After-hours call handling for small businesses: options and considerations for dealing with phone calls outside regular business hours.

Small businesses have a lot to juggle and often operate on tight budgets, so it’s no surprise that after-hours calls can be a tricky issue. There are several ways to handle calls when your office is closed, each with pros and cons.

Common Approaches for Handling Calls After Hours

There are numerous ways that you can address after-hours calls. Let’s review some of the most common approaches.


One option is simply utilizing voicemail. This is usually the most affordable option, but it can also be the least effective. Customers may not bother leaving a message if they know they won’t receive a call back until the next business day. Additionally, voicemail can give the impression that your business is small or unprofessional.

Automated Greeting

Another option is using an automated greeting referring calls to the next business day. This lets customers know that you’re closed for the day but that you’ll be available to help them tomorrow. However, it’s important to ensure that your voicemail message is clear and concise so that customers don’t get frustrated trying to leave a message.


You could also hire staff specifically to handle after-hours calls. This option can be more expensive, but it also allows you to provide better customer service. Your employees can take messages and answer questions, and they can even make sales if you’re open for business 24 hours a day.

Forward Calls to a Cell Phone

Alternatively, you could forward your calls to a cell phone. This generally means that the owner simply remains available to take calls, which can disrupt their personal life. However, it does ensure that someone will always be available to answer the phone.

Use an After Hours Answering Service

Finally, you could hire an answering service. This option can be more expensive than simply using voicemail, but it can be worth it for its peace of mind and potential to help grow your business. Answering services can take messages, answer questions, and even make sales on your behalf. Instead of relying on automated technology or asking customers to leave a voicemail, every caller would speak with a live person.

Ask Yourself: Are After-Hours Calls Important to Your Business?

Concerned woman on the phone while trying to stop a leak under her sink
Plumbers and property management companies are two types of businesses whose customers may have urgent needs arise after hours

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the importance of after-hours calls will vary from business to business.

However, there are a few factors to consider that can help you determine whether or not an after-hours call handling solution is right for you.

  1. First, think about the nature of your business. If you sell products or services requiring immediate assistance, then after-hours calls may be more important. For example, a plumber who sells 24-hour emergency services will need to be able to take after-hours calls to book appointments and provide assistance to customers.
  2. Second, consider the average spending of your customers. If your customers are likely to make large purchases, or if after-hours calls result in significant revenue, it may be worthwhile to invest in a solution to accept those opportunities.
  3. Third, think about the time zone in which your business operates. If you have customers in multiple time zones, you may need to be available for after-hours calls to accommodate their schedules.
  4. Fourth, consider whether your business will suffer by not being available after hours. Will your reputation take a hit? Will you lose business to competitors? It’s important to consider your customer expectations here. For example, many patients expect to be able to reach an on-call doctor with after-hours emergencies. Not providing that availability could mean dissatisfied patients that may look elsewhere.
  5. Finally, consider the type of customer service you want to provide. If you want to offer 24/7 customer service, an after-hours call solution can help you achieve this goal. 

The Pros and Cons of Accepting Calls Outside of Your Regular Hours

There are pros and cons to taking after-hours calls, which you’ll need to weigh carefully before making a decision.

On the positive side, taking after-hours calls can show your customers that you’re dedicated to providing them with the best possible service. It can also help you build a reputation for being available and responsive, attracting new customers. Additionally, it can give you a competitive advantage over businesses that don’t offer after-hours support.

On the other hand, taking after-hours calls can disrupt your personal life and incur additional costs to outsource, manage, and service. Additionally, it may not be necessary for all businesses, depending on your products or services. You may also set unrealistic expectations if you cannot service customers’ needs after hours. For example, if you’re an electrician that answers the phone after hours but doesn’t provide emergency service, taking calls may do more harm than good.

How to Choose the Right Solution for After-Hours Calls

The best after-hours call solution for your business will depend on several factors, including the size of your business, the products or services you offer, the average spending of your customers, and the time zone in which your business operates.

If you have a small business with a limited budget and few after-hours needs, voicemail may be your best option. This is because it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to set up. Additionally, it can be less disruptive to your personal life than remaining available to take calls.

If you have a larger business with more complex needs, or if after-hours calls are especially important to your operation, you may consider hiring staff or an answering service. This is because they can help you manage calls more effectively and provide a higher level of customer service.

No matter which solution you choose, it’s important to make sure that your customers are aware of your availability and know how to reach you. This can help ensure that they continue to do business with you, even outside of normal business hours.

How an After-Hours Answering Service Works

An after-hours answering service is a third-party call center that handles incoming calls for businesses outside of their normal business hours. This can include evenings, weekends, and holidays.

The answering service will typically customize its services to meet the specific needs of each business they work with.

An after-hours answering service might provide virtual receptionist support, customer service, appointment scheduling, emergency call screening, and dispatching.

Female customer service agents taking calls in an after hours call center
  • Virtual receptionist services can involve taking messages, transferring calls, and providing general information about the business.
  • Customer service may involve answering questions about products or services, handling complaints, or upselling customers on additional items.
  • Appointment scheduling can involve setting up new appointments or rescheduling existing ones.
  • Emergency call handling can involve screening to determine whether a call is truly an emergency and, if so, dispatching the appropriate personnel.

No matter what services an after-hours answering service provides, its ultimate goal is to help businesses continue operating smoothly outside of normal business hours. This can free up the business owner to focus on other tasks and help ensure that customers can always reach someone when they need assistance.

The Benefits of After-Hours Answering Services for Small Business

There are many benefits that businesses can experience by using an after-hours answering service. These can include increased customer satisfaction, improved efficiency, lower operating costs, and more.

Perhaps the most important benefit is that it can help increase customer satisfaction. This is because customers will always be able to reach someone when they need assistance, even if it’s late in the evening or overnight.

Additionally, the answering service can provide a high level of customer service, which can further increase satisfaction levels. Companies like Absent Answer are staffed by professionally trained customer service representatives who are skilled at delivering a polished, seamless telephone customer service experience.

After-hours answering services can also improve efficiency. This is because businesses will no longer have to worry about managing after-hours calls themselves. The answering service can handle all the calls, freeing up the business owner to focus on other tasks. Additionally, the answering service can help screen calls, further improving efficiency by ensuring that only truly emergency calls are transferred to the business owner or on-call personnel.

Another benefit of employing an after-hours call service is that they can help you close more business and land work that you may not have had you been unavailable. Instead of losing business to the competition,  you can have a live person promptly answer each call, take messages, and even schedule appointments. This could help you to increase revenue and grow your business.

Finally, an after-hours answering service can help to lower operating costs. Businesses will no longer need to staff someone to manage after-hours calls. Unlike paying an hourly employee, who is paid the same amount regardless of how many calls they take, answering services generally bill based on usage. You could maintain 24 hour availability but only spend money when the service is actively assisting your customers.

Overall, there are many benefits that businesses can experience by using an after-hours answering service. This can include increased customer satisfaction, improved efficiency, lower operating costs, and more. So if you’re looking for a way to improve how you do handle phone calls when your office is unavailable, an answering service may be for you.

How to Choose an After-Hours Phone Answering Service

When choosing an after-hours answering service, there are a few different factors that businesses should keep in mind. These can include cost, services offered, reputation, and more. 

Cost is always an important factor to consider when choosing any type of service. After-hours phone answering services can vary in cost, depending on their features and services. So it’s important to compare pricing between different providers before deciding. Additionally, businesses should consider whether the answering service offers a flat rate or a per-minute rate. Per-minute pricing is the most common and the fairest.

Another important factor to consider is the services offered. After-hours answering services can offer various features, such as call forwarding, voicemail, appointment scheduling, and more. So businesses should decide which features are most important to them and choose a service that offers them.

Reputation is also an important factor to consider. This can be researched by reading online reviews or speaking with other businesses using the service. Additionally, it’s important to ensure that the provider has experience in your industry.

These are just a few of the different factors that businesses should keep in mind when choosing a company to take their phone calls after hours. By considering these factors, you can be sure to choose a service that’s right for your business. 

In Conclusion

Small businesses should consider their options for handling after-hours phone calls. This is because after-hours calls can be important for various businesses. The options include simply utilizing voicemail, referring calls to the next business day, hiring staff, forwarding the calls to a cell phone (which generally means the owner simply remains available), or hiring an answering service.

An answering service is a way to achieve the best of both worlds — remaining available without staffing or personal disruptions and providing professional live operators 24/7 for a fraction of in-house costs. When choosing an after-hours answering service, businesses should keep in mind factors such as cost, services offered, reputation, and more. 

By considering these factors, businesses can be sure to choose a service that’s right for them and make the most out of every call that comes in when they are closed.

Get Help With Your After-Hours Calls Today

Are you a small business looking for an after-hours answering service? Absent Answer is here to help! Our live answering services are available around the clock, ensuring you never miss an important call. We customize our services to your unique needs and work as an extension of your business. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you manage your calls 24/7!

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