What is a telephone answering service?

What is a Telephone Answering Service?

Answer4u Explains What a Telephone Answering Service Is and What It Isn’t

A Telephone Answering Service is an outsourced business provider of specialist operatives who answer calls on your company’s behalf. Whenever someone calls your business telephone number, they can take messages and undertake specific key business processes in real time. This saves your business time and money and ensures you are always available to your client base, an increasingly important feature of all UK businesses today.

It can get pretty confusing with the amount of industry terms what exactly an answering services provider is. The call handling services offered can vary from company to company. It can be difficult to understand what the difference is between a call centre and a telephone answering service. Here we’ll look into what each actually means.

Call Answering Service vs. Call Centre

Call centres are usually associated with ‘cold-calling’ or various types of outbound marketing and customer services calls. Answering services support callers who are contacting your business directly via an inbound call.

Whilst an answering service will operate in call centre environments, their primary functions are very different. A call centre agent typically has strong sales skills, aimed to overcome the adverse reaction to ‘cold-calling’, whereas a telephone answering service agent will typically have stronger soft skills and customer service skills, focussing on resolving the callers query.

Why do you need an Answering Service?

Why Do You Need A Telephone Answering Service
Outsourcing to a Telephone Answering Service

An answering service is a cost-effective way of managing your daily customer interactions. By outsourcing, you can avoid hiring new staff to handle calls or free up time for existing staff to work on other value-adding activities. And unlike an employee, if you don’t use your answering service, you don’t pay for any call handling. This means you can easily respond to an influx of calls, without straining your employees, and you don’t have to worry about bored employees when calls are low.

Outsourcing to an answering service allows you to spend more time on other key areas of your business and gives you peace of mind that the phone calls to your business phone number are being handled at all times, in a professional and approved way.

Answering services can operate outside of your office hours, making sure every call is answered even when you have closed for the day. So, when you return to the office you can have full confidence in knowing that all your business enquiries have been dealt with in a professional manner.

Benefits of using a Telephone Answering Service

An answering service can instantly respond to peaks in demand. So if you are running a specific campaign, have seasonal services or products, or you have members of your team on holiday, your answering service can step in with no notice and provide a seamless extension of your business.

Answer4u offer competitive rates on all levels of call answering with a full suite of experienced and trained operatives based in our Nottingham offices. With skills gained from working on many accounts, our operatives can deal with any type of enquiry or business process in a professional manner. Our trained agents and the cutting edge technology which supports them ensures the highest levels of customer service for all our clients.

Types of Answering Services

Answering services can be all-encompassing or very specific to what you really need. There are various options for what your business may feel is necessary, so here are a few options that could suit your company.

Virtual Receptionist Service

Virtual Receptionist Service

A virtual receptionist is the first point of call for any customers calling your company. They’ll get all the information from the caller and deal with it according to your specific instructions. Whether that be passing on that information on to yourselves or forwarding the call to the required person.

Diary Management Service

Diary Management Service

Effective time management is an important factor in a company’s bottom line and a 24 hour Diary Management Service will help streamline your day-to-day activities.

It allows you to concentrate on your day-to-day business appointments safe in the knowledge that calls for new and repeat business appointments are being handled carefully and effectively by dedicated call centre agents.

When you’re busy it’s easy to miss or incorrectly book appointments. Diary Management Services are used by trades, sales teams, dental and GP practices to handle their calls and capture all their new, follow up and recurring meetings or appointments so they can focus on their core business.

A real-time diary management system is used that links to your Google Calendar, Outlook or in-house online diary – so that any changes made are instantly visible to you and your team. Calls can be forwarded to you to your set criteria or messages can be sent over via email or mobile SMS for you to follow-up.

Managing your business diary
Managing your business diary

A team of Virtual Receptionists will work on your behalf as if they were in your own office. They will take the time to understand your business, how you like appointments to be scheduled including taking into account travel time if required. Calls will be answered accordingly to effectively manage your business diary so your day is as efficient as possible while avoiding any possibility of double booking.

Benefits of Diary Management Services

Virtual Receptionist Diary Management for Teams and Individuals

  • Bookings can be handled for everyone you want within your business. From one person to many, a Diary Management Service is flexible enough to support you as needed.

Caller Options

  • The features of a diary service allow for the caller to choose to make a booking, make meeting requests, amend a booking, cancel or check a booking as well as making a general enquiry.

Good Diary Management Requires Accurate Data Capture

  • All relevant questions will be asked to capture your diary entries accurately e.g. name, address, email, telephone number etc.

Calendar Integration

  • The service will integrate with your calendar however it is stored e.g. in Outlook, Google or your own in-house system.

Call and Message Forwarding

  • Virtual Assistants will forward messages taken on your behalf using your preferred delivery method e.g. send messages to multiple email addresses or SMS text messages directly to your nominated mobile phones. Calls can also be forwarded depending on your specified criteria and your protocols followed to provide a complete customer service function.

Helpdesk Support Services

Help Desk Support Service

A comprehensive Helpdesk Support Service can provide a customer service mechanism to your clients’ 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Effective helpdesk support is one of the most essential elements of customer service and this type of service will to help you provide customer experience levels that will set you apart from your competitors.

An outsourced helpdesk solution can supplement your customer service function on a permanent or overflow basis. It will help you manage your helpdesk’s peak call volumes, answer your helpline outside of normal office hours and enable you to cover holidays and illness.

Successful implementation of a helpdesk service will first involve your appointed outsourced team taking the time to fully appreciate the level of customer support and type of issues you typically deal with and the times you need support. An experienced account / project manager will then advise you on the ways the service can help and work with you to develop an overall solution that best suit your needs.

Helpdesk solution that supplements your customer service function
Customer Service Helpdesk

All required scripts will be prepared and agreed as well as protocols for forwarding specific enquiries to relevant individuals or departments for escalation. In addition, in-depth scenario scripts will be developed so the outsourced customer service team can offer help and guidance to your clients’ on their initial call. If required, service support analysts can work with you to integrate your existing customer support software into their help desk services to help provide a seamless problem management solution.

Benefits of Helpdesk Support Services

Overflow and Out of Hours Call Management

  • Your customers calls will be answered whenever you are unable to. The service is typically used to help you manage your peak times, unexpected high volumes of call center calls, out of office helpdesk cover plus sickness and holiday cover.

Caller Options

  • You can define all the different call categories available to your callers, allowing the outsourced partner to qualify the nature of a customer’s problem on your behalf.

Accurate Data Capture

  • All the questions you need to ensure accurate data capture and database building will be asked, e.g. name, address, email, telephone number, category of call etc.

Pre-defined Escalation Process

  • Your outsourced partner will work with you to determine when calls should be escalated, who to pass these calls on to and the correct process to follow.

Real Time Problem Resolution

  • Answers to your product or service FAQs can be communicated to your customers’ to your criteria.

Call and Message Forwarding

  • Messages can be taken on your behalf and forwarded to you using the delivery method of your choice. Messages can then be forwarded to one or more email address or as an SMS text message to pre-defined mobile phones numbers.
  • Calls can also be forwarded to agreed protocols.

Business Email Management Service

Business Email Management Service

With more business being on a global scale, people ordering online and round-the-clock internet opening hours, a Business Email Management Service will provide an effective email communication tool so you can respond to your customers’ queries quickly and effectively.

Effective email inbox management is achieved by gaining an understanding what your company does and how a service of this type can best help you and your time management. For some, this service is used to cover peak times to enable emailed customer queries to be processed within agreed timescales. For others, multiple inboxes are managed for all initial customer and technical support emails.

Once it’s established how the service can best support you, a range of pre-defined answers for your most commonly asked questions and subject lines will be developed. These can be as simple as an answer to opening hours or a more complex series of technical support answers to be given in a sequence depending upon a customer’s response. Bespoke email programs allow the service provider to include priority minute rules to your email organisation to ensure that customers emails are read and responded to within a timescale that meets your required SLA’s.

Benefits of Email Management Services

Real Time Question Answering will Maximise Sales Conversion

  • Maximise sales conversion at the point of interest with professional sales and technical email responses.
  • If required, priority can be given to important sales related action items that require a response to a specified SLA to avoid wasting time on lower priority emails.

Professional email support – Send emails 24/7/365

  • Important emails can be handled whenever you are unable to. A Email Management Service will help businesses stay on top of their peak sales periods and respond to planned media campaigns as well as providing cover outside of your usual office hours for support teams and general office queries.

Accurate Data Capture and Database Build

  • Accurately capture the sender’s information including name and email address to help build up your database of customers’ and prospects.

Product and sales support

  • Defined product and sales support functionality can be built into your email service script enabling your outsourced partner to check emails and reply to your customers’ product or service FAQ emails accurately.

Inbound Order Taking Call Centre Service

Order Taking Call Centre Service

Simple or complex order taking and processing the payments for services of products using a payment system process inline with your business. All done securely and as quick as possible.

Order taking and e-fulfilment services help your company gain a competitive edge and increase sales. Outsource order taking services to stay open for business when your competitors are closed.

Research has shown that even though your website provides a 24 hour online ordering digital shop front, a high percentage of customers’ feel more comfortable placing their orders with a customer support department by telephone. A Order Taking Call Centre Service can also help you process brochure or sales literature requests – often a time consuming but vital task. Outsourcing to an order processing call centre will allow your business to remain open and be available whatever time your customers contact you.

Payment processing
Around the clock order taking function for your business

A order taking and e-fulfilment service will help you facilitate customers’ who prefer to call rather than order online. Often they have questions they’d like answering before they purchase or want to verify details and have literature sent to them before making a commitment. To give them the very best customer service, An outsourced partner will work with you to understand your FAQs, and the types of call requests you receive. They will then develop a cost effective inbound order taking service that’s right for you, using predefined scripts to help them take your orders, process information requests from both the call handling side right through to the final fulfilment.

You’ll have the flexibility to use the service as and when needed so they can either support your existing sales team when they need an additional phone order processing resource or take complete ownership of your sales line.

Benefits of Order Taking Call Centre Services

Professional Phone Order Taking Services 24/7/365

  • Your sales calls will be answered whenever you are unable to. The service will typically help you manage your peak or seasonal sales periods, trading spikes as a result of media campaigns as well as providing cover outside of your usual business hours.

Order Payments Taken on Your Behalf

  • Order details can be forwarded to you securely for your own internal payment processing if required. Payments can also be taken via your own in-house merchant system of choice.

Accurate Data Capture and Database Build

  • By asking all the questions you need – such as name, address, email, telephone number, category of call etc.- accurately capturing the caller’s information will help build up your database of customers’ and prospects.

Real Time Support Services and Question Answering

  • Sales support functionality can be built into your script to answer your customers’ product or service FAQs to help convert them from enquiry to sale.

Bespoke Caller Options

  • You can fully define all the call types available to your callers, allowing an outsourced partner to qualify the nature of a customers’ interest on your behalf.

Fully Managed Telephone Order Taking Service from Call to Fulfilment

  • Everything will be handled on your behalf, from a call for sales literature to getting it sent via email.
  • Take orders at the point of interest maximising your sales conversion rates in the process.
  • Orders can be uploaded into your internal systems so your team can process and fulfil them as quickly as possible.

Media & Advertising Response Call Handling

Media and Advertising Response Call Handling

A 24 hour Media Response Service enables you to ensure your PR, marketing and recruitment campaigns always achieve maximum return on investment.

It’s an ideal solution when you are expecting a high volume of inbound calls within a short time frame.

With news agencies working around the clock and consumers increasingly ordering out of hours, A Media Response Service will enable you to respond to customer enquiries resulting from offers, news, product recalls or job adverts.

Tracking the effectiveness of your marketing spend can be made an easy and seamless process as your outsourced partner will provide dedicated telephone numbers for all of your active campaigns. This allows their reporting systems to provide a valuable insight into which advertising channels are working within your required ROI.

An experienced team of Virtual PA’s will ensure they have all the information they need from you so they are able to respond to the callers’ questions – be they consumers, job applicants or press officers. They will craft pre-defined scripts to enable answers to the most common questions and agree protocols if circumstances dictate a response is needed from one of your core team.

All calls will be handled professionally and accurate data capture will give you a valuable record of the media response received from all media channels as well as building your database of new and cleansing existing contact details.

Benefits of Media & Advertising Response Services

Dealing With High Call Volumes or Spikes in Activity

  • High call volumes or spikes in activity as a result of your marketing campaigns will be dealt with quickly and effectively. Your media response calls will be answered professionally within a UK based call centre 24 hours a day, 365 days a year so they never go to voicemail.

PR Call Escalation

  • Pre-defined scripts will be crafted to enable answers to your most common questions and protocols will be agreed if circumstances dictate a response is needed from one of your core team.

Accurate Data Capture and Database Build

  • Questions you need will be asked to accurately capture your callers’ information and build up an accurate database of your customers’ and prospects to include details such as name, address, email, telephone number, category of call etc.

Real Time Question Answering

  • You’ll be able to maximise sales conversion at the point of interest by taking advantage of professional order taking options.

Caller Options

  • The service will help you to qualify the nature of your customer’s call e.g. product query, sale or complaint by asking scripted questions on your behalf. Calls will then processed or escalated based on pre-agreed processes and protocols.

24 hour Telephone Answering Call Out Service

24 hour Telephone Answering Call Out Service

Emergency Call Out Services allow your business to provide a 24 hour service all year round so your team can be coordinated and deployed where and when they are needed.

By utilising experience of delivering a wide range of call-out solutions, an outsourced service provider will work with you to develop the best call answering solution for your requirements.

Whatever your call-out service covers – IT solutions, property maintenance or utility connection repairs – to your customers’, rapid response time is essential. By using a Telephone Answering Call Out Service, all your calls will be answered promptly, professionally and efficiently with help for your customers’ organised as soon as possible.

An outsourced partner will start by understanding your business and the types of call-outs it receives. They will work with you to develop the types of response needed for each, as well as the protocols and process for call escalation.

An on call engineer
Providing an effective engineer call-out response to help your customers

Before answering any calls they will have knowledge of the type of system failures being discussed, the information your team needs when making the critical call-out visits and knowing what to say when. If you have call escalation protocols and follow-up procedures – they will also follow these as required to ensure contact with your on-call team member(s) are made and the critical call-out situation is being resolved.

Benefits of Telephone Answering Call Out Services

Providing Best-in-class Call-out Service

  • Extensive experience with call-out procedures will provide service levels that will give your business a competitive advantage.
  • Expert help to cover your inbound call-out requests 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with any necessary outbound calls handled seamlessly on your behalf.

Establish Priorities with Defined Call Criteria

  • An initial consultation process will help define your call criteria to allow your outsourced partner to establish priorities, avoid time wasters and ensure the most urgent situations are scheduled and resolved first.
  • Pre-agreed scripts will help the service provider determine the status of each call and offer advice if a visit isn’t needed immediately or there are actions they can take in the meantime.

Accurate, Up-to-date Data

  • Relevant details will be documented from each caller so your engineers, technicians or maintenance staff will have what they need to help your customers’ as quickly as possible.

Always There for Your Customers

  • With expert Critical Call Out support, your customers’ can always reach a company representative. Knowing they are being listened to is of great importance to your callers.
  • By having their call answered when they need help most will develop your reputation as a company that cares.

Instant Control of Your Call-out Rotas

  • The service will allow you to make instant changes or updates to your call-out rota simply by calling or emailing a dedicated account manager.
  • Your outsourced partner will work with your schedules so customers requiring assistance will receive the support they need from the people who are available.

Emergency Calls – Crisis Management & Disaster Recovery

Business Critical Call Centre Services

Emergency business calls can come at any time, so it’s vital that you are ready and prepared. Having an outsourced answering service support team can ensure that you are always ready in times of disaster and emergency.

Business Critical Call Centre Services allow your business to continue as normal even when the unthinkable has happened.

Faulty telephone lines, long term power outages and building evacuations are just some of the types of crisis your business can experience. Crisis management planning for when the unthinkable happens is now an essential part of business life to avoid existing customers’ getting concerned or new customers’ taking their business elsewhere.

A small set up fee and a cost effective monthly management retainer can ensure your business is safe from disruption and meets any regulation compliance. A bespoke crisis communication management solution will be developed to your exact requirements in advance, in readiness of any future crisis response activation. And if needed, you can activate the disaster recovery service at a moment’s notice allowing the business to continue as normal for your customers’ whilst the situation is resolved.

Business Continuity
Disaster Recovery Solutions that ensure business continuity

Disaster Recovery Helpline Solutions can be developed for larger-scale disaster management when members of the public need to be in contact. These can include updates on utility resumption following a major outage, and managing family and friends concerns after a natural disaster, transportation accident or other major incidents. By understanding the different scenarios you need to cover, The service provider will develop emergency response call centre plans and scripts to give you a turnkey disaster recovery communication plan.

Benefits of Business Critical Call Centre Services

Crisis Preparedness Provides the Peace of Mind Your Business Requires

  • Emergency Call Centre Services can help provide you full time assurance of business continuity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, all at a moment’s notice.
  • You can continue to give your customers’ the service they expect even during a time of crisis. They will never know there was a problem!

Turnkey Disaster Recovery Plans

  • Disaster situations that can affect your daily business activities can unfold quickly at without warning. The flexibility to divert your calls to emergency call handlers at a moment’s notice is essential to your recovery plans.

No Loss or Disruption of Service to Your Business

  • In the event of a disaster there is no loss or disruption. Custom scripts will be set up and regularly reviewed and include answers to frequently asked questions, protocols for call escalation and an understanding of the needs of your callers. This allows the service provider to be ready when you need them and can start your service immediately.

Avoid Damage to Your Business Reputation

  • Outsourcing disaster recovery as a service allows your business to continue operating as normal whatever else is happening.
  • Avoid damage to your business reputation or confidence.

What to look for when you are sourcing a Telephone Answering Service

The provider handles all their own calls

Make sure your provider isn’t diverting some or all calls to other companies. This can dramatically reduce the quality and accuracy of the service and can escalate costs. Some providers don’t have 24/7 capabilities and may outsource out of hours calls themselves.

Provider has the ability to scale up

Not just in numbers of available agents, but in the type of calls they can handle and process. You may wish to start with a more basic message taking service at the beginning of a relationship, over time as the relationship develops, opportunities and efficiencies to increase your partner’s scope of responsibility may become evident. Make sure that your chosen provider has the ability to do that in the future.

Pricing model

Many different pricing models exist in the industry and some can be confusing and costly if not appreciated up front. One frequent ‘surprise’ can come from a model that charges by agent time but in full minute increments. That may mean paying the same amount for a call lasting 1 minute and 1 second and a call that lasts 2 minutes. If you are sending the provider hundreds, or even thousands of calls this can be an excessive ‘overcharge’.

Answer4u can design and execute completely flexible telephone answering services to UK based businesses large and small. With a range of fixed plan and bespoke answering service solutions, it’s worth getting in contact to discuss your pain points and how we can find a way to support and add value to your operations.


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