What Is An Answering Service?

Businesses use answering services to improve the customer experience. So, what is an answering service and how does it work? Read on to find out.

Since the first call centers were opened by Time Inc. in 1957, answering services have been a popular and effective way for businesses to maintain superior communication with clients. 

What is an answering service? From answering and transferring inbound calls to cold calling and replying to emails and text messages, answering services do it all.

But how do answering services work, and could using one be the right communications solution for your business? Let’s go over how an answering service operates and how they can improve your workplace operations. 

What Do Answering Services Do?

Broadly speaking, answering services manage inbound and outbound communications for a variety of businesses across multiple industries, like healthcare, e-commerce, and legal management.

When you think of an answering service, the first image that comes to your mind may be of a room full of attendants equipped with headsets, diligently answering phones and transferring calls. 

But the truth is, 21st-century answering services and the professionals who work in them do a lot more than operate switchboards. The types of communications that answering services manage include:

  • Answering phone calls
  • Transferring calls
  • Outbound calls (cold calling)
  • Replying to emails or text messages

Types of Answering Services

New developments in communications technologies have challenged answering services to adapt to changing business needs and diversify the types of communications solutions they offer. 

These days, answering services can be divided into subcategories based on the specific services they offer. Although each type can be classified as an answering service, they each offer distinct types of assistance to businesses.

The most popular types of answering services include:

  • Virtual receptionist service – a virtual receptionist service is most closely aligned with a traditional answering service. The functions they perform for businesses primarily include answering and transferring incoming telephone calls. Although, they may also act as a liaison between the businesses and its customers, relaying information such as business hours and location.
  • Automated answering service – Automated answering services rely on automated operators to process incoming telephone calls. These services utilize interactive responses options, like voice responses or numeric entry, in order to assist customers. Often, this involves sending the customer through a series of prompted responses. 
  • Internet answering service – Do you know the answer to “what is live chat support?” Internet answering services provide web-based communications solutions for businesses, usually by offering email assistance or live chat options. Increasingly, internet answering services also offer social media services.
  • Call center –  Unlike answering services, which focus mostly on incoming communication, call centers are set up to make outbound calls or cold calling as well. Further distinguishing them from other answering services is the volume of operators they employ, which is often far more than typical answering services. However, maybe you have heard about a call center that answers incoming calls and are wondering, “what is an inbound call center?” or “what is the difference between an answering service vs call center?
  • Virtual office service – Virtual office services fulfill many of the same functions as answering services, although they also provide businesses with physical addresses and perform other standard office duties, such as providing meeting space.

How Do These Types of Answering Services Work?

Across industries, answering services provide businesses with a range of communications services that allow them to serve their customers and streamline business flow. But how do they perform these crucial tasks?

Virtual Receptionists, Automated Services, and Call Centers 

One of the most important tools answering services use to manage inbound communication between businesses and their clientele is call forwarding. It’s a simple solution that can present a range of benefits to businesses. 

Call forwarding is a service that reroutes, or forwards calls made from one line to another line. For businesses that use answering services, the calls are routed from the business line to the call center, where they’re answered by professional live operators. 

Many answering services offer call forwarding options that let businesses choose how and when they use the service. Businesses may opt to have every incoming call forwarded to the call center, or they may choose to have their calls forwarded only at specific times—for instance, during the hours when the business is closed. 

Call forwarding can help your business:

  • Increase bottom line – By forwarding calls to a call center where multiple operators are standing by, you’re guaranteed to never miss a call. This means that you’ll never miss out on a sale or the opportunity to take on a new client. 
  • Improve customer service – Never missing a call also means never missing the chance to wow your clientele with your customer service. When you use a call forwarding service, your customers are assured that they can always get in touch when they need to—even for emergencies that arise outside of traditional business hours.
  • Build a positive reputation – Using a call forwarding service is a great way to ensure that anyone calling your business has the most positive and professional interactions. For established businesses, this can mean safeguarding the reputation you’ve worked so hard to build. For younger businesses and start-ups, it can help you establish a reputation of quality and professionalism. 

Internet Answering Systems

Digital modes of correspondence have drastically changed how our society communicates, and businesses have not been left out of this trend. These days, having someone standing by to respond to important emails, text messages, and social media queries can be just as important to your business as having someone there to answer the phone. 

Answering services that offer web-based services do just that, monitoring your business’s email accounts, texts, and social media to better serve your customers.

  • Email answering services – Email answering services are not too different from call forwarding services—you’re just handing over your email address instead of your phone line. Companies work with a business answering service staff to determine a strategy for replying to the various kinds of emails your business receives. The answering service will use that strategy to have their agents reply to your emails on your behalf, in a tone and style that are consistent with your business ethos.
  • Text message answering services – Text message answering services use two-way SMS messages to reply to text messages on behalf of businesses. Messages are generally sent from a web-based SMS texting service by a live operator in a call center.
  • Social media answering services – Social media answering services handle all of the social media correspondence for a business, like replying to direct messages, tweets, and Facebook comments. More than that, many of these answering services also monitor your business’s online presence and reputation across sites and platforms.

Internet answering services can be a tremendous boon to the way your company does business. Email answering services can eliminate the need for out-of-office replies or standard replies that might read to your customer as rote or impersonal. 

Additionally, having trained, knowledgeable agents communicating with your customers via text message or social media means you're always available. 

Answering Services and Outbound Calls 

Businesses that make a substantial number of outbound calls often use answering services to manage the volume. Instead of forwarding calls to a call center, answering service agents generate calls on behalf of the business. 

Outbound answering services perform a number of call styles for business in various industries, from sales to medicine to retail, including:

  • Cold calls – If your business relies on over-the-phone sales pitches to drum up business, you can hire an answering service to make those outbound calls for you. 
  • Appointment reminders – Utilize our outbound call service to improve your appointment efficiency. Many medical offices use outbound medical answering services to notify patients with reminders about upcoming appointments.
  • Customer verification – For many businesses, especially those that operate online, verifying customers is necessary to prevent fraudulent transactions. This is another task you can outsource to some answering services. 

Using an outbound answering service can streamline your business’s entire outbound calling process, saving you time—and money—on each call. When increasing the number of outbound calls you can make, you can even increase your sales. 

How an Answering Service Can Boost Your Businesses  

When you partner with the right answering service, you can realize your business’s maximum potential by streamlining all of your communications needs. Among its many benefits, an answering service can help you:

  • Increase efficiency and productivity
  • Promote sales
  • Offer 24/7 customer service

Whether you need a team of talented representatives to handle your incoming calls or outgoing phone calls or a crew of internet-savvy agents answering your emails and fielding your social media communications, an answering service is the obvious solution. 

Nexa: Get in Touch With the Possibilities

These days, your customers expect you to be available when they need you—whenever that is. Partnering with an answering service agency is the best way to guarantee that you’re always available for your customers.

At Nexa, we’re dedicated to providing businesses with the finest quality answering services available. Our expert agents are real people who are trained to handle all of your business’s calls, emails, texts, and other communications with courtesy and professionalism. 

Our services are available 24/7, every day of the year, meaning you never miss important calls and your customers never feel abandoned. 

From appointment scheduling to outbound sales, live chat support to patient intake, Nexa is the answering service solution for any business. If you’re ready to maximize your business’s communications system and realize its full potential, get started with Nexa today.


  1. SpecialtyAnsweringService.com What the Heck is An Answering Service? https://www.specialtyansweringservice.net/what-the-heck-is-an-answering-service/
  2. ABetterAnswer.com How Does an Answering Service Work? https://www.abetteranswer.com/blog/how-does-an-answering-service-work
  3. Moneypenny.com. 5 Benefits of Using a Telephone Answering Service. https://www.moneypenny.com/us/resources/blog/5-benefits-of-using-a-telephone-answering-service/
  4. Ruby.com. Call Handling: A Comprehensive Guide. https://www.ruby.com/call-handling-comprehensive-guide/

Discover How We Can Grow Together

Nexa Receptionists

Frequently Asked Questions

No items found.

News & Resources

Run your business with Nexa

Choosing the Right Answering Service

Choosing the Right Answering Service

How do you decide which answering service is right for your business? Learn more in our blog post.

Read Press Release

Nexa Receptionists Holdings, LLC Hires Pravin Chandrasoma As First-Ever Chief Technology Officer

Nexa Receptionists Holdings, LLC Hires Pravin Chandrasoma As First-Ever Chief Technology Officer

Nexa Receptionists Holdings, LLC (“Nexa”) welcomes Pravin Chandrasoma as its first-ever Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for its two brands: Nexa and Alert Communications.

Read Press Release

Your Guide to Live Chat & Text For Business Growth

Find out how your business can deliver an exceptional 24/7 customer experience, improve conversion rates and convert website traffic into customers.

Download Guide