Here at Apello, live answering services are our specialty. We serve clients in the medical, home contracting, and property management industries, among others. One thing we have come to understand over the years is that there are profound differences between call centers and answering services. Even though people use the terms interchangeably, they are two distinctly different environments.
This is not to say that one is better than the other. It is also not to say that a specific type of company would always do better with a call center rather than an answering service, or vice versa. A better way to look at it is that both call centers and answering services can help organizations better manage their inbound phone calls.
Which one does your company need? Let’s sit down and talk about it. In the meantime, here are some of the key differences between the two:
The Call Center
Though there are exceptions to the rule, a call center tends to be an environment dedicated to a single organization. In other words, operators do not field calls for multiple organizations simultaneously. One call center environment is for one organization.
Call centers tend to handle large volumes of inbound traffic that could be related to inquiries, customer surveys, complaints, or just about anything else. It is not unusual for call center personnel to be tasked with moving through calls as quickly as possible. Operators do not spend a lot of time fostering a personal connection with callers. They are more attuned to addressing a call as needed and then moving on to the next one.
Although call center personnel can handle clerical duties, that is not the norm. Most call centers exist to take orders, address customer complaints, or provide some sort of helpdesk support.
The Answering Service
Live answering services can do many of the same tasks normally associated with call centers. One of the big things that sets the answering service apart is that it acts as a representative of the organization it serves. So much so that one of the priorities of a good service is to make sure that inbound callers don’t know they are interacting with answering service personnel. As far as they know, they are dealing directly with the organization itself.
Live answering services also tend to perform clerical functions. While personnel can take orders, check on shipping, etc., they are also equally adept at taking and forwarding messages. When the client is a home services contractor, personnel can schedule maintenance and repair visits. They can schedule estimates for new customers.
In a medical scenario, properly trained personnel can perform basic triage. Otherwise, answering service personnel can gather the appropriate information and immediately pass it along to clinicians or medical clinics.
One is More Personal Than the Other
If you suspect there is overlap between call centers and live answering services, you are correct. They can do many of the same tasks. The significant difference between the two is the amount of personal attention each caller is given. By design, call centers are set up to field large volumes of traffic as quickly and efficiently as possible. On the other hand, live answering services are designed to be an extension of the organizations they represent. They tend to offer more personal service.
If your organization is looking to outsource inbound call management, you might benefit from either a call center or live answering service. Don’t sweat it if you do not know which type of environment is best for your organization. Spend some time with an Apello representative. We can help you figure it out.