An answering service can help improve the productivity of your existing team, serve as an alternative to having one or more full-time receptionists, or fill an important gap for customer service outside your normal business hours. But how do you choose the best answering service for your small business? You could shop around and choose the lowest price, you could simply google “answering service near me” and choose the geographically closest, or you could read the rest of this article and learn which criteria to value, and which to push to the wayside.
Geography matters... kind of
Most Canadian small businesses want a Canadian answering service. Choosing a Canadian answering service means that your agents are likely to be Canadian-based and speak English as a first language. It can be cheaper to go overseas or south of the border, however, the quality of service provided to your customers is going to be directly impacted by a cheaper non-Canadian option.
A word of caution: When searching for an answering service near you, be sure to double-check those Google search results. A search query for best answering service in Toronto will yield mixed results. Just check out the image below. You'll notice two of the three ad results for our search best answering service Toronto are marked-up in blue. Both of the marked-up results are not in Toronto at all. In fact, Patlive is 100% American, not exactly your local Toronto provider.
Unless your business has ultra-specific location requirements, you can confidently pick a Canadian answering service to represent your organization well, even if they are in a different city, province, or territory.
Not too big, not too small
Answering services come in all shapes and sizes. There are mega-sized, big box call centres, and there are mom n’ pop shops operating out of basements. The sweet spot is finding an answering service that’s big enough to have all the resources required to provide modern solutions on reliable tech stacks, but small enough to give you a personalized experience with people you can actually reach when you need them.
Before you select your new answering service for 2023, ask to see a sample of monthly reports you may have access to. Call-type reports, for example, can offer incredible insight into your business. It can help you gather data on customer behaviour and allow for a more proactive approach to maintenance, marketing, inventory and more.
Your answering service must be available 24/7 every day of the year. Customers expect immediate support and will not hesitate to make a second call to resolve their issue. This is business going directly to your competitors.
Don't be fooled
Hidden fees can really change your monthly bill. Some common fees to look out for:
- Technology fee
- Compliance fee
- Statutory holiday fee
These fees do not show up in quoted prices but will impact your monthly bill. Along with statutory holiday fees, some answering services will charge extra for evening and weekend converge. Check for these common hidden fees before signing an agreement.
Agent training and dump account
Insider tip here: ask about the use of dump accounts. A dump account is used for training new hires or uptraining agents. This allows agents to train and become experts with your script without actually having to charge a usage fee to you, the customer.
Answering services that do not use dump accounts pass the burden of training costs onto the customer which can amount to hundreds of additional dollars per month for high volume accounts.
Last, but not least
The final item on your 2023 answering service checklist is to listen to sample calls and call into the main line at the answering services you’re evaluating. This is the best way to get a true sense for your own customers will experience the service. You’ll learn a lot from making a few quick calls.
Telelink has been answering calls for Canadian small businesses for over 55 years. We believe in transparent pricing, customer service excellence, and ethical business practices. Check out our website to learn more about Telelink.