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The Complete Guide to Phone Answering Services

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Founded in 2000, Moneypenny has grown from a small team of receptionists to the world’s leading answering service provider with a stellar reputation for excellence. Employing more than 750 staff in the US and the UK, Moneypenny continues to grow while maintaining the same small business values that were put in place the day the company was established.

We support over 13,000 businesses globally with our unique combination of extraordinary people and market-leading technology. With an emphasis on continual development, both in regards to our level of customer service and our answering service software, our dedicated Virtual Receptionists provide all the benefits of an in-house receptionist, at a fraction of the cost.

As the market leader in our industry, we thought it would be helpful to provide a complete guide to phone answering services, giving you all the key information about how outsourcing works and answer our frequently asked questions.

What is a phone answering service?

A phone answering service is a popular alternative to hiring a full-time in-house receptionist. An outsourced provider, like Moneypenny, gives you a receptionist to answer calls exactly as if based in your office. Your receptionist can screen calls, transfer callers to yourself or a colleague, or take a detailed message and send it via text message or email immediately.

Acting as an extension of your internal team, they look after calls all of the time or just when you’re busy – you choose. For those times you’re on another call, in a meeting or it’s outside your usual business hours, they’re on hand whenever you need; some providers even offer 24-hour answering support. As a business, you are in control of when your calls are answered. Whether that’s some or all of your calls, you can tailor your answering to suit your business and lifestyle.

For those wanting to capture calls outside of normal working hours, an answering service can be the ideal option as it means evening or weekend calls are answered, without the need to hire additional staff in-house. Calls are handled by a friendly, dedicated receptionist, who will have taken the time to get to know your business and how you like your calls to be answered.

Why do businesses use a phone answering service?

There are many reasons why a business may choose to outsource their calls to an answering service company, here are a few of the most common:

  • So they never miss a call again
  • As a way of better managing high call volumes internally
  • To ensure calls are efficiently routed to employees
  • They need additional support at peak times of the year or during marketing campaigns
  • To provide customers with a consistent and high-quality service every time they call
  • To gain more time to focus on running their business and generating growth
  • A member of staff has left the business and they need an interim solution
  • To reduce the amount of time their in-house team spend taking unnecessary calls (e.g. unwanted sales calls)
  • To reduce costs and avoid the associated overheads of hiring a permanent employee
  • To be on hand to answer customer calls 24/7, 365 days of the year
  • They often work from home or are on the road a lot and want to provide a more professional or traditional customer experience

Some of these ringing a bell? Check out our 5 reasons to use a call answering service blog to find out how Moneypenny can support your business – whatever your situation.

What are the greatest benefits of a phone answering service?

There are a number of reasons why hiring an answering service is a great idea. The most obvious benefits of a phone answering service can be that it will save your business time and money, allow you to be more efficient and provide your customers with an exceptional level of service every time they call.

But these are only really scratching the surface of what an answering service can do for your business. A specialist phone answering service can help you to:

  • Capture every opportunity
  • Increase your productivity
  • Appear as a bigger business with full-time employees
  • Provide a 24/7 point of contact for your customers
  • Never miss another call
  • Reduce unnecessary business overheads
  • Create a great first impression
  • Enhance your business’ reputation
  • Save time on handling nuisance calls
  • Improve customer service

Check out our blog, 5 benefits of using a telephone answering service, to discover how your own Moneypenny Receptionist can help you.

What types of businesses can use a phone answering service?

In short, any business can utilize a phone answering service; whether you’re an attorney at a global law firm, a realtor at a local family-run real estate agency or you’re an engineer running your own HVAC business, you will see the benefits. With a range of tailored solutions available, Moneypenny has 20 years’ experience of providing a world-class phone answering service for small businesses to international organizations. Whatever the size of your business, Moneypenny can help.

Some of our typical clients include:

Whether you’re an independent plumber getting 1 or 2 calls a week or a nationwide law firm getting 100, an answering service can be utilized to help manage your time and resources much more effectively.

Don’t just take our word for it. Read our case studies to find out more about the different types of businesses we support here at Moneypenny.

How much does a phone answering service cost?

Understandably, there are many online searches each week for “affordable answering service” and for “how much does an answering service cost?”. In regards to the cost of an answering service, unfortunately, there’s no set answer, and the price of a phone answering service varies from provider to provider.

Generally, there are two ways an answering service company will charge for their service; either by the number of calls you receive, or the duration of those calls in minutes. Each provider will have a different price per call or per minute.

Typically, you will select a package based on the number of calls or minutes you expect to need on a monthly basis. This can be tough to figure out if you’ve never thought about this, which is why at Moneypenny we offer all prospective clients a free 7-day trial, so they can experience our full service and see exactly where and when they need support.

How do Moneypenny charge for their service?

Our service is based solely on the amount of calls you need here at Moneypenny. We give you your own dedicated Moneypenny Receptionist to answer calls, regardless of how long they are. We also provide monthly call plan packages based on the number of calls you receive.

Get your quote now to find out what plan package is right for you.

Are there any long-term contracts?

No – we know you don’t want to be tied into a long-term contract. After your one-week trial there is a three-month minimum contract. Thereafter, we require one month’s notice to close your account from the date of your next invoice. This may not be the case with other answering service providers, so make sure to check before you make your decision.

Do I pay for sales calls?

Absolutely not. Here at Moneypenny we give you an allowance for these, which is an additional 10% of your monthly call bundle. This doesn’t apply to our ‘Messenger’ clients. Again, this isn’t always the way with other providers so make sure to ask this question when shopping around.

What is the difference between a phone answering service and a virtual receptionist service?

In most cases, there is very little difference in what these two services offer, but the services will vary from provider to provider, with some offering more than others.

Here are some of the basic common features:

  • Calls are answered as though the receptionist is in your office
  • Calls are transferred through to you when you’re available or a message is taken
  • Messages sent via email, text message or over the phone

Additional features, that may or may not be included in a phone answering service and a virtual receptionist service, include:

  • Appointment booking
  • Taking sales over the phone
  • Dealing with complex/technical customer queries

The services can be the same in many businesses, but there will be some small nuances between different providers, that’s why it’s essential that you pick the answering service company best suited to you.

How do I choose the right phone answering service for my business?

It’s so important that you choose the right provider and that they meet the needs of your business. After all, they will be speaking with your customers every day so the importance of your decision shouldn’t be underestimated.

You need to ensure you find a company that you trust to represent your brand perfectly, but also one that can understand and meet the requirements of your growing business.

Some of our top tips on choosing the right provider are:

  • Find out who will be answering your call. Do you get a dedicated receptionist? Or are your calls answered by a great number of people?
  • Where are their receptionist(s) based?
  • Go to their offices to meet the receptionists who will be answering your calls
  • Ask what their service covers – for instance, do they offer 24/7 support, voicemail systems or even business telephone numbers?
  • What kind of contractual terms do they have in place?

Need help finding the right phone answering service for you? Why not check out our Top tips for engaging a phone answering company blog for more information.

Are all my calls answered by the answering service company?

There are a number of ways you can work with an answering service company, some of which include:

  • All calls answered – You can choose to divert all calls to your answering service provider, this is great as it gives a seamless customer experience and helps your business appear bigger and more professional.
  • Overflow services – You can set up your divert to only activate when your lines are busy internally. This is a great option if you have in-house resource to answer calls, but want to ensure your customers are not left on hold, or worse, put through to voicemail.
  • Out-of-hours support – Some businesses don’t operate 24/7, but their customers still call in the evenings and over the weekend. An answering service is an affordable solution to provide your customers with a 24-hour service that meets all their needs.
  • Ad-hoc support – Many businesses choose to use an answering service on an ad-hoc basis, passing calls through whenever they are in meetings or busy working on projects. This allows you to maximize your time and efficiency.
  • Temporary cover – If you know your business is coming up to a busy period, or your in-house receptionist has recently left the business, you can hire an answering service provider to cover your calls for a temporary period until you’re back on your feet.

The important thing is that they are flexible enough to satisfy the unique requirements of your business. You don’t want to be tied into long-term contracts and receive invoices that will mean spending thousands of dollars a month, if you only want them to answer calls when you’re unavailable.

What happens outside normal business hours?

This can vary depending on your provider and the service they offer. At Moneypenny, we offer a 24-hour answering service, where we answer calls on your behalf every day of the year, even during the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

As standard, your calls will normally be diverted to a professionally recorded voicemail system outside of your usual business hours. Moneypenny, however, have the capacity to answer your calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with our dedicated 24/7 team.

Not sure you need support out-of-hours? We’ve put together a blog post to help you out – Do I need a 24/7 call answering service?

How does my provider know who is calling?

You are given a forwarding number that is unique to you. Any calls received on that line will make your screen pop up here at Moneypenny and the call will be answered in your company name by your dedicated receptionist.

How does my provider answer my phone calls?

In short, they are answered however you want us to answer them.

As part of your introduction to Moneypenny, we get to know you and your business and how you want us to answer your calls. We’ll discuss how you would like us to greet your customers, what questions you would like us to ask them and whether you would like us to try and transfer the call to you or write up a message and send it via text or email.

Moneypenny Receptionists are professional, experienced and knowledgeable, and will obtain all of the appropriate information from the caller while maintaining a relaxed and friendly conversation. We work with businesses from all sectors and of all sizes, and have years of expertize in call handling.

How do I manage my calls?

All of our clients get exclusive access to our Moneypenny app and online portal for free.

Our app is the perfect way to keep in touch with your Moneypenny Receptionist when you’re not in the office. You can also view calls and messages, update your availability and set your Status to change automatically all at the touch of a button.

Not to mention our online portal – as well as basic tools like viewing your call history and updating your status, you can also review call stats and trends, update company details or use our clever heat map to find out where your callers are located.

Picturing what our app or online portal are like? Watch our Intro to the Moneypenny app video or Get to know the Moneypenny portal.

We give you amazing people and technology:

Phone Answering

Your own Moneypenny Receptionist to answer calls exactly as if based in your office.

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Amazing people, briefed by you to manage chats whenever you can't.

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