18 Tips for Creating the Best Answering Service from SAS Employees

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Modern customers expect much more from businesses then they ever have before. Research shows that almost 70% of consumers say great customer service is very important in their choice to stay loyal to a brand. Combine that with consumers who are on the fence about good customer service and you have 98% of consumers! That’s a pretty big number. With how easy it is today to find competing products or services online, the need for great customer service is what’s becoming the defining factor in a brands success.

So how are businesses staying a step ahead of growing customer service expectations? For starters, they’re letting telephone answering services like SAS handle their front-end customer service 24 hours a day. We asked some of our employees for their best tips on how to use an answering service to strengthen the customer service relationship between businesses and consumers.

This article highlights our employees advice on every stage of the customer service process, from greeting and information gathering to tier 1 technical support and dispatching requests out of the scope of the virtual receptionists capabilities. You’ll learn more from this article than you would if you interviewed every employee in every answering service in the United States!

Tips for how to structure your greeting

  • “Your business’s greeting is often times the first impression customers get of your brand. In order to ensure a solid first impression and a successful outsourcing experience, you’ll want to create the best answering service greeting possible.  That means you should stay away from greetings that don’t flow naturally and greetings where the operator has to say a complicated company name. Remember, what sounds good in your office may not always sound good in an answering service setting.” – Barb Albert
  • “If your answering service will be handling all different types of calls on your behalf, a good idea is to add a driving question in your greeting to help steer the call. For example, asking “Are you calling to schedule an appointment?” will often result in a streamlined interaction whereas “how may I help you today?” may result in a 20 minute phone call.” – Kathy Galdi

Advice on what types of requests you want the answering service to handle

  • “From appointment scheduling and order processing, to integrating with your CRM and following complex workflows, answering services can handle pretty much everything. However, that doesn’t mean they should handle everything. I suggest thinking of the few most common types of calls your in-house staff typically handle, and set your answering service up accordingly. The more you pile on your answering service, the more chances there are for errors.” – Matt Cohen
  • “If you’re having your answering service go out to your website to look up a product, process an order or schedule an appointment, it’s always a good idea to create clear-cut instructions for the operators to follow. It’s important to remember that the operators are not familiar with your site and may be just as lost as the customers calling for help.” – Chris Middlecamp

Observations on what frustrates customers the most when speaking with a virtual receptionist and advice on how to mitigate

  • “Sometimes when callers reach the answering service, they are upset because they are expecting that their issue will be resolved right then and there. While virtual receptionists are capable of solving issues, some things are better left for your own staff to handle. If your callers are upset that they’re unable to reach your office directly, it’s a good idea to let your service say they are the service, and why they are answering instead of you. For example, they can say “Thank you for calling, you’ve reached the overflow answering service for Dr. Smith’s office. We help handle calls when she’s visiting with patients. How may I help you today?” This tells callers upfront who they are speaking with, and why.” – Gabby Rolette
  • “If  your callers are upset that they’re speaking to an answering service instead of your own staff, it could just be because your answering service is not set up to handle the same types of tasks your callers are used to being helped with. An easy way to mitigate this is to update your call handling! For example, if your answering service is currently not set up to schedule appointments, and your callers are frustrated at having to wait for a call back, see if your service can integrate with  scheduling software you’re already using which will help alleviate customer frustration and cut down on the amount of work your in-house staff have to do.” – Esther Cardin

Tips on escalations to your own on-call staff

  • “If your script is set up to transfer or reach out to your on-call staff, you’ll want to make sure it’s as seamless a transition as possible. I always suggest that our customers get familiar with making on-call updates in their portal in case they need to make a last minute change and customer service isn’t readily available to make them.” – Sheila Forth
  • “Many businesses that we work with implement on-call systems for escalations or urgent calls. If your business wants to set up an on-call system with your answering service, make sure it’s simple and straightforward. The more complicated your procedure, the more likely it is that operators will make mistakes.” – Stephen Wildemann

Advice on how to work with your answering service to solve problems

  • “Your answering service is going to want to see your business succeed, so you should never hesitate to reach out whenever you have problems. With that being said, keeping a positive, professional demeanor when addressing issues will help make solving your problems a million times easier.” – Kaila Hamaday
  • “If you’ve been having issues with calls, it’s a good idea to make a record of each individual call’s timestamp that you can present to your service. The more information they have up front, they quicker they can jump right into getting them reviewed for you, or the quicker they can work on making updates if the issue is regarding your script’s workflow.” – Danielle Viglione

Guidance on what makes a great customer service interaction

  • “Great customer service is paramount when creating customer loyalty and ensuring customer satisfaction. For me, a great customer service experience entails speaking with a friendly, knowledgeable agent and being helped quickly.” – Annie Baker
  • “When I work with customer service, I want to know that I matter. Receiving a check in phone call from a support rep after I’ve had an issue with a company is a simple, effective way to say ‘we care about you’.” – Jessica Rosado

Advice on how the answering service should deal with angry customers

  • “If your answering service is dealing with angry customers, they should have systems in place to help them. For starters, they should always be empathetic and let the caller know they understand where they’re coming from. Deescalating situations can be difficult, but ultimately customers just want to know they’re being heard. If that doesn’t work, transferring the call to a supervisor usually works.” – Kelly Dunbar
  • Dealing with angry customers is never fun, but it comes with the territory of customer service. If your business tends to get a lot of irate callers, it’d be a good idea to implement a transfer option in your script in which the operators can transfer the caller to an experienced team member in your own office.” – Mollie Williams

Tips on hold times and how to approach it

  • “While hold times can’t be avoided 100% of the time, there are some ways to reduce your customers’ chances of being placed in the queue. For example, I always advise customers to let us know in advance of any planned changes in volume, like airing a new product or campaign. That way we can make sure we are staffed accordingly.” – Courtney Pizzi
  • “We can’t promise there will never be a hold – no answering service can. But adding a custom recorded greeting your callers can listen to if there is a hold is always a good rule of thumb.” – George Nave

Must-have advice for anyone using an answering service

  • “You should think of your answering service as an extension to your business. Any changes you make in-house should be reflected in your service. It also doesn’t hurt to check in every couple of weeks just to make sure everything is running smoothly.” – Kevin Kozeniewski
  • “Working with your answering service and making sure everyone is on the same page is key. That means if your service’s support or sales reps are making suggestions on how they think your procedures will work better, you should probably take their advice.” – Matt Baker

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Specialty Answering Service is a leading call center company, helping fast-growing businesses close sales and deliver amazing live customer support 24 hours a day. SAS' friendly virtual receptionists and customized call handling create an outstanding virtual office experience. There are thousands of small businesses already using our services. Try SAS for free today.

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