What is a Normal Answering Service Plan?


When shopping for a live support provider it can be very helpful to know what a normal answering service plan is so you can compare appropriately.

Image of a call center agent who works on a normal answering service plan

With a multitude of different companies offering their answering services it can be difficult to know what normal should be when it comes to shopping for the right plan. We’ll quickly try and break down a couple of the elements involved so you can better understand what a normal answering service plan looks like.

First, there are generally two ways that answering services offer their live support plans. By the unit and by the minute. Minutes based plans are more common so we will consider them the norm for our purposes here. Answering service minutes based plans work by giving you an allotment of minutes to use each month. Minutes are counted by how long the answering service is on the phone with one of your callers. If you exceed your allotment you are simply charged a per minute rate for any overages. During your initial consultation, a salesperson will work with you to estimate about how many calls the answering service will take for you each month to get you in the right minutes plan.

Normal answering service plans for low volume users commonly can be found around 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes, 100 minutes, or 120 minutes per month. Those plans will typically cover anything from one call every couple days to 3-4 calls per day. Minutes used that exceed the plan will often have a going rate of anywhere from $1.00 to a $1.50 per minute used.

Answering service plans that range from 150-750 minutes used can normally be considered moderate usage plans and anything over 750 starts to become a high usage plan. The great thing about most answering service plans is that the per minute cost begins to come down when the number of minutes your plan allocates goes up.

Some of the features that should be included in a normal answering service plan are:

  • message delivery
  • access to a secure online portal to manage your account
  • bilingual (English/Spanish) capabilities
  • friendly agents who never put callers on hold
  • appointment scheduling
  • order processing
  • HIPAA compliance
  • 24 hour coverage

It is common for answering services to charge an account set up fee when you sign on with them. It is not uncommon for there to also be a small additional fee added during a few select holidays. Other than that, it is not normal for answering services to nickle and dime you for every little thing, so don’t pay too many fees.

A normal answering service plan should be billed on a month-to-month basis with no long term contracts. Keep in mind that monthly billing should in fact occur monthly rather than on a 28 day cycle.

How much should a normal answering service plan cost? There is lots that goes into how an answering service prices their plans. Not only must they look internally to see how much they need to charge to cover all their costs and remain reasonably profitable, but they must look at external factors too. What are competitors charging for a basic answering service plan? How is the economy doing? What can the market handle? Plus it all really depends on how many minutes you are using each month. As a rule of thumb, a normal answering service plan will run you anywhere from 0.75 – 1.25 per minute, but once again, it varies based on how many minutes your plan is set for.

If you’d like to get a better understanding of what a normal answering service plan might look like for your company, please contact us.

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