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6 Rookie Mistakes Businesses Make With Their Answering Service

Rookie Answering Service Mistakes

Whether you’ve just started using an answering service, or you’ve had one for years, you should be aware of the 5 most common mistakes businesses make that will result in an outsourcing epic fail.

1. Your Procedures are Too Complicated

Every company wants their customers to be happy, and a factor in customer happiness is how fast you respond to their problems. If a customer is reaching out to you with an issue, you want them to be helped swiftly and confidently. After all, happy customers are what drive growth. However, if you’re letting a virtual receptionist answer your calls, you should know that expecting too much from the operator can be detrimental. For example:

  1. If your script has more than a few call options, or reasons why someone would be calling, you’ll probably want to simplify your protocol. This is especially true if the operators are opening the call with a simple “how may I help you?” Since the operators aren’t as familiar with your business as you are, having too many options can result in operators genuinely unsure of why someone is calling, which would result in more work on your part. We recommend answering the phone with phrases like “Are you calling for service or support?” or “Can I schedule an appointment for you today?”
  2. If your script has the operators going out to a complicated web form to submit data, you could be setting the operators up for failure. Usually, when someone is asking questions to complete a form, it’s not going to be a linear conversation. There’s going to be some back and forth like “Why do you need that information?” or “I’m not sure, can you tell me how other people answer that question?”  Since the operators won’t be able to answer every question they’ll be asked, it’s likely going to lead to an awkward interaction – and an unhappy caller.

Having an overly complicated protocol is a sure fire way to force unnecessary mistakes and set the receptionists up to fail. When setting up your call handling with your answering service, it’s important to go over the essentials and configure the script accordingly so that both you and your customers’ experiences are as smooth as butter. Check out these tips to make the best answering service scripts for your business!

2. Your Script is Too Simple

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you also don’t want your script to be too simple and create more work on your end. For example, if you schedule appointments in your office but are just having your answering service take the caller’s name and number for a call back, you’re definitely not getting the most bang for your buck. Contact your answering service, discuss what they can do well, and take advantage of the features that your answering service offers.

Unless you’re looking for basic message taking, we recommend that every script should have at least two paths, or call options. One option should be geared towards something specific like scheduling appointments, requesting service, placing orders, etc., whereas the other path should be a general option for any other call that doesn’t fit into the first option. Of course you can have more than two, but as mentioned previously, you don’t want to go over board and add in every possible scenario someone may call in for.

3. Too Many FAQs

Similar to having an overly complicated script, you also don’t want to have too many FAQs. It’s definitely important to provide essential information to the people handling  your calls, like what your business hours are, your prices, if you provide service after hours, etc., but you don’t want to over burden them. If you add 3 pages of information, the operators are going to spend a lot of time searching through that data to try and find the answer they are looking for. This overshare of information can result in:

  1. Higher usage, which means higher invoices.
  2. Annoyed customers who just want their questions answered quickly.
  3. Long pauses while the agents page through your FAQs.
  4. Operators giving up after not being able to find the question they are looking for.
  5. Many transitional phrases (bare with me for one moment, just a minute please, etc.)

So, while it may seem like a good idea to add as much information as you can, you’ll really want to live by the K.I.S.S method and keep it short and sweet. Try and pinpoint the most important and frequent questions you get asked, and leave the rest up to you and your staff to answer.

4. Not Enough FAQs

While having too many FAQs is a mistake many people make, not having enough is also poor planning. Ideally, you want the virtual receptionists handling your calls to be equipped with the perfect amount of information. Think of it like Goldilocks – you don’t want too much information, and you don’t want too little. Again, figure out the most important questions so that you can arm the operators with the appropriate answers. Here are some basic FAQs every account should have:

  1. What are your business hours?
  2. Where are you located?
  3. Is there an actual store front or are you an online retailer?
  4. Do you have a website?
  5. Is there a fax number?
  6. Can customers email you? If so, what’s the address?

While basic FAQs are helpful, you should also include industry related questions like:

HVAC/Plumbing/Restoration/Construction

  1. What services do you offer?
  2. What are your prices?
  3. Are you available after hours? If so, is there an after hours fee?
  4. Do you offer both residential and commercial services?

Medical 

  1. Do you accept insurance? If so, what types?
  2. Can patients pay out of pocket?
  3. Which physicians are at your practice?
  4. Does your practice offer different services? (chiropractic, therapy, orthodontic, etc.)

Property Management/Real Estate

  1. Do you sell and buy properties?
  2. What properties do you manage?
  3. Do you provide lock box codes?
  4. Do you provide after hours maintenance?

Legal Firms

  1. Is there a free consultation?
  2. What cases do you take?
  3. Who are the lawyers at your firm?
  4. What are your fees?

Of course not every business will be the same, but when coming up with FAQs, you should put yourself in your callers’ shoes and think “what would I ask my company?”

Pro tip: As your company changes, make sure to keep your answering service up to date on all changes as well. That means prices, business hours, location, etc.

5. You Don’t Have an Automated Greeting

An automated greeting is a feature that many answering services will offer. An automated greeting is a recording that greets the caller prior to connecting them with an operator and it assures them that they’ve reached the right place. If your answering service offers it, you should definitely have one on your line. For example, Bob’s Plumbing may have a greeting that plays before a call is connected to an operator saying something like ‘It’s a great day at Bob’s Plumbing! You’ve reached our appointment scheduling service. Please hold on the line and an operator will be with you in a moment.”

While having a service is great, no service can promise that there will never be hold times. So, if there is a hold, you’ll want to make sure that your callers hear that greeting prior to hearing any sort of hold music.  The custom greeting will let them know that they’ve dialed the correct number, and that someone will be in touch with them soon. Having your calls go right to hold music sounds unprofessional and is a sure fire way to get your customers to hang up. Yikes!

6. You Aren’t Telling Callers They Are Speaking With The Answering Service

Usually people can tell if they are speaking with someone from the office or an answering service, especially if you are a small business. If you try to cover up that you are using an answering service, your callers may get annoyed and feel distrust towards your company. Transparency is an important aspect of business to customer relationships, so we recommend having the operators tell your callers up front that they are speaking with a service. For example: “Thank you for calling Dr. Joe’s Dentistry, you’ve reached the answering service. Can I help you schedule an appointment?” That way your callers will know right away that they’re talking to a service and will not be let down when they think they’ve reached the office only to find out later that they did not.

Often times we find that when businesses want the answering service to act as though they are actually in the office, it can lead to confusion and unhappy customers. While you may provide helpful FAQs for the operators so that they are able to answer caller’s questions, they still aren’t going to know everything. So, if your service is pretending to be the actual receptionist and they aren’t able to answer something, it doesn’t look good for your company. However, you can avoid that mess altogether by just being truthful up front.

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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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