Businesses strive to deliver top-notch customer service, which can be difficult when customer needs arise outside regular business hours. That’s where an after-hours answering service comes in – a service that allows customers to reach a live person when the office is closed.

After-hours answering services offer a way for businesses to maintain excellent customer service without the added expense of 24/7 staffing. Services range in price and features, so choosing one right for your business is essential.

In this article, we’ll outline what after-hours answering services are, the types of services available, and their benefits. 

What is an after-hours answering service?

After-hours answering services are call centers that help businesses answer, route, and manage calls after business hours.

Businesses often use these services to provide customer support, follow up with sales leads, or take messages for individuals or departments. After-hours answering services can be staffed by human operators or consist of automated systems. 

Graphic with the definition of after hours answering services:

After-hours answering services are essential for businesses that want to maintain excellent customer service but cannot afford, or don’t want to hassle with, 24/7 coverage. These services allow customers to reach a live person even when the regular office is closed for the day. These services can be used overnight, on weekends, on holidays, or anytime the office is unavailable. After-hours answering services generally operate 24 hours a day.  

After-hours answering services are typically staffed by a team of customer service representatives available to take calls for multiple businesses. These representatives are trained to handle calls professionally and knowledgeably. In addition, they can take messages and forward them to the appropriate party. They can also answer questions, address customer support issues, take orders, schedule appointments, and more. As a result, after-hours answering services can be a valuable resource for businesses of all sizes.

Know the different kinds of after-hours answering services

Answering services can provide a wide range of support, from simply picking up the phone when you can’t to handling tasks like taking messages, scheduling appointments, and even providing customer service. Of course, different phone answering services offer different features and cater to different needs. But you should be aware of some general types of phone answering services. 

Virtual receptionists

A virtual receptionist is a fantastic asset to any business. By having a remote team of receptionists answering your calls, you can provide a polished telephone presence even after hours. Virtual receptionists can take messages, relay information, and add a personal touch that will make your customers feel appreciated.

Plus, by outsourcing your after-hours answering service to a professional team, you can rest assured that all calls will be handled promptly and efficiently.

When you sign up for a virtual receptionist service, you’ll provide the agency with a script that outlines the information you’d like relayed to callers. Your virtual receptionist will read this script verbatim to each caller and be prepared to handle routine customer service inquiries.

Many businesses use virtual receptionists as an after-hours answering solution. When your business is closed, your virtual receptionist will take messages and forward them to you via email or text message. This allows you to focus on your business during the day and still provide stellar customer service to your clients.

Virtual receptionist taking calls in call center

Call centers

A call center is a business that primarily uses telecommunications technology to provide customer service and business process outsourcing (BPO). This can include managing customer inquiries, providing technical support, or taking orders. Call centers are usually large businesses with a wide range of services that may be international. In addition, they often have a greater capacity for handling inbound calls than smaller businesses, so they’re more suitable for larger organizations.

Call centers also offer a more comprehensive range of services than most virtual receptionists. These can include making outbound calls, handling customer complaints, and handling more in-depth business processes, such as handling claims or taking orders. However, they generally use pricing structures similar to virtual receptionist services — primarily subscription plans with per-minute billing.

Auto Attendants

A telephone auto attendant is an automated system that provides callers with options to route their calls. The system can answer incoming calls, provide information, direct calls to the appropriate department or person, and even take messages. Businesses often use telephone auto attendants to increase efficiency and reduce the need for manual call routing. They can also provide a professional image of the company and help ensure customer satisfaction. Auto attendant systems can also include features like voice recognition, call recording, queueing, and more.

More advanced automated solutions like interactive voice response (IVR) can understand what the caller is saying and help them get the service they need. This can be helpful for people who need information or want to complete a primary transaction without speaking to someone. Additionally, auto attendants can provide options to route callers to particular departments or employees. 

Using an auto attendant or IVR system after hours can be cost-effective compared to using live operators, but they also lack the human touch. They can result in customer service challenges if they aren’t appropriately deployed.

Call forwarding

Call forwarding may seem like the simplest solution to answering after-hours phone calls if you’re a small business owner. But before you decide to use this feature, it’s important to understand the implications.

When someone calls your business phone number, a call-forwarding solution will automatically redirect that call to another phone, such as your cell phone. This can be a great option if you’re available after hours and want to ensure you don’t miss any important calls. But it also puts the burden on you to pick up the phone.

And if you can’t answer, most of those callers will give up, change their minds, or call your competitor. If you decide that call forwarding is the right solution for you, there are a few different options to choose from. You can only forward all calls when your business is closed or forward to an alternate number after a certain number of rings. The best option for your business depends on your availability and how much control you want over after-hours calls.

So before you use call forwarding, ask yourself if you’re available to take after-hours calls. If not, other solutions may be a better fit for your business.

How does after-hours answering service work?

After-hours answering services are available to take calls outside of normal business hours. This can be a valuable service for businesses that want to ensure they are open to customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An after-hours answering service can also be a lifesaver for businesses that experience a high volume of calls and need someone to answer the phone when they can’t.

Here’s how an after-hours answering service works:

First, businesses provide the answering service with frequently asked questions and information about their products or services. The answering service then creates a script that they will use to answer calls outside of regular business hours.

When a customer calls after hours, the answering service will use the script to answer their questions and direct them to the appropriate information.

The answering service will also take messages and forward them to the business during normal business hours or dispatch urgent matters to on-call personnel. Moreover, an after-hours answering service can provide businesses with peace of mind knowing that their customers will always be able to reach them, no matter what time it is.

Benefits of an After-Hours Answering Service

If you’re looking for a way to improve customer satisfaction, boost sales, and answer phone calls, an after-hours answering service is a great option. These services can provide your business with several benefits, including:

  1. An after-hours answering service can also help you to save on costs. Since a third party provides the service, you don’t have to hire additional staff or invest in expensive hardware and software. The answering service provider takes care of all that for you – no need to worry about the expense.
  2. Capturing leads is essential to any business’s success, and an after-hours answering service can help boost your lead capture rates. You can significantly increase your sales by devising call-handling strategies emphasizing lead capture.
  3. Appointments are an important part of doing business, and an after-hours answering service can help you book more appointments with clients you may have missed their calls. In addition, with the help of an after-hour answering service, you can ensure that appointments are scheduled quickly at the customer’s convenience.
  4. Answering services are available 24/7, so you can always rely on them to answer your calls no matter what time of day or night. As a result, you’ll never have to worry about missing another important call again.
  5. Satisfied customers are essential to the success of any business. Using a live answering service, you can improve customer satisfaction by ensuring that your customer’s concerns and questions are addressed promptly and professionally.
  6. Sales increase when customer satisfaction rates increase, so an after-hours answering service is a great way to boost your sales figures.
  7. Time management is essential for any successful businessperson, and an after-hours answering service can help you manage your time more efficiently. As a result, you can focus on other important tasks that will help your business grow by freeing up your time.
  8. You can improve your response time significantly by having someone on standby to answer calls after hours. This means that you will be able to address issues and concerns more quickly, which can help to prevent them from becoming more significant problems.
  9. After-hours support can also help improve productivity by taking some of the burdens off your regular staff. This allows your employees to focus on their daily tasks while the after-hours call service handles urgent inquiries or requests.
  10. Answering services are highly customizable and can be tailored to the needs of any business. They aim to function as an extension of your business. 

Graphic with five stars representing a five star customer review

Industries That Benefit From After-Hours Answering Services

Some businesses need after-hours support more than others. Some of the most common industries that can benefit from an after-hours call service include:

Property Management

An after-hours answering service can be a lifesaver for property management firms and their tenants. When emergencies arise outside business hours, tenants can get in touch with your team quickly and easily. Non-critical messages can also be forwarded to you in the morning so that you can stay on top of everything. This service is an essential part of any property management firm’s operations.

Information Technology  Answering Service

After-hours phone calls are an inevitable part of the information technology business. To meet customer service level agreements (SLAs), having the necessary resources and infrastructure in place is key, which can be costly.

That’s where an after-hours telephone answering service can come in handy. It can help open tickets, dispatch emergency issues, solve missed calls and provide exceptional service 24/7. This can free up your staff to focus on more pressing matters and help ensure that your customers’ needs are always taken care of.

HVAC and Field Service

When it comes to HVAC, plumbing, electricians, and other field service contractors, it’s an after-hours answering service is a vital resource. This will make sure all of your calls are answered and that you are only interrupted when necessary. In addition, answering services are essential if you provide emergency services. The service can answer every call and only dispatch those generating revenue. 

Healthcare and Medical Practices

Health emergencies, questions, and concerns do not abide by regular office hours, and your patients may need assistance at any time, day or night, 365 days a year. However, depending on the nature of your medical clinic or facility, answering after-hours calls may be impossible without disrupting on-site team members or hiring extra staff.

An after-hours answering service for medical offices can handle your calls outside regular office hours. It can capture messages and pass them on to the relevant doctor, route inquiries to the appropriate on-call medical professional, schedule appointments using your preferred software, and more.

Veterinarians

Most veterinarians have an answering service to take calls after hours. The service will typically have someone available to answer the phone and then will either transfer the call to the veterinarian on call or will take a message and have the veterinarian return the call as soon as possible.

The benefits of using an after-hours answering service for veterinary offices include prompt response so that you never miss a call, focusing on in-person care without interruptions, and filtering routine calls vs. emergencies. After-hours emergency dispatch is also a valuable service that the answering service can provide. This involves having someone available who can quickly connect with emergency veterinarians in your area and get help to your patients as soon as possible.

Law Firms

When running a successful law firm, one of the most important things is ensuring that new clients’ calls are answered and handled professionally. This means having someone available to take calls after-hours and on weekends. Often, these calls are the most lucrative for an attorney.

Making sure that your attorney call center is staffed with professionals who can answer questions and direct new clients to the right person is critical. The intake process can be customized around your law practice’s specialty so that callers are routed to the exact person as quickly as possible.

Contractors and Home Services

When it comes to running a contracting business, time is money. That’s why contractors need a reliable after-hours answering service to help them take calls and book appointments.

An after-hours answering service should be available 24/7 to best serve contractors and business owners. In addition, this service can help reduce labor costs by taking on some administrative tasks that come with running a business, such as scheduling estimates. 

In addition, an after-hours answering service can help increase sales by handling customer inquiries professionally and promptly. By having a dedicated team of professionals available to answer calls after hours, contractors can focus on what they do best – completing jobs and making money.

After hours call center

How to Choose an After-Hours Answering Service

Answering services are a great way to help your customers when you’re not open for business. Choosing the right service can ensure you get the most out of this valuable resource.

There are numerous factors to consider when selecting an answering service for after-hours calls:

1) Understanding the types of Answering Services

There are two general after-hours answering services: live answering services, like virtual receptionists and call centers, and automated solutions, which include auto attendants, IVR, and voicemail. 

Automated solutions are hands-off and don’t require human operators. On the other hand, live answering services connect callers with a live operator who can help them with their inquiries. 

2) Find Out What Their Limits Are

Each type of service has its own set of limitations. For example, voice mail services may not be able to handle complex inquiries or transfers, while live operators may or may not integrate with your desired software or perform the customer service roles required. Therefore, you should understand what each service can and cannot do to make the best choice for your business.

3) Comparing Pricing

Pricing structures vary among answering services. Some may charge by the minute, while others might have a flat monthly fee. Finding a service that fits your budget without compromising on quality is essential.

4) Making the Best Choices for Your Business

Ultimately, the best choice for an after-hours answering service depends on your individual business needs. First, consider what types of inquiries you typically receive after hours and choose a service that is best equipped to handle them.

For example, an automated solution may be perfectly fine if you only want to capture calls after hours but aren’t concerned with speed or customer service.

On the other hand, businesses fighting for customers after hours, such as emergency plumbing companies, may benefit from being the first to respond with a human customer service representative who can answer questions and guide the caller through the sales process. 

Frequently asked questions

Who answers phone calls outside of business hours?

A live virtual receptionist team ensures that all your calls are answered, day or night, 365 days a year. This can be helpful for businesses that receive a high volume of calls outside of business hours. You can avoid missed opportunities and keep your business running smoothly by having someone available to answer your calls.

What does an answering service operator do?

An answering service operator provides customer service by answering phone calls and responding to customer inquiries. They may also take orders, schedule appointments, dispatch calls, and provide information about the company’s products or services. Answering service operators must be able to handle customer complaints and provide solutions or resolutions. They must also communicate effectively with customers and in-house staff, both verbally and in writing.

What is considered “after hours”?

Most businesses have specific hours of operation, meaning any calls or inquiries that come in outside those hours are considered “after hours.” This usually includes calls during the night or early morning, depending on when your business is open.

After-hours support can be an excellent resource for customers who need assistance outside your regular business hours. However, it can also be used whenever you experience higher call volumes or need to step away from the office.

Final Verdict

After-hours answering services are a great way to handle all calls that can’t wait until the next business day — from emergencies to sales leads. These services are available 24/7 and are more affordable than hiring in-house customer service employees.

To find the right after-hours answering service for your business, consider the benefits listed above and decide based on your needs. 

After-Hours Solutions from CMS

At CMS, we have been providing after-hours call center solutions since 1967. Our highly customizable solutions integrate directly with the systems you use daily, enabling us to provide exceptional customer experiences and help you get the most from every call.

Do you need help handling your after-hours calls? Our highly trained agents are available to work as an extension of your office. Contact us today to learn more. 

By Published On: December 8, 2022Last Updated: December 8, 2022Categories: Blog15.2 min read

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