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Written by
Katy Ratican
28 Dec 2021
5 minutes

Terms you need to know when you're new to phone answering services

Phone answering service terms explained for entrepreneurs looking to outsource their call management
Business phone answering services terminology

If you’re a business owner planning to outsource your phone call management to a phone answering service, it might get confusing initially. There will be several terms and phrases that you may not have heard before. Unless you understand those, it could be difficult to choose the right phone answering service for your small business.

A phone answering service can offer several benefits to a small business. But before you start comparing services, understanding these terms will help you make the right decision.

Phone answering service terms entrepreneurs should know about

Abandoned call: When a caller hangs up before the operator can talk to them, it counts as an abandoned call.

Answering service: An outsourced service that manages business communication for small and independent businesses and entrepreneurs.

Auto-attendant: An auto-attendant is a virtual assistant that helps a caller to use the keypad or voice without having to seek the help of an agent or customer service representative.

Automatic call distributor (ACD): A system that accepts phone calls and directs them to the right distribution or destination. In customer care, for example, if the caller were to press a letter for a language, ACD will direct them to the appropriate extension.

Automatic number identification (ANI): This is how you identify the number of the person calling you.

Automatic speech recognition (ASR): This system allows callers to choose their options through voice instead of having to punch the numbers in. For example, it might ask you to “please say the name of the individual you would like to speak to.”

Average handle time: It’s the average time an agent would take to answer an incoming call and finish the tasks the agent will have to do as per the caller’s request. It also includes the hold time. This will show you the speed and ability of the phone answering service.

Average wait time before abandon: This shows you how long a caller waits when they are on hold before they hang up. Longer average wait times won’t reflect well on your business.

Submitting a bid, bidding: This is the process of going through the proposals from various phone answering services and comparing their expertise, experience, price, training of agents etc.

Blended/shared agent: When an agent at a call centre answers calls for several businesses.

Call centre: A phone answering service that has a large number of agents handling calls. They can also usually schedule appointments, answer order-related queries and qualify leads.

Call forwarding: This is how you can forward your incoming calls to another number either automatically, when the called line is busy or after a few rings.

Call log: This records all interactions between callers and the agents at the phone answering service.

Cold transfer: When an agent at the phone answering service transfers the call without checking if the intended individual is available to take the call.

Customer service representative (CSR): Agents at the phone answering company who answer your call. They’re also referred to as virtual receptionists.

Dedicated agent: This is how you get a CSR dedicated to your business instead of a shared agent.

First call resolution: When an agent can successfully address the needs of the caller in the first call.

Help desk: In addition to managing calls, a phone answering service with a help desk would also answer frequently asked questions.

Hosted or Virtual PBX: A call management system hosted in the cloud that greets callers and requests them to dial extensions as decided by the company.

Interactive voice response (IVR): It enables callers to press different options for specific results when they hear the voice command.

Live answer: When a real person answers the call live instead of the call going to voicemail or being handled by a robot.

Longest delay queue (LDQ): It refers to the longest time that a caller is forced to wait in the queue before they get connected to an agent or before they hang up.

OpID: Operator ID or OpID is the identifier assigned to agents at the phone answering service.

Perfect greeting: The recorded message that the caller hears before the agent receives their call.

Script: A customised script that an agent would read from to answer your calls.

Second-line app: An additional number that works over the internet. A second-line app will let you direct your calls to multiple numbers and enable you to receive the call from all connected devices.

Simultaneous ringing: When the incoming call rings several phones simultaneously.

Trouble tickets/Issue tracking system: The software through which phone answering agents record the problems that callers relay to them. When someone calls with an issue, the agent would open a trouble ticket.

Unified communications: A consolidated communication management system covering phone, email, instant messaging, fax etc.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP): These are internet-based phone services that don’t require to go through a traditional phone service provider.

Warm transfer: Here, the agent would see if the recipient is available to take the call and then introduce the caller before transferring them.

Web or live chat: When a phone answering service also delivers customer support through the internet.

In short

A phone answering service can deliver demonstrable benefits. Once you understand the terminology, it will be easier for you to get the right package of services for your call management requirements.

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