WARNING about phone answering services
Updated: Jun 14, 2021
I recently wrote a blog comparing phone answering services. At the time I signed up to use Signius. It's one of the most affordable ones out there, but they totally screwed me and I wanted you to know, so you don't make the same mistake I did.
You can read the original blog talking about receptionist services here.
Why have someone answer my phone?
A little back story, I own a photography studio and have a family. I originally started looking for a virtual receptionist so I didn't have to feel like I needed to answer every single call. Studies show that when a client calls if they get a live person you're more likely to gain a customer. I had once been at Universal Studios and was answering calls from clients. It had just gotten out of hand and I wanted to not have to worry about it.
Plus, the receptionists will either text or email you your leads. Which is a big plus. I could email the client back a proposal or find out the info before I returned the call to give them information. I hated feeling like I was fumbling on the phone when I answered calls myself as I never knew what the call was about.
The phone call message quality
Things seemed to go ok at first but after about a year (I hired them in late 2019) I started getting really tired of the agents not taking the information I asked for. They were supposed to get:
Who referred them
Information including the type of session they were interested in.
This is an example of three phone calls from the SAME client on the SAME day and the exact messages sent to me from Signius. (The name and contact info have been changed to protect the client, however, the issues with spelling are ALL on Signius). Keep in mind, I had repeatedly asked the company to verify the spelling of names and email addresses, as a business owner, it looks bad on US if we email someone with a completely different name or misspelling.
Session Type: All Others
Caller: Kayla Konner
Regarding: Do You Have Anything Available For May 3rd? Around 3 pm? It's For My Birthday.
I called the client back to get more information about exactly the type of session they were looking for and to get an email address. Got their voicemail. I then went into a photoshoot.
Session Type: All Others
Caller: Taila Coonner
Regarding: I Have A Photoshoot On May 3. I'm Hoping To Do 3 Outfits. Calling To Confirm The Day.
I called back again for more information and to get an email, because once again Signius didn't do this. Had to leave a voicemail again.
Caller: Talya Conner
Regarding: I Would Like To Schedule An Appt If Possible May 3rd
FINALLY, on the third call of the day, they got the name and contact information correct. I know this because the email actually went through when I tried to email Talya. But, I had to pay for the company to take ALL THREE calls instead of just one because they NEVER gave me all the information I requested. It still doesn't show how the client heard about me, even though they were supposed to get that information.
The above phone calls were from April. I had repeatedly forwarded complaints over more than a year, to the company, including management showing them where things were misspelled or information wasn't being given that I had originally requested.
Whenever a call came through, I was to get an email summary. If it was an emergency, like my child calling from the school they were to text me. But, on the weekends I would sometimes get a text saying a client wanted information about a photoshoot. This was OBVIOUSLY not an emergency. And I don't work on weekends.
The message would never be emailed to me and so on Monday, I would have to HOPE I remembered to go check the texts and write down all the information. They would never email and text to be on the safe side. And if you texted them back to tell them to email it to you, you would get no reply.
I had to repeatedly tell them that an emergency is when my daughter is sick at school or by some weird chance I forgot a photoshoot, but a client wanting an appointment is NOT an emergency. This seemed really hard for them to understand.
The final straw
So in early April 2021 I had a client call and I got my email message from Signius saying it was the 4th time they had called and they wanted a callback. I searched my records and I had no records of them. EVERY time a client message comes through they get logged in to my client software that keeps track of all the necessary information and communication surrounding them, so I can keep track of all emails and notes, etc.
Every once in a while you can get a client that is a bit dramatic and so I figured maybe they had accidentally called another photographer and mistook me for them or something. There is a woman nearby who has a similar name and is a photographer.
About a week later, I got another message saying the same thing from another client. Two in two weeks... that concerned me.
So I emailed Signius around lunchtime on that Monday and said that I had a client saying they had called 4x but I wasn't showing any other messages from them, could they please review them.
A couple of hours later I got this response.
It states, "We researched this and found there was a disconnect between the message and your email address. This has been corrected. I apologize for this error. We'll keep an eye on it to make sure it does not happen again."
So I pressed them about how long it had been going on and was told: "since Friday." However, that first client I mentioned who said they had called 4 times, their message came through on Tuesday, so I knew something was wrong and this had been going back farther than what they were telling me.
I was told that whenever I would contact Signius with a complaint and they'd go into their system and again put a note about what their call takers should be doing, something went wrong.
I found a way to go on Signius's website and review call messages. I pulled them up and referenced them to my client software where I enter each message. I found messages missing going back to January, to a date that I had also complained about the call takers not entering the information correctly. Aprx. 3 months of messages.
For some reason, their system would send me some messages but not all and because I was getting some, I never knew there was a problem.
This is the email I got two days after pointing out the problem and pressing them for more information.
Signius shows awards they've won on their website and have good reviews, but I would NOT recommend them. The amount of revenue I potentially lost because of working with Signius is MASSIVE. And when I brought up how many messages I didn't get, their response was to offer me $100 credit (as seen in the email above).
As of 6/1/21 and several emails about it, that was NEVER done.
I contacted several lawyers about the issue and was told that what Signius did was crappy but the way they have their contract written there's not much you can do if they screw you over.
I have since started answering my own phone calls again and just letting them go to voicemail when I need my family time. I feel like I'm connecting with my clients more and I don't have to worry about someone who doesn't own my business answering my calls and what they are doing or sound like.
Would I like to have someone answer my calls? Yes! I love all my calls being answered immediately, but as of right now, I'm so heartbroken over the crappy customer service of Signius, it'll be a while before I consider it again.