The Best Answering Services, Top Ten Reviews, telephone answering services.#Telephone #answering #services

The Best Answering Services

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Industry-Specific Services

Answering Services Review

The top performers in our review are AnswerConnect, the Gold Award winner; AnswerAmerica, the Silver Award winner; and XACT Telesolutions, the Bronze Award winner. Here s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the top 10 answering services.

What are Answering Services?

If you have a high volume of incoming telephone calls that you can t quite handle, but you don t want to hire more personnel, an answering service could be useful in providing your patrons with customer service, freeing your staff to handle other duties. Answering services provide real people to answer your phone calls, take messages, set appointments, handle sales and more. These services are popular in many industries, and can be especially useful in health care and retail, specifically in the small- to mid-market range.

The answering services we ve reviewed here handle inbound calls. If you re looking for outbound call services as well as inbound, or if you want to focus on lead generation services and sales, see our Call Center Services review. For more information on Answering Services, check out these articles.

How Answering Services Work

Answering services can help you provide customer service without overtaxing your existing staff or requiring you to hire new personnel. Their professionals can answer questions and resolve customer complaints, even after regular business hours.

All of the services on our lineup answer incoming phone calls and customer questions by following a script you provide to the service. You can put as much or as little information into these scripts as you d like. Most of these companies have customizable options so that agents have as much knowledge about your product or service as you want them to have.

How Answering Services Bill

Answering services vary in how they bill services. Most of the services we reviewed bill by the minute, which works especially well if your incoming calls tend to be short. NovusCall is the only service on our list that bills per phone call, which is beneficial if your incoming calls tend to be longer.

Regardless of the billing structure, you should make sure that the answering service you choose does not count spam calls, hang-ups or misdials toward your allotted monthly time or call volume. Most of the services on our list don t charge for these types of calls.

All of the services on our lineup are based in the United States. They all provide daily reports, toll-free or local numbers (though some may cost extra), call patching and strong customer service.

When using a phone answering service, it s important to remember that while not hiring extra personnel may be helpful to you, not all services will be equally helpful to your customers. It s important to make sure beforehand that the answering service will meet the needs of your customers. For example, if your customers need to make appointments, make sure the service you choose offers that function.

Likewise, if you need an answering service to process orders, be sure to give the company plenty of information so it can train its agents to answer calls to your and your customers satisfaction. It is also important to make sure that a company s customer service is top notch. Otherwise, your customers might find the service they receive lacking, which may affect whether they work with you again.

What We Evaluated, What We Found

When we looked at answering services, we evaluated each service in four different categories: Setup and Billing, Service Options, Industry-Specific Services, and Help and Support. All 10 of the services we evaluated offer order processing and accept orders by entering your customers information into the front end of your existing website. Some products, like 1-888-GO-ANSWER, also offer lead-generation services.

We evaluated how long it takes your account to be activated. A shorter setup time means you ll be up and running quickly. NovusCall can usually activate your account the same day. However, note that faster isn t always better. For example, if agents that will be answering calls require specialized training on your product or services beyond what a script will provide, a longer setup time will allow for adequate training.

Most of the answering services we reviewed have competitive setup fees that go toward software and training. VoiceNation s basic plan has no setup fee, however, which could be helpful if you re on a tight budget. AnswerAmerica also does not charge a setup fee.

The majority of answering services bill based on a set number of minutes each month; that is, an estimated number of minutes the service s employees will spend answering calls and engaging with your customers.

While the services we reviewed have several different plans available, an average plan across the board is 500 monthly minutes of call time, which equates to about 150 calls. Most of the services we reviewed charge by the minute; NovusCall charges by the call. The cheapest plan for 500 minutes or 150 calls is offered by AnswerAmerica.

We also considered the service options provided by each company. In our evaluation, we included whether bilingual options, mainly English and Spanish, are offered and if the answering service is available 24/7. All but one of the services we reviewed answer calls all day, every day, which means they can offer service to your customers even when your business is closed. Most of these companies also offer online account access so you can easily view messages and reports. MAP Communications offers especially useful reports full of analytics and other information.

Besides what the services offer to your customers, we also looked at what they offer you, the business owner. Most offer to help you with script development, and most offer month-to-month options that don t require a long-term contract.

All of the services on our list send daily reports to you about the calls they receive, they transfer calls to you as needed, and they send you messages via email, text and fax. All of these services have domestic locations in the United States, and you can email them or call with any questions, comments or concerns you have.

Answering services can be a popular choice for medical offices, and we ve highlighted the companies that offer specialized services to medical offices of all sorts. One of the most important features for a medical answering service is HIPAA compliance because it can ensure the safety and security of patient information and may help you avoid lawsuits. Almost all of the services we reviewed follow HIPAA regulations. Stericycle Communications takes it further and has its own HIPAA team to ensure its processes are HIPAA compliant. It also trains its employees on HIPAA protocols regularly.

Also for medical practices, the service you choose should have the capability of scheduling patient appointments. Most answering services will use your scheduling software. Others, like MAP Communications, prefer online systems such as Google Calendar or Yahoo Calendar. Many answering services include appointment setting in the cost of their services, but some charge extra, so check for extra fees before deciding on a service.

Order processing is another common feature answering services provide. All 10 companies we reviewed provide this. Some charge extra for it, while others include this service in their basic plans. Be aware that not all companies process orders the same way. Most companies enter your customers information into the front end of your website. Others, like Professional Communications Messaging Service, offer their own software, in addition to yours, as an alternative to processing orders. This can be helpful if you don t currently have a website with a shopping cart or other established software to help with order processing.

The best answering services offer email, FAQs and live chat to answer your questions. We also evaluated our own experiences with each service, including who was most likely to give us a surplus of information without significant delays and without transferring us to different people. AnswerConnect and NovusCall provided especially high-quality customer service. Overall, we had a positive experience with each of the companies, though some were more responsive than others.

Each service on our top 10 list is worth considering. The best answering service for your business, however, depends on the features and extras you re looking for. If you want a service with solid customer service, Xact Telesolutions is a good choice. Stericycle Communications is especially well suited for medical services, and Professional Communications Messaging Service has strong features for order processing.

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    Alltel Live Phone Answering

    Live telephone answering is a virtual reception service that answers calls for busy entrepreneurs and businesses. When activated, calls to your designated numbers are redirected to a professional operator who answers in your business name. A virtual receptionist takes a message and sends it to you immediately via SMS and email, or connects the call to you based on your availability.

    Running a business is a juggling act and marathon mashed up into one. By trying to do everything yourself, other aspects of your business may suffer. Alltel Live Phone Answering services helps you manage your time and resources more efficiently by taking one thing off your plate, and giving you the freedom to focus on other tasks which are crucial to your operations without blowing up your overhead costs.

    Unlike voicemail and other automated messaging services, a live answering service keeps customers at ease, simply by having a real person at the other end of the line. Our operators are all native speakers and based locally in Australia, so your messages never get lost in translation.

    How will Alltel handle my calls when I can’t?

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    What is Messages 24/7?

    Messages 24/7 is a telephone answering service available 24 hours, 365 days a year. Australian-based operators answer for a specific person/department, and forwards the message immediately via SMS and email.

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    Sole operators, small companies, tradies, and startups looking for a basic live phone answering service as a call overflow or after-hours option for their business.

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    What is Team Messenger?

    Team Messenger is a team answering service for multiple people or departments within a business. Messages are taken and relayed to the appropriate person or team via SMS and email.

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    Medium-sized and growing businesses looking to share calls and work more effectively within their organisation. This service is also highly recommended for sales, support, and emergency response teams.

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    What is Reception Connect?

    Reception Connect is a complete virtual reception service that answers calls and checks your availability before connecting the call to you, or takes a message when you’re unavailable.

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    At AnswerMTI, we understand the need for a professional remote receptionist who can assist your clients and customers as the need arises. The use of a Local Answering Service

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    AnswerMTI has professional agents with a personal touch! We know that no two calls are the same and no two customers are alike, and that’s why we understand the value of leaving your customers with a lasting impression that speaks highly of your business.

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    I was amazed at your staff’s ability to screen calls, answer questions, and get necessary information from callers, while being calm and professional at all times.

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    SUITE 1000 is a U.S. based national telephone answering service. We have specialized in handling sales leads, appointment scheduling, and customer service calls for over 30 years.

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    The service provided by the Virtual Receptionist team is excellent. They genuinely act as a member of my own company and are always extremely professional. I doubt there is a better alternative for small companies looking to present a professional and seamless image to their customers. Excellent telephone answering service in every respect.

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    Phone Answering – Robots or Humans?

    If you are running a business, you will more than likely have had complaints from customers about their inability to contact you or someone at the office when they needed you. Most companies, no matter their size, have had this problem. When a customer is frustrated that they are unable to reach you or one of your staff, you might find that the person is no longer a customer because they will take their business elsewhere. Research has shown that the majority of people trying to get in touch are not willing to leave a message on an answer phone, which means that companies are losing out on when a call answering service is not available.

    With this in mind, you need to be able to provide your customers with a person with whom they can speak whenever they need to. This is where phone answering services can help you. Telephone answering services can give your business a constant link to the outside world seven days a week, 365 days a year if necessary. Once they have spoken to somebody, even if they are later routed to your voicemail, the customer will be happy that he or she was able to have a conversation with a person rather than an automated voice.

    Telephone Answering Services – Saving the Day!

    As this is a problem many companies have had to deal with, you may be wondering if there is a way you can avoid this situation yourself. As already suggested above, there is a solution to this problem thanks to the telephone answering services provided by

    If you look through their website you will find a whole range of services which will make your company more professional and always in touch with the customer.

    You can choose to hire a virtual receptionist for your needs, which means you won’t have to worry that your customers and clients are unable to get in touch with someone from your company. With their call answering solutions you will be able to provide a better service and experience for your customers thanks to the professional telephone answering services. Once you have been using the call answering system, you will find that you will retain far more customers than in the bad old days when you had to rely on an answer phone.

    It is important to the success of your business that you choose a virtual receptionist company that will be able to offer call answering when you need it. By having someone available to answer your phones 24 hours a day, your customers will be able to leave messages on their schedule rather than yours. So, to summarise, when you choose one of the services from you can be sure that your customers will not have to be put on hold for an overly long time, and they will not have to face another answering machine. You can also choose one of the other services offered by, such as mail shot and telemarketing services. You will find that there is a wide range of solutions guaranteed to make your business even more professional and more attractive to your customers.

    What Can Telemarketing Services Do for You?

    Putting it in a nutshell, telemarketing services cover a wide variety of call centre solutions. These can include telesales, business to business (b2b) telemarketing, lead generation and virtual assistant services. The versatility in the services offered means that telemarketing services companies have managed to make themselves as indispensable to business world as delivery companies and freight forwarding providers.

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    This article explains how to wire a UK telephone extension. You are allowed to install extension wiring so long as the connection to the master socket is via a plug, or in the case of the master socket with a detachable lower half, via the connectors on that section. If you decide to connect directly to the master socket or install/replace a master socket you should be aware that you are in breach of your licence to use the phone service and your service provider may charge if they have to come to rectify a fault caused by your efforts (it is rare for them so to do unless you have been really ham fisted).

    NEVER connect un-approved devices which take power from the mains to the telephone system. Even if you survive the mains on the cabling the poor wireman sitting in a muddy hole some way away trying to find a fault may not.

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    This is what a typical master socket looks like. You must have one of these at the point at which BT wiring ends and yours begins.

    Master sockets should not normally be used for extensions.

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    Extension (Slave) Socket.

    All extension sockets are like this. Note absence of ringing capacitor and surge arrrester.

    The connectors shown are Insulation displacement types (IDC), Extension sockets (especially if bought in DIY sheds) often have screw terminals.

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    Fixed Upper section

    This is the BT supplied NTE5 master socket found in many installations, this particular one is made by Austin Taylor ( ). Internally it is functionally similar to the master socket above but the components are protected by a plastic cover.

    User removable lower section

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    When the front screws are removed the complete lower portion of the socket including the IDC connectors for user wiring can be pulled out. They connect to the back plate by means of a fixed plug. The fixed plug is a standard BT plug and socket and allows all the internal wiring to be easily isolated for fault finding. A normal phone can be plugged directly into the socket remaining in the wall to test if the line is OK.

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    Wiring inside a master socket

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    Although pin 4 has no function in a domestic installation it is usually connected for the sake of neatness. The quality of wiring carried out by many older BT wiremen is often approaching art in its perfection.

    The BT Drop Cable (The cable coming from the outside world)

    Which way around they are connected usually doesn’t matter but as Rick Hughes kindly pointed out some modems (especially older USA sourced ones) and some answering machines are fussy about polarity, so it’s wise if possible to check the voltage on the line and connect -48V to the B leg (J2) and 0V to the A leg (J5).

    Usual Cable Colour

    Blue with White Bands

    Speech and Ringing

    Orange with White Bands

    White with Orange Bands

    Not used but usually connected for neatness

    White with Blue Bands

    Speech and Ringing

    An Important Note on Colour Codes

    The colour code shown above is the one which would normally be used by BT. HOWEVER it isn’t always adhered to, especially if internal wiring in a new house has been installed by an electrician or it’s been done or modified by previous occupants.

    You should never rely solely upon the colour code – always check both ends of the cable.

    The Nice Thing About Standards Is That There Are So Many To Choose From

    Just when you thought you understood it all, a brief word on plugs. The standard plugs encountered are the small RJ11 found on line cords at the telephone or modem end and the BT431A plug at the socket end. On RJ11 it is usual for the centre two pins to carry the signal, on BT431A it is the outer two.

    By a masterpiece of technical superiority between them the BSI and BT managed to number the 431A plug in the British Standard as a mirror image of the socket, so when inserted pin 1 on the plug goes to pin 6 on the socket, pin 2 to pin 5 and so on.

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    As the pin numbering isn’t shown on the plug you might ask why I’m confusing the issue. Simply, many packets of plugs in the DIY sheds come with a little diagram on the back which often follows the BS numbering. If you do the logical thing and put a plug on assuming the numbers are as on the socket the phone may not ring (and, as Adrian Graham who asked for this section to be included found out, without knowing the numbering is askew much pulling of hair, weeping and gnashing of teeth can occur as you try to find the fault).

    Looking at the plug with the contacts uppermost the BT numbering is shown above with some common colour codes. That on the left is the older BT colour code, that in the centre is the one more commonly seen now, and that on the right is often found on modems, imported phones and Sky/On digital boxes with only two connectors.

    A simple way of remembering the correct orientation for the BT plugs if you like mnemonics is Ring on the R ight. When you are holding the plug as shown in the diagram with the latch on the right the ring terminal (4 on the plug, 3 on the socket) is always just right of centre.

    Note that with the two rightmost 2 wire examples in the diagram going from RJ11 to BT will involve the colour code going “wrong” at one end or the other unless a junction box or joint is used. If the lead has a BT adapter at one end the colour swap is usually made there, USR tended to swap it in the RJ11 plug, others do their own thing. NORMALLY the center two pins on the RJ11 are connected to the outer two (2 and 5) at the BT end. No matter what coloured wire is used the two wires always go to pins 2 and 5 at the BT end however it isn’t safe to assume they ALWAYS go to the center two at the RJ11 end.

    Telephone History Social Reaction, telephone answering machines.#Telephone #answering #machines

    telephone answering machines

    Telephone answering machines

    At first, the telephone was seen as a toy. People were (also) suspicious of telephones. (The 1800’s were) a time when few people had firsthand experience of electrical machines, even telegraphs. There were fears that other people could also listen in on the telephone conversations, or that the sounds from telephones could make you deaf or crazy. . Even telegraph companies encouraged false rumors that the telephone had bad effects because they were afraid of the competition. (Parker, 1995, p. 21)

    Positive Aspect of the Phone

    Telephone answering machines

    Ernestine the Operator

    Before the telephone, information had to come to people from books and newspapers. People also had to rely on other people’s memories and travel patterns. Now, people can find out anything anytime just by picking up the phone and dialing a number. If people did not know a telephone number, they could dial an operator to help them connect the call. (G. Schoelles, 2001)

    Originally there was one operator – now there are four to provide different services: local directory assistance, long distance directory assistance, 1-800 directory assistance, and dial-around directory assistance.

    The very first telephone call was Bell calling his assistant to ask for help. In 1937, Britain put in a public emergency system where people could call for help by dialing 9-9-9. New Zealand’s 1-1-1 emergency system began in 1958. In America, AT T decided to use 9-1-1 for its emergency system in 1968 and the first emergency call was placed in Alabama that same year. 9-1-1 went nationwide in 1973. The Enhanced Emergency System now directs a call to a trained emergency technician who gets the proper help and tells people what to do.

    Telephone answering machines

    Matt Groenig, 1980

    Telephone answering machines

    A common advertisement from 1915

    showing the social aspects of the telephone

    Telephone Pioneer Communications Museum

    (Fischer, 1992, p. 160)

    Connecting with More People

    Telephone companies promoted the telephone to businesses to increase efficiency, save time, and impress customers. A handbook for telephone salesmen from 1904 suggests reasons for residential customers to put in a telephone:

    While residential telephone service may not directly save money for the household, yet, in an indirect way, it accomplishes the same thing by saving time, labor, and drudgery, and in making the whole household run more smoothly. It is always on duty, shops in all weather, corrects mistakes, and hastens deliveries. It save letter writing, orders the dinner, invites the guests, reserves the tickets, and calls the carriage. It makes appointments, changes the time, cancels them altogether and renews them. It calls the expressman, calls the cab, and instructs the office. It invites one’s friends, asks them to stay away, asks them to hurry and enables them to invite in return . (Fischer, 1992, p. 67)

    Negative Aspects of the Telephone

    Telephone answering machines

    A 1929 comic of the problems created by combining the telephone

    and the television.

    (Pierce, 1990, p. 235)

    When telephones first became available to the public, many people were afraid that other people could listen in on their conversations. This actually did happen on party lines where more than one household shared a line with other households. Also some operators in small communities listened in on conversations because they were nosey or had a lot of time on their hands with nothing else to do. Telephones also allowed people to spread the news quicker, but the news was sometimes just gossip.

    Telephone answering machines

    An 1883 drawing of the future showing a

    woman socializing by air-car despite

    the large number of telephone lines.

    (Pierce, 1990, p. 224)

    Users of cell phones today have been warned that the amount of microwaves being beamed through their heads may be damaging nerves. Telephone poles with hundreds of wires became common in large cities and were very ugly to look at. Governments and telephone companies often fought about burying cables under the street. Cities wanted the lines out of sight, but did not want the streets torn up. Telephone companies did not want to bury cables because it was easier to repair a cable if it were on a pole. Many old phones were buried in wells, but some of the metals in these telephones leaked into the water supply and poisoned the water.

    Telephone answering machines

    A businessman listening to an Automated Answering System .

    Companies try to make the caller choose who they want to speak

    with to save the receptionist or operator time.

    Many times, the Automated System is too complicated or confusing.

    I think the telephone has actually made life more complicated, also. It used to be that you could just pick up the phone and make a call and be connected. Now, you might get a telephone system that asks you to press numbers to get to an extension, which has more numbers to press to get to another department, which has more numbers to press to get to a person, who usually isn’t there and you have to leave a voice message. You can get lost in phone system hell. Phones also do more things. You need to know how to program your phone’s numbers into the address book in the phone; how to work the games if you want to play them; how to dial up the internet to get your voice mails; how to keep your calendar. All very convenient, but all very confusing. The phone has saved many hours of time and made it possible to do many things at the same time. This is called ‘multi-tasking.’ You can eat your lunch, make a telephone call, type an e-mail into the computer, and carry on a meeting all at the same time. This also means that you are also expected to do four times the work that you would have been able to do 40 years ago. Many people get burned out by how much they need to know and how fast they need to work just to keep up with the changes. This is especially true for people who were born before the invention of many of the telephone off-shoots, like facsimile machines, teletype machines, cell phones and computer systems. All of these save time, but make life harder because special skills need to be learned to use the equipment. . (The telephone) interrupts you when you want to be alone (like when you’re trying to sleep, take a shower, or relax). Salesmen and telemarketing companies use the phone to sell items that they would have had to sell door-to-door about 30 years ago, and they call at all times of the day and night. There are now laws that state when companies call sell over the phone, and that they have to take you off their list if you ask to be taken off. Many people I know put an answering machine on their telephone lines so they can listen to who is calling before they decide to pick up the telephone. Telephone companies also offer services for a telephone to display the telephone number of the incoming call (Caller ID). A person can just look at the telephone display, decide whether that ID is someone they know and want to talk to, then decide whether they want to answer the call. (D. Schoelles, 2001)

    Even Alexander Graham Bell refused to have a telephone in his workroom so he would not be interrupted. (Eber, 1982, p. 80)

    Mark Twain sent a Chrismas greeting in 1890, which many people have grown to agree with:

    It is my heart-warmed and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage (every man and brother of us all throughout the whole earth), may eventually be gathered together in a heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss, except the inventor of the telephone.

    . Most people saw telephoning as accelerating social life, which is another way of saying that telephoning broke isolation and augmented social contacts. A minority felt that telephones served this function too well. These people complained about too much gossip, about unwanted calls, or, as did some family patriarchs, about wives and children chatting too much. Most probably sensed that the telephone bell, besides disrupting their activities, could also bring bad news or bothersome requests. Yet only a few seemed to live in a heightened state of alertness, ears cocked for the telephone’s ring – no more, perhaps, than sat anxiously alert for a knock on the door. Some Americans not only disliked talking on the telephone but also found having it around disturbing, but they were apparently a small minority. Perhaps a few of the oldest felt anxious around the telephone, but most people . seemed to feel comfortable or even joyful around it. . Sociologist Sidney Aronson may have captured the feelings of most Americans when he suggested that having the telephone led, in net, to a ‘reduction of loneliness and anxiety, and increased feeling of psychological and even physical security’. (Fischer, 1992, p. 247)