This is part one in a two-part series. Read part two here.

If you’re exploring your options for virtual receptionist services, you’re comparing a lot of costs, features and benefits of the multiple choices out there. No matter what type of business you’re in, the bottom line counts. So in addition to seeking out an answering service that has a long track record of success in your industry, a sophisticated telecommunications structure and stellar reputation, you’ll also want to take a look at price.

This is where things can get complicated. Different virtual receptionist and answering services use different pricing models, so it can be very difficult to compare apples to apples. You’ll need to understand their basic pricing structure first before you can make an accurate comparison.

Consider Your Own Needs First

Before you start to figure out answering service pricing, you need to understand your own needs and how a service can best meet those needs. A multi-location company that receives hundreds of orders, 24/7 is going to need a different type of answering service than a small business that gets between 10 and 20 inquiries on a typical business day.

Some factors to consider before you look at pricing include:

  • Your average call volume per day.
  • Any seasonal changes in your call volume.
  • The type of calls you typically receive.
  • How long your typical calls take.
  • The level of service that virtual receptionists will need to provide (e.g., providing troubleshooting services vs. screening calls and forwarding them)

Develop a list of your needs, then look into your answering service options.

Flat Rate vs. Usage Rate

Answering service pricing falls into two basic categories – flat rate and usage rate services.

Flat rate services charge you one monthly rate for a bundle of calls or minutes (depending on the company). Services are typically sold in “packages” that you can add to if you find that you need more coverage.

Since you’ll be paying a flat rate each month, you’ll know exactly how much you’ll need to pay – provided that you don’t go over your allotted minutes or number of calls. Typically, flat rate services will offer one or the other – and if you are on a pay-per-call plan, you could end up paying a lot for very short calls. Hang ups, wrong numbers and telemarketers will all count against your monthly allotment of calls.

In part two of this series, we talk more about different answering service rates and pricing structures. Read the rest of this two-part series here.