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How an After-Hours Call Answering Service Works

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How an After-Hours Call Answering Service Works

At its heart, every business is a people business. Whatever your industry, customer service is integral to sustainable and profitable growth – 91 percent of consumers are more likely to make another purchase from a business following a positive customer service experience.

But what happens when a client or prospect phones after hours? How can you deliver the same high standard of customer care while staying within budget and affording your employees the work-life balance they deserve?

The answer for many businesses is an after-hours call answering service, also known as an after-hours telephone answering service or call center.

What Is an After-Hours Answering Service?

An after-hours answering service is a call answering service that allows your business’s phone lines to stay open 24 hours a day, every day of the year – including weekends and holidays. Organizations from a dynamic cross-section of industries and specialty areas benefit from ensuring their clients can speak with real, live people and enjoy exceptional customer service whenever they choose to call.

After-hours call answering services can perform one or more functions. For example, they may provide virtual receptionist support, offering a warm and friendly live voice after hours, taking detailed messages, and ensuring those messages are passed along to the right people during office hours.

Alternatively, they may function as an outsourced customer service department that handles customer questions and complaints and initiates customer support requests. Call answering services can also assist with appointment scheduling, emergency calls, call dispatching, and other tailored phone-based services that empower your business to uphold its commitment to service excellence around the clock.

Woman wearing a headset and taking calls at her laptop
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

How Does an After-Hours Phone Answering Service Work?

After-hours call answering services are not complex or difficult to set up and use.

The basic process is simple: a live operator takes calls outside of your business hours on your behalf. What the operator says and the actions they take following a call are 100 percent in your control, so you can be sure your clients are receiving the support, service, and friendly attitude they’ve come to expect from your business.

Before a call answering service goes live, the business gives the service provider instructions. The service provider then trains their team and establishes call forwarding at the specified time, whether after your day-to-day office hours, on weekends, or on holidays.

Once the lines are forwarded, any call to your business will go to the answering service.

When live, the service works like this:

1.) A customer phones your business

A customer picks up their phone and calls your regular business phone number. They might have an after-hours emergency that needs attention, a general question or inquiry, or a message to pass on to one of your employees.

2.) A live operator answers the call

Although your office is closed and employees are at home, the customer’s call does not go to voicemail. Instead, the call is routed to your service provider’s call center agents. They see that the call is for your business, pick up, and answer accordingly. This generally involves following a customized script to determine the nature of the call and the next steps required.

3.) The call service agent takes the appropriate action

Telephone answering services are not one-size-fits-all, and the call service agent’s action will depend on your and your customers’ needs.

For example, the operator may forward emergency messages that require immediate attention to an on-call staff member. Or they might record a non-emergency message and ensure it’s delivered to the appropriate person or team during office hours.

Some services have agents who can interact with business-critical software applications. They can then schedule appointments, take orders, qualify leads, and more. Sometimes, the call service operator can provide technical support and troubleshooting.

Smiling customer service agent wearing and headset and typing on her computer keyboard while taking calls
Photo by Yan Krukov

What Are the Benefits of an After-Hours Call Answering Service?

The benefits of an after-hours call answering service are far-reaching. Here are some you should keep top of mind:

  • Five-star customer service 24/7. There’s no denying customer care and service’s central roles in a business’s success, longevity, and bottom line. The right phone answering service ensures your customers always have positive experiences with your business, regardless of the time of day or night. Service excellence then becomes your competitive advantage.
  • Fewer abandoned calls. Abandoned calls represent business lost, and over time, this can seriously impact your operation’s viability. A call answering service can ensure every inquiry is heard and actioned, which means more cash in your pocket.
  • Skilled staff for a fraction of the cost. Hiring employees to answer the phone after hours, on weekends, and during the holidays is costly. A call answering service gives you access to skilled, experienced, and highly trained customer service agents for a fraction of the cost of expanding your payroll.

Examples of an After-Hours Answering Service in Action

Any business looking to maintain a 24-hour presence should consider an after-hours call answering service. The following organizations might find it even more beneficial:

  • Medical facilities and physicians
  • Attorneys
  • IT companies and departments
  • Contractors and emergency service providers, such as plumbers, electricians, and vehicle and truck repair companies
  • Property management companies

How might an answering service play out in practice? Here’s an example.

Say a person’s pipe has burst, and water is flowing through their home. It’s an emergency, so they pick up the phone and call a 24/7 plumber. The call answering service agent picks up and greets the customer as if they were an employee of the plumbing business. The customer explains their situation and relays all important information to the agent. The agent then connects the customer to an on-call plumber, who attends to the customer’s property and repairs the burst pipe.

Here’s another example.

Say someone is in the midst of a legal battle, and they received critical information about their case. They couldn’t phone their attorney during business hours due to work-related commitments, so they called after hours. The service agent records their message and passes the information to the relevant attorney during office hours. The attorney could be contacted after hours if it can’t wait until the office reopens.

Another common situation is a patient trying to reach their doctor after regular business hours. Many medical practices have on-call providers who are available in the event of an emergency. The after-hours answering service is used to triage calls and determine which patients should be referred to the on-call doctor and which should be referred elsewhere, such as the emergency room or back to the office.

Doctor on his phone
Photo by Ivan Samkov

Set up an After-Hours Answering Service for Your Business

After-hours call answering services are a cost-effective way to level up your customer service and win more business. Get in touch with the friendly team at Absent Answer. We’d be happy to provide personalized advice.