Are You a Responsive Answering Service?

People who use answering services want them to be responsive. It’s easy to understand why. In today’s modern culture, people don’t want to wait. They want it now; they expect immediate gratification. But when it comes to understanding what it means to be responsive, several ideas come to mind. And each one is essential for answering service success:

Responsive to Clients: First on the list of responsiveness comes the expectation of clients that when they need help, they expect you to respond right away. This is a function of customer service. Customer service inquiries relate to questions about the service itself, issues about invoicing and payments, and queries about the technology you provide for your clients to use.

Some instances require a quick response. There’s a time-critical element to these inquiries. When this occurs, a reasonable client expectation exists for the answering service to respond as quickly as possible. Delays have ramifications.

However, other questions that clients pose to your customer service staff may not have the same urgency to them. And even though they might want an immediate response, a possible delay is a reasonable perspective, especially given that your customer service staff may be presently dealing with an urgent request from another client. A reasonable client would want the same consideration if their request was a priority, but not all clients are reasonable all the time. The key is to make sure you communicate your prioritization of customer service calls to clients.

The principle here isn’t that you must respond immediately to every client communication, but that you respond quickly to urgent communications and triage less pressing needs for later. How long is acceptable to let a noncritical question wait? That varies with the nature of the inquiry, but within twenty-four hours is a reasonable objective, with the “end of the business day” being a great goal.

Responsive to Client’s Callers: The second area addresses responsiveness to your clients’ customers when they call. This is essential because your responsiveness to your clients’ callers contributes to the overall quality of their organization. This is where answering services need to place their priority. Seconds matter.

Every answering service client wants each call answered on the first ring, every time. This isn’t a feasible request. An answering service is a shared service, where the resources used to handle one client’s calls must also be allocated to other accounts.

Therefore, a reasonable level of responsiveness to your clients’ callers is for you to answer most calls within a couple rings, perhaps three. Some call centers track this statistically and often aim to answer 80 percent of calls within 20 seconds. Though this is an arbitrary objective, it’s commonly cited and is not unreasonable.

Responsive to Prospects: Another area of responsiveness is how you react to a sales inquiry. The conventional wisdom of most prospects is if they aren’t enjoying timely interactions with you before they hire you, they can’t expect anything different afterward.

Although this makes sense, it’s also faulty reasoning. This is because a prospect is handled by the sales department, whereas clients will later be handed off to the customer service department, while callers will be handled by operations. These three groups operate separately to meet different goals and outcomes. While a responsive sales team does reflect the overall organizational priorities of the answering service as a company, it doesn’t mean this automatically carries over to customer service and operations.

The key is to provide responsive sales follow up and let your prospects project the same high level of reactivity to your customer service and operation staffs. Of course, you should back this up by ensuring customer service and operations are responsive as well.

Responsive to Mobile: We can’t have a discussion on responsiveness without mentioning your website. Since the majority of people now access websites using mobile devices, as opposed to desktop or laptop computers, it’s critical that your website plays well on the small screen. This is called a responsive design. An answering service with a website that isn’t responsive to mobile devices is an answering service that hasn’t kept up with the latest technology. Don’t be that answering service.

Having a responsive answering service is important to most all clients. This includes being responsive before they buy and after the sale, being responsive to their customers, and being responsive on their mobile devices.

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry, which helps clients grow their revenue. Contact Janet at or 800-901-7706.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.