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How to Compare Answering Service Pricing

Not all pricing is equal in the telephone answering service world. In fact, it can get a little confusing when you are shopping around, but  this is  how to compare answering service pricing like a pro.

Image of two women trying to compare answering service pricing

One would think that a call is a call and a minute is a minute, but that couldn’t be further from the truth in the answering service industry. Sorry, it’s not like all of us answering service providers got together and concocted a devious plan to confuse everyone. The truth is that each call center is different. Business models vary, the technology used by each one is never the same, and differing values and historical factors all play into the way answering service pricing is determined.

That information on its own isn’t exactly helpful when you are attempting to choose the best answering service to field your calls, but at least you now have a baseline understanding of  why pricing is different. So let’s move on to the how in how to compare answering service pricing.

Per Minute vs. Per Unit

At first, it may seem that per unit (or call) billing is easier to understand. If you usually get 60 calls a month, you would just find a good plan for 60 units, right? Well, answering services that still use unit billing count some other things besides just calls as units too. Things like hang-ups, wrong numbers, messages delivered, and calls transferred can all count as units, so you can rack up charges quickly. Beware of units based billing.

The majority of answering services now use minutes based billing. It actually works out better for both you and your provider in the sense that it is more fair, because you only get charged for what you use. Usually a standard call handled by an answering service where a message is taken lasts  a little over a minute. Now, sometimes they can be shorter or longer depending on what kind of calls you typically receive and how you want them handled. But for the sake of getting a rough guesstimate in your head of how many minutes you’ll need in your answering service plan, use  1.25 minutes per call.

A minute is 60 seconds, right?

In most cases, yes, but of course the answering service world has to complicate this too. Two different answering services might use minutes billing, but you could be charged completely different amounts for the same call. It all comes down to rounding and billing increments. Some answering services will round up to the nearest minute, so a call that lasts 1 minute and 1 second actually costs you 2 minutes. Watch out for extreme rounding cases like that. Good answering services round to much smaller increments, which keeps your bill much more reasonable.

In an attempt to cover costs, some answering services create sneaky ways to either get off the phone quicker (so they don’t have to employ as many people) or charge more for longer calls (by unnecessarily dragging them out). Sacrificing the customer experience is never a good thing since a good answering service is  supposed to enhance the customer experience while handling calls efficiently.

Hidden Fees

Always ask for clarification on what additional charges you might incur. Some common ones to be on the lookout for include charging more to answer on holidays or charging you for time your caller spends on hold. Be wary of any fee that seems like a sneaky way to inflate your bill.

28 Day vs Monthly Billing

Watch out for that 13th invoice! Some answering services bill on a 28 day cycle. What does that mean for you? One more bill each year. Do you need one of those? Probably not. So just make sure you ask about this and find an answering service that sticks with true monthly billing.

Final Considerations

Whenever you are talking to an answering service about their prices and billing structure, make sure you really dig in. You need to have a  good understanding of what you will be billed for and how it will be calculated. Ask for specifics and make sure you get a straight answer. There can be a lot of details and it’s important for you to know exactly what you will be getting charged for so there are no surprises when that invoice arrives.

Once you have all the cost details for the answering service vendors you are evaluating, create a mock bill for yourself. Take your average number of monthly calls and run it through your equation. Make sure to take into account any additional costs that may be associated with the vendor or the way you want your account handled. This will give you a great way to evaluate the cost of each service provider.

Less confused now? Hopefully this has helped you understand how to compare the price of answering services. If you have any questions, we would be happy to talk to you more about how to compare answering service pricing.

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About Andrew Tillery

Born and raised in Oregon, Andrew has now put down roots in Seattle, because he refuses to call anywhere but the Pacific Northwest home. After graduating from Portland State University with a double major in Marketing and Advertising, he spent some time learning Spanish and experiencing all that South America has to offer. It was while he was south of the equator that he uncovered an interest in writing that he strives to develop whenever the opportunity is presented. When Andrew isn't taking care of business at the office, he is throwing fuel on his fiery passions for sports and the outdoors.