Telephone Answering Service

Tips to Streamline Your Telephone Answering Service

Be Intentional About What You Do So You Can Do It Better and Faster

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Running a telephone answering service is a labor-intensive endeavor. It takes staff to offer the personal service your clients expect. And staffing costs money, emerging as your greatest expense.

It may be tempting to automate your service and thereby hold down costs, but don’t do it. Though automation maybe a business strategy you elect to pursue, it removes you from the industry’s core distinctive of having people help people.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Instead of seeking to streamline the service portion of your answering service, seek to streamline everything else.

Here are some areas to consider:

Set Consistent Expectations

Consistency is the key to simplicity. Establish consistent expectations of what you want your staff to do and communicate them clearly. Repeat and reinforce as necessary.

You never want your employees—especially your frontline ones—to be in a quandary of what to do or how they should react in a normal situation.

Shorten the Onboarding Process

You sold your client on your service, so don’t delay them being able to use it. Don’t let buyer’s remorse have a chance to set in. Get as close as you can to offering them instant gratification.

Setting up a new client requires many steps and involves multiple people, from programmer to training to accounting and possibly even the technology team.

Remove as many steps and as many people as possible from the process. Set a goal to quicken the startup phase. Make it as short as possible without cutting corners.

Develop Your SOP

You should establish a standard operating procedure (SOP) for every reoccurring process. Having standards in place supports the goal of consistency.

Sometimes an SOP is a checklist to follow. Other times it’s a training process that everyone receives. SOPs can also be rules to follow or policies to adhere to.

Variability is the enemy to providing streamlined service. Seek to remove every variable every chance you can by establishing SOPs. This lessens the chance for errors and problems.

Automate the Back End

While we should guard against the urge to save money by streamlining the provision of service through automation, automation has its rightful place behind the scenes. Automate as much of it as you can.

Seek to apply automation to your onboarding process, not only for clients but also for employees.

Just as you want to start serving your clients as quickly as possible, you want your staff engaged in productive work as fast as is reasonable. What can you do to automate their introduction to your company and optimize their training?

Seek to automate scheduling to the degree possible. Can you automate break schedules and lunches? What about QA (quality analysis) evaluations?

Simplify Rates and Billing

Look at your rate structure and your billing processes. For most services they’ve grown increasingly complex over time. What can you do to make them simpler? What packages can you merge or eliminate? Seek to have as few options as possible.

If you give a prospect ten rate plans to choose from, they’ll have trouble deciding. If you give them only two, it’s a much easier choice. Although two options won’t likely fit every scenario, keep the number of plans as low as you can.

Likewise, seek to have as few billing elements as possible. Although the simplest rate structure is a fixed monthly fee and nothing more, that doesn’t work for most services.

After that, the next simplest is a base rate, included time or units, and the cost of overages. That’s three elements. Resist the urge to add more.

Don’t have other charges or fees. This irritates clients and is a source for dissatisfaction, which leads to service cancellation

Streamline Summary

Follow these five steps to streamline your telephone answering service.

This will result in less complexity and the associated errors that invariably result. It will also improve the service provided and increase profits.

Learn more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s book, How to Start a Telephone Answering Service.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his books How to Start a Telephone Answering Service and Sticky Customer Service.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.