Answering Service Solutions: Complete Buyer’s Guide
There are many options available with today’s answering services, all of them aimed at providing the most efficient and cost-effective service for your particular business needs, but the amount of choice can sometimes be overwhelming. We’ve put together this complete buyer’s guide to make it easy for you to select the specific answering services you need, allowing you to achieve the most affordable and comprehensive virtual receptionist package possible.
Answering, Forwarding, and Order Processing
The most basic service available from most inbound call centers is simple answering and message taking. Callers are never forwarded to your direct line; instead, custom scripts are used to take messages which are then communicated to you on a schedule of your choosing. Prices can be as paltry as $25/month for low call volumes.
A service that includes call forwarding will cost a little more. Virtual receptionists will still answer your calls and can take basic information and messages, and will also put calls directly through to you when the call matches criteria you set. These plans start as low as $40/month.
For product-oriented businesses, using an answering service as an order processor can dramatically improve efficiency. Not only will your inbound call team be able to record basic customer information, they can process payments and even send the necessary details to your distributors, on a per-minute basis or a per-order basis for as little as $1 per order.
Calls Answered vs. Minutes Used
Whatever services you choose from your inbound call center, plans might be priced on a calls-answered basis and/or a minutes-used basis. That is, you can be charged a fixed amount for every call answered, or for every minute a virtual receptionist spends on the phone with your callers.
Think about the type of calls your business typically fields to decide which type of pricing is best for you—if you frequently answer callers with short questions that only take a minute to answer, a per-minute plan could be cheaper. On the other hand, if you’re looking at order processing or new client intake services, a per-call basis might be best.
Monthly plans with flat rates and set call or minute limits are also typically available, just be sure you don’t regularly go over your limit or you can face additional charges. Prices per-call and per-minute can vary substantially depending on the plan you select and the volume of calls/minutes actually used.
Call Timing and Answering Needs
Selecting after-hours, weekend-only, or 24×7 answering services will also impact your monthly and per-unit costs. A full-time answering service will typically cost more overall but be cheaper by the minute, so decide what will be more cost-effective from your business. If the alternative is paying high prices for additional in-house staff during business hours, consider using an inbound call center to field all of your calls.
Author: Michael Cynar
Michael Cynar has over 30 years of executive call center and answering service experience. He is a successful business owner and lead generation expert and shares tips to help other entrepreneurs build and grow their business through leads generation and lead capture solutions. His mission is to share carefully guarded marketing tips that will help small-medium business compete on a smaller budget.