For the owners of SMEs (small-to-medium enterprises), which account for 99.3% of all businesses in the UK, obtaining and maintaining the resources required for business growth and success without busting the budget is a constant challenge. Business owners become bombarded with an array of “must-have” services and products, but when funds are limited, not a penny can be wasted. So, you must carefully consider any new purchase and a healthy ROI (return on investment) is essential to make parting with your hard-earned cash worthwhile.
A professional business answering service can enhance the credibility of a business, improve customer service and ensure important calls (and the custom they may bring) are never missed. All of this comes at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time receptionist. But with so many options available, how do you know which service is right for your business? In this guide, we’ll outline the top considerations for choosing a business answering system that delivers the service you need.
- An Automated or a Live Service?
A business answering service may be an automated service operated via virtual office software, or it could include a virtual PA team. Any software can be controlled by the business owners to divert calls, record messages and more. Virtual personal assistants provide a “live” service that can enhance an automated service by providing customers with additional help.
The type of service most suitable for you will depend on your unique business needs and customer service preferences. Combining the two can ensure 24/7 highly personalized support.
- Is the Service Provider Established and Reliable?
In the current climate of fake news and internet scams, we all know anyone can put up a website. Take the time to do a little research into a potential service provider. How many years have they been operating? Do they have a strong presence on review sites such as Trustpilot? Is there a telephone number you can call to speak to a real person? Is the website legit? Make sure the company is trustworthy and offers the expertise required to deliver a high-quality service before investing any of your precious business budgets.
- Can the Service Meet Your Needs (Now and in the Future)?
Consider how your business operates daily and create a list of must-have features. Some requirements may be flexible, but if the company can’t function without call scheduling or conference calls, it’s pointless investing in a system that can’t fulfill these needs.
A good business answering service will be flexible and customizable. This allows users to scale the service as their business grows. Employees are often resistant to change, so introducing a new system when the old one has become embedded in daily operations is a hassle you don’t need down the line. Look out for service providers that offer different packages for varying levels of use. Pick a package that suits your business and you’ll only pay for the features you use.
- Do the Operating Hours Match the Needs of the Business?
If a live PA system appeals, make sure the service is available during business opening hours. Service providers that make use of employees in other countries may have different hours of operation, leaving your customers without a means of communication during core business hours.
Combining a live PA service with virtual assistant software is a great way to ensure your lines of communication remain open 24/7, while also offering customers the opportunity to access live support.
- Does the Billing System Meet the Needs of the Business?
For startups and small businesses, committing to long contracts can be intimidating. Look for providers that offer a rolling monthly contract you can upgrade, downgrade or cancel as business needs change.
Compare prices to make sure you get the most cost-effective solution. This does not necessarily mean the cheapest. A low-cost system that cannot do what the business needs is a poor investment. Balance the level of service and the features available with the monthly fee and call costs.
- Is It Possible to Test Run the Service?
No matter how much research you do, the only way to tell if a phone service is the right choice is to try it. Companies that have faith in the quality of their product will be happy to offer a free trial. Use this time to play around with the system, learn which features are beneficial and gauge your likely level of consumption. This will help to determine if the cost is affordable and the ROI worthwhile.
- Are There Options for Added Value?
If you’re a startup, it may well be the most basic business answering service is perfect for your needs. But as you grow your needs may change. Even in the early days, there may be additional services that could significantly improve your business. Check out the other services on offer in addition to call handling. Can you purchase international phone numbers to support expansion abroad? Could you upgrade to toll-free or other virtual numbers that could benefit your business and its customers?
- How Quickly Can You Be up and Running?
You’ve found a service and price package that looks perfect for your business and you’re chomping at the bit to get going. How quick and easy is it to set up the system with your chosen provider? This can range from a simple signup process that takes five minutes to a week-long wait. If you’re in a hurry to get started, make sure to pick a provider that offers a quick and easy setup.
It’s also important to consider how user-friendly the service is for ongoing management. Would you prefer a handy mobile app or is a desktop-only interface sufficient?
Choosing a business answering service can be daunting — so many service providers, features and price plans to consider. Take the time to review the needs of the business and conduct thorough research before committing. Take advantage of free trials where possible to be sure the service is right for you now and in the years to come.