Hiring the right answering service can be tough, but the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI) has some great tips that can help.

Since the answering services organization was founded in 1942, it has cultivated a culture of sharing to help members grow to a group that now generates in excess of $1 billion in revenues annually. So if anybody knows teleservices, it’s ATSI!

#1. Contact ATSI for a list of answering service members. ATSI members are among the best in their industry, investing extra time in training and putting money into regular hardware and software upgrades. Like any trade group, ATSI keeps a close eye on its members and can recommend a vendor who will be a reliable answering service partner for your business.

#2. Ask about answering services training and staffing. A standardized training program will ensure that your calls are handled in a consistent and friendly manner. Proper staffing is vital to minimize long hold times and the number of times the phone rings before someone answers. Both elements can deeply influence how flexible your future telephone answering service will be when it comes time to run a special promotion or as your busy season rolls around.

#3. Find out if the live answering service company has a history of stability and reliability. Reliability means that the company you hire has a backup plan in case of a power outage or natural disaster, stability means it has had that plan (and been in business) for a while. When forming a partnership with an answering service, it’s important to know it will be there to help you through all sorts of weather over the long haul.

#4. Discuss their pricing structure. Every answering service has a slightly different pricing structure, with different services included in their basic plans. Some answering services also charge per minute as opposed to per call, so make sure you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. Unexpected expenses aren’t good for business or your relationship with your new answering service.

#5. Inquire about other services they offer. Being an answering service company can mean a lot of different things to different people. Just like with pricing, it’s vital to investigate what services a potential answering service partner offers besides answering the phone. You might be able to combine other services, like customer service, emergency call forwarding or even bilingual answering services to a single service and save a bundle.

#6. Look into their certifications, awards and compliance records. An answering service that wins a lot of awards might be worth spending a few extra dollars on, provided it has been properly certified for your particular needs and maintain compliance with all applicable regulations. For example, a medical office should only consider medical answering service candidates that are HIPAA-compliant and with a stout track record of high-level performance. After all, in this case hiring the wrong company could cost the medical office hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines if patient health information were left unsecured.

When it comes time to hire a new answering service, it’s important to get all the facts before making your final decision. By taking the advice of professional organizations like ATSI, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and shortcut some of the headaches involved in the selection process.