What’s the Best After Hours Answering Service?

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When you’re running a business, there may be times when your existing staff is not able to cope with the volume of incoming calls; however, the size of your business may not require the need for hiring more people. In such a scenario, an answering service comes as a boon that offers the customer service needed and allows you and your employees to focus on other important tasks.

Answering services provide trained staff who can manage your calls, set appointments, take messages, handle sales calls, etc. Answering services are especially beneficial for small- and medium-sized businesses in industries such as retail, law, healthcare, HVAC, etc.

Answering services enable you to provide customer service without overburdening your existing personnel or needing to hire and train new people to take on the tasks. The staff of the answering service you hire are trained professionals who can take your calls, resolve customer queries and handle complaints round-the-clock.


Ways an Answering Service Can Improve Your Business

The growth of any business depends on their ability to respond to the requirements of their customers efficiently. The best way to improve your business is to ensure that your phone system allows your customers to communicate quickly and efficiently with your company. Some of the ways in which getting an after-hours answering service can benefit your business are:

Building Trust

When your customer calls your business after the regular work hours, getting an automated message is not really a great way to establish a relationship. If your customer gets to speak with a live person even after the business is shut, it helps to build trust and develop confidence in the ability of your company being able to meet their requirements.

Distinguishing Yourself from Your Competitors

Having a live answering service will enable you to stand apart from the rest of your competition and you can make a positive impact on the customers who require personalized and prompt service.

Building Legitimacy

When you have a real person responding to and answering customer queries, your brand appears to be more legitimate and authentic. Not too many customers place their trust in a business whose calls are answered by an answering machine. This is especially important when you’re trying to establish relations with new clients who may be having apprehensions about the credibility of your company.

Ensuring Efficient Messages Delivery

Having a live answering service to take phone calls and messages ensures that all your messages are delivered properly. When a customer leaves a message on the voicemail, oftentimes, key portions of the message tend to get omitted. This can be avoided when you employ an answering service.

Reducing Customer Hang-Ups

More often than not, customers who call your business and get an answering machine are likely to hang up without leaving a voice message. Most customers feel that their voice messages will not be heard. This is where a live answering service can be of great benefit and provides the customer reassurance that their message will definitely reach the concerned person.

Reducing Delays

The best advantage of a live answering service is that the phone is answered promptly. Customers don’t have to wait endlessly trying to navigate through various voice prompts or wait listening to music or a long voicemail greeting.

Helping to Boost Revenues

When you have a live answering service, it helps to reduce call hang-ups and also encourages a continued dialogue between the company and your valuable customers. This helps to quicken the sales cycle and results in added revenues for your business.

Helping to Build Customer Lead Value

Hiring a professional answering service – that costs around $200 – may be worth the amount, which can potentially turn several customers calls into revenue for you. Imagine that you may lose a single call, that could have brought in a revenue of $300, just because there was no one to answer the call.

Other Benefits

There are many other benefits of hiring a live answering service for your business. A customer who cannot communicate in English may find it a challenge to navigate through the automated phone and voicemail prompts. Having a live answering service who can speak to the customer in their language can help to make them more comfortable communicating with your business. Having a live answering service can help to make your clients feel more valued as compared to when they are greeted by an automated answering machine. The live answering service can add an element of warmth and personalization in all communications.

How Much Does an After Hours Answering Service Cost?

A live answering service can cost a small or medium business having normal use times anywhere in the range of $12-$43 per week. There are essentially 2 kinds of billing – pay per minute and pay per call.

Pay Per Minute

This plan bills you according to the time spent on a call and is usually billed in increments of every 12 seconds.

Pay Per Call

As the name suggest, this plan bills you according to a fixed rate for every call that the answering service takes on the behalf of your company.

So, the amount you would actually be paying for your calls really depends on the specific requirements of your business. You will be paying around $0.79/minute approximately, but, of course, a lot of it depends on the company you’ve signed up with and the features on offer. If you have opted for a pay per call plan, then you should evaluate the average time of the calls and check if you are getting the best rate. For instance, if your call duration on average is around 1 minute and 15 seconds and you’re paying $1.80/call then probably you are paying too much for your answering service.

How can you get the lowest price for a live answering service? The answer is very simple. With the competition between the various service providers being so fierce, you can easily get a 25% discount on the cost of an answering service. Also, if you already have an existing answering service, you can check out the prices being offered by the competitors and also get a free trial. You can easily change your phone line to the new service provider if the service and cost are more favorable or you can negotiate with your existing service provider to lower the pricing to prevent you from shifting to a new answering service provider.

Flat Rate vs. Pay-As-You-Go Pricing

When you are looking for an answering service, you have two options, flat rate or pay-as-you-go service. Both have their pros and cons.

Flat Rate Answering Service

Flat rate answering services charge you a flat rate for a certain number of calls or minutes of usage per month. The call services are usually sold as “packages” and if you require more coverage, you can add to the basic rate. As you will be paying a flat rate every month, you know the exact amount to be paid, as long as you stay within the number of calls or the fixed number of minutes.

Using a flat rate plan is much more inexpensive; however, what you pay for is what you get and if you select this plan, then it is expected that the representatives take more number of calls per hour, which leads to lower service quality with the answering service representatives trying to end the calls more quickly, since they have to handle more number of calls.

Pay-As-You-Go or Usage-Based Answering Service

With a pay-as-you-go answering service, you pay for every minute of talk time. Typically, a monthly fee or a base rate is charged for the package and this includes an allotted number of minutes of call usage after which, you need to pay for the additional minutes separately by the minute.

Pay-as-you-go services provide a better level of service quality and usually when you choose any of the packages that include 100, 250 or 500 minutes you get better quality. Any minutes used over the allotted amount is charged extra (around $0.70-$1.25 per minute). And, since the representatives taking usage-based calls are not really restricted by the number of minutes, they will not end the call quickly until the customers are completely satisfied.

Which Service Is More Beneficial?

Usually, when you choose a flat rate answering service, it includes the representatives answering the phone, transferring a call or taking a message. The representatives usually don’t schedule appointments, take orders or handle general queries.

On the other hand, in the case of a pay-as-you-go service, you can get receptionists who can schedule appointments, take orders, answer queries and handle a lot more things. In a usage-based answering service, the representative is more like a virtual assistant who can do a lot more than just answering calls and taking messages.

Which Answering Service Should You Choose, Flat Rate or Pay-As-You-Go?

If you just require a live answering service to just answer your phone calls, take messages or transfer the calls to you, then a flat rate service is ideal, as it can handle all these things at a fairly low cost. On the other hand, if you’re on the lookout for a virtual assistant who can handle all types of callers without requiring to transfer the call over to you, then a pay-as-you-go or usage-based answering service will work better for you.

So, the choice finally boils down to the specific requirements of your business. However, most businesses get more benefits from using a pay-as-you-go answering service rather than a flat rate service.

After Hours Answering Service Reviews and Pricing Comparison

PatLive

PatLive has been in the answering services business since 1990 and is based out of Florida. They offer 24 x 7 x 365 answering solutions and have both English and Spanish speaking receptionists. The receptionists answer your calls, take messages and forward calls. PatLive answering services can also handle other functions such as scheduling appointments, answering caller queries, handling lead collection, order processing, event registrations, etc.

PatLive also provides call center services to handle frequent calls. They provide receptionists who are specifically trained as per the requirements of your business and you also have an account manager dedicated to your business. All the calls answered by the receptionists are recorded and at the end of the day, the receptionists are graded for their performance.

PatLive’s pricing structure is based on the minutes of receptionist time usage. Each plan offered has a limit on the “forwarding minutes” i.e. the time that a caller is on the line and is not being handled by a receptionist. Every PatLive plan comes with a set of different numbers that are answered by the live answering service. PatLive can also provide a local city number or a toll-free number if you require it or they can make use of your existing phone numbers.

PatLive Pricing

The various PatLive pricing plans are:

Starter

  • $149/month
  • 75 live answer minutes
  • 1 phone Number
  • Message taking
  • Call transfers
  • Online reporting
  • Real-time call summaries
  • Lead collection

 

Standard

  • $269/month
  • 200 live answer minutes
  • 3 phone numbers
  • Message taking
  • Call transfers
  • Online reporting
  • Real-time call summaries
  • Lead collection
  • Order processing
  • Event registrations
  • Appointment scheduling

 

Premium

  • $399/month
  • 350 live answer minutes
  • 5 phone numbers
  • Message taking
  • Call transfers
  • Online reporting
  • Real-time call summaries
  • Lead collection
  • Order processing
  • Event registrations
  • Appointment scheduling

 

Pro

  • $629/month
  • 200 live answer minutes
  • 10 phone numbers
  • Message taking
  • Call transfers
  • Online reporting
  • Real-time call summaries
  • Lead collection
  • Order processing
  • Event registrations
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Specialized agent training
  • Monthly performance calls
  • Dedicated account manager

 

Pro+

  • $999/month
  • 1000 live answer minutes
  • 15 phone numbers
  • Message taking
  • Call transfers
  • Online reporting
  • Real-time call summaries
  • Lead collection
  • Order processing
  • Event registrations
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Specialized agent training
  • Monthly performance calls
  • Dedicated account manager

Conversational

Conversational started its operations in 2014 and has offices in North America and Canada, and offers a wide range of telephone-based receptionist services including handling incoming calls, managing schedules, booking appointments, voicemails, receiving and sending text messages.

Conversational can provide both, part-time as well as full-time receptionists depending on your business requirements and also provides backup services to support your receptionist if you already have one. The receptionists from Conversational can handle all your business calls at the times you require, they can cover for your staff during absence days or when your receptionist is busy with other things. Conversational, however, does not provide lead generation, sales and telemarketing services.

You can just forward your existing business number to Conversational, where their live receptionist can take all your incoming calls. And if you don’t have a number, they can also assign a number to you with your local area code. The best part is that even when you stop using their service, you can retain the phone number. You have a specific number of minutes per month depending on the plan you choose. You can interact with the Conversational staff anytime via their members’ area available online and also via their mobile app.

Conversational’s Pricing

There are 3 pricing plans that you can choose from:

Plan 1

  • $159/ month
  • 100 minutes of receptionist time

 

Plan 2

  • $309/ month
  • 200 minutes of receptionist time

 

Plan 3

  • $449/ month
  • 300 minutes of receptionist time

 

All the 3 plans include the following features too:

  • Bookings and appointments
  • Warm call transfers
  • Your own local number
  • Voicemails over email
  • Unlimited talk time
  • No voicemails limit
  • Access to member’s area
  • Mobile app
  • All the 3 plans have a 30-day free trial

 

Ruby Receptionists

Ruby Receptionists, also known as Call Ruby, is one of the most popular virtual receptionist services based out of Portland, Oregon and is suitable for small businesses. The receptionist service is available from 5 am to 6 pm Pacific Time. You do not have to worry about not having an in-house phone or having to attend to calls while you work during the day.

Ruby Receptionists can take calls, forward calls, take messages and provide basic information to customers. You can provide guideline and scripts that Ruby will follow on your behalf. The receptionists can also make calls on behalf of your business and confirm appointments; however, they don’t do any lead generation and telemarketing activities.

Ruby Receptionists can make use of your existing phone number or can assign you a toll-free number. When you get a new call, you will get an email alert, a real-time report of the call and also track your call usage in the Call Ruby dashboard that is available online.

Ruby Receptionist’s Pricing

Impress

  • $269/month
  • 100 receptionist minutes
  • Supports up to 10 users

Engage

  • $509/month
  • 200 receptionist minutes
  • Supports up to 20 users

 

Captivate

  • $1069/month
  • 500 receptionist minutes
  • Supports unlimited users

 

All 3 plans include:

  • Unlimited talk time
  • Unlimited voicemail time
  • 13 hours of receptionist coverage daily
  • Member services area

 

All the 3 Ruby plans come along with a 21-day money back guarantee. Ruby does not have any long-term contracts; however, after the initial 30 days, you need to give a 30 days’ notice if you want to cancel the service.

AnswerAmerica

AnswerAmerica is a virtual answering company that started its operations in 1984 and has a presence across 50 locations in the United States. AnswerAmerica offers phone answering services that are extremely cost-effective and their receptionists are available round-the-clock and 365 days a year.

The calls are answered by the AnswerAmerica receptionists on a cost-per-call system. They also can take up additional tasks such as taking notes, booking appointments, processing orders, forwarding calls and sending messages via email or text message. You can provide your own script for the receptionist to use when answering calls. Another great feature of their service is that AnswerAmerica’s receptionists are bilingual.

The virtual receptionists of the company undergo in-depth training and are monitored constantly on the response time while answering calls. AnswerAmerica believes that their customer expectations are of greatest importance and they offer varied specialized answering services and can also customize their offerings according to the specific needs of various industries.

The company is very customer-friendly, flexible and accommodate all your requirements. They also have an online transcript feature, where you can log into your online account and read all the transcripts of the calls answered by the receptionists.

AnswerAmerica’s answering service is ideal for medical practices and offices and the company is also HIPAA compliant, which ensures that they follow all regulations to keep patient information confidential.

AnswerAmerica Pricing

The most basic plan of AnswerAmerica is a pay-as-you-go plan and your account is all setup and running as soon as you sign up. This plan does not have any setup fee. However, this plan only involves taking messages and sending them and answering basic queries. If you want to include appointment setting and order processing to the services, then you must sign up for a bigger plan that has a setup fee for the software and training.

 

Basic Package

  • Calls $1 per call ($0.75 for larger packages)
  • Minimum credit purchase: $20 of credit

 

Package 2

  • $50 with $55 of credit ($5 bonus)

 

Package 3

  • $100 with $115 of credit ($15 bonus)

 

Package 4

  • $200 with $240 credit ($40 bonus)

 

Package 5

  • $400 with $500 credit ($100 bonus)

 

Package 6

  • $750 with $1000 credit ($250 bonus)

 

There is no monthly service charge and there is 24-hour call answering, SMS and email delivery, internet message viewing, wrong numbers, hoax calls, fax ones and automated messages, that are all free.

 

VoiceNation

VoiceNation is a very popular answering service providing a wide range of services such as user reports, reseller platform and also disaster recovery, i.e., when your phone lines are down the representatives of VoiceNation can take your calls.

 

Apart from basic call handling, VoiceNation receptionists can take orders, process them and then the information is entered into your website. The answering service can also take notes and send you a message and set appointments.

 

The VoiceNation agents are available 24×7 and all your information is available on the VoiceNation’s online account, which includes your messages and usage reports that allow you to track the type of calls you are receiving and the time of the calls. The FAQs page on the VoiceNation website can answer all your queries and you can reach VoiceNation via their live chat or email.

 

VoiceNation offers bilingual answering services and they are also HIPAA compliant, which makes them suitable for handling medical practices and doctor’s offices as they can ensure patient confidentiality.

 

VoiceNation Pricing

Basic Plan (40 for 40)

  • $40/month
  • 40 minutes
  • No transfers, just messages
  • $1/additional minute

 

Quick Start

  • $59/month
  • 0 minutes
  • $1.15/additional minute

 

Business

  • $99/month
  • 75 minutes
  • $1.10/additional minute

 

Pro

  • $149/month
  • 125 minutes
  • $1.05/additional minute

 

Platinum

  • $249/month
  • 250 minutes
  • $1/additional minute

 

Executive

  • $449/month
  • 500 minutes
  • $0.95/additional minute

 

All business plans include all features and VoiceNation offers a free 30-minute trial for a period of 7 days.

Answering Services for Specific Industries

PatLive

PatLive offers answering services for various industries such as:

  • Automotive
  • eCommerce
  • home services
  • Health
  • Law firms
  • Professional services
  • Real estate
  • Small businesses

 

Best After-Hours Answering Services for Medical Offices

 

Best After-Hours Answering Services for Property Management

  • Sound Telecom
  • Signius Communications
  • MoneyPenny
  • Ruby Receptionists
  • SAS (Speciality Answering Service)
  • VoiceNation
  • PCMSI

 

A live after-hours answering service can help your business in several ways and most importantly, can save you time and money. However, if you want high-quality results, then it is a good idea to stay away from cheap options. There are several answering services out there and most of them offer free trial periods. It may be worth your while to test out a few options before you settle for a reputable answering service that can handle all your business requirements efficiently.

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