Whether to outsource is a common question for almost every business. From web design to security, it’s difficult to find a business that doesn’t outsource some aspect of its operation. There are quite a lot of different considerations to take into account when outsourcing anything, and this is certainly true of telephone answering.
It’s probably worth answering the question…
What exactly is telephone answering?
Okay, it’s fairly obvious from the name that it centres around answering the telephone on behalf of a company. But within this simple premise, there is a remarkable variety of different services available, from basic message taking, through to full reception services and redirecting calls. Many telephone answering companies also offer more complex services such as order taking, diary management, lead qualification and 24-hour emergency support services.
Why might you not want to outsource your telephone answering?
One of the primary reasons for being reluctant to outsource customer service to a third party is that it is the lifeblood of your business. Without customers, your business is nothing and it costs five times as much to attract new customers as to retain existing ones. Your staff, who are hopefully invested in your business understand this better than anyone and are often thoroughly invested in your brand.
In small businesses especially, having staff who are delivering the service, also answering incoming calls can mean that customers have a direct line to the people who matter, and this can leave customers feeling very satisfied with the engagement. Even when you have a receptionist or team of receptionists, they can have a more direct knowledge base of the business and the staff who work there, giving a very personal feel to the business.
So why would you want to outsource your telephone answering then?
Those very same staff who can provide the most detailed knowledge of your business are the ones you rely on to keep the business running smoothly.
If they are constantly facing interruptions then the quality of their work will be impacted. If they’re busy with something else the risk is the customer’s call goes unanswered or is dealt with in a hurried manner, with messages not taken accurately or not passed on because an urgent meeting beckons.
Lives, lunch breaks and lurgies
If you have a dedicated receptionist or customer service representative this will go a long way to ameliorating this situation. However people have lives, lunch breaks and lurgies, so unless you have a team of receptionists then there will be gaps in the service and you’re back to everyone being distracted again.
In many businesses, the level of phone calls can vary enormously. Quiet one day and frenetic the next. This can cause considerable problems if the phones are answered by team members and a dedicated staff member may be left overwhelmed or underutilised in equal measure. Most telephone answering companies offer a degree of flexibility when it comes to dialling up or reducing your service levels, a few such as Newbury based Verbatim even offer the ability to roll unused call minutes to the next month.
Telephone answering companies are usually staffed with dedicated specialists trained and experienced in dealing with customers of all types, including those who are angry, frustrated or confused can make a world of difference and can enhance the perception of your own business. Very often they don’t just answer the phones or take messages, they can take orders, deal with support issues and even qualify leads (not to mention dealing effectively and politely with cold callers or wrong numbers).
So should I outsource my telephone answering then?
It depends! We’re sorry for the fence-sitting, but it always has to come down to your company’s specific situation.
But on balance for most businesses, it’s likely to be a positive move. If you’re unsure, why not dip your toe in with an overflow service or take up a trial offer? The trial periods are often free or have a money-back guarantee. Choose the right company and you’re unlikely to look back.