How Will I Be Billed By My Answering Service?

When evaluating Answering Services, it is important that you understand exactly how you will be billed for their services. In particular, be aware that, when it comes to pricing, you may be comparing apples to oranges. In general, Answering Services either bill on a per call or per minute basis, but they may also bill on a per message, per unit or fixed rate plan. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages depending upon the types of calls you receive, the types of messages you would like taken and delivered, and how you would like them delivered.

Per Call Plans Questions to Ask / Things to Consider

What is my current call volume including hang-ups and wrong numbers?

What is considered a call? Are both Inbound Calls and Outbound Calls included?

How will I be billed for text massages, emails, faxes and pages?

If you have a billing plan that includes a certain number of calls per billing period, how will you be charged for calls that exceed your plan?

Per Minute Plans Questions to Ask / Things to Consider

How long is my typical call?

Can the service screen incoming calls with pre-recorded message so that I have the option to reduce the number of calls that are answered by an operator?

How are minutes calculated?  Are they rounded to the nearest minute, 15 seconds, 6 seconds?

What activity is included in my billable minutes? Most services bill for Live Operator Time, but some will also bill for Wrap Time (time required to complete and double-check the message after the caller hangs up) and some bill for Screen Time (time unrelated to the call when the answering service staff have an account open on their screen for various reasons.

How will I be billed for text messages, emails, pages, and faxes?

If my billing plan includes a certain number of minutes for each period, how will I be billed for overage minutes?

Per Message Plans Questions to Ask / Things to Consider

What is included as a message? Some create a message for every call, such as “no message” or “caller will call back”.

If a plan includes a certain number of messages, how will I be billed for overage?

Per Unit Plans (These are the most complicated and vary among answering services) Questions to Ask / Things to consider

Do they provide documentation showing how the units will be calculated?  Sometimes a call = 1 unit, but perhaps some calls (i.e. an outbound call) might = 2 units. Sometimes an email, text, page, or fax will be a unit, as well.

Fixed Rate Plans (There are answering services that will provide fixed rate plans) Questions to Ask / Things to consider

Will my rate increase if my call/minute count exceeds a certain level?  Be sure that you understand what will trigger a rate increase? If there are automatic triggers for increases, make sure you understand if there are automatic triggers for rate decreases as well, so that an unusually busy period won’t cause the fixed rate to increase forever?

For information on our billing Terms & Conditions, please contact us at (800) 308-5544  x225.

9 Things to Consider when Choosing a Telephone Answering Service

Service From A Syracuse New York Based Answering Service Company

  • Are customer service representatives available 24/7, including holidays?   Does the company offer both live operator and automated response services? If appropriate for your business, the use of a personalized announcement to give office hours, etc. combined with an option to speak with a liver operator is an effective way to reduce expenses.

  • Can the handling of your calls and the dispatching of your messages be customized to meet your specific needs?

  • What other business support services do they offer?  Many services now have the capability to schedule appointments and makes reservations; provide help desk and dealer location services; track employee attendance, etc.

  • Do their customer service representatives have access to the internet if that is necessary for the handling of your calls?

Pricing

  • Make sure you understand how charges will be computed.  Charges can be based upon the calls or on time.  Be aware that the definition of “call” and “time” may differ from one answering service to another.  See post “How will I be billed by my Answering Service”)

  • Ask for a written proposal.  Ask whether the pricing plan you chose can be modified in the future? Does the company require you to commit to a contact?

Technology

  • Does the company provide a variety of message delivery options such as voice, text, email, fax, alpha page, or encrypted messaging?

  • How long does the company retain information?

  • Are all calls recorded and, if so, are the recordings available to you on request?

  • Does the company have system redundancy and power backup to ensure service in times of phone and power outages?

  • Can the company provide interfacing with my company’s information system or CRM if that is necessary for the handing of your calls?

Staffing

  • How does the company ensure there will be sufficient staff available to minimize long ring or hold times?

  • What type of notice will the company need from you if your call volume should increase due to special promotions, office hour changes, etc.?

Training

  • How is the staff trained?  Does the company conduct standardized training programs from the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI) or other industry associations?

  • Do all employees receive regular HIPAA training prepared by ATSI or other industry associations?

Pricing

  • Make sure you understand how charges will be computed.  Charges can be based upon the calls or on time.  Be aware that the definition of “call” and “time” may differ from one answering service to another.  See post “How will I be billed by my Answering Service”)

  • Ask for a written proposal.  Ask whether the pricing plan you chose can be modified in the future? Does the company require you to commit to a contact?

Technology

  • Does the company provide a variety of message delivery options such as voice, text, email, fax, alpha page, or encrypted messaging?

  • How long does the company retain information?

  • Are all calls recorded and, if so, are the recordings available to you on request?

  • Does the company have system redundancy and power backup to ensure service in times of phone and power outages?

  • Can the company provide interfacing with my company’s information system or CRM if that is necessary for the handing of your calls?

Staffing

  • How does the company ensure there will be sufficient staff available to minimize long ring or hold times?

  • What type of notice will the company need from you if your call volume should increase due to special promotions, office hour changes, etc.?

Training

  • How is the staff trained?  Does the company conduct standardized training programs from the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI) or other industry associations?

  • Do all employees receive regular HIPAA training prepared by ATSI or other industry associations?

Stability & Reliability

  • How long has the company been in business?  What is the average tenure of their staff?  Is the company active in the local business community?

  • Does the company have back-up power and redundancy of critical system components?

Compliance

  • Does the company comply with local, state, and federal regulations and carry business insurance, including Error and Omissions coverage?

  • Does the company comply with HIPAA and HITECT regulations?

  • Is the company active member of an organization that keeps its membership up to date with the latest laws, regulations, and industry trends?

References / Testimonials

  • Ask for references you can call to discuss the service.  Be sure to ask for references in your particular industry or locations.

  • Check the company’s website to see if they have a testimonial page

Awards

  • Has the company earned any awards or recognition in the industry or local business community?  Does the company participate in the ATSI Award of Excellence service award?  This program assesses a company’s service level through the evaluation of test or “mystery shop” calls.