Simply answering these ten questions will help you get the right answer from your Telephone Answering Service
Paperclip has been delivering Telephone Answering Services to hundreds of clients across South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and beyond for over ten years. No two clients’ requirements are exactly the same. Furthermore, a client’s requirements flex over time as their organisation evolves.
In our experience, clients that think through the answers to the following ten questions get more from their call answering services:
1) Have we got the right telephone number(s)?
Modern telecommunications technology means that, within reason, you can choose numbers to match your business and marketing strategies.
For example, if you are based in Sheffield but serve customers across Manchester, Leeds, Derby and Nottingham then you could have a local number for each of these cities.
For some services, prospective clients intuitively feel more comfortable calling a local number. This strategy can be very focused indeed.
For example, you could be based in Chesterfield and have numbers for Sheffield, Mansfield, Worksop or locations in the Peak District such as Bakewell or Hathersage.
If you are not sure, give Paperclip a call on 01246 418181. We’d be happy to help you.
2) What should be our approach to call diverts?
About 20% of our clients have numbers that come straight through to the Paperclip team. We function as their ‘reception desk’ and filter and transfer calls in line with agreed protocols. The benefit of this approach is that calls are answered within five seconds and in a consistent and professional manner.
Most businesses, however, operate with what is known as a delayed divert. The call is transferred to Paperclip only after an agreed ‘delay’ during which the client’s team has the opportunity to answer the call.
We recommend the delay is set at a maximum of 10 seconds. When the call hits the Paperclip system we aim to answer within five seconds, giving a total call wait time of 15 seconds. Research indicates that the average person is willing to wait for only 17 seconds.
17 seconds doesn’t sound much, does it? Try it yourself though and you’ll find waiting longer than 17 seconds is very frustrating, particularly if your call is urgent.
The golden rule? Treat callers as you would wish to be treated yourself.
3) What telephone numbers should we divert?
Anybody with teenage children will recognise how futile it is to leave a voicemail for them. Industry statistics show that for business calls, fewer than 3 in 10 people are willing to leave a voicemail. People don’t enjoy leaving voicemails and this is compounded by experience that businesses don’t respond to voicemails well anyway.
Most Paperclip clients start by diverting calls from their main landline number. They then start to add direct dial numbers. Those that are serious about customer service, divert calls from senior management mobile numbers too. The divert rules can be different for each number. You can tailor the service to your specific needs.
4) How do we want our calls to be answered?
How does your organisation answer incoming phone calls? Do you have set procedures that everyone follows?
The Paperclip team answers client calls in line with agreed protocols. The answer can be different for personal mobiles compared to, for example, the main landline.
When a prospect calls you for the first time the initial impression can be all important. In marketing terms, this is sometimes referred to as the ‘Zero Moment of Truth’. You can read our blog about the importance of the ‘Zero Moment of Truth’.
In Part 1 of this blog we looked at telephone numbers, call diverts, and how you would want your calls to be answered. Part 2 moves on to messages, out of office and more.
5) What is our messages strategy?
Most call answering service offers involve, at some stage, the taking and forwarding of messages. The key question to consider is: what information do you want your telephone answering provider to take?
The message could be as simple as the caller’s name, contact number, organisation and a brief note. For some clients this is sufficient. Others prefer us to capture email details, qualify the call in some way, or collect specific pieces of information that will make the call back more effective.
All costings for telephone answering include a time element. Eliciting and recording information takes time and there is a balance to be struck between best practice and keeping costs down. How valuable is the additional information to your organisation?
Just a couple of quick practical points. Your telephone answering service provider can copy in other recipients to your messages if required. For example, in some legal practices messages will be sent to both the solicitor and to their PA. Messages can also be sent for calls that did not result in any details being recorded. Such calls could include wrong numbers, issue resolved by Paperclip or sales calls.
6) How do we want incoming sales calls to be handled?
Many Paperclip clients tell us that screening for sales calls is one of their favourite aspects of our service. However, you have to decide if all sales calls should be screened – i.e. not put through to your organisation – or whether there are sales calls for some product or service categories that could be useful to you. One option is to provide your service provider with a list of products and services for which you are happy to receive sales calls.
If it is a nuisance sales call, Paperclip will ask for its client’s name and number to be removed from the sales company’s database so they don’t call back again. GDPR has been a huge help in this regard.
7) When should your calls be transferred?
Many times a call comes through to the Paperclip call handling centre because a client is busy and has put their phone on divert. In such cases, the best approach is to take a message or, where a specific protocol has been agreed beforehand, transfer the call to a nominated third party.
In organisations with multiple employees, each employee is able to have a bespoke transfer and message protocol established for them as long as it is in line with any guidelines established by the employer.
8) What do we want to happen with calls ‘out of hours’?
A small number of organisations, such as the AA, need to have calls answered 24/7. However, the vast majority operate within an 8am to 6 pm timeframe. The question arises, therefore, as to how you want call answering provider to handle you ‘out of hours’ calls.
At Paperclip, the most popular option requested by clients is for a personalised voicemail to be recorded for ‘out of hours’ calls. The Paperclip team picks up the recorded messages at 8am and deals with them in line with protocols agreed with the client.
If you have a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone system you have greater flexibility in terms of ‘out of hours’ service. VOIP clients can choose whether to have a dedicated voicemail, pick up the calls themselves, or have them diverted elsewhere. For certain clients, Paperclip diverts ‘out of hours’ calls back to a nominated mobile phone number or directly to a client staff member’s landline who works outside normal working hours.
VOIP systems also enable clients to divert calls to their telephone answering services provider at specific times during the day; you may be doing the school run or attending an important meeting for example.
9) Have we got the right balance between standardisation and personalisation?
Modern telephone answering systems are flexible and dynamic. They allow each client employee to have bespoke protocols established for message handling, call transfers and diverts. You, the client, have to decide where the balance lies for your organisation between the freedom to personalise and the need to retain a degree of standardisation to maintain brand and service consistency.
If you are struggling with this question, call Paperclip on 01246 418 181 and we will be happy to talk you through the options available.
10) How else can our telephone answering services provider help our business?
‘Added value’ is a phrase that has been hijacked by the marketing fraternity and devalued through overuse. However, in the truest sense of the words, telephone answering service providers can generate considerable added value for your business.
At Paperclip, providing we have secure access to a client’s back office systems, we manage bookings for health professionals such as osteopaths and physiotherapists; record and issue service tickets for IT support companies; issue quotes and invoices for plumbers, electricians and other trades; and this is just a snapshot.
Unlocking this ‘added value’ is down to you, the client. Where are the single points of failure in your service provision? Are you spending valuable time doing admin when you could be generating sales? Are their tasks you know could be completed more effectively by a third party?
We can feel another ‘ten questions’ blog coming on!
Outstanding. We used Paperclip Admin to cover maternity leave in our company, they were friendly, professional and efficient. We found their phone answering service very helpful when we were unable to take calls ourselves.
John Owen, County Conveyors