How to Start or Buy a Telephone Answering Service: Introduction

By Steve and Chris Michaels

Updated January, 2007

Now is an exciting time to start a Telephone Answering Service business, whether it isa new start-up venture, hosting your accounts on another system or a full-fledged seasoned operation. The opportunities are endless in this ever-changing, multi-faceted business.

Besides the conventional message taking that the industry is noted for, the Telephone Answering Service business also encompasses paging with text messaging, voice mail, fulfillment, order entry and Interactive Web Response (IWR). IWR integrates a website with a live operator for answering questions or taking an order while you are both on a particular website looking at your computer. In fact, the telephone answering service industry is quickly emerging into the contact center of tomorrow.

But in talking about starting a Telephone Answering Service (TAS), there are several starting points that one may consider: The first would be an Entry Level answering bureau. This would be a start-up business from scratch that would require a small capital investment. It could utilize a paper-based or paperless system for answering calls (hand written messages vs. typing them into a computer) and offer basic answering service. This would be for the individual who would like to own their call center equipment.

The second option for those with the entrepreneurial spirit would be to use a Hosted Service as your equipment vendor. What this means is that you would put your account database on another system being hosted by either an equipment vendor or another answering service. They would provide you with equipment & software thus enabling you to offer the services of the large Answering Service businesses without the costs. This option would also allow you to go virtual and hire home-based operators. All you would need is a PC with either a cable or DSL hook-up (which the operators provide themselves) and some training and you are in business.

This option is also advantageous for the Answering Service business that has outdated equipment and is looking for the added features and benefits that the larger, more expensive systems have to offer without the costs.

This by far is the easiest and fastest way to get started in the answering service business. If you elect to go with an existing answering service to host your accounts, they could also act as a back up for answering your overflow traffic or midnight shift. They could also purchase your accounts should you decide that the phone answering business is not for you. A win-win situation for both you and your elected hosting agent.

The third type would be someone who has an existing business such as a paging or alarm monitoring company who would like to complement his or her business with telephone answering. Let’s call this type of start-up venture Start-Up II.

The fourth type would be someone who is buying an existing service. These buyers are divided into two groups:

1)   Existing Owners, who are buying Answering Service accounts only for impact and rolling those accounts into an existing bureau.

2)   New Buyers, who purchase the business as a going concern who wish to either run the business themselves, or operate it as an absentee owner.

Read the complete series:

Steve and Chris Michaels operate TAS Marketing, a business brokering company focusing on assisting clients buying and selling telephone answering services and outsourcing call centers. Contact them at 800-369-6126 or tas@tasmarketing.com.

[From Connection Magazine – January 1999]