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Voicemail or Answering Service? Understand the Pros and Cons Before Deciding.

Maria DAlleva

If you are running a small business, chances are that you are often overwhelmed and simply can’t get to every phone call. When you’re not in a position to hire a salaried receptionist, you really only have two options: let calls go to voicemail, or outsource to a live operator receptionist service like us. The question is, which option is right for you? To help you make a well-thought out decision, we’ve taken the guess work out of things for you. Read on as we weigh the pros and cons of voicemail vs. live operator service.

Voicemail – Pros

#1. No Extra Fees

The most obvious pro of using voicemail over an answering service is the cost. Regardless of what phone system or mobile carrier you use, voicemail is generally included in your monthly bill. That means that no matter how many voicemail messages you receive, you won’t have to pay extra to listen to them or to store them.

#2. The Right Message, Every Time

With voicemail, what you hear is what you get. In other words, the message will always be correct because it’s coming directly from the source. The only possible way for something to be misconstrued is if you can’t understand the caller, the message breaks up due to a cell signal issue, you incorrectly document the details, or you accidentally delete the message.

#3. It’s Ready When You Are

If you have your cell phone with you, or if you can dial in to your office phone system remotely to retrieve messages, then you’ll have every opportunity to capture prospective leads and manage your existing customer base, as long as you take the time to listen.

Voicemail – Cons

#1. It’s Impersonal

You could have the peppiest voicemail greeting on the planet, and voicemail would still be an impersonal way to do business. Sure, some people would rather leave a message than speak with you directly. Voicemail is certainly faster than carrying on a conversation. But in most cases, people are calling because they are hoping to get you on the phone. They are looking for that personal touch that neither voicemail nor all the technology in the world can provide.

#2. Response Time Delays

Let’s say that you’re out on a job, and three messages have come in during the course of the service call, one of which is an emergency. Assume that the current job takes at least an hour, and you won’t be listening to your voicemail until you have completed your assignment. Once you finally get to your voicemail and hear the emergency message, you call them back only to find that they’ve gone with another company because they couldn’t wait for you. Or, if it’s an existing customer, they may lose faith in your ability to dole out the personalized service that they want. In either case, response time delays are no way to instill confidence in your business.

#3. Voicemail Fills Up

What happens when your voicemail is full? If you’re constantly on the go and don’t regularly check your messages, then you may not have any idea that your voicemail is brimming with customers’ queries. And that spells disaster for customers who will hear that nice, automated system saying something like, “The voicemail box of the person you are trying to reach is full and cannot accept any new messages at this time.” If they have no alternate method of contact, their choices are clear: keep calling until someone answers, or reach out to the next business who can meet their needs.

#4. Lost Revenue

If we look at the previous scenario, for callers who reach or are barred from your voicemail and are either impatient or need immediate assistance, you’ve just lost revenue. Do that a few times a week, and it will add up to a sizeable chunk. Imagine that you miss five emergency calls for which services would be billed at $100 per hour. In one week, you’ve lost $500. And in one month, you’ve lost $2,000. That’s far below the cost of outsourcing, even for some of the higher-tiered call plans.

Live Operator Receptionist Service – Pros

#1. It’s Personal

What’s more personal than a live operator answering your calls? Not only will your customers hear a friendly, helpful voice on the other end of the line, but in-call scripts can be customized to present the specific image that you would present if you were answering the calls yourself. You can provide the answer phrase, various call types, a list of Frequently Asked Questions, and every statement or question in between. Then, when you receive an inbound call, your customized script pops up for the operators to use so that they’ll know exactly how to respond to any customer request.

#2. There are Advanced Features

One of the benefits of outsourcing your call answering to a receptionist service is the advanced features that you’ll have at your disposal. For example, they may offer helpdesk support, appointment setting, e-commerce services, email and text notification of new messages, online or mobile app access to your account, bilingual representatives, and more. Your account can be built to mirror your operation from soup to nuts, and you’ll have call details at your fingertips, no pen and paper needed.

#3. 24-Hour Availability

When was the last time that you answered your phone 24 hours a day? Unless you were recently on a coffee and Mountain Dew bender, we’re guessing the answer is never. Everyone needs rest. How could you run a successful business if you were sleepwalking through your days? That’s the beauty of working with call center services. You won’t generally see fees assessed for round-the-clock availability. This is not only ideal for capturing every inbound call, but it’s also a critical element for any business where emergencies have the potential to crop up at any hour.

#4. Immediate Response Time

In the event of an emergency, your callers expect the assurance that comes with a receptionist service. Sometimes, speaking to an operator is all that a customer needs to rest easy about an issue that they’re having. But if the situation warrants, you may need to be contacted immediately, and that is where warm and cold transfers and reach on-call services come in handy. You can choose which calls are sent to you in which manner, and dial-out schedules can be submitted in advance so that the operators will always be calling the right person, at the right time, on the right day.

#5. Gained Revenue

When people are looking for a new service or vendor, they may be surfing through businesses listed on Google or Yelp, and dialing around until they find the best deal. If they hit voicemail, they’ll be inclined to move on to the next listing; but reaching a live operator is instant lead capture that will help bring in revenue. Not only that, but when callers receive personal attention and top-notch service, they are likely to recommend you to friends and family, and word of mouth referrals can be a significant source of future income.

Live Operator Receptionist Service – Cons

#1. Room for Error

Anytime that you’re dealing with a human being, the potential for error exists. Even if your script is laid out perfectly, operators may still take the wrong call path resulting in confusion for you and your callers. Or, they may take the right call path but incorrectly document details, such as name misspellings, transposing a call back number, missing a letter in an email address, etc. While there are verification measures built into script instructions to reduce or eliminate these issues, they can still happen.

#2. There May Be Extra Fees

Of course, any receptionist service is going to require monthly out-of-pocket costs, though there are typically a number of plans that will ensure you aren’t paying any more than you need to. When you factor advanced features into the mix, such as appointment setting, online order taking, and warm transfers, you could be looking at additional fees. Depending on your customers’ average invoice totals, this may or may not be worth the expense.

#3. Hold Times

Is there any guarantee that outsourcing your reception needs means no caller will ever be placed on hold? Unfortunately not. No service can guarantee zero hold times any more than you could guarantee that you would never have to place a caller on hold if you were manning your own phones. There are business owners who feel that if they’re going to use a live operator service, their customers should not have to wait for assistance. In a perfect world, that’s what everyone wants. But in the call center industry, it is an unrealistic expectation.

Deciding whether to ditch voicemail in favor of a live operator answering service may be one of the easiest decisions that business owners consider. It really comes down to your needs and your call volume. Do you have enough revenue to justify the monthly cost of outsourcing on top of your existing phone bill, or are you just starting out and super budget-conscious? The great thing about call center services is that they typically offer plans to fit any budget. So, don’t nix that option right out of the gate. Do your research, ask other business owners what works for them, and talk to a few services. You’ll quickly find out which option tips the scales.

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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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