Basically, an answering service is a company that answers calls on behalf of a business and takes messages. But that doesn’t even begin to describe the vast array of services and capabilities answering services provide – or how much a company can save by using one.

Answering services are used by businesses of all sizes and types. From sales reps who don’t want to miss calls while they’re out on the field or meeting with clients, to solo entrepreneurs who need a professional communications team for their virtual offices, to large corporations that need help answering frequently asked questions about products and services, these companies need a cost-effective way to handle phone inquiries.

But more than just a savings, the best answering services offer a number of additional benefits that can boost client loyalty and improve customer satisfaction. In fact, studies show that human connections over the phone are more than twice as likely to drive loyalty as electronic interactions.

Some answering services also offer a second, professional number for their clients to publish – which can protect a business’s privacy by keeping its personal phone line separate from its work one. They may also offer a voicemail to email or text messaging service for their clients, so callers don’t have to leave a message if the business is closed for lunch or after-hours.

Other services are specialized for specific industries, such as law firms or medical practices, and offer the convenience of a single number that can be used for all of their telephone answering needs. Look for an answering service that has experience in your industry and a track record of providing exceptional customer support.