TechnologyTelephones5 best telephone answering services for small business

5 best telephone answering services for small business

Does your company rely on incoming calls from potential customers who want to place orders or book in new business? If customers or potential future customers use the telephone to call and make an appointment or ask about pricing or services, then you want to make sure that there is always someone to answer the call – which, for a small business, is where a telephone answering services can help.

Telephone answering services replace, or sometimes just support, a traditional in-house receptionist or call centre and can quickly become essential for a small business to answer incoming calls when you’re out or busy.

A business telephone answering service provides operators who can answer the phone in the name of your business, take messages, answer basic questions, provide essential information, clarify intent calls, and even arrange customer meetings by accessing your online diary.

There are plenty of service providers to choose from and if you’re working from a coworking space you might find that the centre offers phone answering (though perhaps only during normal office hours). When assessing a provider, think if your business needs someone to answer calls over extended working hours, say from 7.00am to 7.00pm, or even over the weekend. It’s worth checking if the service offers extras such as booking appointments and if they will work with your business phone system or VoIP phone provider to make it easier to transfer incoming calls.

I’ve looked across the market and picked out five of the best phone answering service providers in the UK at the moment. Here’s my shortlist:

  1. Moneypenny
  2. Answer Connect
  3. Aidey
  4. Verbatim Virtual Receptionists
  5. Face For Business

1. Moneypenny

Find out more at: www.moneypenny.com/uk/

Moneypenny is one of the biggest service providers in the market and offers a combination of features including answering phone calls, answering online chat sessions and more with a large team of operators that can provide live cover 24/7. The operators follow your scripts and can answer questions from an FAQ you write, and transfer calls to your mobile if required. I’ve used them and they’re dependable and efficient. They have a number of different pricing models including a basic subscription and a price for each caller interaction.

Services offered

Moneypenny’s services include:

  • Personal Assistant: Moneypenny provides a dedicated personal assistant service, which is matched based on features such as skill set and personality. Also, they will take messages, forward calls, and provide every other service that any physical personal assistant will;
  • Live Chat: an always-available live chat system on a web page can remove the need for a call to be made; you add a small amount of code to your website and it pops up when a visitor lands on your site; you can even link this to your CRM or marketing system. And, for Moneypenny, the live chat system is fully customisable: from the colour and position to even the chat button style and the background of the chat;
  • Direct system: to turn your phone into a business phone system. Moreover, Moneypenny offers business phone numbers if needed, and you can manage where your calls end up from your phone.

Pros

  • Verified outsourcing for 24/7 availability
  • A significant degree of automation, eliminating the need for multiple spreadsheets
  • time-trackers, or other various apps
  • It offers many helpful hints to quickly find answers to whatever the issues at hand are
  • Variable cost depending on needs

Cons

  • Can be expensive

2. AnswerConnect

Find out more at: www.answerconnect.co.uk

AnswerConnect is a 24/7 live answering service offering answering services and inbound and outbound call centres for businesses of all sizes including small businesses and startups across a range of sectors and industries; it provides telephone answering, online chat answering and even video calls with your customers. AnswerConnect can integrate with a wide range of business systems to book appointments or transfer incoming calls.

Pricing plans follow a model of a basic monthly subscription which includes a quota of telephone minutes and range from £149 per month with 100minutes up to £1199 per month with 1200minutes.

Services offered

AnswerConnect offers a variety of services that you can mix and match to meet your own needs. So, whether you’re a small professional office that simply needs someone answering the phone and taking messages, or a retail business with an e-commerce store that wants help processing orders, AnswerConnect can help you.

  • Live Answering: AnswerConnect agents are available 24/7/365 to answer callers and the operators follow scripts you write and use FAQs you have setup.
  • Message taking: AnswerConnect agents will capture all relevant information from a caller, including their details (name, contact information) and reason for calling. And they will save that information in your existing CRM system or forward the message to you.
  • Order taking: Agents can help callers navigate your e-commerce store and place orders, making digital sales easier for your business. 
  • Appointment setting: AnswerConnect agents can set appointments in your diary and send you an alert when a new appointment is made.
  • FAQs: You can provide agents with a list of the most common questions and answers your company gets, helping them respond on the fly to the callers without forwarding the call to your employees or taking a message for your later response.
  • Web chat: AnswerConnect provides customer service over live web chat without extra cost. One of the agents will respond to chat inquiries on your website.

Pros

  • No long-term contractual obligations. In addition, AnswerConnect plans run month to month
  • The first 30 calls an agent completes each month that last under 30 seconds are free

Cons

  • The pricing model might work well for you or might be expensive depending on your expected call volume – try and work out your current volume to estimate costs
  • The plans currently also have an additional setup fee

3. Aidey

Find out more at: aidey.net

Aidey has been providing telephone support for businesses around the world from its base in the Philippines for over seven years and provide 24/7 coverage with multiple timezone support.

Services on offer

Aidey works across sectors and industries from small SaaS startups through to e-commerce businesses and professional service organisations. Aidey provide telephone and online chat answering services and also offer email answering for incoming customer enquiries by email. They can provide basic business call answering services (taking messages and answering queries based on your scripts) or can extend the service to book appointments, process orders via your e-commerce website for telephone callers, and provide basic support for customers. They’ll integrate to your existing business sytems including CRM, calendar and helpdesk systems.

Pros

  • Provides free onboarding
  • Facilitates smooth workflow no matter what time zone it is
  • Sets up a team after assessing your customer support volumes, order complexities, and protocols
  • Free 21 days trial

Cons

  • Multilingual support is not available

4. Verbatim Virtual Receptionists

Find out more at: verbatim-cc.co.uk

Verbatim Virtual Receptionists is a UK-based team providing telephone and web chat answering services together with appointment setting, diary management and incoming lead-qualification, which would be useful if you’re running a campaign to drive up new business leads.

Verbatim Virtual Receptionist Services

  • Telephone answering: standard telephone answering service with 24/7 coverage – the operators learn about your business rather than following set scripts
  • Virtual receptionists: a team of personal assistants who can take messages, manage your diary, filter out incoming unwanted sales calls, and so on
  • Web chat service: similar to the telephone answering, but using web chat and with the aim of answering online visitor enquiries.

Pros

  • A free 30-day trial
  • Money back if not satisfied
  • 24/7 coverage

Cons

  • The team is small compared to some of its competitors – this could be a real benefit if you’re looking for a personal service, or a disadvantage if you’re looking for capacity to deal with high volume

5. Face for Business

Find out more at: ffb.co.uk

Face for Business is a UK-based service that aims to offer all of its customers a tailored, personal service to differentiate it from its bigger rivals. It focuses on telephone and online chat answering, together with PA-style services to manage your diary, answer incoming customer enquiries and filter out unwanted callers. There’s also the option to access the full recording of your calls through their dedicated app, which is not offered by everyone and could be very useful for sales training or if you’re in a regulated industry such as medical or financial services.

Pros

  • Offers a personal service tailored to your needs
  • Full recording of your calls through their app

Cons

  • Smaller team that might not be right for volume customers

How to choose an answering service

When you’re choosing an answering service, think about why you’re looking at a service: is it to cover your business out of hours, or in office hours but because you don’t have the capacity, or is it for something specific like booking meetings or supporting e-commerce customers?

Next, consider the channels you want to support – you can be pretty certain that all the providers will be able to support telephone and online chat answering but do you need video call support or social media support?

Lastly, look at providers who can integrate with your existing business systems, such as your CRM, helpdesk, and calendar. Whilst it’s not essential that the provider can connect in to your technology, it’ll certainly make it easier to transfer calls and manage new customer enquiries.

With this in mind, make your check-list of requirements and consider these features:

  • 24/7 availability?
  • Channels and formats supported (eg telephone, online chat, video, social media)?
  • Do you need support for specific caller activities (eg e-commerce, setting meetings, qualifying leads)?
  • Do you need multi language operator support?
  • Do you prefer a large provider with scale to support volume or a small provider that offers a personal service?
  • What business technology do you use that the provider needs to integrate with?
  • What is your budget?

Frequently Asked Questions

1.    What is the purpose of an answering service?

The answering service exists to make calls, answer calls, and deliver information on behalf of a company. And the principal advantage of these agencies is that they can provide a service to small and medium-sized businesses that don’t have the financial resources to hire an in-house team to handle their volume of calls.

2.    How do answering services work?

There are three big categories of Answering Services:

  • Automated Answering Service. Does something like this sound familiar to you? “Press 1 for technical support, 2 for company hours, 3 for billing, and 4 for a live operator.” These automated answering services aim to get the customer the help they need without having any human interaction.
  • Live Answering Service. These are the opposite: they use live agents for the first line when a customer calls in. A live operator can work in a call centre remotely as a virtual receptionist. Many business owners prefer live answering services for their customers to get the answers to their questions quicker.
  • Call Center. Many often confuse call centres with answering services, as they can perform many of the same functions.

3.   How can an answering service benefit my business?

Here are just a few of the services these agencies offer to make your life much easier:

  • after-hours/weekend call answering;
  • call screening;
  • text and email communication;
  • recording and delivering messages;
  • customer service, technical support;
  • setting appointments;
  • making sure all calls are answered;
  • handling high-volume calls during holidays, etc.

Summary

A telephone answering service can be a huge benefit for any business, from a startup to an established business. It can help answer traditional incoming telephone calls but can also help you manage online chat, video calls and more. If you have specialist requirements, for example helping e-commerce customers or booking appointments, then there are providers that offer these services.

Consider what would help make your business more efficient and improve the overall customer experience – use our checklist to help you assess and compare providers and choose a partner that will help you manage and grow your business.

Written by

Mark Hodgson
Mark Hodgsonhttps://gosmallbusiness.co.uk
Mark Hodgson is one of our expert writers. Mark is our lead researcher and editor who writes our main guides and expert topic coverage. He’s passionate about helping entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses with practical advice delivered clearly. Mark’s worked for a number of business magazines and titles and has started two small businesses himself, so has first-hand experience in setting up, managing and growing a small business and shares his expertise with our readers.

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