Specialty Answering Service (SAS) is our pick as the best overall answering service, because it offers several flexible pricing plans. It offers all of the services we looked for in an answering as well as inbound and outbound call center services, making it a scalable service that can grow with your company. All calls are answered in SAS' California-based contact center.
For all of our answering service recommendations, visit our best picks page.
Answering Service Features
Specialty Answering Service provides everything we looked for in an answering service, including around-the-clock live operator phone answering and advanced functions like appointment scheduling. Bilingual support is also available.
Here's more about the key features SAS offers businesses:
- Live answering: SAS's operators will answer your business's phone calls 24/7/365 during regular business hours, after hours, or if you need assistance with overflow calls. Agents use a client-provided script, which you can customize at any time.
- Message taking: Agents can take down caller names, their contact information, reason(s) for calling and then forward the message to your business via phone, text or email.
- Order taking: Agents are trained in assisting customers with e-commerce purchases and facilitating orders. Specialty's agents enter and confirm payment information and can upsell and cross-sell products to your business's consumers.
- Lead capture: On any inbound call, agents can capture lead information and details about where the caller is in their buying journey, which can help your business follow up on potential new sales opportunities.
- Appointment scheduling: If your business needs help scheduling appointments, SAS agents can set new appointments in a shared calendar. Each time a new appointment is scheduled, you are notified. All appointments can be viewed in real time on the shared calendar.
- Bilingual support: SAS agents support English- and Spanish-speaking customers.
Businesses can create a custom script that SAS agents use when speaking with customers. This script can be submitted through the client portal, which is available on any web browser and through SAS' mobile app. If your business needs assistance with a script, SAS' customer service department will help clients. Further, if you need to change the script at any time, the service will work with you to develop an updated script. Additional services can be added or removed through the client portal as well, and all changes are updated in real time for SAS agents.
Besides adding new scripts or changing services, the client portal is where you can find several reports, allowing you to drill down into your usage and glean important insights about callers. For example, as a client of SAS, you can get detailed reports on data like call volume by geography, which can provide valuable insights into your business. General overview reports can be emailed to you at the end of each day. Reports are updated on a call-by-call basis in real time, so you always have access to the most recent available data.
Call Center Features
When it comes to call center services, Specialty Answering Service met all of our requirements and expectations that we specifically look for. Moreover, the company offers some useful services that can improve a business's internal processes as well.
Below are some of the most important call center services SAS offers.
- Customer service: SAS agents can act as an outsourced customer support department, providing a higher level of service beyond just answering the phones. With client-provided information, agents can answer customer questions, explain product and service offerings, and field complaints and feedback.
- Call forwarding: If an agent is not able to assist a customer based on the information provided by the client, the agent will forward calls directly to a staff member specified by you who can better address customer concerns.
- Help desk: SAS' helpdesk services include an IT helpdesk and technical support hotline. Both help desk services include specialized training and integration with ticket systems to assist your company's customers.
- Sales: This service can assist your business with inbound sales calls using a script (and FAQs) that you provide.
- Dealer locate: Callers can be directed to suitable vendors in their area for the products and services they need to better run their business. (Dealer locate services are built into the inbound call center program.)
- Third-party verification: Third-party verification helps reduce identity theft and fraud. SAS agents can walk consumers through a verification process that ensures security for your business and your customers.
- Market research: SAS will assign an outbound telemarketing team to conduct market research through polls and surveys to give clients more insight into the needs and wants of their customer base.
To see all of our call center service recommendations, visit our best picks page.
SAS has eight different pricing plans designed to suit the budgets of small and large businesses. Its rates are competitive for its high-volume packages and somewhat more expensive for its lower-volume plans (but are not cost prohibitive). It offers a pay-as-you-go plan for very low volume businesses. A 14-day, no obligation free trial is available for businesses to try before making a buying decision.
Specialty Answering Service's pricing plans are as follows:
- Plan A: $31 per month, plus $1.19 per minute
- Plan B: $117 per month for 100 minutes, plus a $1.09 per-minute overage
- Plan C: $199 per month for 220 minutes, plus a $1.09 per-minute overage
- Plan D: $490 per month for 500 minutes, in addition to a 99 cents-per-minute overage
- Plan E: $925 for 1000 minutes, plus a 95 cents-per-minute overage
- Plan F: $2,200 for 2,500 minutes, plus an 89 cents-per-minute overage
- Plan G: $4,199 for 5,000 minutes, in addition to a 85 cents-per-minute overage
- Plan H: $7,749 for 10,000 minutes, plus a 79 cents-per-minute overage
Service is month-to-month, and no long-term contracts are required. Clients can change plans on a monthly basis if they expect a spike or dip in call volume. There is a $50 setup fee; however, SAS typically waives the fee if you become a client following the 14-day free trial.
SAS bills in one-second increments, meaning that clients are only charged for the time that is used. Many call centers and answering services round up to 6-or 12-second increments, and some round up further. It does not round up time and only bills for the time that agents are engaged with callers on the phone.
We found few limitations with SAS, save for the high cost of its low-volume plans. While the company offers several flexible plans suitable for low-volume businesses, including a pay-as-you-go plan, the plans all cost roughly $1 per minute or more.
It's not until one reaches the 2,500-minute plan that its per-minute usage rate becomes more competitive with many of the other call centers and answering services we evaluated. However, SAS offers a comprehensive offering of services bolstered excellent customer service.
The customer service offered by SAS was among the best we experienced compared to the other services in our review.
We spent a great deal of time on the phone with its representatives. Agents provided us with a thorough explanation of Specialty's services, pricing plans and the onboarding process. Representatives provided several scenarios where a company might benefit from certain services SAS offers, such as third-party verification or dealer locate services.
We expressed early in our calls to SAS' customer service representatives that we were not ready to make a buying decision. Representatives remained fully engaged and attentive. We never felt pressured to make a purchasing decision or that representatives were disinterested in the questions we had about the company.
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