Depending on your call volume, hours of operation, and the type of clients you serve, you may get by with an answering machine. With today’s high-tech answering machines and telephone services, you can have your calls answered by a recording that either alerts you by cell phone of a new message or patches you through to take the call as it arrives.
There are traditional community answering services that can take a message or patch the caller to your cell phone, and then there are industry-specific “call centers,” which are like answering services on steroids. These call centers far exceed basic message taking duties and cater to the livery industry.
DETERMINING WHAT YOU NEED
Answering services are available in five categories:
• Overnight/Holiday Only
• Overflow calls
Track your calls hour by hour, day by day for one week, and then time a few calls to determine the average number of minutes a call lasts, as most answering services charge by the minute. How many calls you receive during the hours you expect the answering service to pick up calls is critical so you can determine what answering method would be cheapest and most efficient based on call volume. Also take note of the most frequent type of calls you receive after hours, such as rate information calls that can be referred to a website in a message, or confirmation calls that require immediate attention.
COMPARISON OF ANSWERING SERVICES
Basic Answering Machine
General Electric Digital Answering Machine....................$17
Records calls when turned on and plays back upon request
Enhanced Answering Machine
Bogen Communications FR-2000 Friday System.............$349
Eight mailboxes allow users to direct callers from one outgoing mailbox to another for rate information, fleet information, etc. Allows immediate call forwarding upon request, can forward calls to a fax machine, marks date and time of call, provides music on hold, and more.
Local Answering Service
Average monthly cost based on 4-city survey by Buyerzone.com...........$60/mo.
Answers calls and takes messages for later retrieval. May patch a call through using instructions provided by you to do so. May quote basic rates provided by you. Can patch a call through to place a reservation. May provide “conditional call answering” by answering after a phone rings more than five times. Not likely to take reservations for you.
Industry Specific Answering Service
350 minutes of service answered anytime. Inputs reservations into your software system or theirs. Offers Limo Anywhere remote access and dispatch services such as chauffeur wake-up call and checkin. Tracks vehicle documenting arrival times, passenger load times, and job completion time. Provides quotes and handles confirmation calls.