Is a telephone answering service really worth the investment?

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Call customer service displayed on the screen of voice over IP phone with a clipping path on an isolated background

The relationship between customers and businesses is quite different today than it has been in the past.

For many years customer decisions were based on who could provide the best product at the best (cheapest) price.

The customer service they got during the purchase was almost incidental.

Today the opposite is true.

Customers still care about the product and price.

But they’ve got so much choice over what to buy, they’re more likely to choose the company or brand that offers the best experience when buying.

If it’s an ongoing service, the level of support they’ll receive plays a much bigger part in who they’ll buy from.

Nearly three quarters (74%) of consumers now say they want a better experience.

In fact, 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience, and the more expensive the item, the more they’re willing to pay.

Businesses know this too.

That’s why 46% say improving the customer experience will be the top priority for them in the next five years, compared to 20% who say pricing is more important and 34% putting more into their products.

An easy way to improve customer service is to answer the phone when it rings.

The most effective way to do this is to invest in a telephone answering company to deal with all your incoming calls.

This gives you the benefits of guaranteed call answering and better customer service, but without the costs of hiring a full-time member of staff.

Like any investment in your business, you’ll want to know that a telephone answering service will be worth the investment.

Here’s how to find out if it’s worth the investment or not.

How many calls are being handled for you?

When you’re running a small business – especially a solo business – you can’t always be available to answer the phone.

Your time is precious and you need to be completing work to get paid or focussing on sales and marketing to get more customers.

But not answering the phone can cost you.

Whether it’s missing a new business call and losing out on a sale.

Or sending a paying customer to voicemail and risking the relationship if they start to think you’re not reliable.

When reviewing your telephone answering service, you should be looking at how many calls are being dealt with during the day that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to handle.

If you’re winning business off the back of those calls, what’s the value of the transaction compared to the costs of your call answering service?

If the value is more than the investment, you’re making a good ROI.

It might be the case that you can handle more calls yourself during busier times.

At which point, simply scale your call answering back and use it just to deal with any overflow – rather than all your calls.

How many meetings are being booked for you?

Booking meetings and all the admin that goes along with it can take a lot of time from your day.

Especially when you’re dealing with multiple people with competing time constraints, or balancing customers and other third party suppliers at the same time.

By using a telephone answering service you can have diary management taken care of for you.

Your call answering team can book your meetings and help organise your calendar, as well as provide any relevant information you need prior to the meeting.

Think about how much you charge per hour for your services.

Then think how much time you spend trying to book meetings or spend on the phone.

This is all time you’re not making money.

If you’re call answering service can save you hours in your week, that’s more time you can spend on paying tasks and growing your business.

What’s your customer service scores telling you?

We’ve already talked about how customers today are willing to spend more when they think they’ll be getting better customer service.

And that they’ll spend even more when it comes to getting great customer service for big ticket items.

On the other hand, frustrated customers will not only take their business elsewhere, they’ll actively encourage other people to avoid you too.

About 30% of customers who’ve had a bad experience with a company say they have or would share it on social media or leave a negative review online.

Making it hard to get in touch with you is a sure way to erode any positive customer experiences.

If you’re thinking of investing in call answering, survey some of your customers to get an understanding of what they think about your current levels of service and support.

You should be able to come up with a Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a base.

Then once you’ve had your call answering in place for a few months, rerun your NPS survey and see if the perception of your support and service has increased.

Connect calls from your telephone answering service to your CRM

If you’re running a business you definitely need a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

This is your Bible when it comes to all the interactions you’ve had with customers (both existing, past and lost) and should include details of how they came to you, how they converted, and how they’ve grown their business with you over time.

If you’ve got a good CRM, you can easily connect your telephone answering service to it.

What this will do for you, is track those customers coming into your business via your telephone answering service that you would have otherwise lost because you’d have missed the call.

Telephone answering vs full-time receptionist

If you need help dealing with call answering for your business, you have two options.

Hire a full-time receptionist.

Invest in telephone answering.

You might like the idea of having a single member of staff to deal with calls. But it’s not as simple as that.

For one, a receptionist with no experience can cost close to £18,000 a year in salary.

Plus taxes, plus pension contributions, plus holiday pay, plus sick pay, plus insurance.

And that’s before all the admin.

You also have to factor in that a single member of staff can only deal with one customer call at a time.

If they’re on the phone, they can’t deal with another call.

And you’ll lose your call answering when they go on a lunch break, or leave to get a drink.

But you’re still paying them.

With a call answering service, you only pay for what you use.

It could be the volume of calls dealt with.

Or the amount of time spent on the phone to customers.

You can also scale your telephone answering based on need.

Get more when you’re busy. And less in the quieter periods.

With a member of staff you’re paying their wage regardless of how much work they’re doing.

Using telephone answering as a growth tool

With so much technology available to you it can be easy to overlook the value of call answering as a primary source of customer service.

But given 60% of customers prefer to call a business on the phone when they need help, it would be a mistake.

Remember, while technology is a great tool, it should be used to adapt your business around what your customers prefer.

It’s not about forcing customers to use communication channels you’d prefer them to use.

A telephone answering service can be a cost effective means of ensuring your calls are answered professionally everytime.

That way, you can focus on growing your business and not worry about losing sales and customers when you’re too busy to get to the phone.