Do you really want an answering service talking to your customers for free?

What business owners should know about “Free Trial” answering service marketing

Janet Livingston. President and Founder, Call Center Sales Pro

Walking into the answering service marketplace for the first time can be dizzying. Knowing exactly what features would best benefit your business, combined with knowing what rate and usage fits your budget is daunting; especially if you attempt doing this without consulting a sales professional.

Then, there’s skepticism. Research yields reviews that undercut advertised fees or quality of service claims. Voila! Like a glimmer of hope in the middle of this minefield, Google leads the search to a sleek answering service company’s website and eases worries with the promise of free trial, no-strings, introductory period to feel out what they offer.

This, dear shoppers, is a mirage.

Free answering service trials are a marketing strategy targeting deal-conscious consumers, and attempt to cast a friendlier light upon the answering service industry.

This flashy word “free” reacts to negativity from the outset, presuming that prospective clients bring less than optimistic expectations about what answering services are worth to them. Simply put? We expect less when we pay less; the adage of getting what you paid for starts on uneven ground when the service starts at $0.00. If the service is bad? The customer feels like they lost nothing. However, we know this is not true.

There’s some merit in the idea that a free trial may overcome biases a customer may hold, but it is not in the best interest of the customer to start a consultation under these pretenses. Case in point: the majority of our trade show event conversations underline how routinely misunderstood the call center world can be by those who are not familiarized with the operational costs, expertise, and technology that make a call care company succeed for their clients. This holds true especially in the medical field… where doctors and answering services are stuck to each other like peanut butter and jelly!

Free trials seem like a clear direction, a quick fix to satisfying common customer questions like:

Do I even need an answering service?

How many calls do I even get during the day? After hours? Am I really missing anything by just letting them go to voicemail?

Is company X the right choice for me, versus company Y?

Is this service going to do their best for my callers?

We get it. Why NOT test it out, pay nothing, and risk nothing?

Who wants to risk even one potentially critical call ringing through to an untrained agent?

If the account seeker is dealing with a high cost of customer acquisition, a reputational problem about being hard to reach, an emergency call possibility, or highly sensitive callers (think: medical patients, legal clients, or long-term business relationships), a sampling station is not where the company is best directing their calls. This is especially the case when the client understandably knows little about their calls beyond that they’d love the phones to stop ringing. Now.

Further, the free-trial scenario sets you as the customer up regardless of the business you do to base a high-impact buying decision on the experience of a honeymoon period that:

Lacks the consultative customer success processes your account requires to onboard successfully.

Skews the product. Free trials habitually pair the highest scored agents in a center with demo accounts before releasing them to a general pool of agents you have never reviewed in your trial period as soon as you sign up.

Defeats the purpose of “getting something free.” The company offering free trials is offsetting the costs of that free service onto their account holders. Once you sign up? Welp, that’s you!

And the most compelling cause for us to sway away from free trials is simplified demos cannot conform service to begin in alignment to the needs of most customers.

Rate schemes, features and tools are not standardized across the industry and the search process is not intuitive in the same ways as shopping for a new car. The search should be just as extensive as selecting a new hire for your company. At free trial registration, the customer is typically tasked to “set the service up for success” by filling out self-service forms that omit critical questions. There are rarely one-size-fits all answering service solutions that can can iron out kinks from day one.

Free trials will never include the specialized elements of the right plan for your business, one that may help expedite profits at a fraction of the cost of staff. The customer cannot judge the benefits of integrations with your software, cloud or web sales, appointment booking, secure message delivery apps, call patching, self-service call history and on-call management portals, complexity or call volume that scales up and down, bilingual call care and more.

And if you, the customer, are meant to set all of this up on a self-service platform… do you have the time to correctly identify all your needs? If not, that setup could take you hours all at the potential of unlocking no more than 3 actual hours of call time before your trial is ending.

Who is the doctor, who is the patient?

The professionals in our centers dedicate three or more hours to accurately build and implement a plan. How likely is a cure to be found by a patient that asserts that their own qualifications are specialized enough to determine their own plan of treatment, disregarding the expertise of their physician? If you would not expect to choose your own prescription, would you trust your gut that an answering service can treat your business needs without a comprehensive consultation that should hold monetary value? Call care experts know where customers err in the setup of a new account. And when the customer is encouraged to cut corners, it is no surprise they will feel wronged by their service provider as soon as problems start to reveal themselves and they realize adequate communication was absent from the start.

We recommend that an informed, risk-averse approach is a wiser manner to navigate the important business decision about who will handle your calls.

An important point for customers to realize is that it is easier for the sales team of call care partners that offer a no-cost, no-commitment trial up front to win your business by dangling the word free in front of you, especially when playing up on the “risk-free” element.

Understanding that financial savings will influence the answering service selection, it is important to share that more often than not,

More often than not, what leads customers to fire their answering service is operational concerns and the quality of agents. From our research, we have observed that cost is rarely the ultimate reason why a customer changes answering service providers.

Things are better from the start when the partnership comes from a conversation…not a filled-out form. So we look out for our customers through a more intensive onboarding. Implementation will cover learning and development about your brand and programming with advanced scripting oversight on your service. In this way, your callers receive a more personalized experience, precise customization, accurate onboarding, and as your service provider, we foster good communication as the basis of our relationship.

Our counter to a free trial

We’ve since detailed the potential pratfalls of building an account on self-service forms and a pittance of minutes to entice you to sample. Call Center Sales Pro promises a money-back guarantee of quality, at an affordable rate, for the first 90 days of service. This shares the relationship; For us… we have to stand by the quality of our agents. For you, a financial commitment, yes, but backed with the knowledge that if we don’t help you see success, then your investment is returned.

There is no impulsivity in our choice to partner, and no buyer’s remorse for losing weeks of valuable time starting up an untailored account. We are protecting your brand from the first call taken.

Call Center Sales Pro continuously guides new prospective clients and also shoppers who have been disappointed by answering service in the past. We levy no gimmicks to satisfy the most important questions a customer has:

Am I paying the right amount for answering service?

Will the agents know how to speak to my customers the way I want them to?

Can the agents do what I need to do, in order to see an effective ROI?

But there’s always room for exceptions.

There are a few circumstances in which we will openly agree that a free trial is a good decision for small segment of potential clients:

When a customer is clearly the type of shopper that must negotiate as much as possible. This customer lives for a deal. By all means: with this customer, we encourage a trial with a competitor. The base rate at the start of contract will hide charges to the account reflecting all of the free service provided, so the deal eventually disappears.

When an account will be temporary and it seems the customer is hoping to find a free service. Yes, please do feel free to turn to a company that will answer two weeks of calls at no charge for a 5 day inbound call marketing or ticketing sales campaign. We will politely decline for forming a would-be partnership with you there.

If the account will be extremely basic without room for startup error, an answering service trial may be safe. Think: very simple message delivery, very superficial caller contact, and expectation that calls handled poorly will not harm the business. Here, a free-trial truly doesn’t offer any potential harm. Enjoy the savings, of course, but buyer beware.

When limited budget prevails as a small business owner is just starting out, ours won’t be the free service for you. We do not compete for bottom-of-the-barrel pricing because somewhere, something is lost, and ultimately our customers will suffer. If the business owner is truly unsure about whether or not their business needs an answering service, we first invite you to speak to our team. We are experts in the answering service field, and are happy to speak to you, even if it doesn’t lead to a sale. Then, if it makes sense? Pilot our services for 90 days at a lower call volume, and scale with us as desired.

Answering services like Call Center Sales Pro operate with longevity and experience to create success on our customer’s terms. We thrive because of a business model that performs for both our needs and our customers. At the end of the day, we’re thinking not just of the minutes of the plan but the lifespan of our relationship. What comes free with us? Freer time, free from worry that calls are being mishandled, and free to focus on growth for your enterprise.