How Much Does It Cost to Have an Answering Service?
When businesses and professionals think about hiring a telephone answering service, one of their first questions is, “How much does an answering service cost?” This is an understandable question because no one wants to commit to something that’s outside of their budget.
It’s also a hard question to answer. This is because many factors go into determining answering service cost. Looking at a rate sheet is a great start, but that doesn’t give individual business managers much clarity because it’s hard to know just how those rates apply to their business and its operation.
Leading answering services have two primary elements in their service packages. One is a recurring base rate that covers a set amount of work for each billing cycle. This allows the answering service to plan and schedule their staff to answer your calls.
The second element is a per-minute charge. It only applies if you exceed the time provided by your rate plan.
With this basic information in mind, here are four factors to consider when determining the cost of an answering service.
The Types of Calls Impacts Answering Service Cost
What kinds of calls do you expect your answering service to handle for you? Some calls happen quickly, and others require more time. This is the main factor in determining what your answering service bill might look like.
Complicated calls, such as taking telephone orders, need more time. These might require two minutes, perhaps more.
The simplest of calls, such as to give out information or take a name and number, can go as quickly as 30 seconds.
The Amount of Work Impacts Answering Service Cost
Do you want your answering service to do more than give out information and take messages? If they need to go online to look up something for the caller or enter information into a database, that requires more work on their part. This adds time to the call and increases charges.
Businesses concerned about their answering service invoices can help lower them by eliminating some of the more time-consuming work they ask their answering service to do.
The Complexity of Instructions Impacts Answering Service Cost
Answering services customize each client’s account to achieve their specific needs. Meeting a client’s protocol can emerge as a simple, straightforward procedure. Or it can explode into a lengthy list of scenarios with multiple paths a call can take.
Though a professional answering service looks for ways to automate this complexity for their staff or on the backend, there is usually a connection between difficulty and cost. The harder an answering service works for a client, the more time it takes and the higher the bill.
Conversely, clients with clear and simple instructions enjoy lower bills from their answering service.
The Number of Tasks Impacts Answering Service Cost
A full-featured answering service can provide numerous telephone services for their clients. Aside from the basic tasks of taking messages and giving out information, answering services can take orders, process customer service inquiries, schedule appointments, and much more.
How many things you ask them to do is up to you. Your answering service will be happy to accommodate your requests. However, this feeds back into our first three items that address the type of calls, amount of work, and complexity of instructions. These are all factors that affect answering service costs.
The cost of an answering service depends on the types of calls they’ll take, the amount of work they’ll do, the complexity of your instructions, and the number of tasks you ask them to handle.
These elements all feed into the amount of time an answering service spends working for you. The more time, the higher the bill. The less time, the lower the bill.
Looking at your service plan rate, the minutes included, and the charge for any additional time, expect to have an effective cost between $0.70 and $0.79 per minute for the work your answering service does for you.
Now that you have a starting point for answering service cost, ask them about service quality and expected outcomes. When it comes to your business’s future, these are more important than cost.