How to Screen an Answering Service: A Buyer’s Guide

Understanding Your Needs

Before diving into the answering service screening process, it’s crucial to understand what your specific needs are. Consider the following:

  • Volume of Calls: Estimate the number of calls you expect the service to handle.
  • Type of Calls: Determine if calls are general inquiries, sales-related, or require technical support.
  • Business Hours: Decide if you need 24/7 support or service during specific hours.

Key Features to Look For

When evaluating an answering service, pay close attention to the following features:

1. Professionalism and Training

  • Agent Expertise: Ensure agents are well-trained, professional, and can represent your brand effectively.
  • Language Skills: Check if they offer multilingual support if needed.

2. Technology and Infrastructure

  • Reliable Systems: Look for robust technology that minimizes downtime.
  • Integration Capabilities: Ensure the service can integrate with your existing business tools.

3. Customization Options

  • Personalization: Services should offer customizable scripts and call handling procedures.
  • Flexibility: The ability to scale up or down based on your changing needs.

4. Customer Feedback and Reviews

  • Verified Reviews: Research and read reviews from other businesses in your industry.
  • Client Testimonials: Ask for client references to gauge satisfaction levels.

Understanding Costs

It’s essential to have a clear understanding of the cost structure to avoid unexpected expenses.

1. Pricing Models

  • Per Call vs. Per Minute: Some services charge per call, others per minute. Understand which model works best for you.
  • Flat Rate Plans: Consider if a flat rate plan is more economical based on your call volume.

2. Hidden Costs to Watch Out For

  • Setup Fees: Check if there are initial setup fees.
  • Additional Services: Inquire about costs for extra services like appointment scheduling or order taking.
  • Cancellation Fees: Be aware of any fees associated with contract termination.

3. Contract Terms

  • Length of Contract: Understand the commitment length; shorter terms offer more flexibility.
  • Renewal Policies: Know the terms for contract renewal and any associated price changes.

Trial Periods and Testing

  • Free Trials: Opt for services offering a trial period to test their capabilities.
  • Quality Checks: Conduct random checks to assess call handling quality during the trial.

Final Decision Making

  • Compare and Contrast: Don’t hesitate to compare multiple services.
  • Negotiate Terms: Once you’ve chosen a service, negotiate the terms to suit your business needs.


Answering Service Costs For Small Businesses