How To Choose the Perfect 24 Hour Answering Service

Reliably roll over crisis calls according to your on-call schedules.

Is it important for you to never miss a crisis call?

Mission driven crisis hotlines, helplines, and text/chat lines want to make sure that:

  1. crisis calls are never missed

  2. hold times are super short

  3. the crisis hotline is trauma informed

  4. callers get support in many languages in addition to English such as Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and more.

If you’re looking for a new answering service for your crisis line then you’re in the right place.

What will I get from reading this article?

We’ll help you understand a relatively new but established niche of specialized crisis answering services, and how to choose an answering service that meets your needs.

Note: Answering services are called by many names, such as live answering service, virtual receptionists, virtual receptionist services, live answering services, and much more. These terms are interchangeable here.


If you’re running a crisis line, crisis hotline, or crisis helpline, or crisis information and referral line then it’s likely you can reduce hold times, and advocate burnout by choosing a crisis line answering service. The leader in this space is, and they were selected to run some major crisis lines like those operated by YWCA Greater Los Angeles, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and more. You can see how their system works here, or just ask your executive director. Chances are you’ve got a friend that’s using them already. You can also schedule a free meeting with them here.

We just need an after hours answering service

Phone worried about missing calls after hours

It’s incredibly common for nonprofit crisis lines to just need an after hours call answering service to answer calls after regular business hours. You’re absolutely in the right place even if you’re just looking for an after hours answering service. Many agency crisis lines ring at the office where an in house receptionist answers calls during business hours. They then transfer the line to the answering service after hours.

Mission-Critical: Never Missing Phone Calls

If your goal is to not miss a call then you want to choose a specialized crisis hotline answering service, instead of a traditional “human answering service”.

Why is that?

Human answering services are not specialized for crisis lines

Most answering services are actually “human answering services”, which are first and foremost really good tools for normal business.

The way they typically work is that you provide a script during the on-boarding process, and whenever a call comes in after hours, live person on the answering service will pick up, provide a personalized greeting, and do basic things like book an appointment, take callback information, or patch the call through to an on-call staff or volunteer.

So what’s so different about crisis hotlines?

Crisis hotlines tend to have multiple layers of backups on-call after hours, and on call personnel change according to those schedules. Human answering services can make human error and call people that aren’t on the schedule, or that people were recently removed from the schedule.

Crisis line schedules also tend to be more complex than normal businesses

This can also be a source of issues. We’ve seen many cases where traditional answering services are simply not able to reliably follow the shift schedule. If you do a root cause analysis then you’ll find that this can be a huge source of burnout at nonprofit crisis lines.

How can I reduce burnout?

…it inevitably creates tension between leadership that creates the schedule and on-call advocates that answer calls.

The tension is real, and we’ve seen this tension result in key staff members leaving the agency, especially when call volume increases. This tends to spiral, because the advocates that are left have to do even more work, which reduces their tolerance to mistakes made by the third party answering service.

The simplest and also most sustainable way to solve this issue is to make sure crisis calls are always routed correctly. You can make sure that happens if you work with a specialized crisis line answering service such as

Missing a Crisis phone call is a big deal

The cornerstone of any crisis line is responsiveness. Missing a single crisis call could mean missing an hours call and an opportunity to provide help to someone in distress. A dependable 24-hour answering service ensures that every call is answered promptly, no matter the time of day. With exceptional service and an unwavering commitment to being available in all of your supported languages around the clock, a crisis hotline answering service ensures that individuals are never left without support when they need it the most.

Check out HelplineSoftware’s specialized crisis hotline phone system/answering service. Be sure that both people that call you your agency after hours as well as during normal business hours get connected with your trained advocates.

Swift Support: Minimizing Hold Times

During a crisis, every moment counts and long hold times can cause callers to hang up. One thing that you’ll quickly notice about specialized crisis line answering services is their emphasis on minimizing crisis caller hold times.

They use a range of different technologies to make sure that you’re not missing calls, and that your callers get exceptional, trauma informed service.

How can we minimize hold times?

If this is a concern for you, we recommend checking out the industry leader for crisis line answering services, Their system runs major crisis lines. You can see how their system works here or schedule a free meeting with them. People reaching out to a crisis hotline are often in a heightened state of distress, and the last thing they need is to be kept waiting on hold with the after hours answering services.

Trauma-Informed Care: Handling Calls with Sensitivity

Human answering services typically support a large number of industries, for example doctors, dentist, and lawyers often use a professional answering service for message taking, and handling inbound calls after hours.

Crisis Lines Need More than Customized Scripts

Is it really a trauma informed approach to have an untrained person be the first person that answers crisis calls for your agency? Sure, you’ve given the human answering service a customized script to follow, but crisis situations are very different, and we’ve heard of many cases where the live answering service agent will panic, and not be sure what to do.

That’s expected. Think about it, how many hours of training do your advocates have to go through? Do you think you could replace training with a simple script or two? Crisis situations don’t work like that. The people that answer phone calls need extensive training just to learn how to prevent the situation from escalating.

What do Crisis Line Answering Services Do Differently? is the leading in crisis line answering service. Their approach is to make sure that your agencies protocols are followed 100% reliably, and that nobody ever speaks your callers except your trauma informed advocates.

Your approach revolves around recognizing the potential triggers and sensitivities that callers might have due to past experiences. By adopting a trauma-informed approach, your crisis line creates a safe and supportive environment for callers, fostering trust and facilitating effective communication.

Learn why crisis hotline leaders have chosen for their crisis hotline phone system/answering service. Learn how their approach works, and be sure that crisis callers get the most trauma informed care as possible by working with the industry leader.

Breaking Language Barriers: Multilingual Support

Crises transcend language barriers. To cater to the diverse population seeking assistance, a comprehensive crisis hotline and telephone answering service that offers support in multiple languages. Most agencies use a language line or other 3rd party phone interpretation service for languages they don’t support. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

What happens if someone speaking Spanish calls after hours?

Does that person get connected to a professional that speaks their language, or do they often hang up because the professional answering calls is not able to speak their language? Is the human answering service able to connect somebody that speaks the caller’s language in a timely manner?

Whether it’s Spanish, Korean, Chinese, or any other language, a crisis line answering service helps ensure that callers are fully able to interact with your agency irrespective of any language barriers. Multilingual support underscores the hotline’s commitment to inclusivity and accessibility.

In an effort to increase multilingual support at crisis lines, our agency is currently providing free consultations on language access at crisis lines. Be on the lookout, we’ll be speaking about this in upcoming crisis line industry conferences as well.

Do we need a new answering service?

Running a crisis hotline, helpline, or information and referral line answering service is incredibly complex. Experiencing crisis line advocate burnout is usually a sign that you may have outgrown your existing crisis line system. Write down the specific problem that you’re having, and just ask if they can solve that very specific problem.

With years of experience in crisis hotline management, brings a deep understanding of the challenges you face, and they’ve worked with crisis line leaders all over the country to develop systems to solve those specific challenges.


In conclusion, a well-chosen 24-hour crisis hotline answering service can be a game-changer in providing timely support during critical moments. It can:

  1. Help ensure that no important calls are ever missed

  2. Decrease hold times for crisis callers

  3. Help you More Trauma Informed

  4. Make crisis calls more trauma informed by making sure that the only people that talk to your callers are your trained advocates

  5. Reduce advocate burnout by ensuring that your shift schedules are 100% reliably followed, and that you can make changes to the shift schedule anytime.

  6. Provide rich data to help you track call volumes, shift hours

  7. Give you dashboards to get in front of preventable crisis line burnout before it happens

Remember, the impact of a crisis hotline goes beyond words – it’s about offering a lifeline to those who are struggling and making a positive difference in their lives. Work with the industry leader to ensure your crisis callers as well as current clients get the best possible service.

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