Bill Smith Of AnswerOne Warns: When Responsiveness Is Critical, Your Answering Service Better Be Up To The Task

“How important to you are your customers and their needs?” asks Bill Smith. If you value your customers and want, or even find it essential, to be highly responsive to their needs, then you not only need an answering service, but your answering service must have the ability to be responsive to those needs. In this rapidly expanding and increasingly complex high-tech world in which businesses operate, the human factor is being supplanted for mechanical efficiencies and cost savings, but not at AnswerOne. “Our staff of operators are the heart and soul of our business,” explains Smith, “Sure we have taken full advantage of technological advances to improve our capability and even expand our business, but at the center of everything is the person answering the call and taking the message.”

When the New York City area was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, the Brooklyn-based AnswerOne staff were there 24/7. “Our operators even slept on blow-up mattresses in the break room so that we could continue functioning and triaging the overwhelming volume of calls coming in,” Smith recalled. With power lines down, oil companies and other essential emergency service providers could not be reached directly by those in desperate need of help, but AnswerOne was there to relay the message and facilitate the dispatching of service.

It’s not just during chaotic emergencies that an answering service is critical. We’ve all had experiences with services that walk the caller through an endless series of prompts to eventually land in the appropriate cue for leaving a message, which really doesn’t even guarantee that a real person is ever going to receive it and relay it. And we’ve all made that important call at the one brief moment in the day when we had just a minute to make it, only to be told, “Hold on please,” and then be slammed on hold. While high-tech has its advantages, it is only an advantage when it’s accompanied by high-touch. Having a live person receive a call, gather the essential information and then provide the caller with the assurance that the message will be forwarded in the expected manner and time, is critical to any business that is striving to be responsive to the needs and expectations of its customers.

Smith explains, that “about 40% of our customers at AnswerOne are medical personnel.” At AnswerOne, a complex system of information and directing cues provide the operator all the necessary guidance to be able to receive a call, take a message, and appropriately direct that information to the intended recipient in a timely manner. When a parent calls a doctor in the middle of the night with a sick child, they don’t want to be put through a series of prompts or be forced to leave a voice message and then have to wait for an undetermined period of time for a response. Smith explains, “when a client signs on with AnswerOne, we ask them how they want their calls answered, what information is essential to know to be able to respond appropriately, how they want to be notified a message is waiting, and what is the escalation process for critical messages.”

Many answering services today believe that the answering service business is essentially a technology business and that competing on price is the only differentiator, but that eventually produces a high-tech, low-touch service. For businesses that are differentiating themselves based of customer service and responsiveness, the only solution should be a high-touch, high-tech operation.

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