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Why Choose a Pay-by-the-Minute Answering Service?


Answering services usually bill for their labor in one of two ways: By the call or by the minute. Most of the time, one is better than the other. So which should you choose?

Image of a stop watch timing a pay by the minute answering service

Across the answering service industry there are generally two ways that providers bill their customers. Those methods are pay by the minute answering service or by the call. One of these typically works much better for customers as it turns  out to be more cost effective. Let’s have a look at both billing options to see why one is probably better for you than the other.

By the Call

Most folks, when initially searching for an answering service, think in terms of “per call” billing. That’s because it can seem easier to figure out what your bill might add up to. When you see a price tag of just $.80 cents per call, you can do the quick math and figure that you will pay $80/month for 100 calls. But be cautious when evaluating per call billing methods. What most consumers neglect to take into account is “average call duration.” Average call duration is the amount of time that a typical phone call requires to process from start to finish. If your call durations are 1 minute each, then you pay $.80 for the call per the agreement you signed up for. But what happens if your call durations are just 30 seconds long? You still pay $.80 for the shorter call. Same thing goes if your call is only 15-seconds long. Now you are paying $.80 for a 15-second long call. That is equivalent to $3.20/minute!!! That’s getting pretty expensive for a wrong number.

On the other hand, if you have call durations that are much longer (say 4 minutes on average), you end up paying a very low rate in terms of per minute billing. For example, a 4 minute call billed at just $0.80 is equivalent to $0.20/minute. Now that seems like a great deal for you, right? Well…

Question: How many answering services can stay in business when they charge only $0.20/minute for their services?
Answer: None

If you choose a per-call billing structure, you may think you are getting a great deal. However, if your call durations are short, you are being over-billed. And if your call durations are long, your service is likely on shaky financial footing and they aren’t going to be able to do a very good job for you. In the end, answering services that charge you by the call usually just put you in a lose/lose situation.

By the Minute

The majority of pay by the minute answering services have different plans available for their customers. These plans are based on packages of minutes. When setting up your account, you’ll discuss how many calls you expect them to handle in a month. They will put you at the service level that makes the most sense for your company. So say you expect them to handle 3 calls each weekday after hours and 2 calls each day of the weekend. Your script is pretty basic and each call will last about a minute. That all adds up to 85 minutes, so they might set you up with their 90 minute plan. Any additional minutes used are billed to you at a specified rate. If you end up consistently using more than your plan allotment, then it might be a good idea to bump you up into the next tier in order to save you some money.

The reason why a pay by the minute answering service works best for everyone involved is that it’s the most fair. You only pay your live support provider for the time they spend on the phone with your customers and they make enough money to invest in good employees and technology to provide you the best service. This is one of those win/win scenarios.

The beauty of using minute-based billing is that it is:

  1. More accurate
  2. More fair
  3. More economical
  4. Better service

Ultimately, the best way to go when hiring a business partner like this  is to use a pay by the minute answering service.

Related Posts

How to choose between “Units” and “Minutes” when selecting an answering service

9 Questions You Should Ask when Shopping for an Answering Service



This entry was posted in Answering Service and tagged , by Brian Gabriel. Bookmark the permalink.

About Brian Gabriel

As the Call Center Manager for Sound Telecom, Brian is responsible for overseeing the daily operations and long term success of the company while managing a variety of inbound customer support programs. He also has a hand in taking care of the Solaxis services division. Prior to joining Sound Telecom, Mr. Gabriel held management positions with several prominent Internet Services companies including and Brian started his career in advertising and sales before moving to Washington State. He joined AEI Music in 1995 and supervised their international customer service department and technical support call centers. Brian received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish languages from San Diego State University. Brian teaches adult education at his church and actively supports Christian ministries.