Whether you're developing a disaster readiness plan for a large company or simply trying to field work-related messages while you're on vacation or a business trip, there's probably an answering-service provider with the services to meet your needs. You'll find that while some companies provide a wide variety of phone answering services, including Internet answering services, others specialize in a specific type of answer service.
A list of answering services and call centers shows the diversity of services these companies provide:
- Americall -- Provides inbound and outbound call center service, order taking, customer service, class and seminar registration, Remote Receptionist answering services (24/7 support for medical professionals, heating and cooling contractors, government agencies and others) and Web-enabled customer support.
- AnswerConnect.com -- Offers 24/7 national answering service, local answering services, business answering (live message taking, online order taking service dispatching, paging and live call transfers) call center and voice mail services that deliver messages directly to the customer's e-mail box for indefinite storage.
- SuccessfulOffice.com -- Emphasizes virtual office services for home offices, including a dedicated toll-free number; customized call answering; electronic faxing; instant notification of messages by e-mail, pager or fax; dedicated staff members; and sales support, appointment setting and order taking.
- AnswerLive.com -- Provides live answering service, interactive voice mail, flexible message delivery (via phone, e-mail, Web site, fax, pager or BlackBerry), inbound telesales and outbound calling services using bilingual Spanish-English speaking staff and virtually disaster-proof technology.
- VoiceNation -- Offers a toll-free or local business number answered by a live professional who can take messages, enter data into a Web form or forward calls. Services can be combined with voice mail, e-mail and electronic fax.
- 1-800-We-Answer -- Provides live answering plus call center services from order taking to voice mail to customer service. Also offers a health telephone call center, emergency recovery and contingency, and virtual office services.
- Specialty Answering Service -- This is a nationwide network of industry-specific call centers with operators trained to handle each industry's needs. Among the industries are medical, limousines, funeral homes, locksmiths and more.
- MyAnswering -- Provides live phone answering with Web services that include making messages available on a Web site in real time. Among other services are appointment setting, virtual office assistant, secretarial and voice-mail services, and medical answering.
These companies only reflect a small portion of the answering service providers available. The Association of TeleServices International, an international trade organization for teleservices providers, provides an extensive listing through its Connections magazine.
ATSI recommends that you carefully check out an answering service provider before you sign a contract. You can click "Find a Member" on ATSI's Web site to see a list of member companies. Be sure to also check with the Better Business Bureau for unresolved complaints against the company. Choose a company with a track record in the business and relatively low operator turnover. And ask for names of satisfied customers that you can contact to learn about their experience.
Answering services can be a tremendous help, but if you're not careful, you may have problems with them. Find out how you can prevent that on the next page.