How Much Does An Answering Service Cost?
When purchasing a new service or product, one of the first considerations that comes to mind is price. With price comes value, and everyone wants to maximize their value. While Amazon has spoiled us with the ability to find the cost of almost anything, the cost of business services such as answering phones are harder to grasp.
Determining the cost of an answering service shouldn’t be much different than determining the cost of a pair of shoes. Yet, call centers have muddied the pricing waters.
Over the 80 years of answering calls and seeing our industry’s changes firsthand, we know how many variables impact your value. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the intricacies of answering service pricing, and determine how much it will actually cost.
Not sure how to select an answering service? Find out here:
How Per-Minute Versus Per-Call Pricing Affects Your Cost
Though the majority of call centers now charge based on the time they spend working on your behalf, you should still know the differences between per-minute and per-call billing.
Per-call pricing seems intuitive, but how your partner defines a “call” may be less straightforward. Many answering services charge the same rate for wrong number calls and hang-ups as they do a call in which a prospect inquires about your product or service. They may even consider sending texts, emails, or faxes as “calls.”
Time-based pricing, on the other hand, tends to be a truer reflection of value. This pricing model is based on the time your partner actually spends supporting your business – whether answering or placing calls, sending texts or emails, or looking up information on your behalf. Some answering services will bill you for the time they spend on the phone. But keep in mind that their per-minute rate will likely be higher to accommodate the supplemental work they may also perform.
5 Standard Answering Service Plans
The best-suited plan for your business depends on your specific needs. And every company is different. Answering service plans cover a large spectrum, from small to large, giving you the ability to choose a plan that’s in your sweet spot of call volume and needs.
The five plans outlined below are the typical sizes of plans. But keep in mind that every call center is different. This is simply a general breakdown to help you determine about how much you may spend for your answering services.
A good plan for a business with very low call volume, pay-as-you-go plans typically include a flat monthly fee and per-call charge. E.g. $39/month, plus $1.25/min.
- 100-150 minutes
This plan is typically priced at a monthly rate, in addition supplemental fees for extra services or minutes used. Cost ranges between $100 and $250, plus additional charges.
- 200-250 minutes
This plan also is typically priced at a monthly rate with addition supplemental fees, but is cheaper on a per-minute basis. It’s tends to be the most popular plan in terms of average usage for an answering service customer. Cost ranges between $250 and $399/month, plus additional charges.
- 500 minutes
The best value plan for companies with larger call volumes, this kind of plan can vary greatly in cost due to the many number of additional services you may want for your business. Cost ranges between $479 and $1,000/month, plus additional charges.
- Custom quotes
If your business receives more than 500 minutes, you’ll want to seek out a tailored plan for your needs. Your costs will vary based on the actual number of minutes and features you’ll need, but this will certainly be the best value for your dollar.
Factors That Decrease/Increase the Cost of an Answering Service
As mentioned in the previous section, there are a number of supplemental services that you may want for your business. While they come with added cost, the question you should be asking is “will this feature add great value?”:
- Secure text messaging (HIPAA compliant)
- Appointment scheduling and registering inbound leads
- CRM integration
- Enhanced call reporting
- And many more
Of course, you can save some money wit a “no frills” plan. If all you want is a real live person to answer the phone when your prospects or customers call, you’ll minimize your costs.
There are a number of fees that surprise some companies, though not every answering service charges these.
Some call centers charge is known as the “13th Invoice.” Their billing cycles are four weeks long, even though several months last longer than 28 days. If your partner bills this way, you should expect to receive 13 invoices on the year. And lastly, some call centers charge an additional fee for answering calls over the holidays. Make sure you review your partner’s pricing page, where most answering services list whether they’ll charge a holiday fee.
Which Pricing Plan is Best for Your Business?
Not every answering service is the same. Pricing plans vary, some offer different features, and most importantly, not all of them provide the same level of service.
Make sure you can find a plan that maximizes your value, benefitting your business for the cost of your partner’s services. And if you need help determining how to select the right answering service for you company, read our guide: How to Select an Answering Service.
About Aaron Boatin
Aaron Boatin is President of Ambs Call Center, a virtual receptionist and telephone answering service provider. His passion is helping clients' businesses succeed. Melding high tech with high touch to provide the best customer service experience for clients is his core focus.