Top 10 Answering Services in 2023 – Comprehensive Review
In the current business landscape, customer satisfaction and high-quality communication are paramount. One way that businesses ensure a consistently high level of customer service is by employing the services of professional answering services. These services can handle phone calls, messages, and scheduling, ensuring your business is accessible 24/7. In this blog, we’ll review the top 10 answering service companies of 2023.
1. Ruby Receptionists
Ruby Receptionists, renowned for its top-notch customer service, offers a live receptionist to answer your calls and ensure your customers always have a person to talk to. With a team trained to enhance customer satisfaction, they can handle everything from appointment setting to order processing.
AnswerConnect offers a range of services, from answering phone calls to web chat services. They focus on providing reliable support for small businesses, ensuring their customers are always connected.
Moneypenny excels in providing personalized service. Their team of receptionists gets to know your business, delivering a tailored service that best suits your needs.
4. Stericycle Communication Solutions
Stericycle specializes in healthcare communications, providing HIPAA-compliant answering services. However, their flexible plans cater to businesses in various sectors.
VoiceNation provides a wide range of services, including 24/7 live answering and bilingual service. They are known for their fast pickup times, ensuring your customers are promptly attended to.
6. MAP Communications
MAP Communications provides a fully US-based service. They offer a comprehensive suite of services, including after-hours support and bilingual services.
AnswerForce provides 24/7 live answering services. They provide seamless integration with your existing business systems, ensuring a smooth service for your customers.
Nexa offers a premium service with a focus on lead qualification and appointment setting. They can handle high call volumes, making them ideal for larger businesses.
9. Signius Communications
Signius Communications offers a straightforward, reliable answering service. With a focus on affordability, they are a great choice for small businesses on a budget.
LiveAnswer provides a highly customizable service. They offer a range of features, including SMS text messaging and multilingual support.
Investing in a professional answering service can significantly enhance your customer service and customer satisfaction. While each of these top ten answering services has its unique advantages, your choice will depend on your business needs and budget. Whether you need a live receptionist, specialized services for healthcare, or affordable options for a small business, the 2023 market has something to offer everyone.
Understanding Different Types of Answering Services
The world of answering services isn’t one-size-fits-all. Depending on your business requirements, you can opt for different types of services to enhance the customer experience. Let’s delve into the different types of answering services:
- Live Answering Services
Live answering services employ real people to answer phone calls on your behalf. These services are known for providing a personalized touch, greatly enhancing the customer experience. Operators can answer queries, schedule appointments, or forward calls, depending on your specific needs. Some services like Ruby Receptionists and Moneypenny excel in this area.
- Automated Answering Services
Automated answering services make use of technology to handle calls. They often include Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems that guide callers through a menu of options. While they may lack the personal touch of a live operator, they can efficiently handle high volumes of calls outside of business hours.
- Virtual Receptionists
Virtual receptionists provide a blend of live and automated services. Live operators answer calls during business hours, while an automated system takes over during off-hours. Services like AnswerForce offer this hybrid model, ensuring 24/7 customer support.
- Call Center Services
Call center services handle a high volume of phone calls and are ideal for larger businesses. They often employ both live operators and automated systems to efficiently manage calls, and may also offer multilingual support. Nexa is an example of a service offering robust call center capabilities.
- Specialty Answering Services
Specialty answering services are tailored for specific industries, like healthcare or legal services. These services are well-versed in industry-specific terminology and regulations. For example, Stericycle Communication Solutions specializes in providing HIPAA-compliant answering services for the healthcare industry.
- Message Taking Services
Message-taking services, as the name implies, focus on accurately recording messages from callers. These messages are then forwarded to you through your preferred channel, whether it’s email, mobile app, or a phone call.
- Order Taking Services
Order-taking services specialize in handling orders over the phone. They ensure a smooth ordering process, improving the customer experience and increasing sales.
Each type of service comes with its own set of features, including the provision of local or toll-free phone numbers, a free trial period to test the service, and seamless integration with your existing business systems. The choice between them depends on your business needs, the nature of your customer interactions, and your budget.
Best Automated Answering Services
Automated answering services are a cost-effective solution for businesses that require call handling but don’t necessarily need the human touch of a live operator. These systems use advanced technologies like Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to manage incoming calls, route calls to the correct department, and provide information to callers.
- RingCentral: Known for its robust cloud-based phone systems, RingCentral also offers a top-notch automated answering service. The system is customizable and includes features like call routing, voicemail, and even faxing.
- Grasshopper: This service is geared towards small businesses and entrepreneurs. It offers a full virtual phone system with an automated answering component. Custom greetings, call forwarding and voicemail transcription are some of the features offered.
- Nextiva: Nextiva’s automated answering service is part of their broader VoIP business phone system. It provides features like automated attendants, call routing, and voicemail-to-email services.
- Phone.com: This provider offers an affordable automated answering service that includes custom greetings, voicemail transcription, and call routing. It’s a suitable option for startups and small businesses.
Custom Scripts in Answering Services
Custom scripts are a feature that some answering services offer to personalize the caller’s experience. They are pre-written dialogues or instructions that the automated system or live operator follows when answering a call. These scripts guide the interaction, ensuring that the caller’s needs are met and your business’s brand is properly represented.
Here’s how it works:
- Understanding Your Needs: The answering service works with you to understand your business, your customers, and the typical types of calls you receive.
- Script Writing: The service will then help you craft a custom script that addresses the most common scenarios. This could include greeting the caller, asking specific questions, providing information, or routing the call.
- Implementation: The script is programmed into the automated system or provided to the live operators. They follow the script when handling calls for your business.
- Review and Revise: Over time, you may find that certain parts of the script need to be adjusted. The service should work with you to make these revisions, ensuring the script continues to serve your business effectively.
Custom scripts can greatly enhance the effectiveness of an answering service by ensuring consistency, professionalism, and a personalized touch in every call.
Live Answering Services vs Automated Receptionists: Which is the Best Choice?
Choosing between live answering services and automated receptionists is a critical decision for small business owners. Both have their own merits and demerits, and the choice greatly depends on the specific requirements of your business.
Live Answering Services
Live answering services come with the advantage of providing a personal touch to your customer interactions. A live operator can handle complex queries, empathize with the caller, and provide a rich, human-centric experience that boosts customer satisfaction. It’s ideal for businesses where building relationships with customers and providing detailed information or technical support is crucial.
However, live answering services can be more expensive than their automated counterparts, and may not be able to handle a very high volume of calls simultaneously. Businesses must consider these factors when deciding whether a live answering service like AnswerConnect or VoiceNation is the best choice.
Automated receptionists, on the other hand, are great for handling a high volume of calls efficiently. With advancements in AI and natural language processing, automated systems can now understand and respond to customer queries effectively. They can handle basic tasks such as appointment scheduling, order taking, and providing information about products or services.
Automated receptionists are generally more cost-effective than live services, making them an attractive choice for businesses on a tight budget. They can also provide 24/7 service, ensuring that no call goes unanswered, even outside of business hours.
The Role of an Answering Service
An answering service plays a pivotal role in managing a business’s communication needs. Some of the key tasks they handle include:
- Answering Incoming Calls: This is the primary function of an answering service. They ensure that no call goes unanswered, providing a professional and responsive image for your business.
- Customer Service and Technical Support: Answering services can handle customer queries and complaints, provide technical support and even sell products or services over the phone.
- Appointment Scheduling: Many answering services can manage your business’s calendar, schedule appointments, and send reminders to customers.
- Message Taking: An answering service can take messages from callers, ensuring you never miss important information.
- Call Routing: Depending on the nature of the call, the service can route calls to the appropriate department or person within your business.
By handling these tasks, an answering service allows business owners to focus on core business activities, while ensuring a high level of customer service. Whether you opt for live call answering or virtual receptionist services, an answering service can be a valuable addition to your business operations.
Frequently Asked Questions About Answering Services
There are many questions business owners must ask themselves when deciding to hire an answering service. Below are some of the most common questions you may find yourself asking:
Can a Medical Practice Use an Answering Service?
Absolutely! Medical practices often find value in using a medical answering service to handle incoming calls, schedule appointments, and provide information to patients after hours. Answering services that specialize in healthcare, like MedConnectUSA, are familiar with HIPAA regulations and can provide confidential, compliant service.
What Additional Services Can an Answering Service Provide?
Beyond answering phone lines and taking messages, many answering service providers offer a range of additional services to support your business:
- Order taking and processing: They can handle incoming orders, process payments, and manage order tracking.
- Live Chat Support: Some services provide live chat support on your website, helping to answer customer queries in real time.
- Email and Social Media Management: They can monitor and respond to emails and social media messages, ensuring a comprehensive customer service solution.
- Virtual Assistant Services: More comprehensive services may offer virtual assistant services, assisting with administrative tasks like data entry, calendar management, and more.
How Do I Choose the Right Answering Service?
Choosing the right service depends on your business’s specific needs. Here are a few factors to consider:
- Hours of Operation: Does the service provide 24/7 support, or only during business hours?
- Live vs Automated: Do you prefer a live operator or an automated system? Consider your customer expectations and the complexity of the calls.
- Specialization: Some services specialize in certain industries, like healthcare or legal, which could be beneficial for your business.
- Cost: Review the pricing structure of the service. Some charge per call, while others offer monthly plans based on anticipated call volume.
- Additional Services: If you require additional services like live chat or virtual assistant support, ensure the service can provide these.
Choosing an answering service is a significant decision that can impact your customer satisfaction and business efficiency. Be sure to do your research and select a provider that best fits your business needs.
The Cost of Hiring an Answering Service
The cost of hiring an answering service can vary widely based on the type of service (live vs automated), the volume of calls, and the specific features you need. Here’s a general breakdown:
- Live Answering Services: These services usually charge by the minute, with rates typically ranging from $0.70 to $1.20 per minute. Some services offer packages with a set number of minutes per month, and if you exceed that amount, you’ll pay an additional per-minute fee. For a small business that receives a moderate volume of calls, you might expect to pay between $100 and $500 per month.
- Automated Answering Services: These services often charge a monthly fee that can range from $10 to $100, depending on the features included. Some services charge extra for advanced features like voicemail transcription or call recording.
When comparing these costs to hiring a full-time employee, consider that the median pay for a receptionist in the U.S. is about $30,000 per year or roughly $2500 per month. That doesn’t include the additional costs of benefits, training, and office space.
Therefore, an answering service can be a cost-effective solution, particularly for small businesses. However, it’s essential to consider your specific needs and budget when deciding between a live service, an automated system, or hiring an in-house employee.
As always, make sure to get quotes from multiple providers and read the fine print to understand what’s included in the cost. Consider both your current needs and potential future growth to make the best decision for your business. Remember that excellent customer service can significantly impact your brand image and customer satisfaction. So, choose an answering service that aligns with your company’s values and customer service standards.