If you’ve shopped around for answering services, you’ve surely seen a pattern. What’s the one thing they all claim? Every answering service insists that they provide quality service. But as they say, talk is cheap. Can they backup their claim by actually doing what they say?
Without first trying them, it’s hard to know for sure if they’re a quality provider or not. However, what if an independent, third-party could attest to an answering service’s quality? Would that help? It certainly would. Fortunately, an independent, third-party certification program does exist for answering services.
The certification has three main parts: agent certification, supervisor certification, and site certification. Each part of the program is important, and each part demonstrates that an answering service is committed to and has achieved high levels of quality service excellence, provided from a first-class facility.
Let’s start with an answering service’s operators or agents. These are the professionals who answer your calls and process your information. They’re your customer-facing representatives, and their work is critical to your success.
Certified answering service agents have undergone rigorous training and demonstrated excellence in their work. First, they’ve completed a comprehensive interactive training program and testing. Next, they successfully passed a thorough written examination covering call handling skills. Last, they’ve undergone an oral interview with a certified examiner who tests and confirms the agent’s knowledge and skill in handling customer service issues and difficult call scenarios.
Answering service agents that pass all three of these criteria earn the title of certified agent, which confirms their ability to provide quality service to their clients—and to your callers.
Being an answering service supervisor or manager carries its own set of requirements. Yes, being a successful answering service agent is often a good prerequisite for supervisory positions. However, not every successful agent can become a successful supervisor. They must first learn and master advanced skills before they can earn their supervisor certification.
Answering service employees with the potential to lead, coach, and support front-line answering service agents may enter the supervisor certification program. After participating in various training opportunities, either online or in person, supervisors wishing to become certified undergo a thorough examination. In this assessment they encounter potential problem scenarios to work through and case studies to analyze.
In addition, they must successfully answer a series of questions, in essay format, which cover system operations and best practice procedures. The certification testing organization says that this “is as much a test of character as a test of knowledge.”
Answering service leaders who successfully complete this in-depth process earn their supervisor certification.
The third aspect of answering service certification is no less important. It looks at the technical systems and support processes that serve as the backbone of the answering service. Answering services that don’t properly address these critical cite certification elements are at a disadvantage in achieving their claim of providing a high level of quality service.
This is a 24/7 site certification program, which includes sixty criteria for answering services to achieve. These represent a collection of best-in-class practices that answering services must follow to provide the infrastructure needed for their staff to provide quality service.
The items addressed fall into several broad categories to demonstrate “a high level of proficiency” in the areas of “recovery techniques, good business practices, documentation of procedures, and levels of redundancy necessary for 24/7 preparedness.” If this seems like this covers a lot, it’s because it does. Of the hundreds of answering services in the United States, only about two dozen have earned this prestigious site certification over the past two decades. Advantage TeleMessaging is one of those answering services.
Switching answering services is challenging, and it’s hard to know if you made the right choice until after it’s too late. However, if you select an answering service that has certified agents and supervisors working from a certified site, you can have confidence that they’re among the best in the industry.
Joseph Kohalmi is the Director of Sales & Marketing for Advantage TeleMessaging, Inc.