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How Do I Choose the Best Small Business Answering Service?

Some people may benefit from a small business answering service that offers after-hours availability by phone.
A live answering service is often preferred for handling complicated calls.
Article Details
  • Written By: K. Testa
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2014
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Choosing the best small business answering service can depend on several factors. While larger businesses may base such decisions on call volume, this may not be an issue for smaller enterprises. Different answering services typically offer different functions in a wide range of prices. Therefore, a small business owner should ask himself or herself specific questions, such as whether a live person should answer phone calls, for example, or if an automated voice message system is sufficient. Some small businesses sell goods and services, necessitating a system for taking and fulfilling customer orders. Once his or her specific needs are assessed, then a small business owner can choose the most beneficial, cost-effective option.

One consideration for selecting the best small business answering service is the complexity of customers’ questions, or their reasons for calling. Some caller inquiries can be addressed mainly through an automated or voice-activated phone menu. On the other hand, a live answering service is often preferred for handling complicated calls. At the very least, it could help to have a 24-hour answering service available for dealing with urgent questions.

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Another issue is whether it is important for the business owner to be able to retrieve his or her messages at any time. Customers might express frustration with a business whose staff is unavailable to answer inquiries during normal business hours. Furthermore, some people might also benefit from a small business answering service that offers after-hours availability by phone, such as taking calls on nights and weekends.

One potentially important question when considering a small business answering service is whether you require order-processing capabilities. Businesses who sell products or services and take customer information must also decide whether they need a sales staff as well. A related question is whether customer privacy is an issue, and how to go about keeping people’s information confidential.

A popular option for many small businesses is a virtual answering service. This type can usually provide more than just answering calls and taking messages. Some companies provide a choice of several options, such as order-processing and an advanced voicemail service. They might issue a local number, toll-free number, and a fax number, if necessary. Some services employ people to keep records or enter data as necessary, much like a virtual assistant.

To most small business owners, both revenue and reputation are important. An answering service can help someone maximize his or her potential earnings, while ensuring that customer inquiries are addressed. Choosing the best small business answering service may also depend on your budget. Some answering services offer a free trial period, and most companies are completely accessible online, so it is possible to shop around for the best options.

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