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Home » Articles » Best business telephone answering services

Best business telephone answering services

Businesses are often in a situation where demand for customer support goes beyond their usual working hours. This leads to creative solutions such as hiring a call center wherein telephone answering is part of the services offered.

What is a telephone answering service?

telephone answering service is a customer service feature where an agent answer calls on behalf of the business. They function as either a reception, front desk, or helpline of a company.

Service agents usually answer one call at a time and may be backed up by another agent or a team, depending on the volume of calls they receive.

What is a telephone answering service

Telephone answering services for your business

Companies in different industries may use a call answering service to provide extensive support to their customers even after office hours.

Answering calls is most common with businesses in the travel and tourism industry, including airlines, hotels, and travel agencies. These sectors require excellent customer support services to ensure customers feel satisfied from the get-go.

Hospitals and clinics also use this service whenever a patient wants to book an appointment with their respective doctors.

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Financial institutions such as credit card companies and banks give 24/7 services to their clients through telephone answering. Their call-answering services open helplines for stolen cards, fraudulent transactions, and account inquiries.

Whatever the industry, a telephone answering service can be availed to handle customers at any time of the day.

Types of telephone answering service

A business can use a telephone answering service depending on its expected volume of phone calls and industry.

Some providers may charge on a monthly, per-minute, or per-call basis, depending on the agreement with the business.

Standard/flat rate plan

Standard plans cover basic answering services, such as at front desks or virtual reception. Service providers charge either the number of calls, acquired minutes, or a fixed monthly price.

This does not include features such as transfer rates, holiday pricing, and foreign language fees.

Custom plan

Certain businesses expect a heavy volume of calls, exceeding the maximum of 500 minutes. With this, service providers offer a custom quotation for their business to accommodate their client’s needs.

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They may avail of a combination of per-minute, per-call, and after-hour services depending on their demand within a month.


This is the most common charging for a phone answering service. Providers usually group their charges depending on the minutes acquired by the business.

They can also buy minutes “in bulk” with the same, or even cheaper charge. A minimum of 100-150 minutes usually costs $99 to $200 per month.

A maximum of 500 minutes calls, meanwhile, can cost around $400 to $600, less additional fees.

Getting a flat rate plan is ideal for businesses expecting a medium to a high volume of calls, especially after office hours.

Types of telephone answering service

Per call 

Providers also charge a per-call basis for businesses expecting low to medium volume or just a specific number of calls. Call centers and business process outsourcing companies usually do this charging, with a rate of $1.12 per call.

However, a service provider’s definition of “call” may vary. It may include calls that can be easily hung up, transfers, or simply “system work,” like fax or email.

To avoid charges, businesses should know or predict how many calls they receive per day.

Specialized/per industry

Some service providers offer specialized pricing based on the industry in which they operate. These providers charge for additional professional services or require compliance for their operations.

For instance, medical answering services cost around $0.71 to almost $1 per call. Bilingual answering services, meanwhile, can cost a minimum of $0.60 per call.

Specialized charges include 24-hour answering, after-office hours, and extended hours, with a minimum of $0.99 per call.


This goes for on-demand to a low volume of calls. Businesses can pay for a combined flat rate and per-call charging per month when they expect a low volume per day.

For instance, service providers can charge a minimum of $40 per month plus $1.12 per call. However, pay-as-you-go charging can also be affected by additional charges even bigger.

Types of telephone answering service

Additional (hidden) charges

Aside from the regular charges, service providers also include additional fees on their client billing. However, providers may or may not mention these charges to their clients at first.

With this, businesses should be aware of different charges on their calls, such as:

  • Foreign service fees
  • Holiday surge
  • Account setup/activation
  • Transfers
  • Toll-free numbers
  • Compliance charge
  • Other charges (e.g., third-party integration or late payment)

KPIs for telephone answering services

Every call matters when hiring a telephone answering service. The business needs to measure each call they get to make sure they also get the best value for money.

Some of the important metrics they should measure are:

Customer satisfaction

The goal of hiring an answering service is to give exceptional customer service to their clients 24/7. With this, they should measure how satisfied a customer is on every call done by their agents.

Customer satisfaction includes whether their issues are resolved properly, how accommodating their agents are, and whether they will retain the business after receiving this service.

Average handle time (AHT)

This refers to the average duration of a transaction. To avoid customers from getting irate, businesses should measure how long an agent handles a call. This includes their talk duration, hold time, transfers, and other related tasks.

While not a blanket rule, a longer handle time may be seen as a sign of poor customer service.

This also helps them determine how many minutes they will avail in an answering service for proper budgeting.

Average time on hold

This shows how much time a customer is on hold in a call. This can be affected by different reasons like:

  • Work-related to the call
  • Transfer time to another section

This also determines the reason a customer drops their calls when they are put on hold for too long.

Abandonment rate

Most customers abandon a call when no one answers it immediately. It is whether they are still on hold for too long, too many transfers have been made, or their calls remain unanswered.

Abandonment rate is important, especially with service providers that include an unanswered call to the billing. This also heavily affects the customers of a live answering service because it will indicate whether they are accommodated properly.

Average speed of answer (ASA) 

How quickly a call should be answered depends on the service level agreement set. For instance, call centers usually set their standards to 80/20, or 80% of calls should be answered in 20 seconds or so.

This is to prevent customers from dropping calls and for businesses to prevent incurring additional charges for answering too quickly.

First call resolution

Lastly, this determines whether the virtual receptionist can resolve a customer’s concern on their first call. Usually, the higher the first call resolution rate, the better customer satisfaction they receive.

This is why this is one of the most important metrics that both business and their service providers should look up to.

Telephone answering service companies

There are disadvantages to setting up an in-house helpline and virtual reception, especially when it concerns answering services for small businesses. Aside from salaries and benefits, they also have to take care of their workspaces, network, and infrastructure they need to operate.

They are required to have an office space, desktop, VoIP, CRM system, and cloud storage as well. They might also lack flexibility in working since most of them would not agree to work the night shift.

Doing so requires additional benefits, such as night differentials and larger health benefits, depending on the labor laws of the state.

Philippine call centers

A lot of BPO companies, like Cloudstaff offer telephone and live answering services. They come with competitive prices and the best equipment for their work to guarantee their clients that they get the best service.

Businesses can hire the best talents at a fraction of local employment. With the best answering services, you won’t have to worry about equipment, network, and working limited hours.

Most of these companies offer a 24/7 service for their convenience. To learn more about them, check the Top 40 BPO companies guide.

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