When business owners and managers want to start or switch telephone answering services, they’ll often ask the same question: how much do answering services charge? Asking about rates is the first question most people make when inquiring about using a telephone answering service.
Basic Answering Service Charges
Most answering services in business today follow a common industry practice when it comes to rates. When you ask, “How much do answering services charge?” you’ll hear three numbers in response.
The first number is the recurring base rate. This fixed amount appears on each invoice and provides the answering service with needed funds to support their infrastructure and be ready and available to take your calls whenever you need them, 24/7.
The second number is the amount of work included in the base rate. This is usually a specified number of minutes of work that they’ll do for you each billing period at no extra charge.
The third number is the cost for any additional units of work that surpass what the base rate includes. Again, this is usually a certain number of cents per minute for additional time.
Most every answering service follows this basic pattern, with many who offer multiple rate plan options to select from based on how much you need them to do. Simply estimate how much work you need them to do for you and pick the plan that most closely includes your estimated time, without going over it.
This is the type of response you can expect to receive when you ask, “How much do answering services charge?”
Quality Matters More
Though the specifics of each answering service’s rate plan vary from provider to provider, most are quite comparable to each other, with the cost difference from one to another not being that significant.
A more important consideration than price, however, is quality.
When you acquire about using an answering service, don’t ask them about the prices, ask them about their quality. Why is this important?
Quite simply because your customers don’t care about what your answering service costs, but they care very much about the quality they receive when they do call.
That’s why you should never shop for an answering service based on price. Being able to save 5 or 10 percent on each invoice, matters little if an answering service cuts corners and doesn’t treat your callers with the respect and professionalism they deserve.
Responsiveness Is Key
Aside from quality, another consideration is responsiveness. This is being responsive to your callers and responsive to you.
When your callers phone you, does your answering service answer promptly? An average of within three rings should be standard and under five rings should be the goal. But understaffed answering services struggle to achieve this. Don’t subject your callers to an unresponsive answering service.
And when you call your answering service, are they responsive to you? Saving a dollar or two a week and ending up with an unresponsive answering service that makes you hold or ignores you is no bargain. It’s actually quite costly.
Aim for Ideal Outcomes
Third, consider the outcomes you want to achieve from your answering service. You want appreciative customers who feel respected and heard. You want employees who enjoy working with your answering service.
To achieve this, stop wondering how much do answering services charge and start exploring their quality, responsiveness, and outcomes. Then you can ask about rates, but not until you’re assured they can provide the first three elements.