In our business we are often asked by people considering using our Call Center: “How much does it cost?”
You wouldn't think it would be a loaded question - but it can be!
A friend once said he answers with “How long is a piece of string?” Unlike a loaf of bread, the cost of having someone answer your phones doesn’t have a fixed price.
Usually there is a “base rate” which includes a number of minutes and then additional charges for extra minutes used each month. There are many variables you need to consider.
How much does answering service cost for YOUR business (i.e. how long is your piece of string?)
- The first is call volume and the reason you are considering the service. If you need your phone answered 24 hours a day because your most important client may call with a 3am emergency, once or twice a month — you need a low base rate – but if you have 500 patients who call with appointment changes you need a higher base rate that gives a substantial number of included minutes. You can see how our base rates differ by included minutes here.
Hours of service:
- We're a 24/7/365 business, which means that you can appear to be a 24/7/365 business, too. You however, get to do it whilst enjoying Christmas with your family, not getting phone calls at 10pm on weeknights and whilst you're away on vacation.
- Consider whether or not your clients need to be able to speak to a person at 11pm. Lawyers, doctors and emergency home services often need to be available 24/7, but it's up to you if your business should be answering calls all the time or only during reasonable hours.
- I always go with the rule: do you advertise 24/7? Is a brand new client worth a lot of money to you? The potential of a new law client who's been injured in a car accident at midnight deciding he wants to get his case in front a lawyer as soon as possible means to me that it makes sense to have your calls answered around the clock.
- Our business doesn't charge extra to be available to your clients 24 hours a day but other answering services might (some answering services don't even give the option - deciding that 6pm or 9pm is a reasonable time to stop accepting calls, period!)
Average Call Length:
- Are lots of your callers just inquiring about a bit of information, or requiring a call back when you're available? If we just need to get a name, phone number and message, it's likely you can keep every call under about a minute.
- If you need to gather a lot of information from your callers, book appointments or fill out lengthy forms, each of your calls is going to take more than a minute.
- Next, think about how you want us to deliver your message to you. Do you want each one simply emailed or texted as soon as it arrives, or do you want us to follow up with your staff in 5 minutes to ensure it was received, with escalation procedures to follow if they are not available? Most services can do either one to accommodate your business model — but one costs more than the other.
- This is another concern for seasonal businesses. If you provide snow plowing and landscaping services — you will get fewer calls in summer — so you may be better to have a lower base rate throughout the year and just pay some over usage charges in January.
- Some places may offer a “flat rate” — but keep in mind that an “all you can eat” restaurant may seem like a good deal — but if you just have a plate of salad it becomes a very expensive plate. Flat pricing is usually set to ensure that the service gets substantially more than enough to cover the cost of providing service.
So when you ask a salesperson “what does it cost to have someone answer my phones” expect them to ask a few questions before giving you an estimate. If they just blurt out a price beware that you may not be getting the best deal for your particular business.
Can I get a detailed quote about what I'm looking at in terms of cost?
Absolutely. I would be happy to learn more about your business and figure out how we can help you to be more profitable. Utilizing an answering service should be a way to save yourself money, time and stress in the long run. This is why we have customers who have been with us for over 20 years - we become an essential part of their business.