In this 24/7 world, it’s harder and harder for small businesses to provide the around-the-clock service that customers really want.

After all, it may be more convenient for a regular customer to call after dinner or once the kids are put to bed, rather than during the middle of a hectic day, to ask a customer service question or make an appointment.

Instead of missing out on these valuable callers or hoping they’ll leave a message (according to research firm Telecompaper, just 31 percent will), partnering with a live answering service can expand your reach by adding an after-hours shift without the expense of hiring a full-time staff. An after-hours answering service is a simple solution for a variety of industries, from retail shops to professionals like lawyers and medical offices. Even real estate professionals and contractors can get a lot of bang for their buck with the support of these companies.

How Does an After-Hours Answering Service Help My Business?

Although many companies still have voicemail systems or answering machines to catch messages after hours, callers have been clear about their interest in these technologies. They don’t like them, period. Instead of leaving a message with a cold machine that they’re not sure will actually deliver, callers want to know a person has been given the message and that it’ll be relayed.

Beyond anything else, this first line of personal support can make a huge difference in the number of new leads your advertisements and other customer-generating efforts yield.

But, your after-hours answering service can be used for so much more, including:

Customer Support. Your answering service can do more than take after-hours messages, it can also provide answers to common questions if you provide the necessary details. Customers frequently call for certain pieces of information, such as store hours, fee structure or even to inquire about payment plans. Your after-hours answering service can easily answer these questions to help turn a caller into a qualified lead in no time.

Appointment Setting. Once your callers are ready to get to know you better, that new lead can go from asking questions of your answering service to setting a new appointment with their help. Using tools that easily integrate with the ones you’re already using, your answering service can make, change and cancel appointments any time of the day or night, making it easy for your callers to become regular clients.

Emergency Contact. Instead of always being the one on call, your after-hours answering service can make the decisions about which calls are truly emergencies and which are not. When callers make contact in a panic, a well-trained answering service team will be able to assess the situation using your instructions, then either direct the caller to the appropriate person at your company or a service outside of your business. For non-emergencies, just knowing that a sympathetic person has taken their message and will relay it promptly can reassure worried callers.

Partnering with an after-hours answering service can make a huge difference to the level of customer care you’re able to deliver. Even if you don’t have the volume or the manpower of your larger competitors, you can still have the 24-hour reach that your customers demand.