How much does a Virtual Receptionist cost, and is it worth it for my Business?

We get these questions a lot. How much does answering service cost? What if we only get maybe one call per day? Is it worth it for my business?

The bottom line is always a resounding YES from us.

Our jobs are to ensure your business runs smoothly, we deal with your customers and we capture all of your leads.

Some businesses realize they need to use our services very quickly into owning their business. These are mobile/on-call businesses (like plumbers, electricians, HVAC, doctors, lawyers, etc.). They are out and about, and often not able to answer their own phones all day long.

These business owners have the option of hiring in house, but that means that they’re paying someone hourly (not by the call or minute). Employees come with the uncertainty of sick days and vacation. They need to take breaks and lunches and won’t answer your phone calls when they go home at 5pm. They hire us for a fraction of the cost of in-house employees – and know that we’re there 24/7/365, without fail.

But what about smaller businesses, or the ones that aren’t answering emergency type calls? Time for the million dollar question.

What is your customer worth to you?

In real dollar values, what is a new customer worth to you? In one visit? In one year? Over a lifetime?

If you’re in the home renovation business, a new lead may lead to thousands of dollars in billing.

If you’re a subscription based service, your customer may spend hundreds of dollars a year with you.

If you’re a small retail shop, your loyal customers will keep visiting you, month over month.

If you’re in the food business, your hungry patrons will think of you when there’s nothing in the fridge, for years to come.

In all of the above examples, providing excellent customer service from the very first touchpoint (i.e. having a human answer the phone to answer questions, gather information and list next steps) is invaluable. All of these types of customers are likely to refer you to their friends and family.

Humans these days are very much interested in immediate gratification. They likely find you on Google (after searching for “home renovations near me”) and start calling their way down the list. If no one picks up, or they go straight to a voicemail after a few rings, 80% of them will hang up and try the next number (this statistic is from a recent Forbes study). So, if you’re still relying on your voicemail to capture your leads, you’re losing 4/5 of them in this case.

So – really, what does this cost?

Our packages start at just $49/month which INCLUDES 80 calls. We are able to keep this rate so low compared to our competitors (who often charge a base fee of at least $59 and then $1.50+ per minute on top of that). This basic package tells your callers you’re not available (she’s in a meeting, he’s out on a job, etc.) and offers them a voicemail for you or to take a message. More detailed messaging, FAQ’s, order-taking, appointment booking, etc. is available starting from $69/month for 60 minutes.

So – is one customer worth that to you? Even if you’re getting only a few calls in a month, the peace-of-mind knowing that there is someone available to answer all of your phone calls, who knows and cares about your business and your prospects, and knowing that your next big fish won’t be going to the next business on the list?



Spelling your name is important

Why are we so careful about asking for the spelling of your name?

Two of the things we require from out telephone Customer Service Reps is to repeat phone numbers and make sure names are spelled correctly. The need for repeating the phone number is obvious – but sometimes callers get testy about our spelling back names. There are a few good reasons we do this.

First, we are taking a message for the person who will be calling you back. Your message may be the most important call they make all day. If our customer starts the call by mispronouncing your name your first impression could ruin their chances of success quickly and reflect poorly on KELCOM as their answering service.

Names can also be spelled many different ways even when the pronunciation is the same . Smyth or Smith, Catelyn of Katelynn, Kerry or Carey. Imagine when the person selling your furnace writes up the contract with the only spelling they have seen of your name. While this may not kill the sale, it again reflects poorly on both of us.

Finally your name is important to you and we want to show you respect by getting it right. It just takes a few seconds and makes a world of difference.

Customers Still Prefer a Phone Conversation

inbound and outbound phone calls

Customers have more channels available to them to contact a company than ever before, and these channels continue to grow. The use of social media and mobile apps for customer service has doubled since 2011. However, the old standby, the telephone, is still the top choice. According to NICE Systems’ 2014Â Global Customer Experience Survey, 88 percent of customers still elect to pick up the phone and call. This includes the tech-savvy Millennial demographic.

Why is the telephone the preferred channel?

It provides an immediate response

Outside of any time a caller might spend on hold, the caller is able to get answers to their questions or address their concerns quickly. Only large organizations with hefty customer service budgets and numerous agents are able to respond immediately via social media and email. Smaller organizations don’t have that option. Customers know this and if they don’t want to wait hours, or even days, for a response, they’re going to call.

It holds the company/agent accountable

When using a channel like email, chat, or social media to contact a company, the customer might not know who exactly is on the other end of the conversation. During a phone call, the agent will provide their name, which holds them accountable for the conversation that ensues. The caller can make a note of whom they are speaking with if any further assistance is needed in the future.

Customers are comfortable with it

Though it may be hard to believe, there are plenty of people who still aren’t completely comfortable using modern technology. They either don’t understand it and have no desire to learn or don’t trust it. Either way, they are completely content using only their phone to communicate with family, friends, and businesses that they patronize.

Higher success rates

Even though there are numerous customer service channels that exist today, they have varying success rates. A key takeaway from the Global Customer Experience Survey was that, despite the increase in use, social media has just a 29% success rate in resolving customer service issues. The phone has a 69% success rate. Only 1% of respondents found social media to be the most satisfying channel, leaving much to be desired.

So what does this mean for today’s modern contact center? While it’s important to offer a multi-channel experience, companies must continue to invest in the call center. This includes ongoing training opportunities for agents and deploying high-end call center technology that provides key insights into call center operations in addition to business operations as a whole.

Courtesy of

“Please listen carefully as our menu options have recently changed”

This must be the most overused phrase in the history of voice communications. It probably served a purpose once upon a time, when someone decided that Pressing Zero was being used too often and changed it to Press 1 to reach a person. Now it seems that every company has been madly spending the last “recent” days changing their menu items. My point is nobody pays attention anymore — so why bother.

Every month I pay a phone bill using the Telephone Company’s automated payment processor — and yes, their menu was recently changed. On the bright side though they have programmed it to accept my 5 digit account number without having to enter the eight zeroes which precede it. Well done. Unfortunately it drives me crazy that I have to listen to six different things I can do by pressing 2 before it tells me to press 2. It would be so much better to say “Press 2 if you wish to pay an invoice, find your account balance, etc. …”

If it falls to you to design an automated attendant system I suggest you have several people test it and give you their thoughts on it’s ease of use before making it live. Or — you could just use an answering service and let your customers talk to a live person!

A New Take on Social Media

I recently had a chance to attend a presentation by Corey Perlman, the author of Eboot Camp. After just 2 hours I had a whole new outlook on what this can mean to a person in sales. Although i have seen many presentations like this, most focused on the importance of using Facebook and Twitter etc. in promoting our business. Every one of them stressed the “millions of users”, or the size of country Facebook would be if it were a nation. But Corey opened my eyes. Here’s just one example.

He asked everyone to raise their hand if they could name their top three customers. Of course every hand went up. “Keep your hand up if you know the first name of the most important contact at each of those three companies … now put your hand down if you know each of their birthdays. I would say half the hands dropped. “Put your hands down if you know the names of their pets.” There were two hands remaining up. And finally “put your hands down if you could send them a card congratulating them on their 10th anniversary of being tobacco free” That did it — no more hands were up.

We all have access to the use of a tool that could provide you all those answers within minutes-of not just your top 3, but all customers. Become friends on FACEBOOK!

Social media marketing doesn’t have to be about the 500 million users — it can be about a one on one business relationship — which in my opinion is just as valuable.

What Does a Call Center Cost?

In our business we are often asked by people considering using our Call Center “How much does it cost?” A friend once said he answers with “How long is a piece of string?” Unlike a loaf of bread, the cost of having someone answer your phones doesn’t have a fixed price. Usually there is a “base rate” which includes a number of minutes and then a charge for extra minutes used each month. There are many variables you need to consider.

The first is call volume and the reason you are considering the service. If you need your phone answered 24 hours a day because your most important client may call with a 3 am emergency, once or twice a month — you need a low base rate – but if you have 1000 patients who call with appointment changes you need a higher base rate that includes a substantial number of included minutes.

Next think about how you want us to deliver your message to you. Do you want each one simply emailed as soon as it arrives, or do you want us to follow up with your staff in 5 minutes to ensure it was received, with escalation procedures to follow if they are not available? Most services can do either one to accommodate your business model — but one costs more than the
other obviously.

Seasonality is another concern. If you provide snow plowing and landscaping services — you will get fewer calls in summer — so you may be better to have a lower base rate throughout the year and just pay some over usage charges in January. Some places may offer a “flat rate” — but keep in mind that an “all you can eat” restaurant may seem like a good deal — but if you
just have a plate of salad it becomes a very expensive plate. Flat pricing is usually set to ensure that the service gets substantially more than enough to cover the cost of providing service.

So when you ask a salesperson “what does it cost to have someone answer my phones” expect them to ask a few questions before giving you an estimate. If they just blurt out a price beware that you may not be getting the best deal for your particular business.