structure with a range of services available. These services offer a range of solutions tailored to meet the unique needs of different industries and business sizes.

Let’s take a look at some of the key features of a good telephone answering service provider and and how they can provide excellent customer service, improved brand image and meet a range of business needs.

1) Real People!

The key component for all live call answering services is quite simply people: Real people, customer service professionals, not infuriating AI bots or never ending menus.

With a phone answering service, trained professional receptionists, sometimes called virtual receptionists, answer calls in real-time, providing a personalised touch and addressing each caller’s needs individually.

Having their call answered by a person, rather than waiting in a queue, is a first positive experience for a caller in their interaction with the business and it is an easy competitive advantage for the business too: A caller is many more times more likely to hang up and call a competitor if they are greeted by a recording followed by a queue than if their call is answered by a person as part of an answering service or virtual receptionist service.

2) Customized Greetings

In the early days of call answering services, it was easy to identify when your call had been answered by an answering service because the receptionist would simply collect your contact details and the call would be over! Things have come a long way since then.

A good call answering service provider should be indistinguishable from a receptionist at the company itself and that starts with the greeting. Each call will be answered by the answering service operator with your own preferred greeting. This is usually the name of the company name but might also include the name of the operator and even a branding message about the business.

3) Call Screening and Filtering

Call screening and filtering is essential in allowing urgent matters to be prioritized while filtering out sales calls and other non-essential calls.

After greeting a caller, the first thing that a virtual receptionist, like a traditional receptionist, has to to is decide if and how to direct the call. Many, if not most, businesses are plagued by unsolicited sales calls. These telephone equivalents of spam present a real nuisance to businesses so a good phone answering service will filter these out and politely decline the call.

Screening telephone calls

Listening carefully to the caller is key to understanding their reason for calling.

Phone answering services at the more sophisticated end of the market include customised scripting that both help guide the virtual receptionist through the conversation and direct what they should do next with the call.

4) Customized Scripting

This type of script is a kind of map to guide the call answering receptionist through the conversation, rather than a rigid script that must be read word-for-word. The problem with that approach is that no one has given the caller a copy of the script!

Telephone answering services employ customised call processes to cater to each client’s specific requirements, allowing for a more personalised customer service.

Starting with a greeting using the company name, whether it’s providing information to callers, collecting essential data, or following business processes, the call answering service script guides the receptionist through the conversation while allowing them the space to speak and act naturally. This flexibility ensures a personalised, seamless customer experience while ensuring consistency of process from telephone answering to completion of the caller’s process.

5) Taking Messages

The most common thing for virtual receptionists working at a call answering service, is to greet the caller, listen, follow some guidelines and then take a message.

The standard information that all phone answering services collect is the caller’s name, phone number and a brief message. However, Connect is a telephone answering service provider that offers a range of call answering services that go beyond this and allow the customer to request that additional specific information is collected.

This might take the form of industry specific information, for example, a letting agent’s phone answering service might collect details about a caller’s property requirements while a recruitment agency’s service might collect information about a candidates qualifications. It might also take the form of business specific information like the caller’s customer or reference number.

Messages are usually sent by answering service providers by email, immediately after the call ends but most call answering services will also offer SMS text messages and an online portal where messages can be viewed.

6) Transferring Calls

Another popular use of a telephone answering service is as an outsourced switchboard. Calls can be transferred to the relevant person or team within the business.

A call transfer always begins with the virtual receptionist introducing themselves and explaining the call that they have available to transfer. Of course, it is entirely up to the customer whether they would like to take the call or not.

Depending on the customer’s organisation and how their call answering service has been designed, it might then be possible to forward calls for someone else, if not, the virtual receptionist will usually have instructions to take a message from the caller so that they can be called back later.

7) Giving Information to Callers

A good call answering service can do a lot more than just take messages and transfer calls. One popular task is to give information to the caller.

As virtual reception services are pooled across many businesses, it is impractical to expect an operator at a phone answering service to remember a large amount of information for each client. Instead, carefully designed database systems make information available to them, as and when they need it so that they call pass it on to the caller in a fully naturalistic way.

The information that can be available to give to callers might be anything from directions on how to find their premises, to information about features of a customer’s service.

Answering service operators can also be provided with a clients frequently asked questions (FAQs) and general information about the business’ products, services, or business operations, reducing the need for customers to wait to be called back for assistance.

8) Scheduling Appointments

Another feature offered by some telephone answering services is appointment setting.

Medical practitioners including physiotherapists, podiatrists and chiropractors often find it hard to justify the cost of a full time receptionist during their normal business hours but still need someone to answer incoming phone calls, manage appointment bookings and cancellations, update the practice’s schedule in real-time and even take payments.

A telephone answering service is the ideal solution as it allows a small business owner, such as clinicians and other professionals, to focus their day on patients without missing out on new clients who call in.

Additionally, phone answering services cost a fraction of the monthly cost of employing an in house receptionist.

Outsourcing order taking and appointment scheduling

9) Order Taking and Processing

A telephone answering service can also extend beyond message taking and reception services to appointment scheduling.

Call answering service operators can also take orders over the phone, process payments, and manage order fulfillment.

Many companies which trade as e-commerce businesses do not want to set up an in house team to field incoming phone calls in a physical office, but do still have the need have calls answered. A business phone answering service provides them with the best of both worlds: They can focus on their core business while enquiries and orders that come to them by phone can be fielded by a professional receptionist at their answering service.

10) Call Overflow Handling

One of the great benefits of phone answering services is their flexibility to work as a turn-key service, as and when they are needed without a long standing overhead or expense on the part of the company using the service.

The call answering service provider can have a profile ready to be used at any time. This makes a call answering service the ideal solution for dealing with peaks in call volume or periods when businesses lack the ability answer calls as usual.

During periods of high call volume, an outsourced overflow service ensures that inbound calls are managed efficiently, preventing unanswered calls and minimizing wait times for callers.

Equally, businesses might sometimes find that their capacity to answer phone calls is reduced. This can take the form of anything from staff absence of and in-house receptionist to a disaster that knocks their usual processes offline.

Having a call answering service on standby ensures continuous operation even in the event of technical issues, staff absences or natural disasters.

Looking for professional and friendly phone answering service?

At Connect, we know that finding the right telephone answering service can play a vital role in answering inbound calls and providing confidence that customer calls will be met with great customer service.

From professional call handling to customised solutions, Connect offers a range of features designed to meet your business needs.

If you’d like to see for yourself how our call answering service can help with your incoming phone calls, scheduling appointments or other important tasks, why not give us a call on 0330 3333 777, request a call-back or set-up a trial online by clicking here.

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