Shop Around, Sandy…(long) - Posted by raelynn mitchell
Posted by raelynn mitchell on April 02, 1999 at 09:57:13:
We have an answering service that we started out with just for them to answer calls and alpha page the messages to us. It was $55 for 100 calls, any call over the 100 was 55 cents a call. This service doesn’t charge for “wrong numbers” like some, which count it against your 100 or so allowance. The same service also has a $25 plan, which costs $1 per call above the first 25. It turns out that the questions we need answered aren’t that much more extensive than what they may ask already in taking a message (the form they fill in is only one page), so they’ve agreed to charge us the same price for this as they would have for the other line we have until we see if we’ll have a lot of calls or not, and then we’ll probably either end up renegotiating or upgrading to a more expensive option that allows us more “free” calls per month.
We found them almost by accident after dealing with a company that was charging twice as much and giving really lousy service (messages lost, sending us messages for other companies, etc.).
Maybe you could get a toll free number from a long distance company separately, as this same answering service charges $20/month for the 800 number plus any high long distance charges. Some phone companies will give you an 800 number either for free or for a nominal charge per month (anywhere between $1.25 and $5.00 per month). Plus, by getting your own 800 # instead of using theirs, if you ever become dissatisfied with their service, you can get a new answering service and then call your phone company and tell them to have the 800 # ring somewhere else. If you use the answering service’s 800#, it’s theirs and you can’t “take it with you” if you should ever need to change. Also, if you should ever decide to have it ring to your office, you can just tell the phone company where to send the calls (to your office phone).
On a side note, if you do decide to go with a toll free number and you get a chance to choose between 800, 888, or 877, take the newest of the bunch (877) because on toll free numbers you pay for the call, period. You can’t dispute that it was a wrong number and get it taken off your bill so easily (been there and tried). 800 numbers have been around the longest, so they’ve belonged to someone else. You’re more likely to get someone looking for the company the number USED TO belong to instead of looking for you. 877 numbers haven’t been around that long, so it will be much more likely that you’ll be the 1st one to have the number. That way you’re not paying for calls you don’t want to receive.
I also like to get a remote call forwarded phone number from the local phone company for the same reason. If I need to either change services, or not use a service anymore, if I advertise their number, I lose a lot of potential customers. If I forward a number to theirs, the number I’m advertising goes with me. (Call me a control freak if you will, but that way no one gets away with giving me lousy service for very long.)
I know this might seem crazy, but if cost is a REAL prohibitor, maybe you might consider using the company we use, even though they’re all the way in Southern California. It’s a small company, and what we’ve seen in our area is that the bigger answering service companies cost more and have lousy service, and the smaller ones can give better service because their philosophy on acquiring new accounts is different, so they grow slowly and service their existing customers extremely well.
Someone in our office was visiting the answering service the other day, and while there they overheard them answer the phone for Carl’s Jr.'s Maintenance.
Keep in mind, you can probably do business with any answering service via Fed Ex and fax machine, and/or snail mail as the need arises. If you want the name and number of the company I use, you can email me, but by all means shop around. There is a vast difference in both price and service.
It may pay to search for answering services in bigbook.com, or get out the ole Select Phone CDRom phone directory…
PS : Also, strike that word “telemarketing” from your vocabulary when searching for an answering service. And when you talk to them, don’t mention the words “order-taking” or “script”. Call it “info gathering” and tell them you’ll need them to fill out a questionaire that will have quite a few questions they would normally ask in order to take a message anyway, along with a few extra questions you need in order to best help the caller. Saying the word “script” puts their cash register into overdrive! When they think “telemarketing” they think cable TV ads, and an announcer who’s saying “Not available in stores, call now!”