PATLive is our pick as the best answering service for small businesses. It checks all the major boxes when it comes to the features we look for in an answering service. The company, based in Tallahassee, Florida, works with clients to tailor its services to meet clients' unique needs. PATLive has a client portal on its website through which customers can view their billing details and call volume. Customers of PATLive can also customize their call script.
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Answering Service Features
PATLive offers all the key features we look for in an answering service, plus, as a client, you have the ability (and flexibility) to customize your script through the client portal.
Here's more about PATLive's key features:
- Live answering: PATLive agents are available to answer phone calls on clients' behalf around the clock or during your regular business hours, working from a custom script provided by the client.
- Message taking: PATLive agents can take messages for clients when follow-up is required. Messages can be forwarded to you via email or text notifications.
- Order processing: PATLive agents are trained to provide full order processing duties, including verifying a customer's order (including confirming details about the order), validating the payment method and confirming the payment information with your customers.
- Lead capture: PATLive agents capture caller names, needs, and contact information, which you can then use to import into your CRM or create marketing lists.
- Client portal: The online client portal displays data about your account, such as the number of incoming calls, the duration of the calls, average call duration and the result of each call. Clients can also change their preferred payment method and customize the script that agents use when answering calls for your business.
PATLive offers a full-featured, 14-day free trial so potential clients can test the service. There is no transfer time or agent work time charged; clients are billed only for the time that PATLive agents are on the phone and engaged with callers. Features and services vary based on the subscription plan you choose. PATLive's pricing plans are as follows:
- Starter: This plan costs $149 per month and includes 75 minutes. Starter features include one phone number, 24/7 live answering, real-time call summaries, online reporting, message taking, lead collection and call transfers. Overage fees are $1.50 per minute.
- Standard: This option costs $269 per month and includes 200 minutes. The Standard plan includes all the features the Starter plan has plus three phone numbers, appointment scheduling, order processing and event registrations, to name a few features. Overage fees are $1.25 per minute.
- Premium: This plan costs $399 per month and includes 350 minutes. It comes with all the features included in the Standard plan plus five phone numbers. Overage fees are $1.10 per minute.
- Pro: PATLive charges $629 per month; this plan comes with 600 minutes. This plan includes all the features found in the Premium plan plus 10 phone numbers, a dedicated account manager, specialized agent training and monthly performance calls. Overage fees are $1.00 per minute.
- Pro+: The Pro+ plan is $999 per month and includes 1,000 minutes. This plan includes all the features from the Pro subscription plan plus 15 phone numbers. Overage fees are 95 cents per minute.
PATLive's pricing is posted here. Its per-minute usage rates were among the highest of the answering services we evaluated, ranging from nearly $1 per minute (with its plan that offers the highest number of live answer minutes) to nearly $2 per minute for its plan with the lower number of minutes. The average cost we ascertained, based on the answering services we evaluated, ranged from about 80 cents per minute to $1 per minute. All PATLive plans are billed month-to-month, and there is no penalty for cancellation.
PATLive bills only for the time its agents spend talking on the phone with your customers. It does not charge for post-call work. After the first minute of each call, PATLive bills in 6-second increments. So, for example, a 1-minute and 6-second call would appear on your bill as "1.1 minutes." Billing in 6-second increments is a common practice in the industry; several other services we evaluated bill in this manner too.
PATLive's biggest limitation is its high per-minute usage rates, which range from $1 per minute to $2 per minute. Most of the other answering services we looked at featured plans with a per-minute usage rate that was less than $1 per minute, with some as affordable as 79 cents per minute or lower. PATLive's high per-minute usage rates could make it prohibitive to smaller businesses on a tight budget.
Another limitation of the service is that while PATLive offers all the major features we like to see in an answering service, some features are not available at lower-priced subscription levels. PATLive only allows some features, such as appointment scheduling, order processing and a dedicated account manager, to their higher-priced packages.
The Standard plan should be enough to accommodate most small businesses' needs, but certain features, like a dedicated account manager, are not available until clients subscribe to the Pro plan.
Our customer service experience with PATLive was characterized by extremely friendly conversation and a thorough explanation of PATLive's services, pricing model, and policies. The representative we spoke with was knowledgeable and forthcoming about PATLive and followed up after the call with additional information. We explained to the agent that we were not prepared to make a buying decision; the PATLive representative we spoke with remained fully engaged during the call and never once pushed us to make a purchasing decision.
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