Is a Live Call Answering Service the Same as a Call Center?

People outside of our industry frequently get confused about what it is we do as virtual receptionists at an answering service. They understand that we’re on the phone a lot. So they sometimes think that our live call answering service is the same as a call center.

Why the Confusion?

It’s understandable. They aren’t in our industry. And they don’t know it even when they interact with a live call answering service. They may have a customer service question and they know that they’re contacting a call center. The number for a call center can often be found on the back of a product or very simply at the bottom of a website.

call center or answering service confusion

image via tintin44 Flickr

A live call answering service, however, is behind the scenes. They work so closely with businesses that callers are usually unaware that it’s someone working separately from the company that is handling their call.

Similarities Between Call Centers and Answering Services

Both call centers and answering services employ off-site staff to accept incoming and outgoing calls for new and existing customers. They both involve a focus on communication. You may imagine the same picture of both: rows and rows of people on telephone headsets, having conversations and redirecting calls.

answering service

That image is correct in many cases. Call centers and answering services both employ many people. In fact, people account for the majority of the operational costs. Though as technology improves, more of this staff is working not only away from the company that they service, but away from traditional offices completely.

Success for a call center or an answering service can be measured by customer satisfaction and average handling time. Staff at both businesses are expected to have exceptional customer service skills.

What is a Call Center?

A call center is a central, but off-site office that handles a business’ communication needs. It may be called a call center. But its methods for communication don’t stop at the phone. Communication methods include, but are not limited to phone, email, fax and chat. Call centers that included various forms of communication were once called contact centers. But people use those interchangeably now. Other terms for a call center are service center and sales center.

Call centers are an important direct channel for customers for large corporations. Customers expect a large company to have a call center. They expect that calling the company directly will be a simple and quick task. They’ll be able to ask a question and receive their answer relatively quickly.

More and more calls come into these centers because those expectations are there. Then, the call center requires more staff. These employees generally work off of well-formulated scripts and rarely deviate from them in the conversations held with the person on the other end of the line.

Who Needs a Call Center?

Large companies with a high volume of calls benefit most from call centers. Generally a call center will work for a single company. Large companies with high call volume like AT&T or Microsoft are likely to employ a centralized call center. Customized information that is location specific is not necessary to suit the needs of customers calling into these call centers.

Businesses that need a platform that will enhance their image, resolve problems and create a stronger customer base can benefit from a call center. But do they need the sheer size of a call center?

We Don’t Recommend a Call Center for the Following

Call centers are large-scale operations that come at a high cost. Call centers are not suited for small businesses. Small businesses rarely receive the high number of calls that a call center calls for.

We don’t recommended call centers for companies that would prefer that their level of service be off the script and more personable. Everything is very scripted in such a way that sounds distant and rehearsed. Some callers don’t appreciate that type of customer service.

What is a Live Call Answering Service?

There are different kinds of answering services. There are automated answering services, or interactive voice response systems (IVR) that greets callers with a recorded message and uses touch tones to route calls to departments and extensions. And then there are live call answering services. Live call answering services employ real people to greet customers, screen and route calls, and take messages.

Some answering services employees work as basic operators. They must answer calls, screen them, and take messages. Perhaps they’ll schedule appointments from time to time. They’re able to answer only a few questions about the businesses that they service.

Live call answering service employees are called virtual receptionists at times. It is a virtual receptionist’s job to fulfill all of the same tasks as an on-site receptionist. If you’ve owned your own business for a while, you my know very well how difficult it is to find a good receptionist. An answering service not only has already found one receptionist with all of the personality traits of the best, they’ve found many. And all of those receptionists are able to work for a small business in a way that is seamless. They’re able to answer many questions about the businesses that they service.

Who Needs a Live Call Answering Service?

A live call answering service is a great solution for small businesses, independent professionals, entrepreneurs and startups who are looking for a low-cost alternative to call centers. A live call answering service is a great choice if a small business would like a real person to answer calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even on holidays without worrying about the complications and cost of hiring additional staff.

An answering service uses scripts for initial greetings but speaks in a professional, yet warm tone as they engage your customers. That way, the customer will still get great customer service while the business owner and employees focus on the tasks that they are more qualified to do.

We Don’t Recommend a Live Call Answering Service for the Following

Though virtual receptionists sound polished and professional over the phone, they don’t always have high-level technical skills that may relate to your specific product. A well-trained answering service employee does not replace a staff member that has extensive experience in technology. Because of this, high level support, technical or otherwise, is not a service that a live call answering service generally provides.

Answering service employees are not trained to sell your product or service. They are trained to answer questions about your product or service. But they’re not a commission-free way for your sales calls to get done. A live call answering service is not what you should hire if you’re looking to grow your sales team.


Apply this to your small business

If your small business is experiencing a high volume of calls, you may be weighing out your options to outsource live call answering. Call centers suit large enterprises better than small businesses. And automated customer service often is costly and irritates the customer. A live call answering service is usually the most cost-effective and customer-friendly choice for handling a high volume of calls for a small business.

Now, try this…

We recommend you contact our live call answering service today.

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