For many companies the primary reason they use an answering service is to screen calls. Many calls are routine and can wait until the next business day before responding. In these instances, the answering service takes a message and delivers it to the office, by their method of choice, when the business reopens. The office staff handles these messages as appropriate.
Other calls, however, have an urgent nature. These calls can’t wait until the next business day. They need attention sooner. In these instances, the answering service takes the pertinent information from the caller and then reaches someone at their clients’ company to handle it right away.
For the one-person company, the lone entrepreneur, they must handle all these urgent, after-hours calls themselves. Whereas, for companies with two or more people, this burden of responding to after-hours emergencies can be shared between multiple employees. To spread this load evenly and not overburden any one person, an on-call schedule is the best means of controlling who gets called and when.
Here are some options to contemplate to make your on-call schedule work best for your company and your staff.
Consider On-Call Schedule Length
A week long on-call assignment is easy to manage, but it may be hard on staff. From a management standpoint, simply let your answering service know who is on call for the week. But being on-call for an entire week, especially if the number of urgent and emergency calls is high, can take its toll on the employee. This decreases their work/life balance, thereby diminishing their attitude about their job and their dedication to your company. High demands placed on on-call personnel over a prolonged time can also have negative consequences on their job performance during working hours.
As an alternative, companies may opt to shorten the length of their on-call schedule by changing on-call staff each day. This diminishes the negative impact on any one person for being on call for an extended time and shares it among multiple employees. The result is shorter on-call shifts and reduced impact on employees’ personal time. To manage a daily on-call schedule, simply provide your answering service with assignments for the week or the month. The alternative is to let them know who is on call each evening when you forward your phone to them.
Use a Primary On-Call Schedule with a Backup
When one person is on-call, there’s always a chance that more than one call needing their attention will come in at the same time or will overlap. Expecting them to juggle simultaneous emergency situations isn’t fair to your employee or your customers.
A workable solution for this is to assign a primary on-call and a backup on-call for each day or week. With this method, the primary on-call receives all the urgent situations. But if they’re busy with one call when a second emergency arrives, that call goes to the backup on-call person.
With this process, companies often move on-call staff through a cycle. They start as primary on-call and then they move to back up for the next on-call window. Then they have a time when they’re not on-call in either capacity.
Assign Specific On-Call Schedule Responsibilities
Another optional way to divide on-call responsibilities is by specialty or department. For example, a mechanical contractor may have one on call for electrical issues, another for plumbing, and a third for heating and air-conditioning problems. Even though one skilled person could reasonably handle the full span of concerns, this allows for specialization and minimizes the impact on any one individual.
Rotating On-Call Schedule
Another interesting way of evenly handling on-call responsibilities is to simply work through the list of on-call personnel. The first person on the list receives the first call. The second person gets the second and so on. After the last person on the list handles a call, return to the top of the list. This rotation is ongoing from one day to the next. This may be the easiest for your company to manage because you simply submit a list once and forget about it. It’s also fair to employees because the on-call responsibilities are equally divided among them.
Consider a Weekday/Weekends On-Call Schedule
A final consideration is having one on-call person for weekdays and a second one for weekends. Since the imposition of being on call is more significant on the weekends than on weekdays, companies often give special consideration to weekend on-call staff. This is another way that some companies divide their on-call responsibilities.
Apply this to your small business
It may take a while for you to find the ideal on-call schedule that works best for your company and your employees. Test these ideas. Surely one of them will be an ideal fit for your company.
Now, try this…
Don’t go with an answering service that forces you to use a one-size-fits-all on-call solution. Instead, go with one that offers you flexibility with your on-call scheduling.
Contact us to learn how Apollo Answering Service can help you better manage your telephone calls any time of the day or night.