A telephone answering service (also known as “TAS” or a “virtual receptionist”) is a service that answers phone calls, chats and emails on behalf of other companies. Small business, law firms, medical practices, and other businesses hire phone answering services to make sure their calls, chats and emails are answered in a professional manner no matter what time it is. These live answering services are similar to call centers, but generally focus on doing one thing well — answering calls for business customers.
24 hour virtual receptionist
Think of these services as your personal 24 hour virtual receptionist — where the virtual receptionist is trained to answer your calls (and texts and emails) exactly how you want them to. If your business is not staffed to handle all of your incoming calls (such as at nights or weekends), a professional answering service can help.
With a 24/7 virtual receptionist service, you aren't just hiring one receptionist to sit and answer customer calls around the clock – instead, you are actually hiring a team of receptionists that will be available 24/7. They will be answering calls for other businesses as well, that's how answering services can efficiently provide answering services to small businesses such as a property management company, law firm, florist, etc.
If you have ever called your doctor or dentist after 5pm, you have probably spoken with a medical virtual receptionist. Almost every doctor or dentist has an after hours receptionist that answers their calls. These after hour services are usually telephone answering services that are hired by the doctor or dentist for the specific purpose of handling those after hours calls.
It doesn’t make financial sense for a doctor or dentist to pay their own employees to handle calls 24/7. Telephone answering services are used by many different types of companies. Another example of a type of business that commonly benefits from these services are law firms. Law firm answering services often are used to make sure new client calls are answered properly.
In general, any company with clients, customers or patients may want to consider hiring a telephone answering service. In this guide we will discuss all aspects of telephone answering services, including why you might consider hiring a virtual receptionist to handle your calls, how to find a good telephone answering service, examples of different businesses that use answering services, and how much these telephone answering services cost.
History of telephone answering services
Different companies claim to have been the first to offer telephone answering services. For example, the “Doctor’s Exchange” in New Orleans claims to be “the world’s first telephone answering service”. The Doctor’s Exchange started business in 1921 and delivered telephone messages to Doctors. The Exchange also employed bike messengers to deliver messages. The Doctor’s Exchange in New Orleans continues to operate.
A similar operation known as “Mrs Smith’s Doctors Exchange” was formed in Richmond Virginia a few years later. Mrs Smith apparently was bedridden and operated her answering service using a phone positioned near her bed. She answered calls for local doctors. When she died, her children took over the business. The business is still in operation in some form today.
These two examples of early telephone answering services are a great illustration of two features of today’s phone answering services – they are often family owned and operated, and they focus on businesses (like doctor’s offices and other medical providers) that have high value or important calls that often come at any time of day or night. Learn more about how to pick the best medical answering services.
The telephone answering service industry
The telephone answering service industry grew explosively as more and more companies started relying on telephones to interact with their customers and patients. The answering services industry is over a $2 billion dollar industry in the United States. Read more about the telephone answering services industry here.