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Should I use a Live Answering Service or an Integrated Voice Response (IVR)?

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Excellent customer communication is key in today’s world. If communication is lackluster or deficient, customers might hesitate to purchase your services or products. Because of the importance of effective customer communication, we thought it would be fun to explore the pros and cons of a Live Answering Service versus an IVR, or Integrated Voice Response system.

First, let’s start with defining the two systems. With an integrated voice response (IVR), you’ve likely encountered many in your life. That lovely automated phone system navigated by pressing buttons or issuing vocal prompts, sometimes you love it…sometimes not so much. IVR’s are a popular option for companies of all sizes. Businesses preferring the human touch of a receptionist may alternatively choose to go with a live phone answering service. Both systems are dependable ways to handle calls 24/7. Which system is best for your business depends on your needs.  Let’s discuss some important elements of both systems.

Answering the Call with Competence

If not programmed correctly, integrated voice response systems can be frustrating for the end user. Sometimes, there are no appropriate menu options for your customers, and they get frustrated. Another scenario is a user has an urgent situation and is dismayed by steps they must go through to get someone live.  On the flip side, IVR’s can be smarter than a human if programmed correctly.  That said, doing so requires upfront development and analysis of your business.  For instance, do you have a clear sense of what your callers need and clear processes?  If yes, then documenting those steps clearly will help the IVR come to fruition.  Proper analysis of your business is at the forefront of making sure an IVR works competently for your customers.

When a customer calls and a live answering service answers the call, the person who takes their call will input data such as customer name, phone number, and other information. Oftentimes, with a live answering service, the caller values that human experience.  Some reasons might be: a human can account for the fact that the customer is driving and cannot input touchtone numbers into their phone, or a human can account for the fact that the kids are yelling in the background, so getting the automated system to understand them is not working like it should.  A live answering service gives your customer an elevated level of competency that may be crucial for your business.

Telephone Call with Great Customer Experience

When programmed correctly, an IVR can provide an seamless way to get where they need to go. That said, as discussed above, the key there is understanding your business and doing the work up front to know where your customer wants to go when they call into your business.  If you can clearly map this out for most of your calls, then an IVR can provide an excellent, prompt customer experience.

Live answering service can help you maintain a growing business by providing excellent customer service. With a Live Answering Service, our virtual receptionist can educate the caller and make some of the calls a one call solution for the customer, establishing immense brand loyalty for your business. This efficiency helps your business, as they won’t have to make another call.  It also makes the caller very happy because you solved their problem in one call!  By doing so, you may appear more professional, and customers will recognize that your company cares about them. By cutting down on the time you answer calls, your company’s efficiency will increase.

Cost of a Live Answering Service vs. IVR

IVR’s can be very cost-efficient.  Because you are working with technology and not paying for a human, the ongoing cost is going to be lower.  The up front development cost however will be higher.  Additionally, changes to the system will also require a development cost.  Something to consider when deciding on what type of service to choose is how often will I have changes?  If the answer is rarely if ever, an integrated voice response system might be the choice for you.

Live answering service is often going to cost a more than an IVR, depending on minute usage.  That said, an important consideration is that you are only paying for minutes when the agent is on the phone, it can be far more cost-effective than paying an hourly employee at your office if that employee is sitting idle much of the time.

So Which Should I Choose, a Live Answering Service or an Integrated Voice Response System?

Hopefully we have shared some good information to shed light on both of these great options.  If you are still stumped on what option to choose, the great news is, you don’t have to choose!  A hybrid approach might be the answer for you.  You can do IVR plus an answering service. The IVR can route high-priority calls directly to your internal staff and route low-priority calls to the answering service.

If you have questions on what might be the best solution for your business, schedule some time with us to discuss.  We love helping businesses of all sizes optimize the telephone experience for their customers!

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