10 Tips for Choosing an Answering Service

Phone Answering Services

1. Staffing:  How does the telephone answering service ensure that enough staff is available to minimize ringing or hold times?  Can they use remote operators to help cover peak hours or extreme weather conditions? If the telephone answering service is adequately staffed, ring times should be five or less and hold times less than one minute.

2. Training:  How is the telephone answering service staff trained?  Is the call center tested by a recognized trade organization for proficiency?  Does the answering service staff regularly receive advanced training?  Are telephone answering service managers tested for competency by a recognized trade organization?

3. Certifications:  Does the call center participate in the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI) 24/7 Call Center Certification program for its business, supervisors, and customer service representatives?  This comprehensive program covers over 60 critical points in operations, training, and emergency procedures for the business site to be certified, and the supervisor and customer service representative certifications requirements include on-the-job experience and a demonstration of skills and job knowledge.  The Certification program, a Peer Review Program focused on 99.99% Annual Run-Time, was introduced in 2002.

4. Stability:  How many years has the telephone answering service been in business?  Who owns the telephone answering service?  Are resumes on key owners and management staff of the answering service available?

5. References:  Can the telephone answering service provide current references in your business?

6. Reliability:  Does the call center have back-up power and redundancy of critical system components?

7. Compliance:  Does the telephone answering service comply with local, state, and federal regulations and carry business insurance including Errors and Omissions Coverage?  If it handles medical accounts, is it HPPA compliant?

8. Available Service:

  • Are call center customer service representatives available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and on all holidays?
  • Does the telephone answering service offer a combination of automation and customer service (live) reps appropriate for your business? The use of a personalized announcement to give office hours, directions, and account information with an option to access a live operator is one way to reduce costs.
  • Does the call center offer a variety of message notification methods such as e-mail, text messaging, paging, voice mail and phone calls to meet your current and future needs? State-of-the-art call centers should be able to reach you by any of these methods.
  • Do the customer service reps at the call center have the ability to access the Internet?   Do they offer the ability to post on-call schedules and other info on shared web pages?
  • Can the telephone answering service record all conversations to provide solutions to “he said, she said” issues?  Can you readily access these recordings?  How long are they kept?  How long are messages kept?  If you have problems with how your calls are handled or if your messages are lost, you will need the call center to have them for you.
  • Ask what other business support services they may offer. Many services now have the capability to schedule appointments, confirm reservations, order taking, providing a help desk, and performing inbound and outbound customer service.

9. Language:  Can the telephone answering service provide service in other languages such as Spanish if this is important to your business?  Some telephone answering services can provide multi-lingual services and help you gain and retain foreign language speaking customers.

10. Pricing:  Does the call center provide clear, understandable rate plans?  How long are the prices guaranteed?  Does the call center offer a written contract?  The telephone answering service should work with you to design a flexible service package that fits your company’s needs.