Being a small business means making a lot of tough choices that walk the line between what your customers really want and what you really need in order to maintain a semblance of sanity.

When your income relies on direct customer contact, it can be tempting to simply give up your life to the telephone, but there’s another solution.

A live telephone answering service gives you the flexibility to be available for your customers, while still having time to yourself and, of course, to your other customers, clients and/or patients.

After all, an answering service can give your customers what they really want, including:

A human touch. There’s a reason businesses the world over still have secretaries and receptionists: people like talking to people. An automated answering service may seem more cost-effective, but when you account for the many customers who refuse to interact with these systems, you may be losing more business than by simply not answering the phone at all.

Easy inquiries. Customers and potential customers often have easy-to-answer questions about your basic services or offerings, but feel the need to ask these questions directly of other people. An answering service can provide this simple information, assuring your callers that they are, in fact, making the right decision by working with your company or medical practice.

Solutions to their problems. No matter what business you’re in, your customers will eventually run into trouble. You can give your answering service a bank of common customer problems and the solutions you’d offer, whether those customers are apartment tenants or purchasers of high end electronics. Your customers want to know you’ll be there for them in times of trouble, even if their problems aren’t as big as they feel in the moment.

Access to you in case of emergencies. Sometimes, your customers’ problems will be significant. You don’t have to be a doctor or a lawyer to get an emergency phone call in regards to your services. Having a filter between you and sometimes panic-prone customers gives you a break so you can be ready for the big problems when your customers really do need you. The fewer calls you manage in your off time, the better your response will be to true emergencies.

At the end of the day, your customers, callers and patients really want the personal touch that a voice mailbox or automated call system can’t provide. When they know that someone is truly listening, even if that person is a “hired hand,” they’ll be sure to come back again and again.