Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Funeral Home Answering Service?
If we've learned anything from the stock market crash of 2008, it is that the economy is fickle and businesses (including funeral homes) are the first to feel the pinch. The concern for cutting operational costs is one of the biggest concerns for Funeral Director's. If you've hired a funeral home answering service in lieu of hiring full-time staff to answer your phones, you're already moving in the right direction. Now it's time to go a step further; read these tips on how to reduce your answering service expenses to ensure you are getting the best service for the best price.
Tip #1 - Use Call Forward/No Answer and Call Forward/Busy
Make sure your answering service offers you unassisted call forwarding. Some services will require you to confirm your lines are forwarded to the proper number by having you check-in with an operator, costing you billable time on your account. By using call forward/no answer you can make sure you have the first opportunity to answer your calls and only use the service if you cannot receive the calls yourself. This is a great safety measure in the event you forget to call forward at night or if you are with a family and it may not be appropriate to answer the phone. Call forward/no answer can be programmed on your line 24/7.
Have you ever called a Funeral Home only to hear a busy signal? Imagine a family trying to get through when they need you most. Call Forward/Busywill eliminate frustrating busy signals. If all your lines are being utilized the call will be diverted to a Call Specialist, who will know exactly what to do. Never miss a First Call again!
You can reduce your answering service call volume by handing fewer calls over to the answering service without losing their backup protection tools like call forwarding. This option allows you to reduce staffing costs without affecting the level of service your families receive.
Tip #2 - Have Your Answering Service Review Your Account Regularly
Choose an answering service that is willing to monitor your account to ensure you are taking advantage of the most cost effective rate plan for your call volume. Hire an answering service that offers a variety of rate plans for all needs and any budget.
Tip #3 - Make Sure Your Answering Service is Efficiently Collecting Information
Keeping the answering script tight and concise will ensure that your billable time is not wasted on non-essential information collection and delivery. Your account can be highly customized so you can decide what questions you want asked and what information you want collected. Usually aformis sent for you to fill out all of the specific information pertaining to the call (greeting, first call form, message delivery, etc.). Upon submitting the form, there should also be a one-on-one interview conducted between you and the answering service to review your account to ensure optimum customization and seamless representation of your funeral home.
Tip #4 - Forward to a Toll Free Number
Ensure your answering service is providing a toll free forwarding line so you are not paying to forward your calls.
Tip #5 - Request a Detailed Report of Incoming Call Patterns
Ask for a detailed report to see when your peak times (or most call received) are. This is valuable information that can provide you with the information you need to ensure your staff are answering as many calls in-house as possible. It may be that shifting the hours you answer a call by half an hour could make a big impact on the number of calls that you can answer in-house, thus saving you money.
Tip #6 - Per Second Versus Per Call Billing
Per second billing can be more cost effective than billing on a per call basis as some answering service companies count each time a funeral home call forwards as a "call", resulting in 30 plus calls per month. Alternatively, per second billing will only result in a couple minutes per month. Quite the difference!
Tip #7 - Have Messages Delivered Electronically
With the convenience of text messaging, many funeral homes are having First Calls and other urgent calls immediately texted followed by an immediate call or with a 5-10 minute confirmation instead of having information verbally relayed to the Director. This will save time on your line. The answering service operators can ensure they speak directly to your On-Call to verify details have been received. In addition to the convenience, texting will reduce live talk time and with the advantage of per second billing, the call is kept to a minimum. Immediate emailing is also an available option.
Tip #8 - Ask the Answering Service How They Bill
Some answering service companies bill on a 28-day cycle resulting in 13 bills per year. Whereas, other companies bill at the 1st of every month resulting in 12 bills a year. Knowing this can save you money on billing and invoicing costs.
Tip #9 - Take Advantage of Web-Based Services
Make use of online web services so that your answering service can pull obituaries etc. for your web site saving the billable time it would take to update them over the phone. Check to see if the answering services allows you to update your On-Call list information yourself. This is important because some answering services do it themselves and charge you money for amount of time it takes their staff to update your On-Call information.
Tip #10 - Perform Your Own Quality Control Measures
Due to the sensitive nature of your work, you want to make sure that your funeral home and your families are being represented and regarded in the most respectful way by your answering service. Most answering service companies offer the added benefit of call recordingsallowing complete transparency. These calls are immediately available for your review for your own quality control measures. On-Line Access allows you the convenience of logging onto the answering service website with your own personal user name and password to listen to each and every call. You hear the actual conversation between your families and the answering service operators, eliminating any concerns of an incorrect message and allowing for verification of all conversations.
These recordings also offer the added benefit of functioning as a back-up measure that you can reference to firm up any details that might have been missed. The recordings can also act as a legal safe guard. Make sure your answering service is putting their money where their mouth is.
Tip #11 - Refer Other Funeral Director's
Most answering services have a referral program in place that will financially incentivize current clients to refer their services to potential clients in return for in-house account credits. Ask if the answering service provides some kind of financial credit to your account if you refer someone. Every time you refer someone, that's more money off your bill and in your pocket! Referral programs are the merit badges of any business because it reflects the high level of value they place on their current client relationships.
Tip #12 - Do Your Research
If you've made it this far into this article than you're already on the right track to educating yourself on hiring an answering service. Make sure that the answering service you choose is the best fit for your funeral home. Take into account the content they have available on their website, the resources that they provide, and of course think about these 12 tips :). Good luck!