November 15, 2011

Answering Service Types – Part 1

There are some basic types of Answering Services that can benefit your business. Gaining an understanding of what these types are can better help you communicate with prospective Answering Services. The three basic types of service are: Live Answering/Emergency Dispatching, Order Entry and Lead Generation. In this post, we are going to look at Live Answering Service/Emergency Dispatching. This service can be broken down into a three step process.

The first step is getting the call to the operator. This is accomplished by using the call forwarding services provided by your existing phone company. Your call is routed through the phone lines to a server at an Answering Service that presents the call to an operator. The operator answers with your business phrase and is ready for the next step.

The second step is gathering information from the caller. The guidelines for this information gathering (set up by you) are programmed into the system and on the display in front of the operator. This helps the operator gather the information needed from the caller, and also helps to control the call so the caller, the operator and you are all satisfied with the outcome of the call. The information is then used to complete the third step of the process.

The third step is dispatching the call. The instructions that our clients provide to us usually include handling for both routine and emergency calls. Routine calls are often processed by faxing or emailing the messages to the client. Emergency protocols can be basic or complex. Basic Emergency Dispatching can be just text messaging the message to your on-call personnel. More complex dispatching is often used, because clients want to have a system in place to be sure the call is answered by their personnel and also that it is done in a timely manner. An emergency dispatch protocol is more than just “Call Fred if you get an emergency call.” Below is a list of some items to consider when planning your dispatch protocol:

1. Do you want us to use Fred’s cell number or home number first?

2. If Fred does not answer the first time, do you want us to leave a message then give               him a pre-determined length of time to respond, or if he doesn’t answer do you                     want us to immediately call an alternate number?

3. If there is no response from Fred, how many times do you want us to try to reach                 him before trying a backup person?

4. If we cannot get a hold of Fred or his backup, do you have an escalation policy?

The protocols are designed to fit each client’s needs, with the result being a successful communication that begins with your caller and ends with you. We will work with you to determine a protocol that meets the needs of your business.

Understanding these steps will help you plan how an Answering Service will best integrate with your current procedures. Your Answering Service Account Representative will be able to communicate these options with you. They will also keep you apprised of how your decisions will affect the cost of your service. If you would like to discuss how an Answering Service can benefit your business, please feel free to call us at 1(800) 563-3717 or visit us at