The Cost of Missed Opportunities

It is easy to keep track of the dollars that go out the door each month when you pay our bills. More difficult to calculate, but just as important to the health of your company, is the cost of the opportunities missed when a customer or prospect calls and there is no one there to speak to them.

• Are your marketing campaigns generating more inbound call activity than your staff can handle?

• How many prospects did not bother to leave a voicemail message when they call and do not reach a live person? Statistics say that more than 50% of callers will not leave a message if they reach your voicemail. They simple hang up the phone and call someone else.

• How efficient is your sales staff? Are they tied up asking routine questions instead of concentrating their efforts on qualified prospects?

• Are your people spending too much time listening to their voicemails to find the business prospects your future depends on? How often do they have to listen to messages multiple times to gather all the message information? (An average American worker takes about 50 seconds to listen to a voicemail. An average American worker takes about 6 seconds to read a text message of that same call)

• What kind of impression does an endlessly ringing telephone or voicemail greeting make on the people trying to reach your company? Is it impression you would like to make on your callers? Nothing can replace the positive impact of a courteous and professional live operator answering your calls.

Consider letting an Answering Service assist you in capturing the sales leads and new business prospects that call you each day. Not only will the Answering Service save you time gathering the vital information necessary for you to do your job, but they will give your company the professional and friendly image that will set you apart from your competition.

How to Make the Most Out of Call Forwarding (Part III)

Here is one more common type of Call Forwarding:

Virtual Call Forwarding (different carriers have different names for this)

This feature allows you to forward your office number to another number even when you are away from the office.  This feature is great for emergency situations or when you forget and leave the office without forwarding your calls to the answering service.  You are given a toll-free number to call along with a PIN to activate or deactivate.

The Power of the Person

At its core, personal service is all about the person. The age of emails and text messages has caused many of today’s businesses to become nameless and faceless entities, emotionally detached from their customers. Live Operator Answering Services can help you better connect with your customers and put the personal back in personal service. In fact, a recent study by Consumer’s Union found the #1 customer annoyance was that they can’t get a real person on the phone when they call. Mention Answering Services and many people think only of their doctor or maybe their fuel oil company. Today’s Answering Services are so much more, providing customized Live operator services to a wide range of companies that are without the time or the staff it takes to effectively handle their calls during the day or after hours. Many of today’s Answering Services provide detailed and personalized “scripting” of your calls to ensure that your messages have all the vital and accurate information you need to meet your unique business requirements. Well developed “scripting” enables the answering service to be an extension of your company providing the caller with a seamless customer service experience. Full-service Answering Services provide so much more than simply “take a message and deliver a message” service. Messages are tracked and recorded for auditing purposes and can be delivered to your people using via email, text message, fax or a good old-fashioned phone call to their cell or landline phone. Summary messages can be sent to you daily or weekly to help you manage your customer calls and on-call staff. Some Answering Services can even directly enter call information into your business systems enabling your staff to work more efficiently by eliminating the need to re-enter customer information.

How Will I Be Billed By My Answering Service?

When evaluating Answering Services, it is important that you understand exactly how you will be billed for their services. In particular, be aware that, when it comes to pricing, you may be comparing apples to oranges. In general, Answering Services either bill on a per call or per minute basis, but they may also bill on a per message, per unit or fixed rate plan. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages depending upon the types of calls you receive, the types of messages you would like taken and delivered, and how you would like them delivered.

Per Call Plans Questions to Ask / Things to Consider What is my current call volume including hang-ups and wrong numbers? What is considered a call? Are both Inbound Calls and Outbound Calls included? Text Messages? Emails? Faxes? Pages? If you have a billing plan that includes a certain number of calls per billing period, how will you be charged for calls that exceed my plan?

Per Minute Plans Questions to Ask / Things to Consider How long is my typical call? Can the service screen incoming calls with prerecorded message so that I have the option to reduce the number of calls that are answered by an operator? How are minutes calculated? Are they rounded to the nearest minute? 15 seconds? 6 seconds? What activity is included in my billed minutes? Most services bill for Live Operator Time, but some bill for Wrap Time (time required to complete and double-check the message after the caller hangs up to complete and double check the message) and some bill for Screen Time (time unrelated to the call when the answering service staff have your account open on their screen for various reasons. How will I be billed for text messages, emails, pages, and faxes? If my billing plan includes a certain number of minutes for each period, how will I be billed for overage minutes?

Per Message Plans Questions to Ask / Things to Consider What is included as a message (Some create a message for every call, such as “no message” or “caller will call back”)? If my plan includes a certain number of messages, how will I be billed for overage messages?

Per Unit Plans (These are the most complicated and vary from answering service to answering service) Questions to Ask / Things to consider Do they provide documentation showing how the units will be calculated?  Sometimes a call = 1 unit, but perhaps some calls (outbound call??) might = 2 units. Sometimes an email, text, page, or fax might be a unit as well. Will the bills you receive show the details behind how the total units are calculated?

Fixed Rate Plans (There are a few answering services that will provide fixed rate plans) Questions to Ask / Things to consider Will my rate increase if my call/minute count exceeds a certain level, so be sure that you understand what will trigger a rate increase? If there are automatic triggers for increases, make sure you understand if there are automatic triggers for rate decreases as well, so that an unusually busy period won’t cause the fixed rate to increase forever?

9 Things to Consider when Choosing a Telephone Answering Service

Service

  • Are customer service representatives available 24/7, including holidays?   Does the company offer both live operator and automated response services? If appropriate for your business, the use of a personalized announcement to give office hours, etc. combined with an option to speak with a liver operator is an effective way to reduce expenses.

  • Can the handling of your calls and the dispatching of your messages be customized to meet your specific needs?

  • What other business support services do they offer?  Many services now have the capability to schedule appointments and makes reservations; provide help desk and dealer location services; track employee attendance, etc.

  • Do their customer service representatives have access to the internet if that is necessary for the handling of your calls?

Pricing

  • Make sure you understand how charges will be computed.  Charges can be based upon the calls or on time.  Be aware that the definition of “call” and “time” may differ from one answering service to another.  See post “How will I be billed by my Answering Service”)

  • Ask for a written proposal.  Ask whether the pricing plan you chose can be modified in the future? Does the company require you to commit to a contact?

Technology

  • Does the company provide a variety of message delivery options such as voice, text, email, fax, alpha page, or encrypted messaging?

  • How long does the company retain information?

  • Are all calls recorded and, if so, are the recordings available to you on request?

  • Does the company have system redundancy and power backup to ensure service in times of phone and power outages?

  • Can the company provide interfacing with my company’s information system or CRM if that is necessary for the handing of your calls?

Staffing

  • How does the company ensure there will be sufficient staff available to minimize long ring or hold times?

  • What type of notice will the company need from you if your call volume should increase due to special promotions, office hour changes, etc.?

Training

  • How is the staff trained?  Does the company conduct standardized training programs from the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI) or other industry associations?

  • Do all employees receive regular HIPAA training prepared by ATSI or other industry associations?

Pricing

  • Make sure you understand how charges will be computed.  Charges can be based upon the calls or on time.  Be aware that the definition of “call” and “time” may differ from one answering service to another.  See post “How will I be billed by my Answering Service”)

  • Ask for a written proposal.  Ask whether the pricing plan you chose can be modified in the future? Does the company require you to commit to a contact?

Technology

  • Does the company provide a variety of message delivery options such as voice, text, email, fax, alpha page, or encrypted messaging?

  • How long does the company retain information?

  • Are all calls recorded and, if so, are the recordings available to you on request?

  • Does the company have system redundancy and power backup to ensure service in times of phone and power outages?

  • Can the company provide interfacing with my company’s information system or CRM if that is necessary for the handing of your calls?

Staffing

  • How does the company ensure there will be sufficient staff available to minimize long ring or hold times?

  • What type of notice will the company need from you if your call volume should increase due to special promotions, office hour changes, etc.?

Training

  • How is the staff trained?  Does the company conduct standardized training programs from the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI) or other industry associations?

  • Do all employees receive regular HIPAA training prepared by ATSI or other industry associations?

Stability & Reliability

  • How long has the company been in business?  What is the average tenure of their staff?  Is the company active in the local business community?

  • Does the company have back-up power and redundancy of critical system components?

Compliance

  • Does the company comply with local, state, and federal regulations and carry business insurance, including Error and Omissions coverage?

  • Does the company comply with HIPAA and HITECT regulations?

  • Is the company active member of an organization that keeps its membership up to date with the latest laws, regulations, and industry trends?

References / Testimonials

  • Ask for references you can call to discuss the service.  Be sure to ask for references in your particular industry or locations.

  • Check the company’s website to see if they have a testimonial page

Awards

  • Has the company earned any awards or recognition in the industry or local business community?  Does the company participate in the ATSI Award of Excellence service award?  This program assesses a company’s service level through the evaluation of test or “mystery shop” calls.

2014 ATSI Award of Excellence

For Immediate Release
Monday, June 23, 2014

Communications Group Takes TOP SCORE Award in Annual Industry Competition

Communications Group of Syracuse, NY has been recognized as having the TOP SCORE in the annual international Award of Excellence competition sponsored by the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI), the industry’s trade association for providers of telecommunications and call center services including telephone answering and message delivery throughout the world. Communications Group was presented with the award at ATSI’s 2014 Annual Convention held in Memphis, TN, along with recognition for earning the Award for the 10th consecutive year.

“We are very excited to have earned ATSI’s the top ranking in 2014. We equally pleased to have earned the Award of Excellence for the 10th straight year and for finishing in the top 5 for the past 2 years. Our dedicated team of professionals, lead by Jennifer Wiler, works very hard to ensure that we consistently deliver excellent service to our clients and their callers, year-in and year-out,” says Gardner McLean, President.

Independent judges are contracted by ATSI to evaluate message services over a 6-month period. The criteria for scoring includes: courtesy, response time, accuracy and overall service to their clients.

“The ATSI Award of Excellence is the most prestigious recognition of exemplary customer service in our industry. Award recipients demonstrated the highest level of service throughout every aspect of a caller’s experience – exceeding the award’s rigorous criteria and customer service standards. It’s quite an honor,” says ATSI President Sharon Campbell.

Now a ten-time winner, Communications Group earned the Diamond Award for earning the ATSI Award of Excellence for the 10th consecutive year. ATSI extends its congratulations to the staff of Communications Group on their proven TOP SCORE quality service to their customers.

Ray Schremp, Vice President, said ““We participate in the ATSI Award of Excellence program because it is a great way for us to reinforce the high standards we set for ourselves and it encourages all of our employees to work toward a common goal – excellent customer service. Excellence is not a goal that you reach and forget; it is a perpetual process of achieving the highest levels of performance on each call by every employee.”


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