Many answering services sell prepackaged plans that require you to commit to a bundle of calls or minutes each billing cycle.
The perceived advantage is that you know what your monthly bill will be – as long as you don’t go over the amount of allotted minutes or calls. This perception is actually misguided. An answering service is much like a utility company that you partner with to ensure you can effectively run your business. Paying upfront for services not yet rendered leaves your business open to neglect.
Here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t buy the bundle:
- Where is the motivation to answer your calls quickly and professionally if the answering service already has your money? Isn’t it in their best interest NOT to spend the resources? This type of billing leads to under staffing when times get tough or when an owner or shareholders decide they want to increase profit margin.
- Voice mail services, when bundled into your monthly recurring charges, mean you pay far more than you would if you simply paid for the actual usage in minutes, billed down to the second. Why you ask? How often do you actually leave voice mails anymore? More than 60% of people hang up when they get a voice mail greeting according to Forrester Research in 2013.
- Bundling call patching is another way to be exploited by the bundle. Call patching costs money for any answering service and they will get paid for it somehow. Many services that bundle call patching under a flat fee are throwing out a number: Only $9.99 a month unlimited patching! And, they are hoping you do not end up using too many minutes and come out ahead. However, a billing cycle or two later, you will likely find your package has to be “moved to the next higher tier” in order to continue using the call patching feature without limitations.
- It is wise with the bundle, to determine exactly how a call or a minute is defined. Many call plans do not differentiate inbound and outbound calls. If you do not clarify this, you may be paying extra for outbound calls. Also, if paying per call, does a wrong number or hang up count? If selling prepackaged minutes, do they round up? What about a fax? Is that a call? Knowing the exact definition of “a call” is paramount to understanding what you will be billed. A low rate per call can quickly become very expensive if everything is considered a call (inbound calls, outbound calls, e-mails, faxes, text messages, digital paging, alpha pages, etc.).
- Finally, the worst thing about bundles: they are sold in “blocks” of minutes – the more you buy, the less expensive each call becomes. Sounds great, right? However, this requires that you somehow forecast how many calls you are going to get and how long they will last. If you don’t have reliable data to help you decide which package you should choose, you wind up either overshooting and paying for minutes you never use (and if you don’t use them, they don’t roll over), or you end up undershooting and paying overage fees. Businesses that are seasonal in nature can have an especially difficult time with these types of rates plans.
The only instance that I recommend using a company that only sells bundled call plans is if you don’t get many calls and the calls that you do receive do not generate revenue for your business. I hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me direct at 813-636-3975 and get connected with answers. I am happy to be as helpful as possible in your search for an answering service.