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Why Outsourcing Might Be a Good Idea During a Recession

Why Outsourcing Might Be a Good Idea During a Recession

Written by Editorial Team on . Posted in Answering Services

Companies tend to go into conservation mode during periods of recession. Doing so is a natural response to business slowdowns and revenue reductions. Companies want to conserve as much of their capital as possible. And yet, the business itself still needs to continue to run. That is where outsourcing comes in.

Whether it’s answering calls, handling helpdesk tasks, scheduling appointments, or dealing with other routine tasks that aren’t part of a company’s core business, outsourcing those tasks during economic downturns can prove quite beneficial.

For the purposes of illustration, we will use the example of a live answering service for the remainder of this post. Outsourcing might be the best option when recession is making it difficult to keep a full office staff.

It Starts with Saving Money

Outsourcing call center tasks during a recession is generally motivated by the need to save money. The question is, can you really save by outsourcing? In a word, yes. Find the right outsourcing partner capable of providing the services you need at a reasonable price, and you could spend considerably less.

Outsourcing to a live answering service can save money in three ways:

  • Salaries – You need to pay full-time employees a full-time salary. Outsourcing is different because you are not actually paying the salaries of the people who take your calls. You are paying a company for a service. That means you are ultimately paying less.
  • Benefits – Paying for live answering service also mitigates the need to cover benefits for employees on the payroll. During recessionary periods, benefits can take a sizable chunk out of a limited budget.
  • Leaner Operations – A salaried staff gets paid by the hour or day, regardless of how many calls are answered. But when you outsource, you only pay for the actual work of answering calls. When operators aren’t answering your calls, they are answering someone else’s. This makes for leaner operations for you.

Saving money by outsourcing boils down to using a service that does one thing and does it well: answer calls. Your outsourcing partner is more efficient and cost-effective because live answering services are what they do best. They can do it more cheaply than you can.

Adding Scalability to the Equation

Immediate financial savings are a pretty good incentive to outsource during recessionary periods. But what about adapting as business starts to pick up again? This is another area in which outsourcing shines. Outsourcing adds scalability to the equation.

During a recession, you might be tempted to cut back on your staff as much as possible. As business picks up, you’re trying to do more work with the same limited staff – because the funds aren’t there yet to rehire. But now you are in a pickle because you have more work but fewer employees.

Outsourcing lets you scale as needed. You pay a slightly higher price for a larger call answering capacity. Meanwhile, the live answering service is responsible for making sure there are enough employees to keep up. You can scale up as quickly or slowly as you like.

Expertise for Greater Efficiency

Finally, outsourcing during a recession gives you access to expertise you otherwise might not have been exposed to. That expertise can help you make your company more efficient so that, as the economy recovers, you’re doing a better job serving your customers.

Recessions are bad news for everybody. But when they come, companies just work through them. We might even be in a recession right now. If your company is feeling recessionary pressures, consider outsourcing wherever you can. We are here to provide live answering services.

Why We Recommend Not Forwarding HVAC Calls to a Cell Phone

Why We Recommend Not Forwarding HVAC Calls to a Cell Phone

Written by Editorial Team on . Posted in Contractor Answering Services

Back in the day, having an HVAC answering service was critical to anyone running a heating and cooling business. There were no cell phones. So unless a contractor had a full-time receptionist in the office, it was either an answering service or voicemail. Today, a lot of contractors simply forward calls to their cell phones.

Forwarding to a cell phone is always an option. No argument there. However, it is an option we cannot recommend. You probably expect us to say that given that we offer HVAC answering services. But there are legitimate reasons above and beyond what we do. Those reasons impact an HVAC contractor’s ability to keep customers happy.

Cell Phones Aren’t Dependable

Despite cell phones being ubiquitous in the 21st century, they aren’t always dependable. You know from your own experience that getting five bars isn’t always a given. Even in the middle of a major city, any number of things can interfere with cell phone reception.

An HVAC contractor might find himself out of range. He might find himself working in a basement or utility room that, for one reason or another, interferes with cell phone reception. Here is the point: cell phones aren’t dependable if you want to be able to answer calls in real time. An HVAC contractor who relies on forwarding calls to a cell phone could be missing out on a ton of business.

Technicians Forget to Check

Forwarding after-hours calls to a tech’s cell phone can be risky business. Techs working after-hours can find themselves swamped with work because they are the only ones on call. And when techs get swamped, it is not hard to forget to check the cell phone.

How many customers are lost because cell phone messages are not checked in a timely manner? There is probably no good way to know that for sure. But even if it’s only a small number, every lost customer represents a lost opportunity to grow the business.

Calls Are Sometimes Ignored

Unfortunately, there is no escaping the fact that sometimes cell phones calls are ignored because HVAC techs don’t want the additional work. An HVAC answering service addresses that problem by answering calls immediately, documenting those calls, and providing accurate times. Contractors can then compare the data against what techs were doing when calls came in.

Call Screening Is More Difficult

Maybe you are an HVAC contractor who works alone. You have no techs helping you out. Well, there is another reason you might want to use an HVAC answering service rather than forwarding calls to your cell phone: the ability to screen incoming calls more effectively.

Not every call you get while on the job constitutes an emergency that needs to be dealt with right away. In the middle of an important job, you can send your calls to the answering service for screening. That way, you are not interrupted by things you can deal with more effectively later on.

It’s Just a Better Way

An HVAC company with a full-time office staff can handle incoming calls without much issue. In such a case, an HVAC answering service would probably be necessary only after hours. But for an individual contractor who works alone, having an answering service 24/7 is just a better way.

An answering service becomes the contractor’s receptionist. And the best services, like Apello, do more than just answer the phone and take messages. They become the contractor’s partner to ensure all calls are answered in a timely manner and the information is passed on to the contractor. That is the way to handle incoming calls.

Beware of the Pitfalls of Medical Answering Services

Beware of the Pitfalls of Medical Answering Services

Written by Editorial Team on . Posted in Medical Answering Services

Medical offices don’t necessarily stay open around the clock. At the same time, emergencies do not always occur during office hours. So in order to give patients around-the-clock access, providers contract with medical answering services. They have been doing so for as long as most of us can remember.

Medical answering services are available just about everywhere. Major cities have more options, but even smaller towns have access to medical answering services in one form or another. The big thing for providers is choosing the right one.

This post will not try to convince you that Apello is your best bet. We will leave that to the quality of our service. Instead, we want to key you in on some of the pitfalls of medical answering services. If you can find a provider that you are confident will help you avoid these pitfalls, you’ll be in a good position.

Pitfall #1: Poor Communication Skills

Patients calling in after-hours expect to reach someone who is competent, knowledgeable, and able to actually help them. It all starts with communication skills. Poor communication scares patients away. It diminishes their confidence in their providers.

It is a mistake to believe that communication skills do not matter. It is a mistake to believe that anyone who can answer a phone can do the job well. When it comes to answering calls that could involve medical emergencies, answering personnel must have good communication skills.

Pitfall #2: Slow Response Times

Medical answering services should make speed a priority. Not that in the sense that they rush through one call to get to the next, but in the sense that calls are answered in a timely manner. It is a mistake to be slow to answer and then leave patients on hold for minutes at a time.

Calls should be answered quickly. If necessary, callers should be connected to a manager or on-call doctor or nurse. If there are messages involved, they should be forwarded to the clinician as quickly as possible.

Pitfall #3: Improper Compliance Training

The next pitfall is a big one, especially if an answering service does not exclusively handle medical calls. Here it is – improper compliance training. Failure to maintain compliance can get an answering service in trouble. Any such trouble can fall back on the clinician.

The main issue here is HIPAA compliance. In accordance with HIPAA rules, medical answering services need to be just as diligent about protecting personal information as primary care offices, public clinics, and hospitals. There is little room for error.

Pitfall #4: Insufficient Call Documentation

Any type of live answering service should be documenting calls through a combination of recordings and written records. Documentation provides answers when a problem or discrepancy arises. That said, documentation is critical for medical answering services. Again, you are dealing with potential medical emergencies. You’re dealing with human lives. Proper call documentation is not optional.

Pitfall #5: Lack of Additional Services

A basic call answering service might do nothing more than answer calls and take basic information. That’s fine for some industries; it’s not doable for medical calls. Paying only for basic service can come back to bite a clinician later on. As such, it is worth paying for additional services like appointment scheduling, triage, and message forwarding.

The underlying theme here is really getting what you pay for. Many of the pitfalls that come with hiring a live medical answering service arise from trying to get away on the cheap. In the medical realm, you cannot afford to skimp. Your patients need you to invest in an answering service capable of getting the job done right.

Can Your Company Afford to NOT Have an Answering Service

Can Your Company Afford to NOT Have an Answering Service?

Written by Editorial Team on . Posted in Answering Services

Businesses whose customers need after-hours access can rely on answering services to provide that access. In fact, live answering services is our business here at Apello. One of the things we hear a lot from potential customers is that they cannot afford an answering service. Here’s our take: can your company afford to NOT utilize a service?

Businesses tend to look at affordability in terms of direct financial transactions. They look at what comes in as opposed to what goes out, but only in strict transactional terms. Many do not tend to look at the indirect costs of doing what they do. Therein lies the key to truly appreciating the value of an answering service.

For purposes of illustration, imagine you own a small property management company. It is just you and your spouse. Your spouse thinks hiring a property management answering service makes good financial sense; you disagree.

First Thing’s First: The Calls

The first thing you and your spouse need to do is sit down and decide what you’re going to do with incoming calls. You only have two choices. You can either answer them or ignore them. If you choose to ignore them, be prepared to count the financial cost of doing so.

Tenants are none too happy when they need help but cannot get in touch with the property manager. Whether the heat goes out or the sink won’t drain, you can bet a tenant will remember when it comes time to renew the lease.

Heaven forbid a tenant has a genuine emergency that could significantly damage the property. Not being able to contact you could mean steep financial losses. Again, not good.

Answering the Calls

Knowing what you know about property management, it makes sense to answer the calls when they come in. Not hiring a property management answering service means you don’t have that monthly financial outlay. But that doesn’t mean you get away scott-free.

You and your spouse could handle the calls yourself. But your time is worth something. Remember that every hour you work is another hour you cannot do other things. So if you are working after hours and not getting paid anything extra, you are losing on multiple levels.

Not interested in handling the calls yourself? Then you will need to hire someone to do it for you. That means paying wages and benefits. It also means extra time handling payroll, withholding, taxes, etc. That is more time for which you are not compensated. All those hours can add up to the point of seriously depleting the value of your salary.

One Way or Another, It Costs

Here is the bottom line. One way or another, call traffic costs money to deal with. There’s no getting around it. Ignoring after-hour calls costs money by making it more expensive to deal with the issues in the morning. Answering the calls costs money in terms of the labor involved. You are going to pay regardless of how you decide to handle things.

We are admittedly biased. As a live answering service, we are always going to promote the benefits of hiring a company like ours. Be that as it may, our marketing doesn’t change the fact that calls represent customers trying to reach you for whatever reason. Being unsuccessful in that endeavor is not good for your business.

Small businesses of all types rely on customers to stay in business. To keep them happy, their calls need to be answered in a timely manner by competent people. Hiring a live answering service addresses that without having to add more staff.

Shopping for an Answering Service Why Prices Vary So Much

Shopping for an Answering Service: Why Prices Vary So Much

Written by Editorial Team on . Posted in Answering Services

Shopping around for a live answering service can be a daunting task. There are so many things to consider, and business owners don’t want to just settle for the first answering service they find. Then there is the cost issue. Not only do you not want to pay too much, but prices between services can vary significantly.

Price variation exists in every industry. If it is not an answering service you are looking at, it could be a landscaping company or a cleaning service. You cannot escape price variation. However, it’s fair to say that there is more variation in our industry than some others. There are valid reasons for this. None of them have to do with answering services trying to rob customers blind.

Historical Best Practices

One of the most pervasive aspects of pricing an answering service is the historical best practices our industry has followed for decades. Answering services have been around for a long, long time. Some companies in our industry are just stuck in their old ways. They still bill the way they did back in the 1990s.

In that sense our industry is a lot like healthcare. Evolution can be slow and tedious. Fortunately, service providers that have kept up with the times usually offer the most streamlined and efficient pricing structures.

Individual Business Models

Business models have a significant impact on pricing. For example, a lot of live answering services bill every four weeks. Do the math and you will discover that a four-week billing cycle results in 13 bills annually. Other companies, like Apello, bill monthly. That means 12 bills per year.

Another example is rounding. There are answering services that round up to the nearest minute. So if a call takes a minute and a half, the company might round up to two minutes for billing purposes. There are answering services that don’t round up at all.

Included Services

Answering incoming calls forms the basis of what live answering services do. The most bare bones providers only answer and take basic information. Their prices tend to be the cheapest. But answering services can offer additional options including transferring calls, holding them, sending messages via text or email, generating message reports, and so on.

All the included services affect pricing structure. Ideally, being able to choose between an all-inclusive package or an à la carte service is the way to go. This plays into business models.

Billing Basis

The basis on which an answering service bills also affects pricing. The two most common models are per-minute and per-call. If you compared five service providers on a per-minute basis, you would probably find a wide variety of pricing due to rounding-up practices.

Under both models, pricing tends to be tiered. You pay one rate if your call volume or minutes falls within a certain window. A higher window would mean a higher base rate.

Technology Utilization

Believe it or not, the technology that an answering service works with can influence pricing significantly. Some technologies make call answering more efficient, especially when they utilize things like automation and artificial intelligence. On the other hand, doing everything manually requires more work. You can guess which scenario would tend to lean toward higher prices.

Since companies do things in so many different ways, combining all these factors together inevitably leads to a lot of pricing variation. Will our industry ever simplify pricing? Who knows? The one thing we can say for sure is that it is important for you to fully understand a service provider’s pricing structure before signing on the dotted line.

The #1 Reason Contractors Should Use a Live Answering Service

The #1 Reason Contractors Should Use a Live Answering Service

Written by Editorial Team on . Posted in Contractor Answering Services

We expect doctors to make use of live answering services. Likewise for property management companies. Even real estate brokers, insurance brokers, and other similar professionals use answering services to take calls. What about contractors? Should they follow suit?

Live answering services can benefit contractors as much as doctors and insurance brokers. Truth be told, a lot of contractors already utilize services. Whether it is an HVAC answering service or one that answers calls for plumbers, electricians, or pest control services, it is not hard to find call centers willing to take the work.

If you are a contractor, do you use a live answering service? And if not, what is holding you back? Below is the number one reason you should reconsider your decision. We have included a few additional reasons after that.

The On-Demand Economy Rules

When you boil the argument in favor of a live answering service down to its most fundamental components, you are left with the number one reason for hiring a service: the on-demand economy rules. That’s really it.

Thirty years ago, it would have been unthinkable to call a plumber after hours for anything other than a legitimate emergency that genuinely threatened life or property. Everything else could wait until the morning. But that was a long time ago. Things are different today. Things are different because people are used to the on-demand economy.

The on-demand economy satisfies consumer needs in the moment. When people need something, they pull out their phones and get it. They get it by calling, texting, using apps, etc. The mechanism is less important than actually getting what they want, when they want it.

As a contractor, you cannot expect all your calls during regular business hours. If a customer needs you after hours, there is an expectation that you’ll be available. By hiring a live answering service, you can meet customer needs even when you are not actually on the clock.

There Are Other Reasons

Maybe you’re not sold on the on-demand economy. That’s fine. There are other legitimate reasons contractors use live answering services. One or more of them may apply to you. Here they are:

1. Better Customer Retention

Customer retention is likely to improve if customers know they can get a message to you 24/7. A live answering service makes you accessible, at least to some degree, even when you are not working. Customers appreciate that.

2. Increased Revenue

Not utilizing a live answering service inevitably leads to potential customers going elsewhere. If they cannot call in to at least make an appointment after hours, they will find another contractor. That will cost you revenue. On the other hand, utilizing a live answering service means increased revenue because you are keeping those customers happy.

3. Improved Efficiency

Live answering services do not necessarily have to be utilized only after-hours. You can have your service take your calls around the clock. During the day, you’re more efficient because you are not stopping to answer calls several times per hour. Greater efficiency means more jobs done and more happy customers.

4. Better Customer Service

Customers equate answering calls to good customer service. Even if a customer doesn’t speak with you directly, just being able to speak with a human being goes a long way. Impressions of customer service can improve when a contractor’s calls get answered by a real person.

The phone remains an important business tool for contractors. That being the case, hiring a live answering service to make sure all incoming calls are handled properly and in a timely manner sure pays off. Now you know why.

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