Having an answering service can make your business run much more smoothly, but if you’re not asking your telephone partner about their service and what they can do, you may be missing out on all sorts of opportunities. Answering services are often extremely versatile facilities that are capable of more than just taking a message now and then.

If you’re not sure you’re using your answering service to its full potential, you should ask your company these five questions:

Do you handle overflow calls? So many business owners hire an answering service to deal with after-hours calls, but stop at that. These companies are missing out on one of the best things an answering service can do — handling those calls you can’t catch because you’re busy working with a customer or are on the other line. Overflow callers appreciate being heard, and an answering service can do just that without the caller being left on the line too long.

Can you help my callers with simple problems? No matter what kind of business you run, your customers are likely to call to ask a few specific questions much of the time. If you get a lot of the same type of call over and over again, you can enable your answering service to give those answers by providing the exact language you’d like the caller to hear. Let your answering service handle those common calls so you can focus your efforts elsewhere.

Are you HIPAA-compliant? A company isn’t legally required to be HIPAA-compliant in order to service a medical office, but if you don’t want to risk your practice by partnering with a company with PHI security issues, this is a vital question. Quality medical answering services are always training and updating their equipment and policies to ensure that your patient data is taken seriously and your practice protected.

Are you prepared for a local disaster? Often, businesses don’t think about what would happen if their answering service were to suffer a natural disaster. Disruption in phone services can be fatal to many types of businesses, whether that’s due to your callers panicking and calling the competition or your phone lines suddenly being flooded with calls you can’t manage. Find out what your answering service’s disaster plan is and what sort of redundancies they have in place right away.

What other services do you offer? Answering service companies differ widely, but many offer additional services that you’re probably not taking advantage of. From appointment setting to overflow calling and even emergency call handling, answering services today can deal with a huge range of telephone-related duties. Make sure to ask your answering service what they can do before you consider hiring an extra employee to pick up the slack.

Asking the right questions of your answering service means you’ll get the most out of your partnership. Answering services are flexible companies that might even offer services you never imagined possible, and for less than hiring a full-time employee to juggle those jobs.