Picture this. You’re a landlord for a small apartment complex. For emergencies, all of your tenants have your personal cell phone number. However, you’re finding that your tenants are reaching out all hours of the night for every little issue that comes up. You keep telling them to contact you after hours for emergencies only, but to them, their issues are emergencies. You can’t sleep. You’re irritable. You’re overwhelmed because you can’t get anything else done with the distraction of your constantly buzzing phone. What do you do? You hire an answering service to screen and dispatch calls.
Answering services are great at handling after hours dispatching for a ton of different industries. They can screen callers to find out what the issue is, determine what needs immediate attention, and what can wait until the morning. To help you select the right company for your needs, we created a 7 point guide to make sure you are asking the right questions on your quest to find the perfect dispatching service.
Many businesses need to use a dispatching service because they can’t stay open 24/7, but have customers, tenants or patients that rely on them around the clock. So, having a dispatching service that is always available is mega important. Some businesses choose to use their dispatching service to handle after hours emergencies, while others choose to use their service throughout the day as an overflow line. However you choose to use your service, there are some questions you should be asking to get the most out of your partnership:
Obviously a huge factor that goes into choosing a dispatching service is if they can follow your on-call protocol or not. Otherwise, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Some services may only be able to handle simple call out procedures while others may be able to follow a more advanced procedure. For example, calling the same person in an event of an emergency is a pretty easy task. However, calling different people depending on the situation, day, or even time may prove to be a task only an OG disptaching service can take on.
An answering service that specializes in emergency dispatching will usually be able to handle both simple and more complicated procedures. However, before you sign up for a paid service it’s always a good idea to see if they offer a free trial. Taking the service for a spin before leaving the lot will give you a better idea if it’s going to be a good fit or not.
As a business owner, you probably have a lot on your plate, so it can be easy for some things to fall through the cracks. While you may stay on top of updating your on-call schedule in your own office, you may forget to keep your dispatching service in the loop. Unfortunately, this could result in the wrong person being contacted, or no one at all. Some helpful questions to ask include:
There’s no doubt that keeping your schedule updated in advance helps keep you organized and allows you to focus on other tasks, but sometimes things come up that may throw a wrench in the plans. Employees may get sick, quit, or go on vacation unexpectedly, which would require you to make changes at a moment’s notice. An answering service that specializes in dispatching will allow you to make updates to your on-call protocol at any time, not just during normal business hours.
Either by logging into an online portal, a mobile app, or both, you should have access to your schedule 24/7. Additionally, the system should be straightforward and user friendly. After all, what’s the point in allowing clients to update their own schedules if the platform is too complicated to figure out?
Aside from the usual medical offices and HVAC companies, many different types of industries can benefit from using a dispatching service, so there’s a good chance your service can cater to your specific needs. Some examples of industries that dispatching services specialize in include:
However, before you sign up with any old dispatching service, you will want to make sure they do in fact cater to your industry, as some services specifically cater only to medical accounts, HVAC accounts, etc.
While this doesn’t apply to every business in search of a dispatching service, it’s definitely important for medical professionals, as keeping your patient information safe is critical. To be HIPAA compliant, your dispatching service should not send any patient information via text, email, or voicemail. Any text or email that gets sent through should be a static message that alerts you of a new call which directs you to your secure messaging portal, and any voicemail left should simply include a call back number or instructions on how to contact your service back to retrieve the message.
Pro tip: Once you’ve found a HIPAA compliant dispatching service, the next step you’ll want to take to secure the deal is to have them sign a Business Associates Agreement (BAA) with you. A BAA bonds the two business entities and ensures liability if there are any violations. To put it simply, having a BAA in place is just an extra means of precaution when partnering with a third party business like an answering service.
Of course you want your dispatching service to dispatch urgent messages, but you may also want them to do more than the status quo. It may be helpful if they can screen callers to determine why they are calling, and handle accordingly. For example, perhaps they can schedule appointments for non-urgent issues via a shared calendar, instead of just telling callers to call back during normal business hours for assistance. Many services can also help answer questions via customizable FAQs or help solve problems by following a scripted troubleshooting workflow for simple HVAC or technical issues.