The letters RSVP stand for the French phrase “répondez, s’il vous plait.” It means “please reply” and is a way for a person sending the invitation to know who is coming and who isn’t. Regardless of the recipients’ intent, they should tell the host whether they accept or decline the invitation. At least that’s how an RSVP should work. Sometimes invitations are sent via email and the responses are handled the same way. Other times the response mechanism is by mail, usually in the form of a reply card accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Sometimes social media is used or a website specifically designed for the task. Occasionally plain old voicemail is used to collect responses. Each of these has varying degrees of success. But the best option may be a telephone answering service, especially for a large, professional event. An answering service is the only RSVP response mechanism that allows immediate two-way communication to take place. And it’s also the most personal. Using an answering service to handle RSVPs offers the following benefits: Around-the-Clock Availability: Answering services are open and can take your RSVP calls 24/7. With the busy schedules of some people and the odd times of when they may think to respond, being available when they are, may make the difference of hearing from them or not. Dedicated Number: Don’t take RSVPs on your business phone line, cell phone, or home landline. Your answering service will provide one number that is used only for RSVPs. That keeps those calls separate from all others. The Option to Answer Questions: Sometimes people have questions about the event that no one anticipated. (Or maybe they didn’t read the entire invitation.) Answering service staff can answer these questions or find out the answer and then call those people back. Professional, Personal Service: Answering services train their staff to conduct themselves in a polite and professional manner. They’ll help set the right image for your event. Effective Reporting: One professional services company had a year-end client appreciation dinner. They handled the RSVPs in house, with each staffer who answered the phone keeping his or her own list. One person lost part of her list and an extra hundred people showed up who had responded “yes” but for whom there were no provisions. An answering service would have avoided this problem. They keep all records in one database for quick retrieval and easy reporting. Follow-up Phone Calls: Sadly some people don’t respond at all or they forget. To get an accurate count you have no choice but to call them. That takes time and may involve telephone tag. But don’t let this frustrate you. Let your answering service make those calls for you. Using an answering service to take your RSVP calls may not be the cheapest option, but it’s clearly the best one. With the success of your event at stake, you can’t afford to cut corners. 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.