Answering services use human or automated attendants to answer business calls, take messages, and route callers. Businesses use them to field calls around the clock or at specific times or days. We evaluated several services and compared them by price, features, and ease of use to determine the top six, including the best overall.
Top 6 Answering Services for 2019
(Best overall) Businesses that want a full-featured auto-attendant but don’t need a live receptionist.
Solopreneurs looking for a professional service designed to support mobile phones.
Small business owners who want a low-cost live answering service that includes answering minutes.
Small businesses that want custom scripting and expert customer troubleshooting.
Businesses that want dedicated receptionists to provide personalized live greetings to callers.
Business owners who want assistance with outbound sales, marketing, or lead generation calls.
How We Evaluated Answering Services
The best answering service companies should be available to answer and route calls on nights, weekends, and holidays when many businesses are closed as well as offer call overflow to handle high-volume call periods. Many companies also offer bilingual receptionists, sales order processing, and local and toll-free phone numbers.
Therefore, we evaluated the top six answering services based on:
- Price: The answering services we evaluated offer tiered pricing plans based on the number of live receptionist minutes or features selected. To evaluate each company fairly, we compared package prices with similar per-minute and feature bundles.
- Available live receptionist service: Some services provide live receptionists to answer phone calls 24/7, year-round. Others offer live receptionist service during standard business hours only but may have off-hour availability for an additional charge.
- Auto attendant: Some service providers feature an automated receptionist that greets and routes callers to specific departments or agents.
- Tailored services: Businesses use answering services for different reasons, so customized services like call overflow, custom scripts, and personalized receptionists are helpful for designing the answering service experience you want customers to have.
- Ease of use: These types of virtual answering services shouldn’t be complicated to set up and use. Accounts with the companies we evaluated can be set up online or in a single phone call easily and managed via a browser or mobile app.
- Customer support: Answering services should offer accessible online documentation and customer support easily. The companies we reviewed offer a combination of phone, email and chat support, and online knowledge bases for customer reference.
Based on our research, we recommend RingCentral as the best overall answering for small businesses that want a full-featured auto attendant but don’t need a live receptionist to answer calls. Here are how the six services we evaluated stack up when compared against each other for price, client services, voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) features, and customer support.
Best Overall Answering Service for Small Businesses: RingCentral
RingCentral is a VoIP phone system with an automated virtual receptionist that greets and routes calls to agents, departments, mobile, or landline phones, with plans from $24.99 per user, per month. RingCentral is best for businesses that want a VoIP phone system with an auto attendant but don’t need a live receptionist to answer calls.
RingCentral’s price for one to 10 users is $24.99 monthly per user, and plans for larger teams range from $34.99 to $44.99 per user, per month. RingCentral’s lower-level tiers cost less than its competitors in the industry average.
RingCentral’s Tiered Features
From $24.99/user, per month
$34.99/user, per month
$44.99/user, per month
Unlimited Phone Calls
Multilevel Auto Attendant
Automatic Call Recording
Integration With Salesforce and Zendesk
RingCentral’s first-tier auto receptionist package includes supports up to 20 users and offers unlimited phone calls, 100 toll-free minutes, and visual voicemail. The call routing system welcomes callers with a custom company greeting and routes them to the right destination whether a caller gives an employee name or department extension.
This tier doesn’t have a large bucket of toll-free minutes or the multilevel auto attendant features found in the higher-level packages. Starting at $24.99 per month, the Essentials tier is cheaper than VoiceNation, Ruby Receptionists, Map Communications, Abby Connect, or Davinci. This tier is right for small teams and businesses with heavy local calling needs.
The Standard tier adds 1,000 toll-free minutes and multilevel auto attendant to the features found in the Essentials package. Multilevel auto attendant adds additional features to the auto receptionist, like call routing capability for multiple locations and usability on external phone numbers.
The Standard package doesn’t offer as many toll-free minutes as the higher-level packages, nor does it come with the automatic call recording found in the Premium and Ultimate packages. Although not the cheapest RingCentral tier at $34.99, it’s still less expensive than, Ruby Receptionists, Map Communications, Abby Connect, or Davinci. This plan is best for small businesses with up to 20 employees that want a virtual auto attendant.
RingCentral’s Premium tier adds 2,500 toll-free calling minutes, automatic call recording, and CRM integration to its feature list. These tools are advantageous for businesses that like to keep digital records of calls for quality assurance, training, and compliance purposes. VoiceNation also offers calling minutes with its plans but with a cap of 350.
The $44.99 Premium package still falls short in toll-free minutes for companies that rely heavily on an 800 number to make a sale. This tier is on par with Map Communications and Voice Nation’s Message Only tier; and less expensive than Ruby Receptionists, Abby Connect, or Davinci. The Premium level is a good choice for medium to large companies that serve a primarily local area.
What RingCentral Is Missing
RingCentral doesn’t provide live receptionists to answer phone calls. Customers do have the option to create a professionally recorded greeting, but there is no way to have calls answered by a human on the first ring. Business owners who want that option are better off with providers like Ruby Receptionists, VoiceNation, or Davinci.
What Users Think About RingCentral
Our readers are generally positive about RingCentral, with an average rating of four out of five stars. They say the service offers a wide range of helpful features that are useful for businesses of any size. However, some readers note the customer service team can be slow to respond. For more user reviews, visit the RingCentral user review page.
Best Answering Service for Solo Entrepreneurs: Ruby Receptionists
Ruby Receptionists combines a local business phone number with a live receptionist answering service to answer phones, greet callers, take messages, and route calls. With plans from $299 per month, Ruby Receptionists is right for solopreneurs or business owners who want a virtual business phone number that comes with a professional answering service for their cell phone or landline.
Ruby Receptionists’ Pricing
Ruby Receptionists’ offers two service plans for small businesses. Ruby Impress is $299 for 10 users and comes with 100 receptionist minutes and 10 voicemail boxes. Ruby Engage is $599 for 20 users and includes 200 receptionist minutes and 20 voicemail boxes.
Ruby Receptionists’ Features
Ruby Receptionists virtual answering service features include call routing by type of call, appointment scheduling, call routing, and a toll-free phone number. Similar to Map Communications, Davinci, Abby Connect, Ruby Receptionists’ calls answered by a live receptionist. However, unlike some competitors, the company’s service plans come with a free local phone number.
Ruby Receptionists offers customized frequently asked questions (FAQs) and intake forms. Ruby also features a choice of seven custom hold music options along with the ability to upload your own music for an additional fee. VoiceNation features hold music as well, but customers have expressed complaints about its quality.
Live Receptionist Service
Ruby Receptionists’ calls are answered by a live receptionist from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Ruby Impress plan features 100 receptionist minutes for $299 per month, and the Engage plan includes 200 minutes for $599 per month. Ruby Receptionists also offers bilingual receptionists to take calls and messages in Spanish. Davinci features this option as well. However, it isn’t available with all plans.
Unlike Map Communications, Ruby Receptionists doesn’t feature call overflow. Customers must update their availability manually in the mobile app, on the website, or by emailing or calling Ruby Receptionists’ customer service department. This may be a significant drawback for business owners who want their calls redirected automatically when they don’t answer a call.
What Ruby Receptionists Is Missing
Ruby Receptionists is missing voicemail transcription and the ability to text from your business number although, according to the company’s website, both features are coming soon. Voicemail transcription offered by services like RingCentral is handy for checking messages when calling in by phone isn’t an option, and business texting is great for personalized customer engagement.
What Users Think About Ruby Receptionists
Our readers have overall positive things to say about Ruby Receptionists, giving it a five out of five stars. They say the service receptionists are warm, courteous, and professional. However, some customers report they can sometimes be too chatty, leading to an overall billing increase. You can read more on our Ruby Receptionists user review page.
Best Low-cost Live Service That Includes Answering Minutes: VoiceNation
VoiceNation is a 24/7 answering service with service plans as low as $30 per month. Unlike other bargain-priced solutions, all VoiceNation service plans include a bucket of minutes that cover the time live receptionists spend taking phone messages and delivering them by email or short message service (SMS). VoiceNation is best for budget-conscious businesses that want a low-cost answering service that doesn’t charge a fee every time a call is answered by a live receptionist.
VoiceNation offers four service plans. The Start Up plan for $50 per month with 30 minutes, Overflow for $94 a month with 50 minutes, Part-Time plan for $282 with 150 minutes, and a Full-Time tier for $658 with 350 minutes. The Start Up level is the lowest-priced plan on our list that includes minutes.
VoiceNation answering service features include 24/7/365 live answering, call patching, local or toll-free number, schedule management, reporting, bilingual Spanish-speaking operators, and message delivery by email and SMS. VoiceNation offers customer support via an online ticketing system, phone, and chat, similar to RingCentral.
Custom scripting allows businesses to gather precise information from each caller. It can cover basic data or drill down into content companies can use for lead generation and follow-up calls. VoiceNation offers custom scripting, but additional fees apply. Map Communications offers this feature at no additional cost.
Live Receptionist Service
All calls can be answered by a VoiceNation live receptionist 24/7/365, including major holidays except on the message only plan. This feature is also available with Davinci and Map Communications’ plans, but at a higher cost. Ruby Receptionist and Abby Connect’s live receptionist hours are limited, and RingCentral doesn’t offer the feature at all.
Call overflow can accommodate a variety of business needs. Live receptionists can take over answering calls when office lines are forwarded during the lunch hour when phones go unanswered for a certain number of rings, when a phone line is already in use, or several other scenarios. VoiceNation offers call overflow as part of its tailored solutions. However, the feature is included in all Map Communications price plans.
What VoiceNation Is Missing
VoiceNation is missing auto attendant features that allow customers to prerecord messages or automatically route calls to specific agents or departments. VoiceNation is also missing a fully featured business phone system. RingCentral is a better fit for businesses that require those tools.
What Users Think About VoiceNation
VoiceNation clients a mixture of both positive and negative reviews online. They report that the service is a good value for the money and right for small businesses. However, some VoiceNation clients say they have received complaints from customers that receptionists have been rude during calls, which should be kept in mind during the decision-making process. Read our VoiceNation user review page for more insight.
Best for Custom Scripting & Expert Troubleshooting: Map Communications
Map Communications answering service provides 24/7/365 live receptionists to answer phone calls, route calls, take messages and troubleshoot issues using custom scripts, with plans from $39 per month. Map Communications is right for companies that want custom scripting and 24/7 live receptionist service, including holidays and weekends to assist callers with troubleshooting.
Map Communications Pricing
Map Communication’s Standard plan is $39 per month with no minutes, and each minute is $1.15. The Business plan is $149 per month, includes 125 minutes, and additional minutes are $1.09. The Executive plan is $249 per month, includes 225 minutes, and additional minutes are $1.07. Map Communications’ pricing is competitive with similar solutions on the market.
Map Communications Features
Map Communications virtual answering service plans include live 24/7 receptionist service, text and email message delivery, nationwide 800 number or local number, and custom scripts. Ruby Receptionists, Abby Connect, and Davinci also offer the same features. However, Map Communications stands out for its call overflow service and custom scripting. Map Communications’ customer support team is available by phone via an online contact form.
Map Communications specializes in highly customized scripts that allow businesses to manage anything from basic order processing to complex technical troubleshooting. Scripts can also include making and canceling appointments, processing payments, and screening callers for solo business owners like salons and Realtors. VoiceNation also offers custom scripting, but only with certain service plans.
Live Receptionist Service
All calls are answered by a live receptionist 24/7/365, including major holidays. This feature is included with all pricing plans at no charge. This feature is also available with Davinci and VoiceNation’s plans, but at a higher cost. Ruby Receptionists and Abby Connect’s live receptionist hours are limited, and RingCentral doesn’t offer the feature at all.
Map Communications includes call overflow in all its pricing plans. It can pick up calls after a certain number of rings, calls that come in while your office lines are busy, when office lines are forward, or according to a customized plan. Abby Connect also offers call overflow, but its plan costs are higher.
What Map Communications Is Missing
Map Communications doesn’t dedicate teams of receptionists to accounts and personalized service to callers. For businesses that need that type of specialized service, Abby Connect is a better choice. Map Communications is also missing a full-featured phone service, like RingCentral.
What Users Think About Map Communications
Based on online reviews, Map Communications receives generally positive feedback. Customers who recommend the company say the service is reliable and find the agents friendly. Clients with negative feedback report Map Communications hold music could be improved.
Best Answering Service for Personalized Live Customer Greetings: Abby Connect
Abby Connect is an answering service that uses dedicated teams of live receptionists to provide personalized live greetings that include your company name. Receptionists are available full-time, part-time, or for overflow calls, with plans from $279 per month. Abby Connect best for businesses that want to offer inbound callers personalized customer service with a receptionist team that’s dedicated to your business and gets to know your customers.
Abby Connect Pricing
Abby Connect’s basic plan is $279 per month and includes 100 minutes. The midrange plan is $499 per month and includes 200 minutes. The top-level plan is $1,089 per month and includes 500 minutes. Abby Connect’s plans cost less than other services in the space and include more features.
Abby Connect Features
Abby Connect offers guaranteed live call answering, a dedicated account manager and receptionist team, bilingual receptionists, voicemail to email, unlimited voicemail boxes and minutes, unlimited users, custom transfer music, and extended call answering upon request. Other services offer many of these same features, but Abby Connect stands out for its personalized inbound call service.
Live Receptionist Service
Abby Connect assigns a team of five receptionists to each account, to answer calls live Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your local United States time zone. Answering hours can be extended for free from 9 p.m. Pacific time on weekdays, and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific time on weekends. 24-hour service costs extra. Davinci, VoiceNation, Ruby Receptionists, and Abby Connect also offer live call answering but do not assign personal receptionists to accounts.
Abby Connect offers call overflow to customers at all price levels as does Map Communications. However, Davinci doesn’t advertise call overflow on either of its tier levels, which could be a deal-breaker for some companies.
What Abby Connect Is Missing
Abby Connect answering service doesn’t offer appointment scheduling, basic forms, FAQs, or custom forms also aren’t available. Businesses that need these features would be better served by other answer services like VoiceNation or Ruby Receptionists.
What Users Think About Abby Connect
Abby Connect customer reviews online have generally positive things to say about the company. They report that the service has very friendly call operators and great customer service. However, some Abby Connect customers report their calls don’t get answered or that there is a lot of background noise during some calls.
Best Answering Service for Outbound Call Assistance: Davinci
Davinci is an answering service with live call answering and routing. It also features outbound calling by Davinci employees for help with things like sales and lead generation. With plans from $99 per month, Davinci is good for businesses that want assistance with outbound sales and marketing calls as well as help answering incoming calls.
Davinci’s Business Plan is $99 per month for 50 live answering minutes or $239 for 100 minutes. The Premium Plan is $249 per month for 50 minutes or $319 for 100 minutes. All four price points are higher than Davinci’s competitors but offer more features for the money, like unlimited long distance and outbound calling.
Davinci’s Tiered Features
Pricing & Live Answer Minutes
$99/month for 50 minutes
$239/month for 100 minutes
$249/month for 50 minutes
$319/month for 100 minutes
Free Local or Toll-free Number
Live Call Answering
Call Forwarding & Screening
Advanced Call Routing
Unlimited Long Distance Calling
Special FAQs & Complex Call Flows
This tier includes a free local or toll-free number, live call answering, call forwarding, call screening, voicemail, call routing, unlimited long-distance calling, an auto receptionist, and online faxing. The Business Plan includes a bucket of minutes like VoiceNation, but its overall cost is much higher. This tier doesn’t offer, order processing, bilingual receptionists, administrative tasks, special FAQs or complex call flows found in the Premium plan.
At $99 per month and up, the price points of this tier are a bit higher than other solutions but provide more features for the money, like advanced call routing, auto receptionist, and unlimited long-distance calling. This tier is a good choice for businesses with customers across the U.S. and Canada. Davinci offers customer support across both tiers by phone, live chat, and email. Unlike RingCentral, it does not offer an online knowledge base or ticketing system.
This tier adds appointment scheduling, outbound calling, order processing, bilingual receptionists, administrative tasks, special FAQs, and complex call flows to everything the business plan has to offer. The extra features turn this tier into a virtual administrative assistant for small businesses.
At $249 per month and up, the price points of this tier are also higher than other answering service products in this space, but complex call flows, appointment scheduling, order processing, and outbound calling add value to the larger price tag. This tier is a great choice for companies that want help with outbound sales, marketing, or lead generation calls.
What Davinci Is Missing
Davinci doesn’t offer call overflow to pick up calls when office lines are busy or when workers are away from their desks. For companies that want to make sure their phone lines are never left unattended, Map Communications or Abby Connect are a better fit.
What Users Think About Davinci
Online reviews of Davinci are generally favorable. Customers say the company is efficient, responsive, and that customer service is excellent. However, some customers report delays in setting up a phone system due to complex compliance requirements.
Types of Answering Services
There are two primary types of answering services for small businesses. Virtual receptionist companies use human agents to answer phones, take messages, and provide information to callers such as your company’s hours of operation or address. Live answering services can be used around the clock, only during business hours, or at custom times like weekends and holidays.
Auto attendant answering services are a common feature of VoIP business phone systems. They automatically greet callers with a prerecorded message, then route them to a predefined phone number or voicemail box in response to the caller’s voice or keypad prompts. Most auto attendants can remain on at all times or according to a schedule.
Answering Service Features
Answering service features will vary by company and may include local and toll-free numbers, customizable phone coverage schedules, and comprehensive reports with call details like time, date, the caller’s name, and the reason for the call.
Virtual receptionists also offer features that improve the call’s customer service experience, including:
- Bilingual receptionists: Calls are answered by receptionists that speak English and another language to serve a wider range of customers.
- Custom scripting: This allows virtual operators to answer calls the same way your own staff would, making it appear as though they are on-premises and, therefore, making your company seem larger.
- Emergency response service: Live receptionists can be trained on how to mitigate emergencies and escalate them to the proper channels within your company. For instance, property management businesses can use an answering service to capture calls from tenants who have plumbing or heating problems outside normal business hours.
Why are answering services companies better than voicemail?
Voicemail is a useful phone feature but has drawbacks. Although callers can leave a voicemail message, it lacks the personal touch of a live operator. Virtual receptionists can also give a caller information instantly, make appointments, and glean information for lead capture. Auto attendant answering systems direct callers to the right person or department automatically, reducing the caller’s wait time and providing a better customer experience.
Is it better to use a live answering service or an auto attendant?
It depends on the needs of your business. Companies that receive a high volume of inbound calls or have numerous employees or departments may be better served by an auto attendant that can route calls to the right place quickly and efficiently. Businesses that want to facilitate a more personalized customer experience may find virtual receptionists are the better choice as calls are answered by a live person.
Virtual answering service companies answer and route phone calls, take messages from callers, answer questions about your business, and schedule appointments. These services help businesses make sure a customer call never goes unanswered, including days, nights, weekends, and holidays.
Businesses that want a VoIP phone system with full-featured auto attendant built-in and don’t need a live receptionist should take a look at RingCentral. In addition to reliable phone service, RingCentral’s service greets and routes calls to agents, departments, voicemail inboxes, or any mobile or landline phone. Take advantage of its free trial and 30-day money-back guarantee by signing up today.