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Answering services for small businesses enables companies with limited resources to handle their call volume and offer professional customer service. With the right solution, your company can stay on top of your calls and provide a five-star experience without the big-business budget.

But you need to decide what type of answering service is right for your company — a live call center, an automated answering service, or a hybrid solution. 

Each approach can be used to address the unique challenges faced by small businesses. 

Let’s look at how each works so you can decide which solution is best for addressing your business’s unique call-handling needs.

How Does an Answering Service Work?

A business answering service answers when a customer calls your business line. Instead of letting the phone ring or allowing a call go to voice mail, your answering solution interacts with the caller and resolves their issue or directs them to the channel that can help them.

Businesses of all sizes have some type of call-answering solution. Large companies might have an internal call center team or dedicated staff. But for smaller companies, funding a call center or even a small dedicated customer service team isn’t always possible.

That’s where answering services come in. Whether it’s an auto attendant, an IVR (interactive voice response), or a live agent, these solutions fill the customer service needs of companies that can’t handle all their customer calls in-house.

The Call Handling Challenges Faced by Small Businesses Today

The reality is it’s near impossible for small businesses to live up to customer service expectations without the help of technology or outsourcing. The main reason for this is the higher expectations of the digital era. People are accustomed to shopping online and interacting with businesses at any time of day.

The pandemic accelerated this trend, pushing more people to go digital and resetting consumer habits. Raj Patnam, VP of global solutions at ScienceLogic, explains that all types of businesses should make an around-the-clock effort because that’s how customers operate.

But 24/7/365 service isn’t just the new normal. It can also be the deciding factor that leads to a sale or customer loyalty. Over 50% of customers expect a business to be always available, and 59% are more likely to buy when brands address their queries in less than one minute.

For small businesses, however, delivering professional customer service after hours — let alone during a busy workday — is a challenge.

Small business owners don’t have the resources or the budget for always-available, high-quality service.

Even with a voice mail and email service, teams with limited resources don’t have time to respond to every customer query promptly. That leads to missed calls, unanswered emails, and missed opportunities to deliver professional service and win over customers.

That’s why many smaller companies use an answering service for small businesses. Your business will never miss a call with a live receptionist or an adequate automated solution.

What Are Live Answering Services?

A live answering service connects your customers to a real human any time they call your business. It provides around-the-clock call coverage, including after business hours and on weekends.

You get all the benefits of a 24-hour call center without the high costs.

  • With a live agent, customers have their questions answered or issues resolved immediately.
  • Live receptionists are trained to respond to queries for your business as if they were an extension of your team, so you know callers have positive experiences.
  • Your business won’t miss important phone calls or risk leaving a bad impression because you can’t return customer calls quickly.
  • A live answering service also frees up you and your employees. That lets your teams stay focused on high-level tasks instead of having to stop and answer the phone every time it rings.

What Are Automated Answering Services?

Automated answering services use technology to make call handling more efficient and improve customer experience. With automation solutions, callers can immediately interact with your business through an auto attendant or IVR system.

So instead of waiting for a receptionist to pick up the phone or having to explain their situation to multiple agents, customers control the interaction.

  • They use the auto attendant to access the information they need swiftly, so they can get what they need and move on with their life.
  • If they want to speak to a representative, the system directs them to the best agent for their needs. That saves the caller time and improves their experience.

But that’s not all. Automated calling solutions for small businesses offer useful features that help with far more than call handling. An IVR system can integrate with your CRM (customer relationship management) and call center software. From there, you can customize it for both outbound and inbound calling.

That means you can use your IVR for a range of customer service functions, including:

You can also collect data on customer interests, needs, and experiences through your IVR.

On the customer side, they benefit from the auto attendant and call routing.

An auto attendant directs callers to the most appropriate department. Callers can use their keypad or voice to request a certain department, or the auto attendant can determine where to direct the call by asking questions.

Overall, automated answering services give small businesses the flexibility they need. You can offer 24/7 customer service, customize greetings and call routing, and enhance customer experience with tailored outbound calling — all without hiring in-house staff.

Live Answering Services vs. Automated Solutions — What’s Best for Your Business?

A live virtual receptionist can take some of the burdens of fielding calls off your team. They also provide the professional customer service people expect, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Live answering services can be a game-changer for businesses that receive calls after hours or can’t keep up with the existing business-hour call flow.

Automated answering services provide more options for your customers and your business. The technology can handle some of your calls by addressing queries that don’t require a live agent. You also have many options for outbound and inbound calls, which you can use to learn more about your customers and streamline customer service efforts. 

For businesses with high call volumes, automation is a powerful tool for improving customer service and supporting growth. However, automated systems can’t fully replace live agents and can cause frustration if they fail to help callers get what they want. 

Exploring Hybrid Solutions: Leveraging the Best of Both Live and Automated Answering

Small businesses need not feel confined to choosing one over the other when considering both live and automated answering services. The most efficient approach often lies in integrating both services into a single, cohesive system – a hybrid solution.

A hybrid solution offers the responsiveness and personal touch of live answering services while still harnessing the efficiency and versatility of automated systems. For instance, an automated system can handle simple inquiries and direct calls, freeing up live agents to deal with more complex customer issues. This synergy ensures each customer’s needs are met, no matter the complexity or timing of their call.

Moreover, hybrid solutions offer a scalability factor. As your business grows, you can adjust the balance between live and automated services to match your evolving needs. For businesses that experience fluctuations in call volumes — such as seasonal peaks — hybrid solutions offer the flexibility to scale up or down as required.

This way, your customers always receive quick, efficient service while maintaining the personal touch only a live agent can provide. Also, your team can focus on tasks that require their expertise instead of getting overwhelmed by high call volumes.

Need Help Handling Your Calls? We Can Do It All!

Experience the advantage of comprehensive call management tailored to your unique business needs with CMS. We specialize in providing a blend of live, automated, and hybrid answering services designed specifically for small businesses.

Our customizable solutions ensure you receive the perfect balance of personal interaction and efficient automation, allowing your business to scale effortlessly as it grows.

Contact us today — we’re excited to discover how we can propel your customer service to new heights!

By Last Updated: June 16, 2023Categories: Blog6.9 min read