Nowadays, constantly being ready to provide services for your customers is a must for every business – but 24/7 availability has many pitfalls. Taking calls is frustrating and tiring even for trained co-workers, especially if they hear the same questions over and over again. And don’t forget that nobody in their right mind would sit behind the desk waiting for calls during night time and the holidays – unless you are willing to pay them extra money, which could be used to further improve your business’s performance.
Up until recently when business owners wanted employees to focus on their work while also maintaining a decent live customer support, they usually turned to phone answering services. But soon these services might become obsolete thanks to the alleged murderer of landline phone technology – VoIP.
What Is a Phone Answering Service?
An answering service is a set of individual or pre-programmed answering machines intended to accept calls and provide basic information or full-on support to anyone that calls, allow them to pass on messages to the client and take orders or schedule appointments. Answering services have many forms, but the most common ones are automated and live answering services. The former directs the caller to the answer that they are looking for by leaving a voice message or going through a dial menu, while the latter uses trained individuals to answer whatever questions the customer may have. In other words, an answering service can be considered the equivalent of a small call center that doesn’t require a physical place, since employees can work for you from the same building that they are providing the service from.
Having actual people picking up most of the calls for you is already enough to boost any small business’s renown, but unfortunately there are some downsides to using answering services. It should be more than obvious that answering services are never free of charge, plus employees have to learn how your business works, what to tell to individual callers and how to always behave in a courteous manner on the phone. Not to mention that paying for an answering service when your incoming call traffic doesn’t require a full-blown call center (just an answering machine) is nothing but a waste of money.
The VoIP Alternative: Auto-Attendant
Don’t get us wrong, an answering service is still a cost-effective way for those who prefer to have live attendants receiving calls from customers. However, most of the time an auto-attendant in a cloud phone system is more than enough when most questions from callers can be answered with a prerecorded message.
Like most features of a cloud phone system, managing the auto-receptionist is pretty simple. Thanks to customizable answering rules such a system can have each digit on a phone’s dial pad programmed to your liking, so callers can direct themselves to the answer they are looking for without any human intervention by giving the system the right dial commands. By using answering rules in tandem with caller ID screening – and occasionally call forwarding – VIP callers can be connected to the right person without forcing them to go through the menu, while callers not able to be helped by the service can simply be directed to voicemail.
One of the biggest advantages of a VoIP auto-receptionist is that the system doesn’t require the aid of a human voice to have your announcements read out, since it is capable of turning your written greetings into perfectly audible voice messages. However, it’s possible to record your own voice as a greeting or use the extra services of certain cloud phone system providers. Speaking of these extra services, often there is the option to turn to voice talents, who read your greetings and other messages in a professional manner. Interestingly, a few VoIP providers (i.e. eVoice) can combine their powers with that of phone answering services by offering users to hire live receptionists to attend callers during business hours or even 24/7.
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