Buying telephone answering can be a complicated business – here are a few things to check to make sure you get the best results for you and your callers
Go with your gut instinct. What is your initial impression of the people you are speaking with? How are the team recruited and trained? Do they have strong regional accents? Can they spell? Are calls answered by people straight away or by IVR (a pre-recorded message) and then routed to people? It’s all about that first impression for your callers.
Listen to the quality of the call. Do you hear any background hiss? Does the person sound distant? Do they use noise reduction headsets? Can you hear other people talking in the background or tapping on keyboards? Many call centres use VOIP – are the calls routed on leased lines (the ‘rolls royce’ for voice connectivity) or are calls routed over a cheaper option like EFM (ethernet first mile). Not all VOIP is the same. Sometimes with cheaper VOIP voice and data are sharing the same ‘pipe’ so call at different times of day to listen for variations in quality. What you want is uncontended VOIP where the voice quality is never compromised.
If the call centre team are all busy, what happens? Where do the overflow calls go? Are they held in a queue? Do the calls overflow to other people in the organisation such as sales and marketing? Do calls transfer to other people somewhere else, possibly outside of the UK? It’s best to check how this is managed.
You will be given options, do you want your messages received by email or text or both? Do you receive your messages in real time or is there a ‘pulse’ in the system which means messages are sent every 15 minutes or 30 minutes? Is there a character limit on messages? Can you access your messages at any time via a secure web portal or app? You might have a number of people in your company who could potentially receive calls, is there a limit on additional people? Can calls be transferred straight to you and what charges apply? These prices can often be buried in the small print.
You should be given options here. If not, specify if you don’t want to receive sales call. You might want to receive messages about sales calls by email, make sure that the service reflects what you want.
Voicemail and out of hours
What are the hours of operation and what happens outside of these hours? There should be a voicemail to email service which means that any messages left for you out of hours are sent as a voice file so you can listen to those messages. You might want to opt for a fully managed voicemail service where your messages are downloaded and transcribed by the team, charges might apply here. Do calls stay in the UK out of hours? Always best to check.
You are going to use an answering service to enhance the perception of your business and make sure you don’t lose any calls. From time to time it may be necessary to put your callers on hold or callers will be placed on hold if a call is transferred to you. What will your callers hear? Silence, a pre-recorded message or music? If so what type of music is played through the system? It’s all part of your customer experience so check if it’s important to you.
Most telephone answering providers will offer a free trial. How long is the trial, is it a number of calls or a number of days? What happens after the free trial, do you get a phone call before you decide whether you want to continue or is it assumed that you want to continue?
It can be very difficult to work out how much the service is likely to cost. There are lots of cheap headline rates so check out any charges for sending messages, transferring calls, managing voicemails, managing diaries, all these things can add up. If you have to pay for transferred calls, does the transferred leg of the call count as a separate call or part of the same call? Do you get any inclusive calls? Are you stuck on an inclusive call package or are you charged the best deal on a month by month basis? Are the charges based on a price per call, price per minute or price per message? If it’s price per minute the longer the call the more money the call centre makes, are the prices calculated to the second or are they rounded up? Can you monitor your usage of the service to avoid any nasty surprises? How do you pay? All these questions need to be asked.
Terms and conditions
Read them and ask any questions. There may well be ‘hidden’ charges or things that you were unaware of at the time of your initial enquiry, ask to see the T&Cs as part of your decision making process.
If there are any other questions that you have that you would like to see included in this buyer’s guide please get in touch.