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Answering Service vs. Message Service: What’s In a Name?

Spot The Differences

Have you ever heard colleagues having water cooler discussions about the differences between answering services, message services, and virtual receptionist services? We have. Just about every day. And these discussions can get pretty heated.

Some people believe that message service or messaging service refers to an outdated concept of a switchboard born in the early days of telephony in the 1960’s and 1970’s, with the focus on transferring calls and nothing else. Others may argue the term answering service was minted to show the evolution from strictly transferring calls to transferring calls with the added abilities of message taking and dispatch. And still others believe that virtual receptionist is the union of call transferring, message taking, and traditionally receptionist type tasks like appointment scheduling and information relay (think of the interaction you’d have with a receptionist when you call your doctor’s office).

As a company fully staffed with all variety of telecommunication nerds, we’ve heard just about every term thrown out during tense discussions about message service, answering service, and virtual receptionist service like automated answering, 24 hour availability, order taking, live operator, 800 number, oncall management, remote support, blah blah blah. We’d be here forever listing all the industry jargon.

We’re outsourcing peacemakers, and to all of this we say “What’s in a name!” What does it matter what you call your outsourced receptionist provider? After all, there are thousands of answering service companies in the world, and each generally does the same thing and has the same capabilities. Many messaging services will focus on transferring calls, but will have the capability of building an on-call dispatch or adding front end automation to your live operator line. Answering services may showcase their ability to take messages and transfer calls, but they will also have the ability to answer FAQs, script out detailed call center type interactions, and integrate with the support software you’re already using depending on the provider. Virtual receptionist providers too may be able to provide everything a messaging service or answering service can provide.

Whatever these outsourcing providers prefer to label themselves as, they will all offer a ton of great communication solutions to help your small business meet the needs of your customers. Whether it’s help closing sales, or assistance meeting customer needs in a support capacity, the goals of outsourcing providers are the same:

So we say, stop arguing about what to call outsourcing companies. It doesn’t matter what you refer to them as, as long as you consider how any one of these can positively impact both your business and your bottom line.

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