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Answering Services Cost: 2021 Pricing Comparison

Ensuring that someone answers all incoming client calls efficiently is the way for your company to make money. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible if you have an overworked receptionist or, in fact, no receptionist. And this often happens if you’re a small one or two-person business. Furthermore, many people believe that hiring a business answering service costs a lot of money and that you’d be better off hiring someone in-house and full-time. That isn’t always so, as in-house staff cost the average company a lot of money in overheads. Moreover, there are many plans available to suit most companies.

Read on, and you’ll find out that business phone answering services are often the solution to many companies’ marketing and sales problems, will streamline how your business interacts with your customers, and make you money.

Firstly, let’s briefly consider what an answering service is and how it works. We’ll then talk about it in more depth in the following paragraphs.

  • The first point to note is that a phone answering service is an efficient alternative to recruiting an in-house, full-time receptionist or telephonist.
  • You can specify when and under what conditions the answering service takes over your calls. This is particularly useful if you don’t work outside regular core hours but have customers who might. Or, you only need extra help when the phone starts to ring more than usual. You certainly don’t want to miss out on their business, do you?
  • Finally, you can choose how to be charged, per-minute, per-call, or per-unit. It’s up to you to choose the best plan for your circumstances from the most appropriate provider.

How Much Does An Answering Service Cost?

Choose the company and their offered plans wisely, and a standard answering service costs between $0.59 and $1.30 per call. To put this into perspective, the average telephone answering service costs around $58 for 45-75 calls per month. Going by these figures, you must review how many calls you expect to receive before committing to a price plan. However, some companies allow you to jump between plans on a monthly basis.

The best reason to use a remote answering service company is that their staff contain trained specialists. It’s what they do for a living. They provide receptionists, sales representatives, and customer service representatives. Furthermore, the companies provide flexible and cost-effective answering service pricing plans that cost a minute fraction of the overheads involved with employing in-house staff. Furthermore, they often aren’t fully trained to interact with customers and members of the public.

You’ll also find that each industry has its own pricing regime due to agents requiring specialist training or other specific knowledge. The following information highlights typical pay-per-call answering service pricing plans you might find in many industries.

  • Twentyfour hour answering service costs about $0.75 per call.
  • Bilingual answering service costs about $0.68 per call
  • Medical answering services cost about $0.72 per call.
  • Attorney answering services cost about $0.71 per call.

Top 5 Best Answering Services Companies

Many good answering service companies offer almost the same features. However, the differences lie in the details and the price. For up to the minute advice on the best answering service company to use, we advise completing the form on this page.

However, based on the information available at the time of writing, we compiled information on the following five companies so you can compare the best answering services for your business.

Specialty Answering Service  

SAS offers call center services for inbound and outbound calls. Furthermore, the company offers eight competitive payment plans ranging from $34 per month for the economy package, increasing to the 10,000-minute plan costing $8,990 per month. They also offer 24/7 answering as well as scheduling and bilingual support.  Moreover, the main features for customers include:

  • Message taking,
  • Order taking.
  • Appointment scheduling.
  • Bilingual support in English and Spanish.
  • Live answering using the customer’s script.

Furthermore, one of the better features is that contracts are month-to-month, and customers can change their plan depending on their expected call volume.

PATLive     

If you have a small business, then PATLive is probably the one for you. The company offers a 14-day free trial, after which you receive a bill only for the time the agent is on the phone with your client. Generally, the features on offer include:

  • Taking messages from customers and forwarding them via email or text messaging.
  • Processing orders and dealing with payment information.
  • Capturing leads and passing on the details to a designated person.

There are different sized pricing plans starting at $39 per month plus $1.95 per minute, increasing to $999 per month for 1000 minutes, with other benefits.

PCMSI 

PCMI has probably the best low-cost answering service fees. It charges per minute and has low charge rates, with the lowest set at $0.55 per minute with an average rate of $0.75. The company offers four tiered plans from 60 minutes per month up to 4,000 minutes per month, with various addons.

The services offered by the company include:

  • Live answering 24/7, 365 days a year, using a script approved by the customer.
  • Appointment scheduling, with email or text message notifications of new appointments.
  • The company’s agents transfer calls to specific staff members.
  • They can also take orders from customers, provide detailed product information and provide a customer help desk.

BPO American  

BPO American is probably one of the best customizable answering services on offer. The company has six different ready-made price plans but can develop a custom plan to suit your company’s requirements. You won’t be charged a setup fee, and you can start using the telephone answering service as soon as you sign up. If you want more, they also offer appointment setting, live web chat, email management services, and order taking. You also have a three-day free trial to see if it suits you.

The cheapest plan starts at $29 per month, increasing up to £369 per month. Moreover, you can add extra services if you want to. And what’s more, there’s no penalty for canceling, so if business drops off, you can cancel at the end of the month.

Responsive Answering Service 

Responsive Answering Service doesn’t only provide a telephone answering service. They also provides a full virtual receptionist service, complete with message taking and appointment scheduling. They specialize in customizing their services to your industry, and of course, provide a 24/7 answering service as well.

Their plans start at $99 per month for about 80 calls. But, expect the cost of answering services to rise as you choose from their services list.

Types of Phone Answering Service Plans

Although we mentioned earlier that typical business answering services cost between $0.59 and $1.30 per call, the actual price fluctuates depending on the number of minutes you buy and which of the many services you want to use.

Standard plans

Usually, standard plans are basic and are purely an answering service. When you compare between suppliers, make sure you compare like-for-like.

Custom plans

Custom plans are the best option if you have a high call volume of over 500 minutes. Call volumes like this allow you to negotiate a low-cost answering service with the supplier. This type of plan is perfect for receiving a multi-level business answering service at a low cost, often as little as $0.59 per call.

500 minutes

If your call volume is as high as this, then you probably also need some of the many other services on offer. Usually, the answering service rates can be anything from $400 to $650 per month. However, if you use other services, you will pay more.

200-250 minutes

Sometimes, it isn’t easy to find the right plan for call volumes in this range. Many companies will charge a monthly payment. However, it might be better if you pay on a pay-per-call basis. You also have to consider the additional services you might use.

100-150 minutes

Customers with this kind of call volume will receive a bill that primarily consists of additional services. A typical monthly fee will be from $85 to $190.

Pay as you go

Pay-as-you-go is probably the best option and is usually the cheapest answering service if you have less than 100 minutes per month. Typically, your charges consist of a monthly flat rate, around $45 per month, in addition to an additional charge per call of perhaps $1.25 per minute.

Answering Service Pricing Plans by Industry

As we all know, some industries need specialized knowledge, and so you will be charged accordingly. Let’s look at some of the more common specialist business types.

Bilingual Answering Services

You need someone fluent in a foreign language to provide this service. But, if you regularly deal with Asia or Europe, your receptionist might need French, German, Mandarin, or Japanese. However, in the USA, the most everyday foreign language is Spanish. You pay more for this service, usually between $0.65 and $0.87 per call.

24 Hour Phone Answering

You might not work 24/7, but your customers might, especially if they live in a different time zone. Expect to pay an average charge of between $0.70 and $1.00 per call for the privilege of nighttime call answering.

Medical Answering Service

Medical information is confidential, and the HIPAA laws regulate people and companies who work in the industry. Therefore, the answering staff needs additional training, and you will pay an additional charge for this. Typically, medical answering services cost between $0.72 and $1.05 per call more.

Attorney Call Answer Solutions

Although not as sensitive as medical information, legal and attorney answering services requires confidentiality as well. Expect to pay an additional sum of between $0.70 and $1.15 per call.

Live Answering Service Cost Factors

The price you pay will always vary according to your company’s requirements and the type of business you are in. Below we have outlined the factors that have the most significant impact on your phone answering service prices.

Disaster recovery

Find out what happens, should the answering service company’s plan go wrong. What happens if they have a power cut, their server crashes, or their medical specialist goes home unexpectedly sick. You want to know that everything will be okay and that your business won’t suffer.

Service pricing

You understand that the answering service company must make a profit, but you don’t expect to pay over the odds for the additional services they offer. Ensure the additional services you need for your company to operate smoothly don’t cost more than they should.

Deployment/ installation time / costs.

There will always be a time lag between signing up for the service and when the service becomes operational. Furthermore, a sign of an excellent answering service company is to quickly deploy a specialist agent to your contract and have your script ready to be used. Also, make sure the setup costs aren’t over the top.

Benefits of Phone Answering Services

There are many benefits when using an outsourced phone answering service. Let’s consider some of the most common:

  • Your in-house phone answering staff might not be able to manage sudden high volumes. Peaks and troughs in orders might happen at unexpected times.
  • While your in-house receptionist answers the phone, you might miss a call offering the contract of a lifetime. Make sure that never happens.
  • You might not have in-house phone staff, so you need someone to route calls to the correct person.
  • Sometimes, you might need extra phone answering capability during a marketing campaign or a particular annual season.
  • You want a specialist who knows how to answer the phone, take contact details, take down messages and follow them up.
  • Your company might be temporarily or permanently short-staffed and needs someone to answer the phone.
  • You need a buffer between your busy staff and unwanted sales calls. Use an outsourced contractor to filter out these nuisance calls.
  • Accept calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year using an outside contractor.
  • If you’re a small business and spend a lot of time on the road or working away from the office, you need a professional to take your calls.
  • Improve customer service by having a dedicated person on the end of a phone.

Types of Answering Services

There are four main types of answering services. Let’s see how each one works:

Live Answering Services

Nothing gives a better impression to prospective customers than a bright and enthusiastic voice on the end of a phone. A professional who knows how to be polite and asks the right questions will be a definite asset to your company. They can speak intelligently to the customer and discuss their problem in the best way possible. Many people don’t like speaking to a menu-driven automated voice on the end of a phone. Furthermore, you can lose business if the customer wants to explain something to a person but cannot.

After-Hours Answering Services

Your company might not work outside regular core business hours. Therefore, you might lose an order from a customer in a different time zone if there’s no one there to take the call. Outsourcing your calls to a specialist company ensures that you never miss a call again.

24-Hour Answering Services

This service is an extension of the previous one. Your customer might not be in a different time zone in the USA but might be on a different continent. Moreover, their day is our night, they might have a different weekend to us, and they will definitely have different public holidays. So, rather than lose the possible contract, you could pay someone to answer your calls 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, and 365-days a year. Furthermore, this type of outsourcing is excellent if you need someone on 24-hour customer service for a product or software.

Automated Answering Services

This is an automated service and involves the use of a virtual receptionist. At its very basic level, the recorded voice might ask the customer to press a number on their keypad and be diverted to a specific person. Alternatively, you can use special AI software that allows the customer to say what the problem might be or what they need help with. Then, the software diverts the person to the correct staff member.

Additional Features

There are also additional features that you might want to include in your service plan.

  • Message-taking is very important in business. Sometimes, a key staff member is unavailable, maybe in an important meeting, and doesn’t want to be disturbed. The receptionist can take the message and contact details. Then, they email or text the staff member to phone back at their convenience.
  • Alternatively, a particular staff member might be unavailable, but another person might be able to deputize. The agent then diverts the call to the other person who can help.
  • Order taking is an essential task that agents can outsource. Sometimes,  a customer might have trouble placing an e-commerce order. In this case, the agent can take the call and walk the customer through the procedure.
  • Making appointments is a valuable task. Agents can add appointments or meetings to a shared calendar. Then, you receive a text message, email, or other notification detailing the appointment.
  • Live webchat is an up-and-coming service offered by many telephone answering services. By having a dedicated channel on your website, you have another way for customers to access your company and make money for you.

Avoiding Additional Fees

It’s sometimes tricky to compare answering service prices because many companies don’t use the same pricing structure or the same billing method. Therefore, sometimes you might end up paying extra fees without realizing it. Moreover, this might make one of the cheapest deals into a more expensive one.

Standard additional fees

These are additional fees that all companies use to make life easy for themselves.

  • There will be a fee if you don’t pay your bill on time.
  • You’ll also be charged a fee if you prefer paper rather than electronic bills. Paper bills need an envelope and postage stamp and someone to deal with it. An electronic bill can be sent by email automatically.
  • You might go over the agreed number of minutes. If you do, you will pay a premium.

The way to avoid them is to play by the rules and make life easy for everyone. Then, you won’t end up paying extra.

Short billing cycle

Some companies charge every 28 days rather than every 30 days. Therefore, you end up with an extra invoice every year. The way to get around this is to insist on a bill every calendar month. This makes life easier for you as it ties in with your other invoicing.

Incremental billing

This billing method rounds up your call to the nearest minute. This method might be okay if you have a low call volume. But, if you have hundreds of calls a day, this can add up to you paying a lot more than you should. For example, suppose you receive a 10-second call, you will be charged for 1 minute. Furthermore, if you receive three calls in under a minute, you will pay for 3 minutes of service, which costs the answering service less than 1 minute.

Make sure you know what you’re paying for and how the answering service calculates your charges.

Transfer fees

Every answering company will charge you for transferring calls. Usually, this is from $0.25, increasing to $1.25 per transfer.

However, check how they charge for your time on the transferred call. If you’re lucky, they might charge you a flat rate per call. Alternatively, they might charge you per minute. If that’s the case, think how expensive a transferred call lasting 45 minutes will be!

Holiday pricing

Not every country has the same national holidays as we do. So, make sure that your answering service knows whether you want the calls answered during a national holiday. They will charge you a premium for their agents to work on a day when most other people are at home. So, if you want calls answered on Thanksgiving or Christmas day, make sure you know how much they cost. Charges can be as high as $5 to $15 per call.

Simultaneous call answering

Sometimes you might have more than one call coming in simultaneously. However, your answering service will typically only answer one at a time. Therefore, if you want two or more agents answering calls simultaneously, you must expect to pay more. Make sure you know what service you’re paying for.

Foreign language

You might or might not expect calls from people speaking other languages. You indeed will if your company sells internationally. Do you want an answering service that can speak more than one language? Then you can expect to pay more for it. You might end up paying a flat fee per month or a per-call rate. Make sure you know which it is and whether it’s cost-effective.

Other fees

There might be other, less common fees that crop up in the answering service’s contract. Some might be obvious, while others might be more difficult to understand. If you aren’t sure what they’re talking about, don’t hesitate to ask. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying for stuff you didn’t know existed.

US Regulation & Compliance

If your business handles client information of any type, ensure that the answering service agents respect confidentiality and abide by the various laws protecting you and your data. The only way to find this information is to ask the company if they are compliant. They must also know the laws that govern customers’ privacy relevant to recorded phone calls and other data retrieval methods.

If your company works in the medical industry, you and your answering service contractor must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Under this federal act, telephone answering services are classed as ‘business associates’ and must have HIPPAA protocols to comply with the law. Ensure that you’re comfortable with the answers you receive because you can be fined up to $50,000 per violation, up to a maximum of $1.5 million per year. Also, there are federal and state laws regarding wiretapping. These might limit the answering service’s ability to record calls on your behalf. Under the law, before you record any call, the company must obtain permission from at least the other party. Because laws differ from state to state, the answering service must be aware of the states in which you intend to trade and the laws governing phone recordings in those states.

Next Steps

If your company needs to streamline and improve its customer interaction, look at business call answering-service costs. It would be best to find some competitively priced plans, with valuable features, which can make your company more efficient. But, before you go ahead and sign yourself up for a plan that isn’t what you need. Get some professional advice from honest and dependable companies that we have already vetted.

Complete the form on this page, and you’ll receive up to 3 quotes from specialist companies that know what they’re doing and can give you competitive prices.