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Telephone Answering Services

acd system and auto call distribution system route calls This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to answering service systems and phone answering services. At Database Systems Corp. (DSC), we offer complete inbound call center and outbound automated phone services. Our inbound call center processes phone calls using our interactive voice response (IVR) system that answers calls without an operator.

Organizations looking to reduce costs and to improve customer service can now contract their inbound 800 answering service and outbound voice messaging programs at our automated call center facility. As designers of call answering systems and phone answering service software, DSC is uniquely positioned to manage your call answering service and 800 number service campaigns saving your organization both time and money. Because our phone answering service software was created in-house, we can deliver comprehensive 800 number outsourcing quickly -- providing you with a competitive advantage in the marketplace. From external database access to web integration including XML messaging, DSC can provide very custom phone applications. Plus you will find our 800 phone service to be quite affordable.

Work-From-Home: Answering Service Businesses

Getting Started

The needs of a business for an answering service can vary considerably. The basic answering service takes incoming calls on behalf of business people who are temporarily or routinely not available during normal business hours. A company may need a phone to be answered all day, part of the day, after hours only, or 24 hours a day. You can enter this profession at any level you choose. The amount of equipment you will need to get going will also fluctuate depending on how much time you want to devote to your home–based answering business.

The basic answering service takes incoming calls on behalf of business people who are temporarily or routinely not available during normal business hours. Most often, businesses need their phones covered during an “extended” work day, say 8:00 A.M.– 8:00 P.M., with an answering machine taking over the other, less likely, 12 hour call period. Twelve hours can be a long day if you are going it alone, so you may wish to solicit businesses that generally are looking for the phones to be answered from 9 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. This makes it more likely for you to do the job yourself and work it easily into your family’s schedule, too.

Once you identify your work hours, you can begin the task of soliciting businesses to contract with you. Before embarking on this important effort, you should establish a goal of how many companies you want to represent. You can certainly take on more than one company if all you are doing is answering the phone. 

The number of clients you take on will dictate how you will set up your service. The client can either use a phone company service to have their number ring at your location, or they can advertise your number during certain hours. 

The easiest and most inexpensive way to begin is to have a separate phone line and phone for each of your clients. You would then mark each individual phone with the company name as an identifier for you when the phones begin to ring. Installing separate phone lines should run less than $200 each. You will also pay basic monthly charges for each phone. This should average about $35-50 per month. If you are buying actual telephones, these can be acquired inexpensively at local stores. This is the best route if you are going to work with ten or fewer businesses. 

However, if you intend to take on more than ten firms, leasing a switchboard from your local telephone company will make your operation more cost and space effective. A switchboard can accommodate a substantial amount of business activity for you.  

Before buying all these phones and contracting with businesses, check with the phone company to see how many extra lines you can obtain. There may be a limit in your residential neighborhood. How many clients you can take on will depend on the number of lines you can install. You might consider opening up an office in a nearby commercial area, where the number of lines you need can be accommodated. However, this is beyond the scope of your home–based answering service.

The amount and type of equipment you obtain will be dictated by your ambition and your budget. It can be as simple as individual phone lines or as complex as computer screens that flash messages or record instructions for you to convey. The more sophisticated the equipment, the more money you will have to spend. For $25,000, you can purchase one switchboard with 25 lines and the trunk line cable from the telephone company. Of course, the more business you can handle the greater the financial reward. This is some­thing you will have to decide for yourself. If this is low–volume, extra money kind of work, spend as little as possible and take on only one or two clients. If this is to be your new career, then consider the larger investment to handle a high volume of calls.

Before setting up all the equipment, it is necessary to consider expansion options even at the start-up phase. If possible, choose a permanent location as moving equipment and offices can be very costly. Utility companies normally charge penalty fees when answering services relocate. The key to your success does not rely solely on the equipment. Your answering business is providing important customer service for a company. As such, your voice and congenial manner provide a greater value. If you are working with small to medium sized businesses, you probably will not need the latest and greatest phone system to handle the work. The option to installing numerous phones is to lease a switchboard from your local phone company. Find a convenient space in your home to set up your work area, and clear a space for the switchboard. Once set up, it is costly to move, so make your home “office” choice wisely when a switchboard is involved.

The switchboard can handle up to 100 incoming lines, but you need only activate the actual number of lines you intend to use. This large number of lines gives you great flexibility in the service you can provide. Switchboards offer a variety of extras, including room for another operator if your services demand the work of two people, and a secrecy switch to secure the phone lines for your clients. Read the operating manual thoroughly. Better yet, attend training sessions provided by the local phone company, if available.