6 Tips on Choosing an Answering Service for Small Businesses

Did you know that around 72% to 80% of customers will hang up and not leave a voicemail message if they call a business and no one answers?

That’s right – most of your potential clients will likely turn to your competitors if you don’t take their call. And the time doesn’t matter either. Inevitably, businesses have to adopt answering services to serve incoming customer queries and grow market share.

If you’re in the market for such a service, keep reading for valuable pointers for choosing an answering service.

What’s an Answering Service?

An answering service is a system that processes incoming phone calls from customers and other stakeholders on behalf of other businesses.

But beyond that, are all answering services the same? Let’s look at various types of answering services.

Types of Answering Services

There are various options for answering services businesses can adopt depending on their scale and objectives. These include:

1. Interactive Voice Response Systems

An interactive voice response (IVR) system is an automated answering service system. Such a service offers a list of options to a customer calling in.

For example, when a client calls a business and receives a list of options for seeking help, that’s an IVR system at work. An IVR system is pretty easy to scale, which comes in handy if your business needs operational flexibility as it grows.

An IVR system’s downside is that it can’t be as dynamic in responding to clients since it’s automated by nature. If a caller places a request the system can’t interpret, it won’t know to explore the issue further and serve the client. Instead, the caller will leave without having their needs met.

As such, an IVR system is often meant to supplement a human answering service agent and not replace them.

If your business receives more calls than the team can handle, an IVR service is a suitable option. Additionally, if your customers require basic assistance, you can effectively deploy an IVR service.

2. Call Centers

A more widely recognized answering service option, call centers are operated by humans and specialize in certain functions over the phone.

Typically, a call center will be a large-scale affair, and that works well for businesses that process a vast volume of less complex customer calls simultaneously. Due to its large-scale nature, a call center can handle such inquiries rapidly.

Every call enter service agent operates from a written script. Thus, there is a lack of personalized care for clients (who can discern they didn’t reach the business but a call center).

Another less perceptible (but still impactful) factor is that it’s more outbound if you choose to use a call center as an answering service. The primary revenue source for a call center is reaching out to customers.

As such, a call center answering service agent may be less trained in handling incoming customer calls at a personalized level. If your business deals with thousands of customers, is a B2C operation, or relies on huge sales, a call center may work perfectly for you.

3. Virtual Receptionists

A virtual receptionist is a human-based answering service that processes calls remotely.

The most salient benefit of a virtual receptionist is that to a caller, they sound like someone located inside your business. Callers get a personalized feel, which can lead to meaningful connections with potential clients.

Virtual receptionists work well for a broad range of businesses, from small firms, high-touch industries to firms receiving an unexpected volume of calls at irregular hours.

What to Look for When Choosing an Answering Service

Since several answering service options exist, small businesses need to know how to evaluate these options and hire the best provider. Some of the things to look for when selecting an answering service as a small rim include:

1. Industry Experience

A suitable answering service should have a proven track record in serving firms operating in your space. That includes experience in supporting businesses at your scale.

The right answering service needs to understand your industry’s needs and dynamics to anticipate and support your firm’s service delivery.

2. The Right Technology

When you talk about answering service technology, most businesses immediately think about what is needed to deliver the service. While that’s a critical factor to weigh, the technology question goes beyond that.

Before you hire an answering service, you need to look at the technology they adopt to address service downtimes. The customer experience you deliver will only be as good as the redundancies put in place.

For example, if the answering service has no technology solution to address power outages, you’ll keep frustrating your clients anytime the power supply is out.

3. Operational Scale

The size of the answering service provider should matter to your business.


If you hire a service provider operating at a large-scale level, you will be less of a priority for them as a small business. Any effort such a provider puts in to woo and serve its clients will be geared more towards their big accounts.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you opt for an answering service that’s smaller than you, service constraints will be typical. Inevitably, your customer experience will suffer.

You want to match your small business to a service provider who can treat you as a priority and have the suitable capacity to serve you.

4. Find Out Where Your Calls Go

It’s common knowledge that if an answering service handles your calls in one location and routes them to another, you’ll be in trouble. Such an operation opens you up to a lot of errors during rerouting.

You want a service provider who won’t divert your incoming client calls to another part of their business (or even worse, to other sub-contractors).

5. 24/7 Operations

It goes without saying that any answering service provider you hire needs to operate round the clock. Otherwise, you will lose customers who call your business beyond operating hours, especially if you are an online business.

6. Support Reputation

Any answering service worth speaking about has a known record for the level of support they offer. Ask other businesses to determine whether the advertised level of support is what they genuinely deliver during emergencies.

Hire the Right Answering Service Provider to Win

The quality of your call answering service directly impacts your customer experience. Therefore, the stakes are high when choosing an answering service as it can make or break your customer experience. Invest adequately in identifying the right provider to hire for tremendous customer success.

Keeping your customers happy is critical to your survival and growth. Our website features tips to help businesses better serve their clients. Check out more of our articles to learn how you can ship a stellar customer experience.