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Best Automated Answering Services For Small Businesses Compared

Some phone calls to your small business don’t require a receptionist for help. An automated answering service can often answer a lot of common questions or direct calls to the appropriate person, saving your employees time on the phone. We tested and reviewed dozens of automated answering services for small businesses to find out which ones offered the best bang for your buck. We found Nextiva to be the best option for most because of its easy-to-manage workflow, affordable pricing, and helpful features for scalability.

The Best Automated Answering Services For Small Businesses for Most 

Nextiva logo

Nextiva

Best for Most

Small teams can choose Nextiva's Professional plan to get a multi-level auto-attendant built for workflow and scalability. Create customizable greetings and smart routing paths to send customers exactly where they need to be, starting at just $22.95/month.

Although you have a small business now, you don’t know what the future holds. Therefore, having an automated answering service like Nextiva that can grow with you as your business’s needs change is crucial for a seamless transition. 

Nextiva’s auto attendant is one of the easiest to set up and manage, which you can do right from your online portal. The automated service is fully customizable with greetings and routing paths and is designed to handle multiple calls at once. Plus, you’ll pay less than $25/month per user for numerous features, including voicemail to SMS, CRM integrations, and unlimited calling.

The Best Automated Answering Services For Small Businesses Options to Consider 

  1. Nextiva – Best automated answering service for most small businesses
  2. eVoice – Best for User-Friendly Department Routing
  3. Vonage – Best for Customizable Phone Service Plans
  4. RingCentral – Best for Comprehensive Business Phone Services
  5. Genesys – Best for Budget-Friendly Hourly Pricing

When It Makes Sense to Invest In Automated Answering Services For Small Businesses

Choosing between saving money and increasing productivity is often a pain point for small businesses.

However, answering the phone to answer questions about your business or to direct callers to the right employee can take a lot of time away from other essential tasks. That’s where an automated answering service can help.

These services answer phone calls automatically and present a list of options for callers to get the information they need. Some services feature voice recognition to answer questions that callers speak into the phone. Others are text-based, allowing callers to press numbers based on your phone system’s options.

With an automated answering service in place, you can save your employees time answering common questions or placing people on hold to get them to the appropriate staff member. 

The best services feature flexible pricing options for affordability at any business stage, including smaller teams with just a few people on staff. 

If you notice that a significant chunk of your workday is being used to answer the phone, it could be an excellent time to invest in an automated answering service. 

#1 – Nextiva — The Best Automated Answering Service for Most Small Businesses

Nextiva logo

Nextiva

Best for Most

Small teams can choose Nextiva's Professional plan to get a multi-level auto-attendant built for workflow and scalability. Create customizable greetings and smart routing paths to send customers exactly where they need to be, starting at just $22.95/month.

Nextiva is a full-service VoIP phone system for businesses, but you can also use it solely for its automated answering service, known as an auto attendant. 

Nextiva home page

The feature lets you create customized customer greetings and phone system rules based on your business hours. You can even decide how to route callers based on their area code, time zone, and other factors that could dictate how to handle their calls.

With Nextiva’s virtual receptionist system, there’s no need to have a real person answer calls during or after business hours. Instead, your system can include answers to frequently asked questions to field frequent calls or direct customers to their desired contact or department.

One reason Nextiva stands out for most small businesses is its user-friendly administrative portal that you can access from a computer or the Nextiva mobile app. You can control your entire phone system and auto attendant through your portal.

It’s also excellent for scalability. When your business grows and you require more advanced customer contact features, Nextiva has you covered with VoIP, video, and chat services, virtual voicemail, and more. 

Nextiva’s pricing is incredibly affordable for small businesses, especially considering the features you get in addition to the auto attendant. Plans start at $18.95/month/user when paid annually. They include unlimited phone and video calling, internet fax, call history and logs, access to the Nextiva app, and conference or desk phones. 

We suggest moving up to the Professional plan for $22.95/month/user on an annual subscription if it’s within your budget.

This plan offers a multi-level auto attendant for more complex routing. This can be especially helpful for small businesses with multiple departments or those that might benefit from a more in-depth phone menu.

Get a free 7-day trial of Nextiva Essential or a free demo for the Professional plan. 

#2 – eVoice — Best for User-Friendly Department Routing

eVoice logo

eVoice

Best for User-Friendly Department Routing

If you're looking for no-frills automated answering for your business, eVoice is it. The user-friendly interface makes it a breeze to set up your phone menu to route callers to the appropriate department. You'll also get access to a Dial-By-Name directory for callers to find the right staff member.

Get all the benefits of an automated answering service with the added bonus of a straightforward setup with eVoice

eVoice home page

The service’s intuitive, user-friendly interface lets you create a menu that guides callers along the right path without confusing them. 

To help them along, eVoice includes a Dial-By-Name directory. Callers can type the first few letters of a person’s name even if they don’t know their extension. Or, your automated system can present a name directory to callers with an associated number to reach their phone line.

As a result, calls get to the right person without leaving your general inbox full of voicemails from callers looking for a specific person or department.

In addition to its auto-attendant feature, eVoice includes call forwarding, customized greetings, conference calling, and a convenient mobile app to manage your service.

eVoice pricing starts at $14/month and includes a 30-day money-back guarantee to ensure your satisfaction. The company also builds custom plans based on your business’s unique needs.

#3 – Vonage — Best for Customizable Phone Service Plans

Vonage logo

Vonage

Best for Customizable Phone Service Plans

Small businesses could scale to large businesses one day. Leave some wiggle room with an automated answering service from Vonage that grows with your business. Start with a multi-level auto-attendant and customize your plan to include visual voicemail, call recording, and other add-ons as needed.

Vonage is a VoIP phone service that’s built for business needs. As such, it’s designed to scale with companies of virtually any size. Vonage offers affordable plans with must-have features and optional add-ons to customize your plan to your needs.

Vonage home page

Let’s start with its multi-level auto-attendant, which is available on its Premium and Advanced plans. Using the aesthetically pleasing admin portal, you can drag and drop schedules, greetings, and menus to personalize your phone’s menu.

You can even drill down rules for your phone system to assist customers during lunch breaks or staff holidays. 

All Vonage plans also include 24/7 support, caller ID blocking, and over 50 other business phone features. 

When your business needs change, and you need more out of your automated answering service, you can add on Vonage’s Business Inbox for $9.99/month. It gives you access to business texts and Facebook Messenger messages in one convenient inbox to help you manage customer contacts.

Vonage with multi-level auto-attendant starts at $29.99/month/line and includes the mobile and desktop apps, unlimited calls and text, and CRM integration.

#4 – RingCentral — Best for Comprehensive Business Phone Services

RingCentral logo

RingCentral

Best for Comprehensive Business Phone Services

Many business phone systems offer more than just automated answering, but RingCentral provides some of the most comprehensive services for customer and staff communication. Get perks like collaborative tools and call logs to keep everyone on the same page.

Having an automated answering service is great, but if you’re also considering a full business phone solution, look to RingCentral.

RingCentral home page

RingCentral services your customers through its multi-level auto-attendant feature with customizable inbound call routing. Set specific schedules for the service to pick up, like business off-hours or during conferences.

You can also set up different profiles for various departments or multiple locations to ensure that customers reach their target. Get up to 250 sub-menus per account.

Need more for your business phone? Get voicemail-to-text, toll-free numbers, call log reports, CRM integrations, and call recording with various RingCentral plans.

In addition to automated answering and other phone services, RingCentral helps your staff manage their communications through video conferencing and team messaging and collaboration tools.

Simplify workflows with project management tools, share documents, and switch between the RingCentral mobile and desktop apps to take your work with you.

RingCentral plans with the auto-attendant feature start at $27.99/month/user when paid annually or $37.99/month/user on a monthly plan. 

#5 – Genesys — Best for Budget-Friendly Hourly Pricing

Genesys logo

Genesys

Best for Budget-Friendly Hourly Pricing

Small businesses have diverse needs that an automated answering service needs to keep up with. Enter Genesys, which offers flexible hourly pricing for businesses to pay only for how much they use their system and not a penny more.

Do you only plan to use your automated answering service for a few hours daily or weekly? For example, medical offices sometimes use automated answering systems when a doctor has to step out for a hospital emergency to continue assisting callers when the office is suddenly closed.

Genesys home page

Genesys provides flexible solutions for businesses rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. You can opt for monthly pricing if that makes the most sense for your company. Or, choose hourly pricing that charges you based on the amount of time you use your system. 

Let’s say you average about 10 hours per week or about 50 hours per month with your automated system. With Genesys’s pricing, you’ll pay $34 for the base plan on hourly charging compared to $75 for the same plan charged monthly.

Genesys includes all the features you expect from an automated answering service for your small business, like an easy-to-use drag-and-drop call center builder and personalized routing. Enable voice to let customers speak their needs into the phone to direct them to the right place. There’s even an option for visual IVR to give callers touchscreen navigation. 

Genesys pricing starts at $75/month/user when billed annually or $0.68/hour for the same plan. 

Methodology for Choosing the Best Automated Answering Services For Small Businesses

Transitioning to an automated answering service for your small business might leave you with a few questions, like “What do I need in a phone service?” and “What will make things easier for my customers?”

We aim to take away some of the confusion by outlining a few top features small businesses should look for in an automated answering service.

Multi-Level Call Attending

An auto attendant feature takes calls for your business and gives callers a menu to get to where they need to go. A multi-level auto attendant takes this service up a notch by allowing a business to create custom paths for each caller based on their specific needs.

For instance, you might create one path for customer accounting and another path for technical support. In the customer account path, callers might hear options to hear their balance information, get paperwork emailed to them, or change their PIN. 

In other words, a multi-level call attendant lets you have multiple attendant profiles to help callers get the exact information they need or perform specific tasks. 

This feature best suits small businesses with multiple departments or customers with diverse needs. 

Account and Call Monitoring 

Can you easily change your automated answering service’s caller paths, monitor your call analytics, and set up your system via a dashboard?

Automated answering services typically have an online dashboard you can use as the hub of your phone system. Your dashboard should easily let you add users, change permissions, and control each aspect of your phone system without hassle.

Better yet, some companies include a mobile app with their plans to let you do all of this even when you’re out of the office. 

Before choosing a company, consider using a free trial or demo to get hands-on experience with the user interface, just to ensure it’s as user-friendly as possible.

Optional Live Call Answering

Although you’re searching for an automated answering service, there might be points in time when having a live person on the other end of the phone can come in handy. 

For instance, some customers simply prefer speaking with a person instead of using an automated menu, especially if they have a unique question. It might boost their satisfaction to have a menu option for an operator that connects them to someone who can help.

Some services offer live operator services as add-ons to their automated phone plans. Even if you don’t need this service now, choosing a company that has it as an option when you’re ready to scale might be helpful.

Flexible Hours

Some businesses might want around-the-clock automated answering services to field calls to their business. Others might prefer only to use the automated system during off-hours so that customers can continue connecting when needed.

It’s possible that your business’s needs change, causing you to switch from 24/7 to off-hours answering services or vice versa.

Opting for a company that lets you choose whatever kind of pattern you need for your answering service’s hours can give you more flexibility.

If you plan to include live call answering now or in the future, make sure that the company you plan to use offers live receptionists during times that fit into your schedule, too.

Additional Business Phone Features

Scalability should be a primary focus of your small business to better plan for the future. You might just be on the hunt for an automated answering service now, but a growing company could benefit from additional business phone features.

Services like Nextiva and Vonage offer a lot of room for growth without making you spend outside of your budget now.

Choose the plan that fits your current needs while getting access to more features if your business requires them in the future.

Here are a few features you might want to consider having available:

  • Web and mobile chats
  • Post-call surveys
  • Conference calling
  • Voicemail transcription
  • Call recording
  • CRM integrations
  • Interactive voice response (IVR)
Nextiva logo

Nextiva

Best for Most

Small teams can choose Nextiva's Professional plan to get a multi-level auto-attendant built for workflow and scalability. Create customizable greetings and smart routing paths to send customers exactly where they need to be, starting at just $22.95/month.

Summary 

An automated answering service can give callers necessary information with helpful, self-served guidance, saving your business time, money, and staff resources.

Of course, your customer service heavily relies on your phone system to do its job. 

That’s why we highly recommend Nextiva for most small businesses. Its administrative portal is simple to work with, so you won’t need to be an expert tech to get it running the way you want it to. Plus, you can benefit from an array of extra features you’ll probably need as your business needs expand.

Businesses that only need a once-in-a-while service might prefer Genesys‘s more flexible pricing. On the other hand, companies on the verge of significant growth could enjoy having RingCentral‘s more comprehensive phone system at the ready.

Consider where your business is right now and where you plan for it to go within the next 1-5 years to determine which automated answering service fits the bill.


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