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Published: Jul 25, 2023 20 min read

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Best for Flexible Pricing
Best Virtual AssistantBest Automated Answering ServiceBest for High Call VolumeBest Pay-As-You-Go PlanBest for Hiring a Dedicated Receptionist Team
VoiceNation LogoDavinci LogoRingCentral LogoAnswerConnect LogoSAS LogoAbby Connect Logo
VoiceNationDavinciRingCentralAnswerConnectSASAbby Connect
Company Highlights

Affordable and flexible pricing, sleek app, includes bilingual services

Virtual receptionist can perform advanced administrative duties, unlimited long-distance calls

Advanced automated answering service, over 200 integrations with popular apps

Plans up to 100,000 minutes for businesses with high call volumes

Affordable rates for flexible pay-as-you-go option

Customers are assigned a dedicated team of five to seven receptionists

Starting Monthly Price

$30

$129

Must contact sales team

$325

$139

$299

Receptionist Minutes

20 to 1,000 (enterprise solution available for higher amounts)

50 and 100

Unlimited (automated)

200 to 100,000

100 to 10,000

100 to 500

Number of Users

Unlimited

Not listed

Not listed

Not listed

Unlimited

Unlimited

Free Trial

Seven-day trial

No

14-day trial

No

14-day trial

14-day trial

Best for Flexible Pricing
VoiceNation
View Plans
Company Highlights

Affordable and flexible pricing, sleek app, includes bilingual services

Starting Monthly Price

$30

Receptionist Minutes

20 to 1,000 (enterprise solution available for higher amounts)

Number of Users

Unlimited

Free Trial

Seven-day trial

Best Virtual Assistant
Davinci
View Plans
Company Highlights

Virtual receptionist can perform advanced administrative duties, unlimited long-distance calls

Starting Monthly Price

$129

Receptionist Minutes

50 and 100

Number of Users

Not listed

Free Trial

No

Best Automated Answering Service
RingCentral
View Plans
Company Highlights

Advanced automated answering service, over 200 integrations with popular apps

Starting Monthly Price

Must contact sales team

Receptionist Minutes

Unlimited (automated)

Number of Users

Not listed

Free Trial

14-day trial

Best for High Call Volume
AnswerConnect
View Plans
Company Highlights

Plans up to 100,000 minutes for businesses with high call volumes

Starting Monthly Price

$325

Receptionist Minutes

200 to 100,000

Number of Users

Not listed

Free Trial

No

Best Pay-As-You-Go Plan
SAS
View Plans
Company Highlights

Affordable rates for flexible pay-as-you-go option

Starting Monthly Price

$139

Receptionist Minutes

100 to 10,000

Number of Users

Unlimited

Free Trial

14-day trial

Best for Hiring a Dedicated Receptionist Team
Abby Connect
View Plans
Company Highlights

Customers are assigned a dedicated team of five to seven receptionists

Starting Monthly Price

$299

Receptionist Minutes

100 to 500

Number of Users

Unlimited

Free Trial

14-day trial

Hiring an in-house receptionist can be costly for small businesses, especially when considering the salary, benefits and other overhead expenses of hiring a full-time employee. An answering service is often the best option for small businesses looking to provide customers with a professional and reliable point of contact over the telephone without adding another staff member to the team.

Whether you're shopping for the best inventory management software or researching accounting software for your small business, it's important to focus on your company's immediate and long-term needs. Selecting the best answering service is no exception to this rule. We suggest you identify several services that address your needs in broad strokes, then compare them to one another in finer detail.

To help narrow down your choices, we've compiled a list of the six best answering services for small businesses in 2023. Read on for our reviews, plus a guide on what to know about these services and how they can help your company succeed.

Our Top Picks for Best Answering Services for Small Businesses

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Best Answering Services for Small Businesses Reviews

Pros
  • Highly flexible pricing
  • Offers bilingual services
  • Seven-day free trial with no setup fees
  • Intuitive app and web-based dashboard
Cons
  • Price per minute can be expensive
  • Outbound calls made through the mobile app cost 10 cents per minute

Why we chose it: VoiceNation stands out among the best answering services for small businesses because of its highly flexible pricing structures and easy-to-use dashboard.

HIGHLIGHTS
Price per Month
$30 to $1,595
Receptionist Minutes
20 to 1,000
Number of Users
Unlimited
Free Trial
Yes

VoiceNation has been providing businesses with reliable telephone answering services since 2002. With its intuitive app and web-based interface, business owners can easily manage incoming calls, phone orders, messages and call patching. VoiceNation’s suite of services includes 24/7 coverage, bilingual answering and custom voicemail services. It also provides a seven-day free trial for those interested in trying out its services before committing to it long-term.

One of the best features of VoiceNation is its highly flexible approach to pricing. Business owners can opt for a pay-as-you-go plan, which costs $30 per month plus per-minute pricing. Its packages start at $60 per month for 20 minutes and go as high as $1,595 per month for 1,000 minutes. The company also offers an enterprise option with custom pricing for larger businesses. Plans do not include any setup fees. Total monthly usage, plan limits and customizable call reporting can all be accessed at any point within the VoiceNation mobile app.

While VoiceNation’s pricing and appealing interface are impressive, VoiceNation is lacking in a few areas. Its per-minute pricing can be expensive if you start receiving a moderate or high volume of calls. This will leave businesses with heavier call volumes searching for another answering service provider. In addition, although you’re able to make outbound calls through the VoiceNation mobile app, they are charged 10 cents per minute. This can significantly add to your monthly cost if you make frequent outbound calls.

Pros
  • Virtual receptionist can handle admin tasks such as appointment scheduling and travel coordination
  • Unlimited long-distance calls
  • Offers advanced support options like client confirmations and outbound calling
Cons
  • Mandatory setup fee of $99
  • Highest plan only offers 100 minutes per month
  • Advanced admin services only come with premium plan

Why we chose it: Davinci's virtual receptionists can handle administrative tasks such as calendar management and travel planning, making it our pick for the best answering service for small businesses that need a part-time assistant.

HIGHLIGHTS
Price per Month
$129 to $319
Receptionist Minutes
50 and 100
Number of Users
Not listed
Free Trial
No

Davinci mainly operates as a virtual office rental provider, helping businesses who don’t have physical offices establish a professional presence with a legitimate mailing address. However, the company also offers an answering service that covers all of the standard answering service duties, including advanced call screening and routing, forwarding, message taking and more. In addition, Davinci’s virtual receptionists can handle various advanced tasks, such as helping to generate leads for your business via outbound calling, scheduling meetings, order processing, travel planning and appointment management. To top it all off, Davinci even offers unlimited long-distance calls.

The company offers two types of service plans for businesses: the Business plan and the Premium plan. The Business plan costs $129 per month for 50 minutes and $239 per month for 100 minutes, while the Premium plan costs $249 per month for 50 minutes and $319 per month for 100 minutes. The former is a relatively basic answering service, with features including call forwarding, voicemail management and unlimited long-distance calling services. The Premium plan includes all of Davinci’s advanced admin abilities, including appointment scheduling, order processing and customer care. There is a mandatory setup fee of $99 for all plans.

Despite offering some higher-level virtual assistant services, we noted one problem with Davinci’s plans: the company’s 50-minute-per-month or 100-minute-per-month plan options could be a little stingy for some businesses. Honestly, it’s a pretty sleepy operation that doesn’t generate 100 minutes of phone conversation a month. So be sure to estimate — or even overestimate — how much phone time you’ll routinely use before signing up for a Davinci plan. Get a plan that’s large enough for you from the beginning. Receptionist time above and beyond your package allotment is billed at $1.25 per minute.

Pros
  • Features over 200 integrations with popular third-party applications
  • Comprehensive call routing and sophisticated auto attendant capabilities
Cons
  • Doesn't offer live answering services
  • Below-average customer reviews

Why we chose it: For businesses that don’t need live answering services, RingCentral offers sophisticated and versatile automated solutions.

HIGHLIGHTS
Price per Month
Customized quotes
Receptionist Minutes
Unlimited
Number of Users
Not listed
Free Trial
Yes

RingCentral is a cloud-based phone system that provides an array of features to increase productivity and communication among businesses. It offers a comprehensive set of call routing capabilities, including an automated attendant, call transfer and forwarding services. RingCentral also has a host of sophisticated features such as call recording, voicemail-to-email transcription, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and cloud storage for your files. Additionally, RingCentral features over 200 integrations with popular third-party applications, such as Salesforce, Zendesk and Dropbox.

RingCentral's plans are $30 per user per month (or $20 per month when paid annually) for the Core plan, $35 per month (or $25 when paid annually) for the Advanced plan and $45 per month ($35 when billed annually) for the Ultra Plan. The Core plan has basic answering service capabilities such as unlimited domestic calling and IVR. The Advanced plan adds some customer service-related features such as automated call recording and internet fax. The Ultra plan offers video call capabilities, unlimited file storage and sharing, plus a range of analytic tools.

One of RingCentral's weaknesses is that it doesn’t offer live answering service. This means that all calls have to be routed to pre-recorded messages, either to a different user or department or to automated attendants. Additionally, RingCentral receives average to below-average reviews online, with many customers complaining about poor customer service and unsolved issues with phone lines.

Pros
  • Integrates with top CRM systems
  • Scalable pricing plans to accommodate high call volumes
  • Offers appointment booking service
Cons
  • Expensive for low-volume clients
  • No free trial

Why we chose it: With pricing plans that stretch between 200 and 100,000 minutes per month, AnswerConnect is ideal for businesses that regularly experience high call volumes.

HIGHLIGHTS
Price per Month
$325 to $114,500
Receptionist Minutes
200 and 100,000
Number of Users
Not listed
Free Trial
No

AnswerConnect is an industry leader in live answering services, catering to small- and medium-sized businesses that consistently receive a large number of calls. The company provides 24/7 live operators for both Spanish and English-speaking customers, as well as a range of features such as call forwarding, message taking, appointment setting, customer support and lead qualification.

AnswerConnect offers 16 different pricing plans that start at $325 per month for 200 minutes and range up to $114,500 per month for 100,000 minutes. Each plan requires a $49.99 setup fee. With cheaper plans, you’ll pay an additional $1.65 per minute over the plan limit you selected, while with more expensive plans, you’ll pay $1.50 per additional excess minute. These are high per-minute rates when compared to more competitive plans.

Because the company's base plans are relatively expensive, AnswerConnect is not a great option for businesses on a tight budget or those that process only a small number of calls each month. The company also lacks a free trial, meaning you’ll have to commit to one of its relatively expensive base plans to test out the service. Despite these drawbacks, AnswerConnect offers a comprehensive set of features and can help growing businesses and startups scale up quickly when the time comes.

Pros
  • Affordable base pricing plans with flexible pay-as-you-go options
  • Both English and Spanish-speaking receptionists available 24/7
  • Receptionists are trained in appointment setting, order taking and payment processing
  • Free trial that lasts two weeks (or up to 200 minutes)
Cons
  • Charges a setup fee for all plans
  • Charges separately for voicemail, patching and IVR

Why we chose it: Specialty Answering Service is an affordable pay-as-you-go call center option that provides service for as little as $38 per month.

HIGHLIGHTS
Price per Month
$139 to $9,599
Receptionist Minutes
100 to 10,000
Number of Users
Unlimited
Free Trial
Yes

Specialty Answering Service provides live answering services with both English and Spanish-speaking receptionists. Service is available 24/7. The company offers a range of plans that all include the same features, such as basic message taking and forwarding, appointment setting, order taking and payment processing. As far as packaged plans with monthly minute limits, the company offers several plans ranging from as little as $139 for 100 minutes up to $9,599 for 10,000 minutes.

Aside from these packaged plans, Specialty Answering Service also offers a pay-as-you-go option. This option involves a $38 monthly charge plus $1.39 per minute. As one of the most affordable pay-as-you-go options available, this is an excellent choice for businesses that don’t have a consistent call volume. If you're uncertain about signing up long-term, the company also offers a two-week free trial (or up to 200 minutes) that allows you to test the service before committing.

One downside to Specialty Answering Service is its setup fee — which applies to all plans, even the pay-as-you-go option. Additionally, the company charges separately for voicemail ($0.15 per minute), patching ($0.10 per minute) and IVR ($0.15 per minute), which can add up if you rely heavily on these features.

Pros
  • A dedicated team of five to seven receptionists is assigned to your business
  • A customer success manager is assigned to your account
  • Intuitive mobile app
  • Free 14-day trial (up to 500 minutes or 50 live chats)
Cons
  • Overage rates are relatively high
  • Plans are more expensive than other options
  • Only offers plans up to 500 minutes per month

Why we chose it: If you require a dedicated team of receptionists who know your company's ins and outs, Abby Connect is a great option.

HIGHLIGHTS
Price per Month
$299 to $1,199
Receptionist Minutes
100 to 500
Number of Users
Unlimited
Free Trial
Yes

Abby Connect provides live answering services with a team of five to seven dedicated receptionists assigned to your company. A receptionist team manager, who directly oversees the group of receptionists, works closely with a customer success manager who is linked to your account from the start. With this level of attention and consistency applied to your business, Abby Connect is able to gain expertise in the unique aspects of your business and provide a higher level of customized service that exceeds what most live answering services offer. Customers who prioritize branding may particularly like Abby Connect’s services.

The company also offers an intuitive mobile app that allows you to check in on the performance and productivity of your dedicated receptionist team. You can also make calls and texts directly from the app. Abby Connect offers a 14-day free trial (up to 500 minutes or 50 live chats), allowing you to test the service before committing.

There are three available plans with Abby Connect: $299 for 100 minutes, $549 for 200 minutes and $1,199 for 500 minutes. Although these plans are a bit more expensive than some other options previously mentioned, the added benefits of having a dedicated team of receptionists may outweigh the additional cost for certain businesses. It's also important to note that Abby Connect's overage rates (between $2.49 and $2.99 per minute) are significantly higher than the average.

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Other companies we considered

Aside from the services mentioned above, we evaluated several other live answering service providers. Although these services didn't quite make the cut, they may still be worth considering.

PATLive

Pros
  • Easy-to-use mobile and online dashboard
  • Integration with popular customer relation management and e-commerce platforms
Cons
  • On the more expensive side
  • No IVR, email or chat support

Founded in 1990, PATLive is one of the oldest live answering services in business today. The company focuses exclusively on live telephone answering and thus does not offer any email, chat or IVR support. Its plans start at $199 per month for 75 minutes and go up to $1,279 per month for 1,000 minutes. PATLive also offers a relatively expensive pay-as-you-go service for $2.25 per minute plus a $59 monthly fee.

Ruby

Pros
  • Service available 24/7, 365 days a year
  • No setup fees
  • Helpful mobile app
Cons
  • Plans are expensive compared to similar services
  • Doesn't offer a free trial

Ruby is another well-established answering service that has been in business since 2003. The company offers 24/7 answering services with no setup fees and provides a useful mobile app that allows you to track customer interactions and activity from anywhere. The company does not offer a free trial and its plans are fairly expensive compared to similar services. Plans offered include $230 for 50 minutes, $365 for 100 minutes, $660 for 200 minutes and $1,595 for 500 minutes.

PCMSI

Pros
  • Affordable plans that are optimized with its Best Rate Guarantee
  • Monthly plans up to 10,000 minutes
Cons
  • No mobile app
  • Charges extra for many services that are provided free with other providers

PCMSI is a live answering service provider that offers some of the most affordable plans on the market. Plans start at $67 for 60 minutes up to $7,500 for 10,000 minutes. One of the unique features offered by PCMSI is its Best Rate Guarantee, which is a system that monitors your monthly usage and places you at the most cost-effective plan possible. Unfortunately, the company does not offer a mobile app. Additionally, there are extra charges for many services that are provided free by other providers, such as voicemail, patching, pre-operator announcements and appointment setting.

Map Communications

Pros
  • Advanced custom scripting available
  • IVR and voicemail complimentary with all plans
Cons
  • No mobile app
  • Extra charges during holidays
  • Plans only go up to 225 minutes before you must get a customized quote

Map Communications offers many of the same features as other live answering services, along with more specialized ones such as advanced custom scripting. All plans also include IVR and voicemail services for free. Customers can pay $177 per month for 125 minutes, $296 per month for 225 minutes or pay-as-you-go for $1.37 per minute plus a $47.00 per month fee. Customers who need more than 225 minutes must contact the company for a custom quote. This can make it difficult to accurately compare Map plans with other providers' offers. Additionally, the company does not have a mobile app and charges extra for holiday hours.

Answering Services for Small Businesses Guide

As discussed in our small business startup guide, it's essential to do your research when looking for any new service provider. The same is true of live answering services. There are many providers out there, each offering different features, benefits and costs. The following sections outline some of the most important factors to consider when selecting a live answering service.

Main things to know before choosing an answering service

Some of the main things to consider when choosing an answering service include:

  • Cost: Live answering services can be expensive, so comparing the costs of different providers will help you find a plan that fits your budget.
  • Quality: It's important that the provider you choose offers high-quality answering services since this is a critical factor in providing excellent customer experiences.
  • Features: Offered features, such as a mobile app, cloud storage, advanced scripting capabilities or IVR services, should fit your company's needs.
  • Reliability: Your provider's customer service should be reliable in case you run into any issues with your phone lines or services. The providers should also be able to provide coverage for the hours you need it.
  • Scalability: Some providers offer scalable plans so you can easily add more minutes as your business grows.

How do answering services work?

Answering services work by transferring incoming calls to a live operator who is trained to answer customer questions or take messages. The call is usually routed to the operator through a phone system, such as VoIP or cloud-based PBX. The operator then answers the call and provides the customer with the information or service they need. There are various features available, such as automated voicemail services, patching, appointment setting and pre-operator announcements. Providers typically charge either a per-minute rate or offer monthly plans.

What is the average cost of answering services?

The cost of answering services typically depends on the number of minutes used. Generally speaking, most providers offer plans that range in cost from $100 to $300 per month, depending on the number of minutes used. Some providers also offer pay-as-you-go plans, which charge a per-minute rate of around $1.00 to $2.50 per minute in addition to a monthly fee.

How do I set up a call answering service?

Setting up a call answering service is fairly simple. First, you will need to select a provider and sign up for a plan. Once you've chosen your plan, the provider will set up the necessary phone system to route calls to the operators or receptionist. Depending on the provider, you may also need to set up additional features such as IVR services or automated voicemail. After everything is set up and any specific training for your operators or receptionist is complete, you can start taking advantage of your answering service.

What are the benefits of an answering service?

An answering service can provide numerous benefits to businesses. First and foremost, it can save time by relieving your staff of the burden of having to answer and manage incoming calls. It can also enable around-the-clock coverage, providing customers with answers to their questions even after regular business hours. Finally, it can help improve your customer service and satisfaction by making information and solutions to customers’ problems readily available.

Answering Services for Small Businesses FAQs

What is the difference between an answering service and a virtual receptionist?

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An answering service is a call-answering service that provides an operator to answer incoming calls that would otherwise go to voicemail or an automated answering system. On the other hand, a virtual receptionist is a type of answering service that provides more complex and comprehensive services, such as appointment scheduling, caller support, marketing and order taking.

Who answers the calls in answering services?

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Typically, trained operators or receptionists who are familiar with your industry and business. These trained phone specialists are typically able to answer customer questions, provide information and take messages.

Why choose an answering service instead of a receptionist?

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An answering service may be a more cost-effective alternative to hiring an in-house receptionist, as it doesn't require additional overhead or staff to manage. An answering service is also more flexible, as it can provide coverage for hours outside the traditional workday.

What is the difference between an answering service and a call center?

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An answering service is a specialized call-handling service that provides a small number of live operators or receptionists to answer incoming calls for a specific business. A call center, on the other hand, is a larger-scale operation that typically has more of a predetermined script and may also be automated.

How We Found the Best Answering Services for Small Businesses

To evaluate the best answering services for small businesses, we looked at various factors, from pricing and features to customer service and support. The following are the core criteria we used to evaluate the different services:

  • Pricing: We looked at the pricing plans available from each provider, taking into account features such as unlimited minutes, pay-as-you-go plans and low cost-per-minute fees for overages.
  • Services offered: We examined the breadth and depth of services offered by each provider, as well as any notable gaps in service.
  • Ease of setup: We looked at how easy it was to set up and manage the answering service system.
  • Customer support: We evaluated the level of customer service and technical support available for each company.
  • Reviews: We looked at customer reviews to get a sense of the overall customer experience each company offers.
  • Availability: We took into account the hours of operation and availability of the service.

Summary of the Best Answering Services for Small Businesses of 2023