So you’re ready to take the plunge and set up an answering service for your home office. That means you probably already know about some of the benefits that an answering service can provide for you. Maybe you’re most attracted by the savings factor. You will certainly save time by not having to spend half your day on the phone. Think of all the other tasks you will be able to accomplish! You will probably save money, too.
You won’t have to pay the wages and insurance premiums of a receptionist/secretary. Or perhaps professionalism was the selling point for you. An answering service can help put a professional polish on any home-based operation. You no longer will have to worry about screaming kids or barking dogs in the background when fielding customer telephone inquiries. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided that an answering service is right for you. Here are some tips to help you get one set up for your home business.
Before you go any further, you must determine exactly what you need from an answering service. Is a toll-free number necessary for your customers, or will a local number suffice? Do you want your business phone answered by a live operator around the clock, or just during office hours? Would potential customers benefit from a bilingual operator? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What do they need when they call you? The answers to these questions reveal what you need from an answering service.
It is worth noting that answering service companies these days rarely just answer phone calls. They often offer a whole array of business-related services. For example, some companies can set up client appointments for you, take customer orders, and even process customer credit card information. Other companies can accept incoming packages and redirect outgoing mail in order to give your home-based business a more corporate-like address. Of course, these extra services do not come free of charge; you should carefully consider how much you will gain by using them, and then decide whether or not they are worth the money.
After you’ve decided what you need from the answering service, it’s time to shop around. Get out the Yellow Pages and call local services, or get online and widen your search to include national companies. Look for reputable companies that have been in business for several years and that have received good reviews (or “testimonials”) from their existing clients. Make a shortlist of the companies that look the most promising, and then call those companies for pricing information. Ask specific questions, such as:
- Is there an account setup fee?
- Is a long-term contract required?
- Is there a cancellation fee or a contract termination fee?
- How many phone calls are allowed per billing cycle?
- What is the fee or penalty for each phone call beyond the maximum?
Remember the more information you get up front, the less likely you are to be surprised by hidden fees or extra charges later on.
Once you’ve found an answering service that looks promising, there’s nothing left to do but sign up. Depending on the individual company, you can sign up in person, over the phone, or online via a secure website. Activation of the service might take anywhere from two to forty-eight hours. After that, you can sit back and let someone else worry about the phones for a change!Once you’ve found