Before you start the search for help with the phones, you need to understand the type of service that you need. An answering service and a call center are different types of service providers. Both of them answer phones, but each serves a different purpose in a different manner.
Here’s the scoop so you know what you’re looking for:
Think of an answering service like your own 24/7 virtual receptionist: An answering service is designed to help you control your call volume and answer phones in a timely manner.
In many cases, an answering service is exchanging and processing information quickly. When you hire an answering service, your calls will be answered by live operators who can efficiently fulfill many different caller needs including:
- Answering basic information questions
- Solving basic customer service problems
- Making appointments
- Relaying messages to the right person or department
Lots of industries use professional answering services in order to handle call volume and improve customer service. Doctors’ offices, real estate professionals, law firms, funeral homes, HVAC companies, property management companies and veterinary clinics, among others, can all benefit from a telephone answering service with a live operator.
Because they work with customers to handle their problems, answering service representatives are armed with a set of steps to take based on information they receive from callers. Their goal is to help clients with the information or assistance that they need so that other employees can concentrate on solving bigger customer problems or delivering a higher quality of work.
The average call to an answering service is relatively short. In many cases, customers, clients or patients call in and get their question or concern looked after quickly.
While their purpose and set-up vary by center, by customer and by location, call centers are not the same as answering services (although many people do sometimes use the terms interchangeably!). The call with the answering service operator may be quick, but sometimes calls with a call center representative take longer as the issues may go a bit deeper.
In addition to the longer call times, there may be sales conducted or the called may be put on hold while more information is gathered (perhaps the operator needs to log into a database or do further research on an issue). Often, call centers are staffed by larger teams of employees, and may have hundreds of workstations in just one place. These are the kind of call centers that you may have seen on TV or in movies with rows and rows of representatives taking calls and getting information from callers.
Some call center employees may work with several different clients, while others are dedicated to just one. They will likely go more in-depth with customer service and addressing other related issues, which is why the calls often last longer. There are usually, in addition to the customer service, some sales taking place. In many cases, as well, each call is set up as a record in a report that the client receives and accesses regularly, usually daily. In some cases, if there is a deeper issue that the initial call center representative cannot address with the caller, the call may be forwarded to a specialist.
Answering services and call centers serve different purposes, even though both of them can handle incoming calls and deal directly with your clients and customers. Now that you know more about their differences, you can find the right one to fit your business’ needs.