Answering Service Fees Explained: 7 You Haven’t Considered

Your business is growing, and fast. Maybe you’ve come to realize you need a Houston Answering Service. But, which one should you choose? When looking at your options, price is usually a big determining factor. However, Answering service fees vary greatly.

In every industry, there are different billing practices, rates, and corresponding products and services. The same holds true for the Houston answering service industry. Think of any money spent with a Houston answering service as an investment in your company’s future. Surely, you want to choose the investment with the best value, not necessarily the lowest rate. In that case, you’ll need to compare apples to apples.

It can be hard to compare answering services based only on price and rate. Each Houston answering service will provide different services and perform their duties in different ways. This means that the type and quality of service you will receive from different answering services vary greatly. Because of this, it is almost impossible to compare two different Houston answering services. You just can’t compare the price of a service you’re receiving when the add-ons don’t add up on both sides. You can, however, evaluate the difference in services, pricing, and answering service fees to help you determine which Houston answering service is best for your business.

Houston Answering Service Fees

What is included, after all? Some answering services include extra services and features in their monthly rates. Others charge for each individual thing. We’re different. For example, we don’t have hidden fees like many of our competitors. What you see is what you get. The only time you will see a new line item on your invoice is if one of the following occur:

  1. Your company used more minutes than your plan allows.
  2. You prefer paper invoices over digital.
  3. You’ve paid your bill late.

So, I recommend that when you’re looking to hire an answering service, you ask questions and learn the details as to what specifically the service includes to help you better compare.

Most Common Houston Answering Service Fees

Holiday answering service fees photo by

Holiday Answering Service Fees

I have seen fees as high as $25 per holiday! Be sure to always ask which days are included in the holiday. Does the holiday fee apply to all bank holidays, such as President’s Day, or only the major holidays, such as New Year’s Day, Independence Day, etc? Some Houston answering services have lower holiday fees than others but charge them more frequently. You don’t want to have a fee so that your virtual receptionist can celebrate National Margarita Day, do you? Read between the lines. After all, a different Houston answering service can have overall higher rates but provide holiday service inclusive without extra fees.

Why is this extra?

This is a common answering service fee because answering services never close and are open on holidays while most companies are not.  This means answering services have to pay their team more to encourage them to work the holiday. Because let’s face it, no one wants to work on Christmas. Answering services already pay a lot in payroll because we provide people who perform a service and do not sell a product. Our product is our people!  Instead answering services pass this extra expense on to you the customer, and call it a holiday fee. I have seen this fee range from nonexistent, like us, or up to $25.00 or more per holiday.

Bilingual answering service fees

Bilingual Answering Service Fees

This fee, if any, varies per Houston answering service. Often times it is charged an extra per unit of billing such as $0.75 per every minute on a Spanish call, or $1.00 per Spanish call. I have also seen answering services charge a flat rate for inclusive Spanish service, such as $30.00 per month to process unlimited Spanish calls. Again, often times many Houston answering services will provide this service inclusive in your monthly rate without any extra fees.

Why is this extra?

This is one of the answering service fees you may encounter because Houston answering services have to specifically search, interview and train team members who speak both English and Spanish. Often, bilingual individuals demand higher pay because they have extra skills. However, this is Houston and many people here speak Spanish. To help offset these extra costs associated with providing bilingual service to their clients many answering services charge more for this service. I have seen this extra priced at a flat rate per call, flat rate per minute, flat rate per month, and even offered inclusive for no extra fees. Of course the rates vary based on the unit measured and a few other factors such as how many bilingual team members they have on staff, etc.

Male virtual receptionist discussing call answering service fees

Patched Calls

Houston answering services vary this fee. Sometimes it is per event, sometimes it is per occurrence. Other times, they bill for patch time. This means they’re charging you for the time you spend in their switch after the team member is out of the conversation.  Some answering services will include this in the service rate, without any extra fees. Patching per event usually ranged between $1.00 – $1.75, patch time usually ranges between $0.50 – $1.25 per minute.

Fax Machine answering service fees

Faxed Messages

Some Houston answering services are no longer providing this service to new prospective clients. However if you are dead set on receiving copies of your messages over fax, they can provide the service.  This is usually one of the most expensive extra’s because, it is an older technology and uses a ton of telephony resources. Often the price will be based on the number of transmissions per day, ranging between $15.00 – $30.00 per month.  Just as all the other extra’s some Houston answering services, may provide this inclusive in one low monthly rate.

Why is this extra?

Most Houston answering services have the ability to fax over a copy of your messages from the previous evening each morning for your records. I have estimated that faxing is one of the most expensive “extras”. This is because faxing utilizes voice channels, or phone lines which are a precious resource at an answering service. It can take 10 minute or more depending on how many messages you receive to send one of these faxes. That is 10 minutes one of the answering services phone lines are unable to receive incoming calls, which is how they make their money.  Moreover fax is an older technology, and still often results in many failures due to you receiving other faxes, and your fax machine being off, etc. So faxing is kind of a headache when you have to send out 100’s of them within a few hours.

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Emailed Messages

Email is the most common way answering services, get their messages to their clients. Email is fast, does not require a lot of resources, and reduced people time. Answering Services, and clients both love it. Some answering services will charge a flat fee monthly for this service, others will add a few seconds into your minute usage for each email. Other answering services will include this for free, and instead require fees if they make calls out to your on call team.

Why is this extra?

This is an fee for the same reason as faxing. Houston answering services can email you copies of your messages.  This is the method of electronic delivery preferred by our company, and many others. It is the easiest way to send messages on our end, because we can send out hundreds of them within minutes. Many answering services till charge extra for this service, because there are extra costs’ associated with it.  I just upgrade the SMPT server that sends ours out, and now we are saving some money. Still however we pay extra for this message relay service.

Answering services fees for text messages Answering service fees for text messages

Text Messages

Text messaging is very popular, specifically with plumbers, air condition technicians, electricians or any other professional who is often in the field. Some Answering services in Houston, or even nationwide may charge a flat monthly rate for the service, charge per message sent, or even bill your minutes for the time it takes the text message. However there are some companies that like to keep answering service pricing simple and straight forward.

Why is this extra?

Houston answering services can text message you your messages. So you can easily call back your clients without having to write down the number, and then manually dial it. This feature cost’s extra because just like you have a subscription with a wireless service provider like Verizon, so does your answering service. Moreover, many of these wireless service providers charge answering services a premium per message fee. In addition to the specialized modem’s it takes to actually send these messages to you as a true SMS text message. Remember if you have two quotes that differ drastically in price, it could be that one of the quotes includes all the “extra’s” in the provided quoted rate. Find out the specific details on the service. You may be surprised.

Account management answering service fees

Account Maintenance / On Call Schedule Management

The logic behind charging extra for these services is that is cost extra money and time to provide them. Some answering services charge extra for all of these services, some charge extra for some of them, and some provide them inclusive in your rate. Make sure your proposal includes the specifics of the service so that you can accurately compare services included to the cost of the extras.

Apply this to your small business

If you’re looking to hire a virtual receptionist for your small business, don’t forget about the possible additional answering service fees. Remember to always check the fine print and know all that you’ll be charged for.

Questions to ask when hiring an answering service:

  • Do you charge additional fees for text messages, email, or faxes?
  • What is your holiday policy?
  • How do you charge for patched calls?
  • Do you offer bilingual services?
  • Is there an additional answering service fee for a bilingual virtual receptionist?