8 Best Small Business Answering Services of 2023
Have you ever calculated the benefits that having a business answering machine can have for your business?
Right from saving the cost of having to pay an in-house receptionist, to paying for their health care and benefits, to paying for overtime, there is so much more that it has to offer.
Deploying a business answering service makes sure that you never miss a single call again.
Your business is always accessible throughout the year, even on holidays, and is represented by a team of professionals who have been trained to answer calls.
Yes! Your callers will no longer hear a dog barking in the background or all the noise happening in the office.
You will also never be bothered by a tele-caller again when you have been waiting for urgent calls if you deploy a business answering service.
Still not convinced?
Let us walk you through what different business answering services offer and how your business can benefit from them. In our guide, we will also help you choose the best answering service for your business.
If you are ready, let’s get started.
Best Small Business Answering Services
Best answering system for small businesses with offices in multiple locations.
RingCentral’s auto attendant feature makes sure you never miss another call even when you may be out of the office. Its automated phone system ensures that your callers get connected to the right department and even external numbers anywhere in the US and globally.
You can greet your customers with a custom greeting that you can record using the voice of your choice. You can either choose from the pre-recorded messages available or even hire professional voice talent to record the messages for you.
Suppose you are running an offer or are off on a holiday, you can also record a custom message for those days and then automatically go back to your regular greeting.
It even lets you set advanced rules for specific caller IDs, for example, your vendors, or investors. So when they call, they do not hear the message that you want your customers to hear.
If you have offices in different parts of the country, or the globe, the multi-level auto-attendant feature lets you direct all your calls to a single number. You can then set extensions for each location which will then direct customers to the location they want to connect to.
You can also very easily offer language options to your callers so that they can choose the language they want to use.
With RingCentral, you can set up conditional forwarding as well so that when your customers call beyond office hours, they get directed to a number out of the office. While connecting to the other number, you can also play a custom message.
While your agents attend to customers and solve their problems, you can play hold music for them so that the wait does not seem that long.
Using their multi-level auto-attendant feature you can manage call routing for multiple locations, add up to 250 voice menus and submenus for each location, deploy different IVR menus for each of the locations and add a separate number for each IVR.
RingCentral’s auto attendant feature is available with all of their plans and their most basic plan starts at $19.99 with which you get other features as well like unlimited calls within the US and Canada, business or toll-free numbers, document sharing, and team messaging.
If you find RingCentral’s pricing expensive and are looking for a complete package you might want to compare RingCentral’s alternatives as well.
Best professional live receptionists and web chat services.
While many businesses choose business answering services, many other businesses prefer that their callers are greeted with a personal touch by a real person. This is where services like Ruby Receptionist come in.
Ruby Receptionist has a team of US-based live receptionists who help small businesses manage their calls and make sure no caller is turned away. These live receptionists are real people working to handle your calls and sound like they are located within your office.
They can receive calls on your behalf, transfer them to another number that you assign, take messages for you, schedule appointments, answer FAQs, and forward calls to voicemail. It all depends on how you want your calls to be handled.
Even though you outsource your receptionist, you have complete control over the message you want your callers to be greeted with. They are available round the clock throughout the year so your callers can call you anytime and they will be greeted by a real person.
When you deploy Ruby Receptionists at your office, you can be assured that all your calls will automatically be screened by your receptionist and you will not have to waste your time on spam.
They also have a mobile app through which you can access all the forwarded calls, read transcripts of voicemails, and set call handling rules.
Even if you choose your calls to be forwarded on your personal phone, with Ruby Receptionist, you can keep your personal number and your business number separate.
Along with handling calls, Ruby’s receptionists also help businesses handle their web chats. These chat specialists answer customer queries on your website, answer FAQs, schedule appointments and connect them to someone in your office if needed.
If you are looking for a HIPAA compliant service, you are in luck as Ruby also offers a HIPAA compliant call handling and chat service.
It is also quite easy to get started with them. All you have to do is call the number given on their website and an onboarding specialist will walk you through the process.
There are three broad categories of plans that you can choose from depending on whether you want Ruby’s receptionists to handle calls, provide chat services or do both.
If you are looking for bundled services, the Bundled Chat Ruby 30 is ideal and fits perfectly with small business needs.
Best feature-rich small business answering service.
With MAP Communication’s business answering service, you can have a team of US-based agents attending to your callers twenty-four hours a day, round the year, so you do not have to miss another call again.
Even when your customers call you beyond office hours, the team is available to receive calls on your behalf. This can be of great help especially if you have customers across different time zones.
Also, if you cater to Spanish-speaking demographics, you are in luck here because MAP Communications provides answering services in English and Spanish.
Like other best small business answering services, MAP Communications lets you determine the experience your callers will have. You can set the message you want them to be greeted with, determine how your calls will be handled, and set numbers where they will be forwarded.
Every time your business receives a call, all the details are logged into a system, where you can log in and access them. Their live answering service makes sure that your callers speak to real people and not automated voice messages.
Along with the live answering service, you can also provide directions on which calls qualify as urgent. When such urgent calls arrive, MAP Communication’s team makes sure that the right person receives the message even if it is after working hours.
They also offer a Disaster Recovery Answering Service through which you can ensure that your phone lines are active and all your callers are attended to even when a disaster strikes or there is an emergency.
Some other features that you get with this answering service are call routing, appointment scheduling, reporting tools, and RSVP answering service among others.
There are three different pricing options that you can choose from. Each of these plans comes with 24/7 receptionist service, text and email delivery, a nationwide 800 number, and real-time portal access.
However, for small businesses, the Business plan is ideal where you get all the basic features, 125 minutes of calling, and other additional features.
Best answering service for small businesses with a very responsive customer support team.
PATLive is another great business answering service that is available to take calls for businesses 24/7, 365 days of the year. They are quite well-known for having a very helpful and responsive customer support team.
If you face any problem, they also keep an eye on your account and ensure that the problem gets remedied. With PATLive you can decide and provide instructions on how you want your calls to be answered.
Through their web and mobile app, you can also update your status in real-time, so that their receptionists get notified and your calls or texts are handled accordingly.
You can also log in to the system and check the calls you’ve received, the messages that have been taken for you, and listen to your voicemail.
PATLive offers several third-party integrations with scheduling apps, CRM tools, eCommerce platforms so that the receptionists handling your calls can directly update the system from the calls they receive for you. This can take a load off your shoulders and streamline processes.
Some of the tasks that your PATLive receptionist can do for you are transfer calls, take messages, schedule appointments, collect leads, process orders, take event registrations and of course, answer your calls.
PATLive offers five pricing plans for businesses to choose from. However, their Basic and Started plans may be too basic and have limited functionality. For small businesses, the Standard plan is ideal and has all the important features.
They also have Spanish Language Support like other best business answering services, but it is optional and you can get the service for an added fee of $20 per month.
Best professional business answering service for streamlined communication with customers.
Whether you want a virtual receptionist or an answering service for your business, VoiceNation offers both to businesses. Whichever service you choose, you get live receptionists who handle your business calls as if they were located within your office.
Setting up your system with VoiceNation is very simple. Once you sign up for their services, an onboarding specialist will guide you through the process and will also help you set up custom scripts for your calls and the way you want your calls to be answered.
Later, if you want to make any changes to the script or call handling rules, you can directly do so from their mobile app or from their online portal. VoiceNation converts all the calls you receive into data so that you can gain insights about your callers from their reporting feature.
Depending on what you want, the receptionists at VoiceNation can take calls for you, make appointments, take product bookings, forward calls, attend calls after business hours, and much more.
You can access real-time records about your callers from the VoiceNation mobile app. Suppose you would like to call back a caller, you can do so using the VoiceNation number so that your personal number stays private.
Every new member who signs up gets a VoiceNation number where all incoming calls to your business are forwarded or you can even give that number to your customers to reach you.
They also have a very helpful customer support team to help you when you get stuck. Moreover, every business gets an account manager who makes sure you have no problems with the system.
There are five plans that you can choose from at VoiceNation. They offer a free trial for seven days. After that, depending on the number of minutes you require, you can choose a plan. For small businesses, the Pro plan is ideal where you get 150 minutes included.
6. Abby Connect
Best straightforward business answering service with a personal team of receptionists for every business.
Abby Connect is a very straightforward business answering service and is ideal for small businesses that are looking for a small team of receptionists to handle their calls rather than having a call center.
With Abby Connect, you will be assigned a dedicated team of receptionists who will soon become a part of your team. These receptionists also offer bilingual support, so it is especially appealing to international businesses.
Instead of having to get in touch with all these receptionists if you face any issue, you can directly get in touch with your account manager, who acts as the head of the team and solves your problems.
Your Abby Connect Receptionists will handle calls for you the way you want, i.e. they will forward calls, take messages, screen all incoming calls, answer FAQs and make appointments on behalf of you.
Depending on whether you want to read or listen to your messages, Abby Connect lets you choose between written messages and voicemail, where you get separate inboxes for each.
When they transfer your calls to your employees, they also play transfer music instead of the usual hold music.
Abby Connect has a mobile app called AbbyGO, that lets you manage all your calls from one place. You can access all your messages, a list of callers, messages from receptionists, update your status on the system, and much more.
Abby Connect offers three pricing plans to choose from and they offer a 14-day free trial. However, when compared to other service providers, these plans might seem quite expensive. They even charge quite high for every added minute after the receptionist minutes are over.
Small businesses might only find the plan with 100 receptionist minutes within their reach.
Best live virtual receptionist service with auto-receptionist and advanced call handling features.
Davinci Virtual lets businesses choose between live virtual receptionists and auto receptionists to handle all your business calls.
With their auto-receptionist solution, you can be assured that your calls will be answered as professionally as they would be by a human receptionist.
Getting started with their services is easy. Within an hour a dedicated customer care representative will reach out to you to help you get started. Each of their plans is customizable.
All you have to do is fill out an online form and let the team know how you want your calls to be attended, the greeting that you want your callers to hear when they call, and even give any special instructions about the way you want your calls to be handled.
With the virtual receptionists as well as auto receptionists, all your calls are screened so that you receive only the messages that contribute to your business.
If you choose their auto-receptionist service, you get local or toll-free numbers, unlimited long-distance service, voicemail management features, advanced call routing, call forwarding, online faxing, along with conference calls, and many more features.
With the live virtual receptionist service, you get a small team of dedicated receptionists who are trained to handle your business needs.
With their business plan, you get live call answering, call forwarding and screening, personalized call scripts and routing, free local or toll-free number, auto receptionists, and much more.
If you choose their premium plan, you get all the features in the business plan along with appointment scheduling, lead generation, order processing, administrative tasks, and bilingual receptionists. You can also get help with your outbound calling under this plan.
They also have a great reputation for having a responsive customer support team, so you do not have to be worried if you get stuck anywhere.
They have four different plans broadly categorized under Business plans and Premium plans. If you are looking for premium features like order processing, lead generation, appointment scheduling, the Premium 50 plan is ideal which offers 50 live answer minutes.
For small businesses looking for a simple live receptionist service to handle their incoming calls, greet customers with professional messages and route them to the appropriate department, the Business 50 plan is the right choice.
There are separate plans for businesses looking just for the auto-receptionist feature.
Best low-cost business answering service for small businesses.
Even though PCMSI has the lowest pricing options in the industry and offers very low per-minute charges for calls, its offerings include all the important business answering features that one might look for in the best business answering service.
Their agents are available round the clock throughout the year and are trained to attend to calls the way a particular business wants. So you can set the custom greeting that you want your callers to be greeted with when they call you.
You can decide how you want your calls to be handled, specify which calls need to be forwarded immediately, and even receive calls after business hours. It lets you set the number you want your calls to be forwarded to.
Once you set call handling rules, you can also give special instructions for holidays or promotions, and update the way your calls are handled at any time. They all screen all your incoming calls so that all spam calls are filtered.
PCMSI agents can also schedule appointments on your behalf and then notify the entire team about it through email or text. There is also an order-taking feature where they can take orders from customers on your behalf and update your systems accordingly.
Through their lead capturing feature, you can also get the contact information of prospective leads and get in touch with your callers later.
While there is no pricing information available on their website, they do offer a Best Rate Guarantee according to which they evaluate your usage and compare it with your current plan. They then offer you the best rate according to your usage.
This way their pricing is affordable for small businesses that are getting started with business answering services for the first time.
How to Choose the Best Answering Service?
With so many business answering services in the market, it might get confusing when you try to choose just one from the list. However, you can evaluate each of the available options on several criteria and determine if it is the best fit for your business.
1. 24/7, 365 days availability
The idea behind having an answering service is that your business is accessible to customers round the clock even after business hours. If you want your in-house receptionist to be available after business hours, it will cost you a fortune to pay them over time.
But the best business answering services operate round the clock all around the year. This is possible because these services hire professionals who are located across time zones and work remotely or from the office. So they are able to provide their services 24/7.
Choose a service that lets you get your calls forwarded even when you are not in the office, out on leave, or have a public holiday. This way, every single call is attended and you do not miss a single call again.
2. Well trained professional receptionists
Before you choose an answering service or a live receptionist, make sure you check the reviews to find out about their professionalism. Most customers will let you know through their reviews if the receptionists from a company are up to the mark.
Since your receptionist will be the first touchpoint of a caller for your business, it is important to make sure that you have professionals answering your calls. The best business answering services will have warm yet professional-sounding agents who know proper call etiquette.
3. Excellent customer support
Almost every user needs to get in touch with their service provider at least once due to some issues they may face. Make sure you choose the answering service that has the best reputation for good customer support like PATLive.
You must also choose a service that assigns a dedicated account manager to every business so that all your interaction happens with them before you need to contact the customer service team.
4. Personalized caller experience
While it is great to have an answering service that lets you customize the script to greet customers when they call, it is ideal to have a service that knows how to personalize messages according to the needs of the caller.
When your customers call, they should not feel like they are talking to a machine. Instead, you must choose a service that is experienced enough to add a personal touch to all your interactions while still being professional.
5. Best call answering features
What good is a business answering system that has good customer support and experienced agents, but does not offer the basic features that an answering service should have? Before you choose your service provider, make sure you evaluate all the available features.
The best business answering service will have advanced features like call patching and transferring, voicemail management, appointment scheduling, lead capturing, order processing, and others.
Davinci Virtual is one such service that offers all basic as well as advanced call answering features.
6. Mobile phone application and online interface
Virtual receptionists and auto receptionists will update all the information about calls received, messages taken, orders received, and others into a system. You can then log into the system and check your messages and other information related to your calls.
However, the best answering service for businesses will have a mobile app and an online interface where employees can update their status of availability, so messages are taken accordingly. This also makes it possible to check messages and call back even on the go.
7. Third-party integrations
Choose a service provider that supports third-party integrations so that your systems can be updated accordingly. For example, the best answering service will make appointments and update your calendar, or take orders and update the inventory, and so on.
8. Security compliances
Make sure that the service provider you choose is HIPAA compliant and also PCI compliant as sensitive customer information will be handled by them during calls.
An answering system for your business is meant to reduce the costs of hiring a traditional receptionist who works from the office. Therefore, choose a service that fits your budget and charges much less than an in-house receptionist would’ve charged.
Types of Answering Services
In some places, you might have noticed that we have spoken about live answering services or virtual receptionists, and in some places, we spoke about automated receptionists. We even briefly spoke about web chat services.
You must be confused if these are just used interchangeably or are actually different. Let us clear it out for you.
1. Live answering services
Live answering services are also referred to as virtual receptionists. These are actual humans attending your calls from a remote location which could be their headquarters or even their homes.
Even though they may be located outside your office, when a caller calls, it seems like someone within your office is answering the calls. These receptionists answer calls the way you want and greet customers with a custom greeting.
They are also able to add a personal touch to every call and use their own judgment for each caller.
2. Automated answering services
These are different from live answering services and are often referred to as interactive voice response menus (IVRs) where a software receives incoming calls and handles them as per the call handling rules.
Unlike live answering, the software receives the call and plays a custom greeting that you can set. You can even choose the voice and tone you want to play the message in.
Depending on the call handling rules, a set of options are played and callers can select the appropriate extensions to get connected to the department or employee they desire.
3. Webchat services
Businesses that have a website also commonly have a webchat option where customers can ask questions instead of calling the customer care center. Instead of having software answer customer questions, through web chat services, real humans can answer customer queries.
Just like virtual receptionists, these are actual agents that answer customer queries that come from the website and mobile application through the same portal.
4. Call center services
Call center services are answering services required by businesses that receive a large volume of calls regularly and a major part of their business relies on customer support. With the best call center software, businesses can easily handle large volumes of calls with a click.
Answering Services FAQ
Live answering services are also known as live virtual receptionists and these are real people who answer calls on behalf of businesses. They work with business answering service providers that take complete charge of incoming calls for businesses.
The virtual receptionists are located remotely in the headquarters or different parts of the world and attend calls from their respective locations. However, when someone calls a business, it feels like an in-house receptionist is answering the call.
An answering service is a company that handles calls for a business for a fee. Depending on the type of answering service a business chooses, the service providers either have automated receptionists or live receptionists to handle the calls.
Every business that signs up for an answering service gets a phone number where all the incoming calls can be forwarded or customers can call directly.
The receptionists then greet the caller with a customized greeting, forward the call, take messages, send to voicemail, schedule appointments, and others depending on the call handling rules.
In the case of automated receptionists, callers are greeted with a customized greeting in the voice that the business wants. An IVR is then played for the caller where they can listen to the menu and choose the correct extension to get connected with the desired department.
The cost of answering services vary depending upon the features including in the package and also depending on the service provider. In general, an answering service can cost anywhere between $49 and $1098.
Depending on the plan you choose, you get a set number of receptionist minutes or call minutes after which you will be charged on a per additional minute basis.
Businesses need an answering service for several reasons but the primary reasons are that it helps them save the cost of having an in-house receptionist.
By deploying an answering service a business can be available to customers by phone even after business hours.
It helps businesses ensure a personalized yet professional touch is experienced by every caller and not a single call gets missed even if you may not be in the office.
A virtual receptionist is a real person that performs the same duties that an in-house receptionist does, except that they are located in a different location and connected to the business by a software that makes it possible to handle calls remotely.
Virtual receptionists may simply receive and forward calls or perform administrative tasks, capture leads, schedule appointments, take event registrations, and others.
A phone answering service may be handled by a real person or an automated receptionist that just answers calls on behalf of a business, forwards and transfers them, manages voicemail, schedules appointments, and captures leads.
Virtual receptionists on the other hand are receptionists located in a different location that may handle many more tasks apart from handling calls for the business like scheduling meetings, processing orders, taking event registrations, and more.
Which Answering Service Should I Pick?
The step to deciding which answering service is best for your business is first deciding whether you want a real human being answering your calls or whether you want your callers to be greeted by an automated machine.
Once you have decided that, then comes the features that you would like the answering service for your business to have.
If you are looking for a solution that is loaded with advanced features like order processing, appointment scheduling, and others, Davinci Virtual may be a good choice. Similarly, if you want a service that has lots of features, MAPCommunications is a feature-rich solution.
However, if you are looking for a straightforward service, Abby Connect can be of help.
Businesses looking for a cost-effective solution might find that PCMSI has all the necessary features and has many cost-effective plans too. For businesses that want to have real people attend their calls, Ruby’s live receptionists are the best.
You can also choose RingCentral if your business has offices in multiple locations.
Depending on the service provider you choose, make sure you read some customer reviews and find out the experience that others have had with them. More often than not, you will come to know what the service is best for and also its weaknesses from them.