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The ABCs of Answering Services

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One of the great things about using an answering service is that there are many options and chances to customize your services based on what your company or practice or organizations most needs right now. Of course, on the other hand, sometimes having many options with different names and terms can seem like a confusing “alphabet soup.”

To help explain what’s what, we’ve put together this short ABC glossary of key Answering Service terms you may have considered or may be considering in the future. Let us know if there are others you’d like us to explain further!

Appointment Scheduling
One of the great answering service options, appointment scheduling allows your team and your answering service team (as well as your callers/customers/patients) to have access to the same real-time online appointment scheduling systems. Easily make, reschedule and cancel appointments with the touch of a few keys. Everyone sees the same information so you will never double-book, overbook or forget to book again. Great for medical practices, service businesses such as hair or nail salons or any other operation that runs on appointments.

Auto Attendant
Also known as automated attendant or Menu Tree, Auto Attendant is a great service option for companies and practices whose callers want to be routed to a specific location (whether it be a direct extension, a voicemail or automated general information such as location and hours) without having a live operator first get on the line. Auto Attendant, which is “on” 24/7, gets your callers where they want to go efficiently and without delay.

Call Forwarding
Your callers and their calls will get routed to you (or someone within your organization) wherever they or you are. Forward calls to another landline, to your cell phone, your home phone – to wherever you are, whenever it may be. At night, you may forward calls to your call. In the morning, you may send them back to your people on-site. Call forwarding is a flexible and efficient way to give your callers 24/7 service without you ever having to be in one place all the time.

Call Recording
With call recording, you never have to worry about writing down or remembering everything from an important call again. This key answering service allows you to record phone conversations to listen to and refer back to at a later date. Great for law firms and other organizations that rely on preserving facts and details, you can access these recordings online, whenever you need them, for up to three years.

Fax to Email
Faxing is sometimes a key part of a business transaction, but these days, not everyone has easy access to an actual fax machine. The Fax to Email service takes any incoming faxes that come to you and converts them to email so that they conveniently appear in your email inbox for much easier reading, processing and responding to.

Follow Me
Follow Me (also known as “Find Me Follow Me”) is an answering service option that routes calls according to where you are at any given time. You tell the calls how to be routed, in what situations and when. Instead of having to stay put and conform to a rigid system that doesn’t work with your schedule, Follow Me can be customized and set up to work with you and properly attend to your callers no matter what the time of day, the day of the week or the time of year.


IVR, or Interactive Voice Response, is an automated answering service feature that gives your callers the ability to express what they want and need through the use of voice or keyed-in responses. IVR allows callers to be heard and responded to, and allows your organization to be “always open” and addressing callers 24/7. 

Menu Tree
See “Auto Attendant”

Message Relay
Are you busy? Of course you are! But no matter how busy you are or where you might be at any given time, you need to have real-time access to important messages from callers and customers. Message Relay keeps you connected 24/7 to your messages, and allows you to receive them however you want – live by phone, voicemail, email, text/SMS, pager or other wireless device. Many types of organizations love the Message Relay feature, including medical practices, law firms, repair companies, utilities and towing/car services.

Being busy and having the phones ring “off the hook” is really a double-edged sword. It’s great because it means business is booming. On the other hand, it’s not always so great because busy phones can lead to callers feeling impatient or not well-attended-to. The Overflow option allows your answering service to lend its support specifically during those times when the call volume is at its highest. Through a seamless transition, your calls – when they get to this busy overflow point – will revert to your service and your virtual receptionists will be able to take over. Your callers won’t know the difference, except to notice how professionally and efficiently their calls were answered.

Did we miss any? Let us know if there are others you’d like to see covered. And as always, contact us directly to talk about your specific answering service needs.


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