Answering services can serve as the first point of contact between your customers and your business. They will handle incoming customer service calls, and many offer appointment setting and order processing services. These services are typically less broad than call center services, but can often delve deeper into the specifics of your business and offer personalized, niche services. Many focus on specific industries and maintain the expertise required to operate in highly regulated verticals, such as the healthcare industry.
We want to help you choose the answering service that's the best fit for your business. Specialty Answering Service, PCMSI, Answer Connect, and BPO American are our best picks. These companies are U.S.-based and provide nationwide answering services for businesses in multiple industries. Here are some of the answering services we reviewed, along with a list of best picks for a variety of different needs.
We selected Specialty Answering Service as the best overall answering service because it offers a high number of flexible pricing plans and a strong selection of services bolstered by superb customer service. Specialty Answering Service is bilingual, offering agents who speak both English and Spanish, although bilingual services cost an extra fee of $10 per month. Specialty Answering Service also works within more than two dozen specific industries, including the healthcare industry, where it maintains HIPAA compliant practices.
In addition to offering top notch answering services, Specialty Answering Service also engages in inbound and outbound call center services, allowing you to upgrade to a more comprehensive contact center as your business scales. Specialty's agents are available 24/7/365 and answer 87 percent of phone calls on the first three rings.
We selected AnswerConnect as the best answering service for small businesses because of its personalized and customizable service, attentive customer support, and the flexible terms the company offers its clients. AnswerConnect is a 24/7/365 answering service that can set appointments and process orders. The company also offers CRM integration, live webchat support, and email and text message support. There are no contracts, cancellation fees or invoice minimums required of clients. Users will have on-demand access to a client portal with full reporting capabilities, making it a flexible and transparent service for any small business.
AnswerConnect delivers prompt and thorough customer service from start to finish, taking the time to personally address the concerns of prospective clients. When you sign with AnswerConnect, the company will work with you to develop a script that its agents will use when conducting your campaign. Pricing is determined in accordance with level of need and call volume.
Professional Communications Messaging Service, Inc. (PCMSI) is our pick for the best customizable answering service because of its competitive fees and a quick setup time. It offers a variety of features, including customized plans, a best rate guarantee and more. The company is HIPAA-compliant and serves specific industries that require added security, like the healthcare industry.
Setting up an account with PCMSI can usually be completed within one day. There is a one-time setup fee, and the company bills by the month for a set number of minutes. It is one of the least expensive services we reviewed with some of the most flexible pricing packages, which can be helpful to you if you're looking for an answering service and are on a budget. This live answering service is available 24/7, and the company offers email support as well.
We selected BPO American as the best self-service answering service for its instant activation feature, which can get your company's contact center outsourcing up and running in one day. After filling out a script on your own, agents can immediately begin handling your calls. If you make changes to your script on the fly, BPO American agents will put them into effect in real-time. The company also offers a three-day free trial to see how the initial outsourcing goes before you sign on for extended service. Pricing begins at $29 per month for 25 minutes of service. Customizable packages of 500 minutes and over can be negotiated with the company on an individual basis.
One drawback of BPO American is that reports cost an extra fee for all pricing packages below $229 per month. However, with lower volume plans, this is not a significant barrier. Eighty percent of calls are answered by BPO American agents in 20 seconds, and 95 percent of all calls are answered within 30 seconds. The company is PCI and HIPAA-compliant and all data is stored behind an encrypted firewall.
Answering services can vary in their pricing models. They are often priced by the minute or through monthly subscriptions. Some employ long-term contracts, but this is uncommon. The model you choose depends on your call volume, level of need, and how long you intend to work with a given company.
For any answering service, understanding your business is important, so agents will be trained with a specific script and given details about your company. Answering services are particularly personalized, meaning it will take some time for agents to really learn your business inside and out. Some answering services require a setup fee for this period, while others build it into their rates.
Answering services may charge other various fees and upcharges. When you call for price quotes, ask about upfront fees (such as for setting up your account) as well as any recurring and incidental fees (such as overages or holiday rates) that you may be charged. Before selecting a service, you should read the company's contract to make sure you're aware of all possible fees.
Editor's Note: Looking for information on call center services? Use the questionnaire below, and our vendor partners will contact you with the information you need:
When determining which answering service to partner with, it is key to first identify your needs and make them clear. Oftentimes, answering services will charge based on the services you require and the call volume you anticipate, and some will even work with you to develop custom plans. Be sure you understand what pricing and services look like based on your unique situation before signing a contract.
Further, it's important to shop around. Because there is so much variety in pricing models, it can be difficult to pin down what exactly is a good deal. You'll need to explore several options before you start to develop a clearer picture of what value you're truly getting from a company.
Finally, read the contract and talk with the sales rep from the company you think is the best fit for your business. As always, it's wise to have counsel review the contract as well before making any final decisions on whether to sign.
Below are our reviews of the best answering services for businesses.
We take the process of recommending vendors seriously, so we invested substantial time in researching various answering services and their features.
We started the process by coming up with a comprehensive list of vendors that offer answering services. To do this, we searched the web and consulted other lists and reviews of the most popular vendors. We ended up with a list of dozens of companies, and gave each vendor equal consideration as a best pick.
From there, we visited the websites of each vendor to compare pricing and features. We looked at all the details, including inbound services, outbound services, invoice requirements, call minimums and additional features. We used this information to narrow down our field of candidates to a shortlist of finalists.
Next, we contacted all the services we were considering, posing as a potential customer. We wanted to go beyond the marketing rhetoric and get a feel for how the companies handle actual customer interactions. We asked each customer service rep the same set of questions about features, options and pricing, and we noted our reactions to the experience. Company representatives who were friendly and forthcoming got higher marks, and those who were less than helpful or too pushy scored lower.
For our overall best picks, the decision came down to which company offered the best balance of affordability, useful features and effectiveness of agents.
Call Centers and Answering Services Infographic
State of the Industry
Customer service is an important part of your business, but answering the phones in-house can prove too time consuming and cost-prohibitive. In that case, outsourced answering services offer an affordable solution that frees up your staff to focus on other tasks.
Phone continues to be the main communication channel for most businesses. According to Deloitte's 2017 Global Contact Center Survey, 64 percent of contacts are made via phone. However, when it comes to calling customer service, no one likes waiting on the phone. A 2017 study of U.S. consumers conducted by Arise Virtual Solutions found that nearly two-thirds of the 1,500 people polled said they would only wait on hold for two minutes before hanging up. When choosing an answering service, average wait time is an important factor to consider.
Other channels are also popular points of contact, including email, chat and social media. Alternate communication channels are likely to continue growing in popularity, so many answering services manage these channels as well. Some companies have even rebranded themselves as "contact centers" to better reflect the scope of the services they provide.
Although typically more expensive than international companies, most businesses prefer U.S.-based answering services, because customers find it easier to resolve issues, especially complex ones, when there isn't a language barrier. Talkdesk cites a study by the CFI Group that found customer service issues were resolved 88 percent of the time when callers could clearly understand customer service agents, and only 45 percent of the time when the caller had difficulty understanding the agent. For this reason, most companies have agents on staff that fluently speak Spanish and other languages.
I have been using TimeTrade.com. It's an easy app that links to your Google calendar and allows clients to make their own appointments. You just set up the days/hours you want to allow the client to have access to. If your google calendar is already booked for that timeslot, the timetrade.com will show it as busy. It automatically sends a confirmation to the client and yourself; as well as the option for them to cancel or reschedule. You can try it out for free. And it's only $50 for the year....
Focus, Focus, Focus. First remember that B2B clients like to hire specialist that know their industry and problems. You may be able to serve more than one market segment but tailor your pitch to only one at a time. Use a message that is specific to each narrow niche you are targeting.
Appointment setters can be had by using Personal Assistant services either in the US or off shore. I use a telemarketing agency to qualify leads for me by calling Ornamental Metal Workshops (there are 6,000...
Absolutely. Like most things in life, your success will depend on several factors. Having a firm, but a flexible process. Phone, email, etc... Knowing your prospects inside and out. In other words, do your homework. Have a clear, engaging, and consistent message. Time of day and week can depend on the verticals you are calling. I like early mornings and late in the day. Always get the next action. When speaking to a "gate-keeper", don't make it a sales call. For example, you want to schedule an...
Basically, you need something that will text, email, and maybe even automated-call people. No shared calendar solution is going to do what you need. Everything I can think of would require your clients to have accounts inside their system, and that immediately disqualifies them.
http://www.demandforce.com offers something like what you need, but I'm sure if you Google "customer appointment notification system" you'll come up with 10 possible vendors in a heartbeat. Or, call local dentists,...
I've been through this MANY times, as almost EVERY position I've had involved using the phone to prospect. Two things work for me. The first is remembering the phone is my friend. It is the most important tool in my tool box. It enables me to make money and money allows me to do things I enjoy. The second is remembering that in sales, everything is subject to "the numbers". Without getting the "No's" out of the way, I won't be able to reach the wonderful, exhilarating feeling all the "Yes's"...
Customer relationships are built on trust—a process that begins with the first phone call. If a potential or current client is unable to reach a real person, or catches you at a bad moment, those poor experiences can damage trust. Having a real person answering your phone not only delivers a great experience for your callers, it creates a personal connection, builds trust, and increases the likelihood of repeat business.