The Pros and Cons of Using an Answering Service for Your Small Business when You Work from Home

Small businesses are considering ways to save money and one of the most popular ways right now is to consider an answering service. There are hundreds of companies of varying sizes that can handle your inbound calls. There is also a brisk market in Eastern Europe, Asia, and India specifically for call center work. What are the risks? What is the upside? Is this the right move for your small business when you work from home? The following are pros and cons to consider before contracting an answering service.

Pro: Lower Cost

Answering Services typically cost less than having a full time receptionist. The national average salary for a receptionist is around $30,000, excluding benefits. An answering service would cost less than $1 per call. Averaging about 30 calls/day would only come out to around $7800/year, a savings of more than $22,000. That is not insignificant, especially considering the additional benefit of phone availability beyond the typical 8-5 Monday to Friday workday.

Pro: 24/7/365 Answering

Nobody likes to work all day and all night, and who wants to pay for a night shift just to answer phones? Doctors’ offices have utilized answering services for years to take calls, refer patients to urgent/emergency care, and take messages overnight. Would it be helpful for your customers to have access to answers and a live person after regular operating hours? This may be especially useful if you have clients in other time zones or outside the country. Phone answering services are staffed to cover your phones all day and all night each day of the year. If you take orders by phone, this could be a big boost to your sales.

Pro: Trained/Professional Answers

Answering services will handle the calls exactly as you tell them. That is their only job and they will do it as they are instructed, meaning that these professional voices give the answers you intend. A standard troubleshooting tree. Product information. Taking quote request information or customer inquiries. All are great possibilities that a business could train someone to handle without taking on staff and the overhead cost that comes with it.

Pro: Guaranteed Availability

Even the best receptionists have to answer the call of nature, and they also tend to want breaks and lunch. Many front desk workers are also asked to handle other duties that may call them away from their post. That means that there will be instances when the phone will not be answered. An answering service guarantees that someone will answer those calls, giving you 100% uptime, even on holidays, when you and your staff are getting some much needed rest.

Con: Not Your Staff

While it is certainly good to save money by outsourcing your calls, the flipside to that is that these phone bank staffers are not on your business staff. Yes, you can train them to answer the calls and regurgitate any canned information, but what about questions that require in-depth product knowledge, or industry specific information that isn’t exactly “on the script”? Perhaps you’ve tried to chat online with a “cheerful sales professional” at 1am only to realize that they cannot answer your question. This could be a possibility, especially if your product or service is niche or if the answering service is based in a country that does not speak the same language.

Con: Limited Support

Related to product and industry knowledge, a phone service may not be fully capable of handling the types of calls you receive, particularly service calls. Most outsourced call centers and answering services are easy to work with and able to receive the training you offer. However, they are trained as phone professionals, not service professionals. They may not necessarily know the nuances of the problem enough to get to the root of the problem at hand, especially if the customer isn’t “following the script” your answering service has been provided by you.

Con: Inconsistency & Follow-up Difficulty

Since answering services are typically large companies employing lots of people, it can be difficult to follow up on any inconsistencies or issues that come from a particular rep. What happens when your customer tells you that he spoke with Steve last night? Who is Steve? Did he give the right information? If not, how would you follow up with that? What if Steve and Joe give different answers to customers? This problem becomes more difficult to correct when operators use assumed names (remember the credit card commercial where everyone is named Peggy?). Written by Joesph Mendelsohn

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