Your company is doing gangbusters, but all the new callers mean that you’re spending far too much time dealing with phone calls and not enough time building your business these days.

Hiring another employee isn’t quite in the budget, with even a basic receptionist earning around $28,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. On the other hand, hiring a 24/7 answering service will cost significantly less, about $2,000 on average. These telephone professionals can do a lot for your business, especially when it comes to helping new people get familiar with your products or services.

Beyond the Basics: Automation for Your Answering Service

It’s no secret that the base service an answering service offers is live telephone answering, but most people don’t realize just how much more that your answering service can do, often for just a small additional fee.

Here are some examples of answering service automation services:

Follow Me. Probably one of the most underutilized tool in the telephone arsenal is Follow Me. This program is an incredibly easy way for your urgent callers to find you wherever you happen to be.

You can also use it for a team of emergency contacts, whoever picks up first takes the call. Follow Me can be configured to ring you at a list of numbers where you’re likely to be (provided by you), checking each one at a time, or you can have it ring all the numbers on your list simultaneously. It’s an easy way to set up your on-call handling, too, especially if the same people always take those calls.

Auto Attendant and IVR. Not ready for live operators? No problem. Try a phone tree system. These inexpensive automated systems are better than simple voicemail because they give you the feel of a much larger company, but without the cost of setting up a PBX system of your own.

Your phone tree can direct callers to employee cell phones and landlines if the person being called works remotely or to their desk phone, no live operator required. There may be callers who won’t like this system because they’re in a hurry or frustrated and need to just talk to a human. Sometimes it helps to back your phone tree up with a person either in the office or at your answering service who can take those calls personally.

Customized Hold Music. While not truly an automation, there’s a lot you can do with hold music these days. Instead of just blasting the best of the oldies, you can run information about specials, new products or promote your website. In a way, custom on-hold music is a bit like an automated sales person. And because it’s easy to change the message, you can keep it really up to date if you want. It keeps the content fresh and interesting.

Adding Automation Frees Up Time

Your customers are used to a certain amount of automation in their lives, so there’s no real reason to do everything the hard way.

Just keep track of your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) as you add new automations to your system so you can tell when you’ve maxed out those callers’ patience. At that point you can back down on your automation a bit and increase the use of human telephone operators to maintain a healthy balance between hands-on and hands-off.