If you're a business that uses an answering service for your overflow, after hours or all of your incoming calls, you know how important they are to your success. Your operators talk to your current and potential customers, they can resolve disasters before they even occur and they have your back, always.
So it can be a little awkward to broach the subject of: the bill is a little higher than usual this month. Even though most businesses pay their answering service far less than they would pay a full time employee, it never hurts to take a good look at the way your account is set up and figure out if you can spend a little more money on marketing this month instead of operator time.
The key to all of the tips I'm going to give you revolve around the fact that you are generally charged for every minute that an operator is working with your account, talking to your customers, or talking to you. If you're using an answering service that charges a flat rate per call, you're very likely not getting your money's worth. Those services base each call on a set minute rate (usually around 4-5 minutes) - so even your best customer who just calls up to say "hey, can you just let him know I'll be a few minutes late for our meeting?" is costing you way more than you should be paying.
Tip #1: Get the essentials
If you are having your answering service ask your callers 8 questions, but know as soon as you call the customer back, you are going to be re-asking or clarifying those 8 questions (and more) - then you can keep your calls shorter by having your service explain, "the technician will ask more about your issue when he returns your call."
One of our law lines needs to know a LOT about personal injury claims to get started quickly, but with other case types, initial information can be kept to a minimum (since they are going to do a free consultation, anyways), and the calls are kept short.
If you want your answering service to get a piece of information that most people don't have at hand, you are likely wasting a lot of money with operators waiting around for your callers to check in their wallet for a membership card, or rummage through the junk drawer for their warranty statement.
Keep your message ticket just to the pure essentials required for you to determine the importance and urgency of the call, and you will definitely save some money next month.
Tip #2: Pre-call message to reduce unwanted callers
We have one plumbing company that absolutely does not service high rise buildings. With their last answering service, the operators were spending half the call asking questions that disqualified callers from service, and then having to explain to callers that they'd have to call someone else (and sorry, no, we don't have a number to give you).
If you have a few things that need to be said to your callers initially (we only service up to a 30 minute drive out of the city, or we don't rent properties, only sell!), it can save you some money by putting a short, pre-recorded message before your caller reaches an operator. Most of the callers you don't want will hang up (and not cost a penny!)
Tip #3: Don't have us call you
Back in the day, we took messages and then called the contact at the company to deliver the message. Now it's much easier (and cheaper!) to text or email the message to one or several contacts. If you're still having your answering service call you with messages, switch to text and see your bill go down.
Some of our customers like to be sure that their on-call staff receive emergency messages and they instruct us to check every five minutes to see if they’ve called in to confirm the message. It's a great way to be sure that the on-call plumber knows about Mrs. Smith’s broken pipe and is on the way to fix it – but it comes at a cost.
We need to add a reminder for a five minute alarm as well as answer the call that the message has been delivered. It can also be frustrating for the plumber to spend the time calling us and delaying his trip to the site. Now we simply add a tag to the text message that says “To confirm reply OK”. It only takes a second but once our system sees the reply it marks the message as delivered.
It's a small change – but when someone gets hundreds of calls each month the savings add up.
Tip #4: Use voicemail
This tip won't work for all readers, but for non-emergency businesses it can make a world of difference. In hundreds of offices around the world, calls are answered by a receptionist: "I'm sorry, she's not at her desk - can I take a message or give you her voicemail?"
It can work for your answering service, too. In fact, our $49 package is built around this. If you just need simple information from your callers (name, phone number, message) we can answer 80 calls for under 50 bucks a month, simply by adding the option for your callers to use a confidential voicemail for you. Callers who don't like talking to a machine can leave their information with the operator, and callers who wanted to say a little bit more (directly to you), choose your voicemail.
Your messages are sent over via email or text and your voicemails are sent over in an email (easily played from your phone), so you can run your whole business from your smartphone, anywhere in the world. If it fits your business, it's a great way to keep costs down.
Tip #5: Don't call into us
If you have an on-call schedule that needs to be updated weekly or daily, consider emailing this in to your answering service, rather than calling and racking up minutes yourself.
Same with confirming messages, anything that can be done via text or email can bring down your minutes (and therefore cost) significantly.
Tip #6: Remember, if business is good, the bill may go up
One thing to keep in mind - during busy season, or if a particular marketing campaign is very successful, you will end up using more operator minutes. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING! If you've already done everything above, but you used 300 over-minutes last month... but revenue is also up 20%, don't blame your answering service.
Remember that your answering service is helping you to capture all of your leads and new business contacts, and to not shoot the messenger. You don't get mad at the gas station because you had to make 45 extra service calls this month - you were happy to be on the road and bringing in the big bucks! Same thing with your incoming calls - they're worth it!
Tip #7: Switch to KELCOM
Coming up with tips like these, and ways for our customers to keep their own costs in line are just some of the reasons why we have customers who have been with us for over 20 years.
We're extremely competitively priced in the market (go look at our pricing vs. the big guys like Ruby Receptionists - our largest 400 minute [$335] package would cost $1069/month with our competitor), because we know that keeping expenses down is an important part of running a business.
Boasting 17 consecutive wins of the CAM-X Awards of Excellence, our operators will make sure that your business runs smoothly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - and the bill won't break the bank.