Deciding to hire an answering service company to help with your overnight calls or daytime overflow is just the first step in a process that will free you from many of the worries most business owners experience.

Never again will you stop what you are doing to rush for the phone or be on-call at all hours of the night — provided that you hire the right answering service. If you’ve never looked into a virtual receptionist or outside answering service company before, it can help to know what you’re looking for.

These are just a few things all good answering services will have in common:

Responsiveness. How quickly an answering service responds to your inquiry about its service can speak volumes about how quickly it’ll respond to your customers. If you have to wait several days for a response, it’s probably a sign that you’re better off to look elsewhere. If you don’t get a call or email response within 48 hours, keep on shopping.

Flexibility. Answering services should never try to push the same package deal on all customers. After all, different types of businesses have different needs. Make sure your future answering service is open to whatever your business needs, whether that’s after-hours calls, call overflow, handling emails or providing emergency and disaster services.

Training. Some companies have very special needs, your answering service should be trained and willing to keep on training its employees to make sure that yours are met. Companies that hire medical answering services, for example, have to be sure that its virtual receptionists are HIPAA-compliant when dealing with patients and customers; otherwise, that doctor or medical company could be held liable for any mishandling of medical data. An answering service that provides lots of training to its employees minimizes your risk and the risk of your customers.

Security. Even if your data’s not particularly sensitive, you don’t want it just laying around or available for hackers to finger through. Security of all types of data is paramount and it’ll make your callers feel a lot better about giving out their personal information to an answering service. Ask about everything from data security plans to file cabinets and paper shredders. Make sure that your answering service operators and team protects data like it was their own so your customers don’t have to worry about it coming back to haunt you later.

Adding an answering service to your team can increase the reach of your business exponentially, provided that you pick the proper partner in the first place. It’s about a lot more than just answering the phone — everything your answering service does should be compatible with the way you work. You want the service to fit into your business like a missing puzzle piece, almost unnoticed except for the huge boost in business you’re having to handle.

The right answering service means happier customers, and happier customers mean more referrals and higher profits. That extra revenue will be nice when you have the time to spend enjoying it instead of fielding phone calls in what should be your off time.