Avoid answering services that try to force you into a one-size-fits-all service package
Although some answering services only provide business-hour coverage and others only provide 24/7 coverage, most answering services today offer options. This allows clients to pick the solution that best meets their needs.
Here are some common coverage options to consider:
24/7 Answering Service: Some businesses have their call center solution handle all their calls, around-the-clock. This coverage includes both during business hours and after hours. Businesses may want this because they’re generally out of the office and not able to answer the phone. Or perhaps they prefer their call center to screen calls. This allows the busy entrepreneur or businessperson the opportunity to batch callbacks and triage them as appropriate.
Of course, with the 24/7 coverage package, you have the option to answer calls in your office, if you wish. All you do is cancel call forwarding. Then you can take calls yourself. However, you must remember to reactivate call forwarding when you want your answering service to resume answering your calls.
After Hours Answering Service: Other businesses plan to always have their staff answer their phone during regular business hours. And they tap their call center to provide continuous phone support, from real people, outside of regular business hours. This allows their customers to receive a consistent, high level of service regardless of who answers the phone, be it office staff or dedicated call center.
Business Hours Answering Service: Alternately, some businesses only require call center services coverage during the day, when their office is open. Maybe they use an automated solution in the evenings and on weekends, or perhaps their customers don’t call outside of normal business hours. If this is the case, then you only need daytime coverage and many answering services provide that.
Overflow Answering Service: A third coverage option occurs when you have your call center take overflow calls for you. What does this mean?
It means the business plans to answer most of the calls that come in, but they know it’s not realistic for them to answer every one. Maybe their staff is already on a call or perhaps their short staffed. When this happens, they want their calls to “overflow” to the answering service. This is, also, an ideal situation when you have more than enough work for one receptionist but not enough to keep two busy. Have your main receptionist take most of the calls, and let the other ones overflow to your call center.
On-Demand: A final consideration is placing your answering service on standby. This means they don’t handle your calls on a regular basis but only when you request it—or on-demand, as needed. It’s as if they’re on retainer for you. Though some call centers don’t like this arrangement, others handle it easily.
What type of situations might be ideal for an on-demand scenario? That’s a great question! Here are some common examples: cover for breaks and lunches, when understaffed, or for emergencies. Other situations include staff meetings, vacations, and bad weather. The final area includes situations we don’t want to think about: natural disasters, manmade crises, and health pandemics. Of course, we hope these events never happen, but it’s nice to know our answering service is there to cover for us if they do.
Summary: Answering services can provide coverage 24/7, after office hours, during business hours, on an overflow basis, or on-demand. But what if you want a combination of these? No problem. Many call centers will accommodate any coverage need you may have.
The key point is to find an answering service that provides the flexibility you wish and doesn’t force you into a one-size-fits-all box.
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