Most all businesses receive phone calls that represent a critical situation. Some businesses have many such calls and other businesses encounter them infrequently. What constitutes an urgent call varies from business to business, industry to industry. These calls can range from life-threatening emergencies to calls needing expedited attention and anywhere in between. Some businesses refer to these calls as emergencies, while others prefer to call them urgent, escalated, or even non-routine calls so as to not overstate the situation. Regardless of the label, these calls require a different protocol. Taking a name, number, and message for the office to handle the next business day is completely inadequate. Since the procedure for these special calls differs from routine calls, answering services generically refer to them as “emergencies,” regardless of the degree of severity. What can an answering service do for you and your emergency calls? Although the answer varies, some options include: Contact an On-Call Person: The most common response is to reach the client’s assigned on-call person or appointed contact. The answering service relays the critical information to the client’s emergency contact, who follows up as appropriate. Contact can be by phone, text, email, or a combination thereof. Connect the Caller to an On-Call Person: As an alternative to relaying information to the on-call contact, the answering service can call that person and connect the caller. This ensures the two are communicating and that intervention has begun. Screen for Degree of Urgency or Need: Some businesses have specific on-call people for different situations, such as by product line or severity of the situation. Other times different response rates are appropriate, such as within an hour, before the next business day, or as soon as possible (the default in most cases). An answering service can screen for this information and react as appropriate. Obtain Additional Information: Sometimes additional information is required, such as the caller’s location, account number, or even credit card. The answering service can obtain this as needed for emergency calls and relay this to the on-call person. Establish Expectations: Most callers with an urgent request expect immediate assistance, but this may not be possible in all situations. The answering service can provide reasonable expectations to the caller, such as, “If you haven’t heard from someone in fifteen minutes, please call back,” “We guarantee a thirty minute response rate,” or “Jim is currently working with another customer and will get to you as soon as he can.” Whatever is appropriate for your business and situation, letting callers know what to anticipate is a helpful courtesy and sets reasonable expectations. Follow Up With The Caller: Some businesses may want the answering service to contact the caller after a preset time. This may be to mitigate liability, enhance customer service, or assess the level of callers’ satisfaction. These are a few of the common ways answering services handle emergency calls. Of course they can provide other services specific to your needs, too. Just let them know what you want when it comes to expediting your urgent afterhours calls. 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 – and who helps businesses and organizations find the perfect answering service. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-901-7706.Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.