An answering service can help many businesses big and small, brick-and-mortar and virtual. However, there isn't just one type of answering service, or one way a provider could handle your calls, voice mail messages, customers etc. These services are customizable, and can do a variety of things, but all those choices can make it difficult to determine the answering service for you. If you need help deciding on an answering service, and what options are available to you, then here are the four major types of answering services that are out there:
Live Answering Services
Live answering services are the most popular, and the most common, type of answering services. An actual person, or people, will be tasked with taking the calls for your company and handling them according to the guidelines that you set. Most providers will have the same few people working your calls so you don't have to worry about someone new doing something wrong. Oftentimes, live answering services can also include message taking, appointment setting, and a little bit of customer support. This type of service can work for a lot of businesses, and can handle a wide range of call volumes, which is why it's the most popular and the most common.
Internet Answering Services
Internet answering services, or online answering services, are perfect for e-commerce or web-only businesses where much of the activity is taking place online. These answering services would also include features such as accessing your messages online, live web chat services, answering web inquiries, and order processing. Although live answering services may also work for a web-only business, it often doesn't include some of the features mentioned above, which are sometimes necessary in e-commerce. Online answering services may be used interchangeably with live answering services with some providers, but if you're looking for some of the things mentioned above, then Internet/online answering services is what you want.
Automated Answering Services
Automated answering services are a great option for those looking for a 24/7 answering service, who want something there at 3 a.m. and doesn't necessarily need it to be a person at 3 a.m. It's essentially another way of saying you'll have an automated message or menu when someone calls your company, where someone can "push one" to learn business hours or "push two" to speak to sales. This is also a great option for those companies who know they receive a lot of call from people looking for basic information, and don't necessarily need to speak to someone to get that information. However, if this isn't your company, then automated answering services can be more of a barrier than an asset.
Automated answering services can also be mixed with live answering service, which is a good combination for those who want to give callers to option to leave a message and to receive a call later.
Call Center Services
Call center services are an answering service that's best for those that need help handling a high call volume, whether it's for lead generation, the busy season, or even to help the receptionists and/or customer service representatives you already have on staff. Call center services are also really good for companies who tend to spend a long time on the phone, where the time is spent qualifying a lead, or taking an order, or helping a customer. In these cases, you need many people working the phones so customers aren't waiting a long time to speak to someone, which is why call center services are the best answering service for these particular instances.
Those are the four major types of answering services. Hopefully, this information helps in making a decision and in choosing the best answering service for you.