Wouldn’t it be great if customers only called when you’re 100% available? 

Sadly, that’s not the case. 

Customers call when they need support, even if that means calling with a burning concern while you’re trying to put out a fire somewhere else in your business. 

Or calling at 11 pm when you’re out-of-office. 

And customers expect someone to always be available to hear their concerns. 

Clutch surveyed 501 people who called businesses at least three times within a six-month period. They discovered that 88% of respondents preferred speaking to a live customer agent instead of navigating a phone menu

Customers don’t like the impersonal feel of an automated response. They want to talk to a real person who will express empathy and help them resolve their issues. 

Some businesses turn to a telephone answering service to provide that live customer support 24/7.

So, let’s start by defining what a telephone answering service does.

What Really Is a Telephone Answering Service? 

A telephone answering service has two defining characteristics. First, a telephone answering service is often viewed as a call center. A customer calls, follows the prompts of an auto-attendant and then speaks with the available operator. 

Second, the people who answer the phones follow a script. They will then take a message and pass it on to the relevant person in your company. There usually is no follow-up on the part of the telephone operator to ensure the customer’s query was resolved. So, it’s not surprising that “91% of customers are frustrated when they have to contact a company multiple times for the same reason.” 

On the surface, a telephone answering service may seem like a good option for your business. It’s cost-effective since you’re outsourcing instead of hiring full-time employees. You get access to a group of people who can answer your calls 24/7. None of your calls are missed, and you get the messages you need for appropriate follow-up.

But there are issues with using a telephone answering service. We alluded to two of those issues: frustrated customers and the telephone operators not being an extension of your team. 

The issues don’t stop there. Let’s explore four additional issues that will probably make you reconsider using a telephone answering service for your business. 

4 Reasons a Virtual Telephone Answering Service Isn’t Enough

You’re already stretched thin as a small business owner with few staff. There aren’t enough hands-on-deck to ensure you never miss about 62% of your calls

But carefully consider these four issues with virtual telephone answering services before making the leap to outsource your business calls to them. Here, we’re focusing on virtual telephone answering services because most of these providers are accessible virtually. 

1. Auto attendants just don’t cut it.  

Customers are usually greeted by an auto-attendant if you’re using a virtual telephone answering service. Ever heard an automated voice tell you to press one to be directed to X department or say a specific word to move to the next step? That was an auto attendant. 

Auto-attendants are meant to streamline calls so that customers are sent to the right places. They have their place if they follow one rule: keep it simple. Otherwise, customers lose their patience, and 85% of them will abandon the call.  

What sometimes happens, though, especially outside of business hours, is that the auto-attendant directs the call to voicemail. You have a 75% chance of losing a customer if your call goes to voicemail. Also, callers who don’t reach you on the first call are 85% more likely to not call back.  

The alternative? A virtual receptionist who operates as part of your team, not as an outsider. There are two ways you can set your virtual receptionist up for success: know your phone system and keep your virtual receptionist up-to-date through collaboration.

2. Personalized interactions don’t come with a quota.

Providing the best possible customer experience helps set your brand apart from competitors. According to Dimension Data’s 2017 Global Customer Experience report, “84% of companies that work to improve their customer experience report an increase in their revenue.”

Personalized interaction forms a big part of improving the customer experience. Personalized interaction is no longer an option, it’s an expectation. Research by Salesforce shows that 59% of customers expect tailored engagement based on past interactions.

Here’s the truth. A virtual telephone answering service doesn’t provide the tailored engagement your customers need. The bottom line for a telephone answering service is getting through as many calls as possible within the parameters of your contract.

You usually have two options with a telephone answering service contract. You’re either charged based on the number of calls you receive or how long those calls last. But it’s difficult to gauge either of those figures, even after completing a 7-day free trial with the service provider. 

The alternative? A virtual receptionist who meets the needs of your growing business at a reasonable price.

3. An out-of-hours telephone answering service can create extra work. 

Operators from a virtual telephone answering service aren’t required to track messages from the out-of-hours calls they receive. They take a message and send you either an email or notification about the call. Imagine getting hundreds of these emails or notifications. Who is there to help you keep track?

Instead of just taking a message, an out-of-hours virtual receptionist will have a conversation (using your FAQs) with the caller to rectify the situation as best as possible. She’ll escalate the case to the relevant person if the issue can’t be resolved. 

A virtual receptionist’s approach is all about helping the caller feel calm and happy that the issue is being resolved. This receptionist will personally follow up the following business day to ensure that the person responsible is aware of the issue and will also contact the caller to follow up if necessary.

4. Specialized customer service is the future of great business.

Outsourcing your customer service to an experienced provider helps improve the customer experience. As we mentioned before, great customer service is a big deal. 

Still not convinced? Research conducted by PWC reveals that “73% of customers agree that customer experience helps to drive their buying decision.” Also, the same study shows that “69% of Americans say they’ll spend more with a company that has good customer service.” 

Most customers aren’t dishing out their hard-earned money if your customer experience isn’t great. With a virtual telephone answering service, there’s no guarantee your company will consistently provide a great customer experience. That’s why you should consider specialized customer service.

But you should only work with providers who specialize in working as part of your team rather than as a separate entity. The benefits of hiring specialized customer service providers make adding them to your team a no-brainer.

Wrapping Up: You Need More Than a Virtual Telephone Answering Service

Using a virtual telephone answering service may seem like the in thing to do. But customers expect more. They want to know that when they call your office, they’ll hear a friendly voice and speak with someone who takes the time to understand their queries. The human touch is what they need.

We hope this article has helped you better understand the weaknesses of a virtual telephone answering service. A specialized virtual receptionist service makes it easier for customers to get the support they need, even when you’re busy putting out fires. 

Smiledog is a leader in sourcing customer support specialists that help businesses to thrive by booking appointments and serving as your virtual receptionist team. We handle the answering of your phone and scheduling appointments so you can focus on maximizing reach with marketing, providing quality service to your clients, and ultimately, growing your business. Connect with a Smiledog representative to learn more.