Inbound Contact Center & Answering Service Pricing
Understanding Flat Rate, Pay As You Go, Per Call And Per Message Pricing
Will you receive 100 calls this month or 1,000?
Is your busy season ahead or behind?
These are questions business owners must ask themselves every month when subscribed to a prepaid call or message plan. Wrong calculations equal lost dollars.
Plans rarely, if ever, roll over and going over your plan’s allotment will result in expensive overage fees and additional costs. Like the old all inclusive Flat Rate plans of the past, call centers and answering services steering you toward these plans are betting that you will guess your usage incorrectly and they’ll win either way.
Common Pricing Models
Answering service pricing is confusing because there is no standard way to bill for services. Below we briefly cover the most common pricing models. There are many variations of each model, but these are the fundamental methods of billing.
Flat Rate Billing requires businesses to buy a packaged bundle of calls or minutes per billing cycle. For instance, you might have the option to choose 150 minutes for $199, 275 minutes for $329 or 500 minutes for $549. To choose the right plan, businesses need to know how many minutes they need each billing cycle and to get the best value they’ll need to consistently use exactly that number of minutes.
Per Call & Per Message
With Per Call & Per Message Billing the answering service or call center bills a certain amount per call or per message. For example, the service will advertise a “Per Call” rate of $1.20. This advertised rate is frequently coupled with some sort of account credit scheme that can be really confusing if not impossible to understand.
Pay As You Go
Pay As You Go Billing implies that the call center or answering service bills each of their accounts for the actual time each account uses. Many of these providers charge a low “base rate” or “access fee” and then only bill more than that when clients actually use services. A great example of this pricing model is how we bill our clients here at AnswerFirst. We charge a $20 monthly base rate and then clients are only charged when we actually take actions on their accounts.
Comparing Different Answering Services?
Choosing the answering service that’s right for your business is a major decision. We’ve prepared a simple checklist you can use to compare services. Use this free guide to learn what questions you need to ask while shopping.
Want to learn more?
Download our Pricing and Info Packet now.
Defining Calls, Messages and Minutes
One of the largest challenges in evaluating answering service and call center pricing is understanding how each provider defines calls, messages and minutes. Here’s where it’s really important to read “the fine print” and understand what you’re actually being billed.
What is a minute?
While most of the world defines a minute as 60 seconds, most of the answering service industry doesn’t. Since call lengths are rarely equal to an exact number of minutes, answering services have several methods of accounting for partial minutes and most of them do not benefit the customer. Many services round up to the next minute which means they’re billing for a lot of time when they weren’t actually doing anything. Who wants to pay for an entire minute when a caller hangs up or a solicitor calls and takes 5-15 seconds of the operator’s time?
What is a call?
Is it an inbound call, an outbound call, an email, a chat, a text, a fax, a social media communication or the very common answer, all of the above? When considering a service that bills per call, it’s important to know what they consider “a call.”
What is a message?
Is it a complete message (caller’s name, who he or she is asking for, how do you reach them back, what it is regarding), or is it as little as “caller hung up” or “caller did not leave a message.” Most commonly, it’s any of the above.
Common Pitfalls Associated With Each Pricing Model
Now that we’ve reviewed the various billing methods and covered the confusion about surrounding billing increments, let’s take a closer look at the common issues with each billing method.
Since most businesses don’t use the exact same amount of minutes each month, it’s mostly impossible to get the best value out of a Flat Rate plan. If a business pays $549 for a 500 minute flat rate plan and uses 300 minutes one month then their per minute rate is $1.83 for that month. However, if they go over their 500 allotted minutes in a given month then they’re charged overage fees. The only advantage to Flat Rate Billing is that, as long as you don’t use more minutes than what are included in your plan, the monthly bill is the same.
Per Call & Per Message
As mentioned previously, many of these plans are coupled with complex “credit” systems that require the purchase of credits that are equal to a certain number of calls or messages. Guessing how many minutes you’re going to use each month is hard enough, but trying to figure out how many credits you need based on the number of individual calls or messages you need is pretty much impossible. Even if a service is offering Per Call or Per Message pricing without a complicated credit system, it’s important to know what’s consider a call or a message.
Pay As You Go
Pay As You Go billing is the most reasonable and transparent way to bill if the call center or answering service is actually using accurate time-based billing. Unfortunately, many services advertise “Pay As You Go” but use questionable time accounting practices like rounding up minutes.
Accuracy & Integrity – Why We Stand Behind Pay As You Go Pricing
Pay As You Go billing is the easiest and most efficient way to spend your dollar with an answering service.
With AnswerFirst you pay a low base rate each billing cycle, much like an access fee. The base rate provides 24/7 access to our Customer Service Professionals, a unique local forwarding number and an unlimited web portal through which instantaneous account information is available.
The low base rate is your only financial commitment; after that you pay-as-you-go and only for what you actually use.
Our per-minute rate is billed in one second increments (no rounding to the next minute). Since we bill all of your usage in arrears, you don’t have to try to determine how many calls or minutes you’ll need to use each month and there is never any reason to worry about changing your rate plan or plan size. Our Pay As You Go billing method also eliminates concerns about paying for unused calls or minutes and there are also never any unexpected “overage” fees.