By definition, an answering service is a call center that serves specialized verticals that demand a certain way of handling calls. Agents working for an answering service may be tasked to do both inbound and outbound calls and use any number of ways to interact with a customer: phone call, email message, online chat. Typically these agents spend less time in handling customer interactions than the average call center. On the other hand, an answering service agent may have to handle a higher volume of interactions.
Whatever market it serves, an answering service usually requires an agent to spend less than two (2) minutes on a call. The job function may include:
• Answer calls and take down important details
• Provide customer service to callers
• Connect callers to the appropriate services or departments
• Recording and forwarding messages
• Handling emergency calls
• Answering questions and accepting orders from customers
• Schedule, make and change appointments
• After-hours and off-season call handling
The various functions will remind you of the job of a receptionist. Bear in mind that answering service agents may serve businesses that require a lot of emergency handling and these agents will be trained to handle calls in critical situations. Also, unlike a receptionist they are tasked to maintain an important business function and improve business ROI.
As stated above, an answering service is also a call center. Call centers serve a broad market and range from customer support to tech support to telemarketing. A call center will be bigger than an answering service operation and require more agents for the volume of required tasks. Though an answering service may often surpass a call center on number of calls handled, call center agents spend many more minutes on the phone.
These are businesses and institutions that need 24/7 call handling: E-commerce businesses, clinics, hospitals, law firms, real estate firms, hotels and inns. Typically, these businesses require the human touch on a large volume of calls.
With a professional telephone answering service team, a budding business, clinic, hospital or law firm can concentrate on what they do best. Your team is set up for business improvement, unlike a receptionist working in headquarters who may not always have businesses goals in as his set of priorities.
Answering services provide the human touch when the office is closed. Customers and patients may call after hours, on weekends and the holidays. An answering machine is no longer an option for businesses when calls peak at very odd hours. Hospitals and law firms require even greater quality of human interaction on their inbound calls.
Another key benefit is the low cost of a phone answering service. Business owners and administrators save time and money spent on in-house training for a receptionist or assistant. The flexibility in hours and skill set of outsourced live answering service agents cannot be matched by a 9-5 receptionist.
Think of a telephone answering service as a smaller call center customized to handle customer interactions in a specialized way. This way often require agents to think quickly, make the appropriate decisions in a timely manner and conduct himself in a human way for the benefit of both business and customers.
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