How to Start or Buy a Telephone Answering Service: Start Up

By Steve and Chris Michaels

Updated January, 2007

You currently have a business that is a 24-hour operation and would like to use your current employees to increase your cash flow. There are many businesses like yours including paging companies, alarm monitoring, and call centers who have a staff. They would like to be able to generate additional revenues by optimizing their present staff and offering their customers other logical extended products or services under the confines of the existing company.

Since you already have a cash flow and a trained staff, it would be advantageous to start out with state of the art, computerized equipment. If you want to start out small, then read the previous section on Entry Level. But if you really want to get into the exploding Teleservices world, then we would recommend paperless, fully computerized equipment for the following reasons.

Paperless Telephone Answering Service (TAS) equipment allows you the ability to do the following:

  • Displays customer information on a computer monitor screen with extra pages of info available.
  • Distribute the calls evenly among the operators and give them access to the customers’ messages with a simple keystroke.
  • Access up-to-date information on call counts, operator statistics, billing information, etc.
  • Automatically deliver messages to clients through alpha page, fax pick-up, voice mail, fax-on-demand or email.
  • Hook up a voice mail system for message delivery, which will cut down on operator time and enhance your bottom line.
  • Purchase sophisticated software packages to enhance features offered by your system, such as order taking and Web enabling.
  • Answer calls off premise for the disabled or in another location for cost control.
  • Take advantage of T1 telephone lines, ISDN and 800 services.
  • Utilize VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).

These plus many more features are made possible by using fully computerized equipment. There are several major manufacturers of phone answering service equipment who advertise in this magazine.

To get started you will need an investment of between $25,000 – $150,000 depending on the number of operator positions required and the level of sophistication and software needed. In the used market, these prices would drop to between $10,000 and $30,000.

Like the Entry Level answering service owner, you will have to look into ordering DID trunks, ISDN or T1 lines. Another point to consider is Yellow Pages advertising. Try to coordinate the opening of your business with the publication of the new phone books and getting a presence on the Web is a must since you now have to compete nationally…not just locally.

Since you already have a customer base, create some advertising inserts to put into your billing. It is also helpful when first starting out to do promotions such as, “A free month’s service if you recommend someone who signs up for the service.”

Having a computerized, paperless system can be a real asset to your business. Once you have become familiar with the system and what it can do, you will probably want to join the users group your equipment. The telephone answering service industry has approximately six such equipment user groups, such as NAEO for Amtelco users, SNUG for Startel users, TUG for Alston Tascom users, PIN for PInnacle users, TUNe for Telescan users, OEO for Onvisource users, each of which meets regularly. [See industry groups and events calendar.]  At these meetings, the owners discuss their shared problems, concerns and learn how other TAS owners are using their systems for moneymaking projects. They also come up with a wish list for software/hardware enhancements that is given to the manufacturer. They have chat lines on the Internet that enable you to have discussions with other members regarding anything and everything relating to your equipment, software, employees etc.

Another way to learn about the industry and socialize with your peers is to attend meetings set up by industry associations.

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.