Top Tips to get the best from your Call Answering

If you have engaged or you’re thinking of engaging a call answering service to support your business, our Top Tips to get the best from your Call Answering/VA/Virtual PA service may help:

Make sure the same few people answer your calls – your business needs to be credible, and as small business the chances are that your team is small, knows you, knows your callers. It doesn’t look plausible if your ‘pa’ has no idea that you call most days.
Check what happens if no-one is available to answer your call – if your answering service tells you they’ll never miss one, give it some serious thought. They’ll not ask you for notice if you place an advert in a major newspaper and they won’t ask it of other clients either. The nature of the service means they have little control over volumes on a day to day basis and whilst patterns do emerge, there will be times when calls are not picked up before the caller hangs up.
Make sure your service at the very least offers a personalised voicemail box, check their response times (and whether they call the client back) and charging policies relating to this as well as the average frequency of this happening. If they can’t or won’t give you stats, ask yourself why.
Make sure you’re going to get more than just a message – the ultimate point of outsourcing and service is to reduce your workload. If all you’re going to receive from your answering service is a list of callers with names and numbers to call back (if you’re lucky) then you need to think about what your service is going to achieve for you.
What else will your service do for you? Is your PA a genuine part of your team, will they also do administration tasks or make outbound calls – will your pa make bookings, take payments, make diary arrangements, add details to your CRM database and handle your callers as part of the service?
Make sure you can TRAIN your PA team – if you can’t meet, Skype or call your virtual PA or team then how can they possibly know your business and understand how you want things done.
Are you charged a fixed rate per call or by the minute? – Fixed rate means you can have an idea of what to expect on your invoice, it also probably means you can choose an appropriate advance purchase package to bring down the cost of your calls.  It also means you can rest assured that other task already mentioned but such as booking, diary appointments, payments etc are all included in the cost of the call. If you’re paying by the minute, the incentive for the service is – frankly – difficult to move away from an inclination to lengthen the call. Likewise if you’re paying a fixed price per call that is cheap, you’ll be getting names and numbers only, watch out though for more expensive calls which give you the same.
Do you get a personalised voicemail for day AND night as standard? – your callers won’t hang on forever, and if your answering service or VA is busy/toilet/holiday/ill the best chance you have is sending them to the voicemail which promises a prompt return call. Naturally you must check that your PA will indeed call them back if this is the case. Many answering services do not offer a voicemail during daytime hours, preferring instead to chance that during busy times your callers will hang on, or else hang up – nothing lost for them, just you.
At night it goes without saying that you want a voicemail that explains your business is currently closed and advises your working hours.
Are at least 90% of your calls picked up by your regular team? Make sure you check how many calls are actually answered by your service. Industry standard should be 80% of calls within 20 seconds, some exceed this because the service is not personal, calls are distributed amongst many operatives who are naturally then unable to offer much personalisation to the service and at best only able to stick to a script. Too small or overburdened a team and you’re back to a low level of answering.
If you’d like to talk to us about how we could help you, please give us a call on 01733 297580.

Written by Gail

Gail, our founder, set up Virtual PA Co in 2001. These days she spends time helping some of our customers with more complex and often financial issues on an advisory basis.
February 12, 2013
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