8 Answering Service Problems and How to Fix them
Using an answering service can save you time and money and get you more customers. However, depending on the answering service you choose, you may soon run into problems. Not all virtual receptionists get the same quality training or have the same natural ability. The way your answering service runs its business will soon start impacting yours. So, here are a few of the biggest answering service problems and how to fix them.
1. Receptionist Doesn’t Know Your Business
When you sign up for an answering service, you want to know that you’re not just a number. Your receptionist should give a customized response when your customers call. And he or she should be equipped with the knowledge they need to answer basic queries.
However, if your answering service hasn’t given their staff enough training on your specific business, they won’t have enough information to do a good job. Sometimes it is a tech issue too, where the script and your company details don’t pop up fast enough when your customers call, so your receptionist stumbles through their greeting.
2. Receptionist Doesn’t Pick Up
It’s disappointing when a virtual receptionist fails in their most basic duty: to answer the phone. Usually, this happens when the answering service has taken on too many customers for their answering capacity, or they haven’t been able to hire more receptionists fast enough. Sometimes, there is even a problem with a specific staff member who doesn’t reliably answer calls. No matter what the problem is, the company shouldn’t have allowed it to affect your business.
3. Not Collecting Your Information
Your answering service should be able to ask your callers for any information that you need to serve them. It can be as simple as just asking about the nature of their call, or as detailed as working through a 12-point checklist with every caller.
Unfortunately, for some people, answering the phone all day can become boring. People may grow less diligent over time about collecting all the information that you need. A good manager at the answering service should motivate the receptionists and check up on their attention to detail well before you notice anything.
4. Poor Communication Skills
All day long, your receptionists will need to hear your customer’s concerns and communicate that to you and other members of your team. If they have poor communication skills, they can frustrate your customers and waste your time.
The most basic requirement should be that your receptionist is confident in whatever language or languages your business operates in. However, they should have many more sophisticated skills, including explaining things clearly over email or in notes, diffusing conflict, and listening even when a customer is irate. Your answering service should be choosing receptionists with some degree of natural ability for customer service and providing them with thorough and on-going training to improve their skills and keep them sharp.
5. Multiple Holds or Transfers
No one likes to be placed on hold or transferred to multiple people or departments. If your virtual receptionist is placing a lot of callers hold or making incorrect transfers to members of your team, a few things may be at fault:
- They’re not confident note-takers: We’ve heard of receptionists putting people on hold so they can complete notes and still be on the call. Good receptionists should be taking notes as they go, so they don’t waste customer time.
- They don’t understand your business: Your receptionists may not have the information that they need in order to make the right transfer. Better training can correct this.
6. Receptionist Can’t Give Customers Basic Advice
You’re the expert in your field, and complicated questions should always go to you or one of your staff members, of course. However, you can really benefit if your receptionist understands the answers to basic questions that your customers may ask or can give them basic advice or information. For example, if you’re a roofer and someone calls about a leak, your virtual receptionist may be able to give them some basic damage-control tips. You’ll find that your customers view your business more favorably and your calls go smoother if your receptionist can give out basic information—but for that, they need great training.
7. Bad Scheduling Decisions
If you started your business out as a sole proprietorship or with a very small team, one of the things you may have most enjoyed is the flexible scheduling. Giving up complete control over your schedule to a receptionist may have seemed like a mistake if he or she started to make bad decisions, like scheduling calls that might go long last in your day, or scheduling calls that are across town back-to-back.
Again, this is a matter of you and your answering service empowering your receptionist to make the right decisions. Do they know how long a certain type of call will take? Do they know how to gauge if something is an emergency? And do they have a map of your service area available? Giving your receptionist this information can fix bad scheduling decisions.
8. Billing Problems
Billing problems aren’t so much a problem with the receptionist as it is with the answering service company. Many have poor practices that lead to problems with your bill. Firstly, it’s wise to know precisely how you’re being billed. Is it per call, per minute, a flat rate per month, or some other metric? Keep in mind that if your package is exclusively about minutes, that can incentivize receptionists to stay on calls longer—which may not be what you want.
So How Do You Fix These Problems?
Sending in a complaint to the answering service can work. You can also sometimes help with these problems by giving feedback and empowering your virtual receptionist with more information. But ultimately, it is up to the company to better train their staff or to change their business practices to give you better service. In the end, you may need to switch to another answering service company.