Why we don't provide a flat rate answering service plan.Nearly every day I am asked by potential clients why we do not offer any flat rate plans.

AnswerFirst has been in the answering service and contact center solutions industry for over 20 years. During this time we have determined that, while flat rate plans were great for AnswerFirst, they rarely benefited our clients. In fact, unless clients were able to forecast their usage perfectly, flat rate service never benefited them at all. The only perceived advantage was if they bought a call plan with more minutes or calls than they would ever use, then they always knew how much their bill was going to be each month.

Call plans are generally sold in “packages” or “blocks” of calls or minutes – the more you buy, the less expensive each call or minute becomes.

Unfortunately, this pricing structure forces you to guess how many calls you are going to get (or how long they will last) each billing cycle. And, if you don’t have precise, reliable data to help you choose the correct package, you are either going to buy too many or too few minutes – neither of those scenarios work in your favor. For instance, choosing a 100 minute plan and then only using 25 minutes means that you paid for 75 minutes that you didn’t use. And, if you don’t use your minutes, they don’t roll over – which is great for the answering service, but not so great for you.  Additionally, let’s suppose you use more than the 100 minutes included in your flat-rate package – what happens?  Typically, you are billed even more than your original per-minute rate and you might even find yourself being charged additional overage fees.  Again, great for the answering service and not so great for you.

Here are more disadvantages of call plans and why we no longer offer them.

On a pay-per-call plan, where you buy a designated number of calls at a flat rate, even if many of your calls are long, it still does not work out in your favor. The reason for this is because all of your short calls (hang-ups, wrong numbers, solicitor calls, etc.) are the same price. No call center can stop hang ups, wrong numbers or calls from solicitors or vendors.  Also, most pay-per-call plans only cover inbound calls.  What if you have the answering service making outbound calls to you for message dispatch?  Is that extra?  If the call center e-mails or texts your message to you, are those considered calls?  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 seemingly affordable pay-per-call plan can actually be very expensive when everything is considered a call.

Businesses that are seasonal in nature can have an especially difficult time with flat rate plans.  For example, a HVAC company coming into the busy winter months or the even busier summer months will have a hard time choosing the correct package of minutes or calls.  Even with information about their previous year’s call volume – how can seasonal businesses know exactly how many calls they’ll get during their busy season this year?

Finally, flat rate call plans require you to pay up-front before services are rendered.  How does pre-paying for your calls provide motivation to the call center to actually answer your calls in a timely, professional manner?  They have already been paid so it is less important to them whether they actually answer your calls quickly, make your callers wait for long periods in a hold queue or even answer calls at all.  A pay-as-you-go answering service is highly motivated to answer your phone calls – it’s how they get paid.

So, where is the value in flat rate plans?

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Teri Erickson

Business Development Coordinator at AnswerFirst
I hope you found this article helpful, if you have any questions you can contact me on my direct line at AnswerFirst: 813-636-3975. If I don’t provide our potential clients with top-notch customer service from day 1, then why should they trust my company to provide their clients with the same?