What is an Answering Service So, what exactly is an answering service? We walk you through it and also offer some better alternatives.

By Hammad Syed in Agents

June 14, 2024 8 min read
What is an Answering Service

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As with any small business founder, I quickly realized that answering every phone call personally was not just impractical, but nearly impossible. That got me Googling for solutions and that’s when I discovered this whole world of answering services.

Let me break down what an answering service is and how it can be a game-changer for various types of businesses. Also, this is what eventually led to PlayAI, as answering services were great, but we at PlayAI brought the AI aspect and created a more efficient AI answering services.

What is an Answering Service

An answering service is essentially a company or service that answers phone calls on behalf of another business. Think of it as an extension of your office but without the need for physical space. This service can range from basic message-taking to more sophisticated options like virtual receptionist services, scheduling appointments, or even handling customer support.

Difference between an Answering Service and a Call Center

Now, you might wonder how this differs from a call center. While a call center often handles a high volume of both inbound and outbound calls, an answering service typically focuses on answering incoming calls and providing specific services tailored to a business’s needs. For instance, a virtual receptionist might answer calls, forward important ones, take messages, and even follow up with text messages or emails.

There are several kinds of services offered by answering services, and they can cater to various industries like healthcare, law firms, real estate, and more. For example, in a medical office, an answering service can ensure all patient calls are handled efficiently, even during after-hours. This can be crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction and ensuring compliance with HIPAA regulations.

Advantages of an Answering Service

One of the significant advantages of using an answering service is the ability to handle calls outside of regular business hours. Many businesses, especially small ones, can’t afford a full-time in-house receptionist or customer support team. By outsourcing this function to an answering service, business owners can ensure that a real person is always available to answer phone calls, improving the overall customer experience.

Pricing for these services can vary widely depending on the type of service and call volume. Some services charge per call, while others offer packages based on the number of minutes used or a flat monthly fee. It’s crucial to find a service provider that matches your business’s specific needs and budget.

An automated answering service uses interactive voice response (IVR) systems to guide callers through a menu of options. While this can be efficient, many customers still prefer the personal touch of live agents. A live answering service, staffed with live receptionists, can offer a more personalized experience, which can be a significant factor in customer satisfaction.

Answering Service vs Call Center

For businesses that deal with a high volume of customer calls, like technical support or call center services, having trained call center agents handle the calls can significantly improve efficiency and customer experience. These agents can provide detailed information, route calls to the appropriate department, and ensure that no customer query goes unanswered.

In industries like real estate and law, having a service that can schedule appointments and provide detailed call handling is invaluable. This level of service ensures that potential clients are never lost and that existing clients feel valued and well-cared for.

To wrap it up and put a bow on it, an answering service can provide various benefits, from ensuring that every call is answered by a real person to providing specialized services like scheduling and customer support.

When you’re searching for the perfect answering service for your business, it’s essential to consider a variety of features that can meet your specific needs.

Top Features to Look for in an Answering Service

  1. 24/7 Availability: One of the main reasons businesses invest in an answering service is to ensure their phone calls are answered around the clock. A telephone answering service that offers 24/7 availability can handle calls after business hours, ensuring you never miss an important customer call.
  2. Call Forwarding and Transfer Services: A robust answering service will offer seamless call forwarding and the ability to transfer calls to the appropriate department or individual within your company. This ensures that critical calls are routed correctly and handled promptly.
  3. Voicemail Management: Even the best answering services can’t handle every single call in real-time. Look for a service that offers efficient voicemail management, ensuring that messages are promptly relayed to the right person, allowing you to follow up as needed.
  4. Inbound Call Center Capabilities: If your business experiences a high volume of incoming calls, an answering service that operates as an inbound call center can be incredibly beneficial. These services are designed to handle large volumes of calls, providing professional and timely responses to all inquiries.
  5. Bilingual Services: For businesses with a diverse customer base, having a bilingual answering service is crucial. This ensures that all customers, regardless of their language, receive the same high level of service.
  6. Automated Systems Integration: Modern answering services often integrate with automated systems, such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR), to efficiently direct callers to the right resources. This can streamline the answering service work and improve the overall caller experience.
  7. Professional Service Agents: The quality of the service agents is paramount. Look for an answering service that employs professional, well-trained agents who can handle a variety of customer inquiries and provide exceptional service.
  8. Phone Number Management: Some services provide dedicated phone numbers for your business, which can be particularly useful if you need to manage multiple lines or track specific marketing campaigns.
  9. Traditional and Virtual Answering Services: Depending on your business needs, you may prefer a traditional answering service where live agents handle calls, or a virtual answering service that combines live agents with advanced technology. Assess what works best for your business model.
  10. Call Handling and Routing: Effective call handling is essential. Ensure the service can efficiently route calls to the correct person or department, minimizing wait times and improving customer satisfaction.
  11. Bespoke Call Forwarding Options: Look for services that offer customizable call forwarding options. This allows you to set specific rules for how and when calls should be forwarded, ensuring you maintain control over your call flow.
  12. HIPAA Compliance (for Healthcare Providers): If you’re in the healthcare industry, it’s vital to choose an answering service that is HIPAA-compliant to protect patient information and maintain confidentiality.
  13. Scalability: As your business grows, so will your call volume. Choose a service that can scale with you, providing additional resources as needed without compromising on quality.
  14. Integration with CRM and Other Tools: The ability to integrate with your existing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system or other business tools can greatly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the answering service.

By focusing on these features, you can ensure that the phone answering service you choose will meet your needs, improve customer satisfaction, and enhance your overall business operations. Whether you’re looking for a traditional answering service or a more modern, automated solution, these key features will guide you in making the right choice.

Play.AI – an AI Answering Service

Play.AI is revolutionizing customer interactions with its cutting-edge conversational AI, featuring smart agents that handle tasks with remarkable human-like precision. These intelligent agents excel in managing bookings, whether it’s making, editing, or canceling appointments, all while seamlessly integrating into your existing workflows.

What sets Play.AI apart is its ability to be interrupted mid-conversation, just like a real person, ensuring that interactions remain natural and responsive. This level of sophistication in AI technology makes Play.AI the best choice for businesses seeking to enhance their customer experience with advanced, actionable, and adaptable solutions.

Whether you’re a small business looking to improve customer satisfaction or a large company needing additional support during peak times, an answering service can be a cost-effective solution to manage incoming calls and enhance overall efficiency.

What is the purpose of an answering service?

An answering service ensures that all incoming calls are handled professionally, providing customer support, message taking, and call routing, even outside regular business hours.

Do people still use answering services?

Yes, many businesses still use answering services to maintain continuous customer support, manage high call volumes, and ensure no calls are missed.

How did an answering service work?

Traditionally, an answering service worked by employing live agents to answer calls, take messages, and forward important calls to the appropriate person or department.

What is the average cost of an answering service?

The average cost of an answering service can vary, typically ranging from $30 to $150 per month, depending on the level of service and call volume.

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Hammad Syed

Hammad Syed

Hammad Syed holds a Bachelor of Engineering - BE, Electrical, Electronics and Communications and is one of the leading voices in the AI voice revolution. He is the co-founder and CEO of PlayHT, now known as PlayAI.

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