We all know how important time management is to a small business owner. Things like a bad paid time off policy and and a cluttered workspace can cost you a lot of money in the long run. But some issues regarding time don’t just set you back way down the road. They’re more cut and dry. Too much time spent on a task can sometimes cost you too much right then and there. Like when your answering service takes too long to receive a message from one of your clients. You want to make sure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck if they’re charging you by the minute. So, the question lies: how long should an answering service call be?
When we sign on new answering service clients and we explain to them the different packages and service plans, this is a question that often comes up quickly.
Why do we get asked so frequently how long an answering service call is?
Small business owners need to know that they’re getting a fair price for the services they’re provided. Whenever there is a service provided that charges by the minute or hour, people get cautious. Is that lawyer you hired spinning his pen on his desk between reading your email and answering it, but charging you? Is that taxi driver circling the block to crank up the fare?
No one wants to feel like they’re getting the run around.
So when they shop for an answering service, they first ask the rates of each answering service, then they ask the duration of an average call.
How long should an Answering Service call be?
This can vary from call to call. Basic answering service calls won’t be as time consuming as a call to make a payment or an appointment. And call wait time could play a role if you’re on call and you’ve asked us to transfer a caller directly to you.
How long should a basic answering service call be?
Basic answering service calls should last about one and a half minutes. These are calls in which a virtual receptionist on our team receives a call from one of your customers or clients and takes down a message with a name and a phone number.
How long should an appointment scheduling answering service call be?
These calls require more time,because we must work within the scheduling platform to find a time that works for you and the client. We also must take down additional information that basic calls don’t require, like addresses and, for our medical industry clients, healthcare provider information.
Because of the additional information and steps, these generally average between three and five minutes.
Many service and and trade businesses are now requesting information like addresses only for new clients. They simply confirm that no contact information has changed since their last appointment for returning clients. This improves customer experience and saves answering service minutes.
How long is our average answering service call?
The average duration of an answering service call here is about two minutes. A more complex call, like one that includes an address, could be closer to two and a half minutes.
If another company quoted you a shorter answering service call time…
Sometimes salespeople just tell you what they think you want to hear. Consider it a red flag if you hear an answering service sales representative tell you that their average call length is under one minute. If they tell you this, there are two likely scenarios.
1. You’ll be paying for a lower quality of service.
It’s not a new trick for salespeople to compete on price. They’ll take on business at any rate lower than competition in order to seal the deal. They figure they’ll be able to eventually make a profit if they get the foot in the door working for at a deficit. But you know what happens in the meantime?
They exhaust their resources and give a lower quality of service. Think, if this answering service’s average call is half of the length of everyone else you’ve researched, then what would that call sound like? It would have to be missing something. Maybe it’s rushed. They could be not confirming phone numbers or name spellings. Or maybe they’re speaking very quickly at the risk of their professionalism.
Any of these scenarios aren’t good.
2. They’re being dishonest with you.
We always hope that someone who is trying to sell us a product or service is giving their honest professional opinion in order to lead us to meet our needs in the most cost-effective manner. This is usually the case. But there are a few bad-apple salespeople that over-promise and under deliver.
They may tell you that the average call is under a minute, but then you’ll see on your bill that each call was the industry standard of two minutes. No one likes the bait-and-switch, especially after they’re already under contract.
How to compare answering services that charge by the hour to answering services that charge by the minute
This is when things start feeling really confusing. How are you supposed to compare the rates of multiple answering services when their pricing plans are like apples to oranges?
Sometimes it seems like an answering service that charges per call would be a better deal. When their rate is only slightly higher than the per-minute company the math will look like it works in your favor. A per-call rate is seems cheaper if you factor in that the average call is two minutes.
That’s not always the case.
You may find some surprises in the fine print of a charge-per-call answering service contract. Like what “per call” means to them. Answering services that charge in this manner often consider other things as a “call.” These services include a text message, email, incoming and outgoing calls, etc.
There will be several answering service fees you may have not considered, but you’ll generally use up less minutes than calls. Ultimately a per-minute plan is a better deal for your business.
Apply this to your small business
When shopping around for an answering service there should be many factors considered. Like the history and reputation of the company, the services they provide, and whether or not they hire good receptionists. Once you’ve figured those out and want to know what it’ll cost you, you should definitely ask what their average call time is. See if it matches up to the industry standard.