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Best Call Centers and Answering Services for Businesses for 2020

Adam Uzialko, Writer
Updated: September 1, 2020

The Best Call Center Services

Update: We've updated our best picks page to reflect new pricing for Go Answer. Scroll down to the GoAnswer card to learn more.

No matter what kind of business you run, managing the phone lines is a labor-intensive process that can become costly to manage in-house, especially for small businesses with limited resources. Call center services allow businesses to outsource their customer service in a professional and transparent way. To help you find the right call center service for your business, we analyzed more than 50 options, looking at everything from cost to features to help us decide which services we think are best.

Our Best Picks

Inbound Services

Best Inbound Call Center Service for Small Business
Price: Starts at $50 a month for 100 minutes

Best Overall

Best Call Center Service for Small Business
Price: Starts at $1,100 for 1,000 minutes

Outbound Services

Best Outbound Call Center Service for Small Business
Price: 80-90 cents per minute for shared agents, $26 per hour for dedicated agents

Best for Low-Volume Businesses

Best Call Center Service for Low-Volume Businesses
Price: Approx. $40 monthly base rate for 50 minutes

Best Answering Service Overall

Best Answering Service Overall
Price: Starts at $31 per month, plus $1.19 per minute

Best Answering Service for Medical Practices

Best Answering Service for Medical Practices
Price: Requires call for quote

Best Pay-As-You-Go

Best Pay-As-You-Go Answering Service
Price: Starts at $40 per month


Editor's note: Looking for the right call center service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Go Answer

Inbound Services

Summary

Go Answer offers a wide range of services and multiple plans that are suitable for all call volumes. It is a transparent company that posts its pricing plans online, which isn't a given in the industry. There is no call volume or monthly invoice minimum, nor any long-term contracts. If your volume goes up or down from month to month, you can upgrade or downgrade your plan as needed for no extra charge. There are no cancellation fees if you choose to close out your account.

Go Answer is available 24/7/365 and claims its agents will answer every call within the first three rings. Inbound services include helpdesk services, order taking, a customer hotline and simple answering services. Custom plans are available for businesses with unique needs or fluctuating call volumes.

July 2020: Go Answer's pricing plans now start at $50 per month. When we updated this category in June, we noted that Go Answer's pricing started at $110 per month for a package of 100 minutes. Go Answer's updated pricing plans will be taken into account during our next full review update of the call center category.
Read our full review of Go Answer

TeleDirect

Best Overall

Summary

We selected TeleDirect as the best overall call center service for small businesses primarily because it boasts a complete selection of both inbound and outbound services, including some harder-to-find services like cold calling. TeleDirect's services are available 24/7/365, meaning your customers will always have someone to speak with, even on weekends and holidays.

Depending on your particular needs, you can select shared agents, who conduct multiple campaigns, or dedicated agents, who focus solely on your business. TeleDirect supports both English and Spanish, as well as a number of other languages depending on your clientele.
Read our full review of TeleDirect

Five Star Call Centers

Outbound Services

Summary

Five Star Call Centers offers a comprehensive outbound calling solution to target your ideal customer. With services such as upselling, cross-selling, market research, cold calling and direct follow-ups, Five Star is one of the most effective companies we reviewed for reaching your audience by phone. The company also helps you craft your campaigns, from script design to organization.

Five Star requires a high minimum of $3,000 per month, because outbound campaigns require more expensive dedicated agents. However, it customizes its services to meet the needs of your unique campaign and doesn't demand a long-term contract. Five Star's customer service representatives were friendly, informative and patient when we called to discuss the company in detail.
Read our full review of Five Star Call Centers

Signius Communications

Best for Low-Volume Businesses

Summary

Many businesses simply don't get a lot of calls, but that doesn't mean call center services can't benefit them. Signius Communications makes it cost-effective for low-volume businesses to outsource their inbound call center services, such as customer support and order entry, without sacrificing quality. Signius does not offer outbound services or manage any other channel besides the phone lines, so it's fully focused on handling your incoming calls.
Read our full review of Signius Communications

Specialty Answering Service

Best Answering Service Overall

Summary

Specialty Answering Service is our best overall pick for answering services because it brings decades of experience across a wide range of verticals to the space. It offers all the core features of an answering service that we looked for in our review, as well as several useful features that could benefit companies of all sizes and needs. SAS offers various plans to choose from based on your expected call volume, from the pay-as-you-go economy plan up to the massive 10,000-minute plan.
Read our full review of Specialty Answering Service

Stericycle Communication

Best Answering Service for Medical Practices

Summary

Stericycle Communication Solutions offers answering services specific to the healthcare industry and medical practices. With years of experience in the space, Stericycle understands the needs of healthcare providers and their patients. The company offers HIPAA-compliant services to ensure the communication of sensitive patient information is fully secure in accordance with the law.

In addition to the core answering services we looked for, Stericycle offers healthcare-specific services such as physician referral, on-call scheduling and appointment reminders for patients. Its pricing varies on a client-by-client basis, but we were quoted $711.90 per month. Stericycle requires clients to sign a yearlong contract.
Read our full review of Stericycle Communication

Contact Communications

Best Pay-As-You-Go

Summary

Contact Communications is our best pick for a pay-as-you-go answering service because of its low base rates and affordable per-minute usage rates. The company is able to keep costs down while still offering all the core features we looked for in an answering service.

Contact Communications is a great option for very small businesses, businesses on a budget or companies that only want to outsource a portion of their call volume. Its services include live answering, order taking, appointment scheduling, tech support and FAQs, enabling agents to act as a direct extension of your business without callers realizing they are dealing with an outsourced service. Contact Communications services start at $19.99 per month, although the price you will ultimately pay depends on the specific services you require and your anticipated monthly call volume.
Read our full review of Contact Communications

Call Center Service Costs

There are a few different pricing models call centers can employ. These are the most common:

  • Monthly subscription: A call center that charges a monthly subscription typically offers a package of minutes that cover all the inbound services the company offers.

  • Per-minute rate: A call center that charges a per-minute rate will base your monthly bill on the time agents spend connected to your callers. These rates are typically below $1 per minute.

  • Tiered pricing plans: Tiered pricing plans give clients access to more advanced call center features at the higher tiers. This is a less common billing method than monthly subscriptions and per-minute rates. 

Many call centers charge additional fees and maintain billing policies that could influence your final cost. For example, many call centers charge a one-time setup fee to activate your account. Others charge extra fees for certain holidays. Be sure to get a complete breakdown of additional fees a call center charges before signing up.

You should be aware of some common billing policies as well. One is known as "agent work time." This refers to the time an agent is filling out information related to your account when they are not actively connected with a caller. Some call centers bill for this time, which tends to inflate your bill.

Some call centers employ incremental billing, which means they round up the time of your calls. The industry's most common billing increment is six seconds, meaning a call that lasts one minute and one second would be rounded up to one minute and six seconds, appearing on your bill as 1.1 minutes. However, some call centers use excessive increments, rounding up as high as the nearest minute in some cases. It's important to understand incremental billing to avoid a significantly inflated bill. The best call center services bill second to second, only charging you for the time an agent was actually connected with a caller.

Costs can vary widely in the call center service industry. Nearshore and offshore call centers tend to be the least expensive, but there can sometimes be communication barriers between agents and customers. Many businesses opt to partner with domestic call centers, which are more expensive but tend to employ accent-neutral native English speakers. Costs also depend on the level of service your business requires and your anticipated call volume.

How Do Call Center Services Work?

As the name suggests, call center services specialize in the management of your phone lines. At their most basic, they capture information from incoming callers, take down messages and respond to frequently asked questions. For these services, agents typically rely on a branded script your company provides. They can also perform more advanced services, such as order management and payment processing. Many call center services also offer outbound services, which can support your marketing campaigns and generate new leads.

However, call center services don't stop at the phone lines. Many are rebranding as contact centers, taking a holistic approach to customer service. In addition to incoming and outgoing phone calls, contact centers handle email, social media and live web chat. Leveraging these channels for a unified customer service department has never been easier.

If you need a partner to ensure your customers receive the care they've come to expect from your company, a call center service might be right for you. This guide includes key information on what to look for in a call center service and how to choose the one that best suits your brand. It also features reviews of  our best picks – companies that stand out from the crowd.

Services Call Centers Provide

Call centers offer a wide range of services that can be separated into two main types: inbound and outbound call center services.

Inbound Call Center Services

Inbound call center services cover any incoming calls. These are some common inbound call center services you might encounter:

  • Message taking
  • Live answering
  • Call forwarding
  • Order management
  • Customer support
  • Complaint hotline
  • Employee call-out hotline
  • Tech support

 

Outbound Call Center Services

Outbound call center services are when agents call prospects, customers, suppliers or anyone else on behalf of your business. These are some common outbound services:

  • Lead generation
  • Cold calling
  • Polls and surveys
  • Marketing campaigns

 

Shared Agents vs. Dedicated Agents

Depending on how sophisticated your call center service is, you can choose shared agents or dedicated agents to work on your account. Shared agents are significantly less expensive than dedicated agents and can perform simple services with the help of guidelines or a script. These services include taking messages, answering frequently asked questions and forwarding calls. Shared agents typically cost 70 to 90 cents per minute.

Dedicated agents are paid an hourly rate to work for your business only. They cost upward of $20 per hour, but they can fulfill much more advanced services, such as tech support and outbound marketing campaigns.

To blend cost-effectiveness with the personalization of dedicated agents, some call centers offer semi-dedicated agents. These agents cost a bit less than dedicated agents (usually $15 to $20 per hour) while still managing more advanced duties than shared agents. The difference is that they usually work with one or two other clients of the contact center in addition to your business, whereas dedicated agents are assigned solely to your account.

Call Center Service Trends to Expect in 2020

Many customers simply don't like to place a customer service call, preferring text-based services. It's no surprise, then, that live web chat services are expected to grow by 87% over the next 12 to 18 months. Live chat has long been a nice option to add to your website, giving your customers another way to contact customer service agents. However, it is becoming a must-have, especially for potential customers interacting with your brand for the first time. More than 41% of all customers prefer live web chat, while 50% of mobile users look for the feature when visiting a website. Offering this channel is a way to stay competitive and boost customer satisfaction, especially when fielding initial questions from a potential buyer. Many call centers have integrated live chat into their services and can set up the channel, embed it on your website, and provide an agent to manage incoming customer requests.

Artificial intelligence continues to be a key driver of growth in the call center service industry, especially when it comes to interactive voice response. IVR is the automated phone tree that callers often encounter when contacting a customer service department. IVR with AI and machine learning enables better recognition of caller accents and intonation, and supports more efficient call direction to the appropriate agent and department.

AI isn't just becoming a mainstay for IVR; it is essential to mine data for insights into customer needs and satisfaction. Call center services are increasingly offering access to data-driven reports that support better decision-making around marketing, customer service delivery and even inventory management. Quality assurance in the modern business world relies on data, and machine learning is essential to make the troves of data that businesses capture every day useful.

June 2020: A market report released by Technavio anticipates the global call center outsourcing market will grow by $13.54 billion through 2023, representing a compound annual growth rate of 3% for the industry. The report also acknowledges that the market is significantly fragmented and includes a wide range of service providers. North America leads the way, capturing 38% of the industry growth. One the major drivers of growth, according to the report, is robotic process automation (RPA), which involves the use of chatbots and interactive voice response trees to automate certain call center functions, such as customer identification and call routing.

Our Methodology

We take the process of recommending vendors seriously, so we invested substantial time in researching various call center services and their features. We gave each company equal consideration.

Locating the Best Services

We started the process by coming up with a comprehensive list of vendors that offer call center services. To do this, we searched the web and consulted other lists and reviews of the most popular vendors. We ended up with a list of more than 50 call center and answering services to examine further.

Choosing the Best Services

From there, we visited the websites of each vendor to compare pricing and features. We looked at all the details, including inbound services, outbound services, invoice requirements, call minimums and additional features. We used this information to narrow down our field of candidates to about a dozen finalists.

Researching Each Service

Next, we contacted all the services we were considering, posing as a customer. We wanted to go beyond the marketing rhetoric and get a feel for how the companies handle actual customer interactions. We asked each customer service rep the same set of questions about features, options, and pricing, noting our reactions to the experience. Company representatives who were friendly and forthcoming got higher marks, while those who were less than helpful or too pushy scored lower.

Analyzing Each Service

For our best picks, the final decision came down to which companies offer the best balance of affordability, useful features and effective call center agents.

Community Expert Insight

To better understand the call center services industry, we asked some of our readers which call center services they use for their businesses. Zach Passarella, marketing director at SMP Nutra, said his company uses VoiceNation.

"What we like about VoiceNation is that they are based in the U.S. and they allow for you to guide them on exactly how you want them to answer your calls," Passarella told Business News Daily. "They also have bilingual operators, [which] improves the ability to talk to everyone."

When Mursion decided to outsource its call center operations, it searched for a service that was suited for a startup company and based in the U.S. Robin Van Horn, Mursion's executive director of client services, said she and the company preferred a service based in Austin, Texas, so she could routinely be onsite for training and meetings. In the end, they settled on mindStart.

"From the first point of contact, mindStart was professional and helpful, and I never felt like I was being pressured," Van Horn said. "They took the time to really understand our needs (which were a bit nuts) and crafted a proposal on how to accomplish that within our budget."

Jacob Wedderburn-Day, co-founder and CEO of Stasher, said his company uses the small startup Supportify.

"They offer custom packages to new clients – so, for us, they handle call support and intercom messaging and anything that needs escalation to the operations team," he said.

Full List
Best Picks

Services

24-7 Intouch

24-7 Intouch offers both dedicated and shared call center agents, as well as an option for social media management. As the name suggests, 24-7 Intouch's call centers are open 24/7/365. The company can also integrate a live chat option into your business's website.

Abby Connect

Abby Connect, formerly TelAssistant, is an inbound and outbound call center service that provides dedicated agents who understand the nuances of your business. It is available 24/7/365 to support your customers on holidays and weekends.

Advanced Marketing Solutions

AMS is a Massachusetts-based call center offering both inbound and outbound services within the U.S. In addition to these services, AMS offers consulting and brand loyalty programming, as well as other ongoing marketing campaigns.

AMBS Call Center

AMBS Call Center tailors a plan to fit your requirements. The service is accessible 24/7/365 and can include an answering service, virtual receptionist, appointment reminders, secure text messaging and automated attendants.

AmeriCall

AmeriCall has been in the call center business for 75 years and offers both inbound and outbound services. Its services include conducting surveys, processing orders and answering calls for specific industries.

Ansafone

Ansafone is a domestic call center service provider offering 24/7/365 live support. Ansafone maintains a staff of specialists with experience in a number of industries and includes multichannel services such as phone, email management, live chat, social media monitoring and interactive voice response (IVR).

AnswerConnect

AnswerConnect is a call center service focused on providing 24/7 inbound solutions. While it lacks most of the usual outbound functions, it provides quality call center service and great customer support.

AnswerForce

AnswerForce bills itself as a "scalable call center solution," particularly for midsize businesses looking to expand. AnswerForce engages in customer service, order processing, appointment setting and virtual office functions.

AnswerNet

AnswerNet call centers offer both inbound and outbound services, including order processing, customer support, telemarketing and lead generation. It also offers delegation services for "virtually any business process that can be done by phone, fax or email."

Arc Pointe Call Center Solutions

Arc Pointe is an offshore call center service that provides businesses with a range of solutions. The company is based in the U.S. and maintains offices in the Dominican Republic, the Phillippines, Nicaragua and Panama. Businesses can utilize Arc Pointe for assistance with customer care hotlines, help desk/technical support and telemarketing. The company provides bilingual agents to assist you with your business's calling needs.

BPO American

BPO American is a flexible answering and call center service that allows clients to get started immediately with its unique instant activation.

Call Center Pros

Call Center Pros boasts a strong selection of both inbound and outbound services, including lead generation and customer support. It also offers email support and can embed a live chat support system on your website.

Call Center Sales Pro

Call Center Sales Pro blends a consultative approach with more conventional call center services. It offers both inbound and outbound call center services with an emphasis on sales and marketing. The business stresses its ability to help its clients with marketing efforts.

Call Experts

Call Experts is a call center service with a focus on inbound calls. It can handle your call volume, small or large, and offers several high-quality inbound and outbound services.

CallNet

CallNet offers general call center services as well as industry-specific answering services. Some of the major functions it performs are order processing, lead generation, appointment setting and application services. Services operate 24/7/365.

Callzilla

Callzilla is a "nearshore" call center based in Colombia that focuses on customer satisfaction and first-call resolution. Callzilla also offers talent acquisition and retention services, as well as voice, email and chat-to-social services. Full selections of both inbound and outbound services are available.

Community Answering Service

Community Answering Service offers live answering and message taking as well as HIPAA-compliant secure messaging to small businesses. It is priced by call rather than by minute, which is a unique model among the companies we came across.

Contact Communications

Contact Communications offers pay-as-you-go plans suitable for small businesses or companies on a budget. It charges competitive per-minute usage rates and low monthly base rates for its services.

Contact One

Contact One accommodates large and small businesses alike. The 24/7/365 call center includes a 24-hour helpdesk, appointment scheduling, order processing, surveys and dedicated agents, to name a few of its features.

Continental Message Solution

CMS focuses on inbound call services and supports over 200 languages, the most out of any call center we researched. It also operates 24/7/365.

Enablx

Enablx is a customizable call center that primarily engages in tech support, order processing, customer follow-ups and helpdesk services. It supports both English and Spanish and also offers text and email services.

Executive Boutique

American and Australian owner company strategically located in the Philippines. They offer services to a number of different business industries, including medical, financial and educational segments.

Global Response

Global Response partners with a lot of large brands, including Toyota, Lane Bryant and Anthropologie. In addition to inbound and outbound services, the call center offers social media management and a branded customer care program.

Infinit Contact

Infinit Contact offers inbound, outbound and social media services, including customer service, tech support, order processing, surveys, lead generation and customer retention. The company offers back-office data management services in addition to its call center.

Invercall

Invercall is a call center service that offers agents located in the U.S. and Central America. It also offers email and live chat support, message taking, lead gen forms, and custom reports.

Liveops

Liveops is a cloud-based call center with exceptional reporting quality and analytics. The company provides both inbound and outbound services, including lead generation, customer service and inbound sales.

Nexa

Nexa, formerly known as Answer1, provides virtual receptionists and technology-enabled answering services to businesses of various sizes. The answering service allows you to set custom greetings.

NexGen

NexGen offers both inbound and outbound services, including customer service, tech support, customer outreach and follow-ups. The company also offers email and live chat support, bringing additional channels into your service plan.

OnBrand24

OnBrand24 provides both inbound and outbound call center services, including customer and helpdesk service, order processing, and live chat support. It also offers lead generation, appointment setting, customer win-back and database scrubbing.

PATLive

PATLive offers 24/7 answering services with over 150 virtual receptionists. Message taking, lead collection, appointment scheduling and order processing are four areas the business focuses on. The company has nearly 30 years of experience in the industry.

PCMSI

Professional Communications Messaging Service Inc. (PCMSI) is a call center and answering service with competitive fees and quick setup. Its features include custom plans and a best-rate guarantee.

Premiere Response

Premiere Response offers basic inbound services, as well as customer data collection and verification. This is a useful service for companies that deal with consumer data and want to outsource the management of the process.

PT Infomedia Nusantara

An Indonesia-based call center, PT Infomedia Nusantara offers customer and helpdesk service, as well as telemarketing and data entry.

Q2 Serves Infotech

Q2 Serves Infotech is based in India and offers customer service, order taking and helpdesk services, as well as outbound services like lead generation, surveys and database scrubs.

Reps Direct

Reps Direct is a unique solution for your contact center needs. It provides dedicated customer support reps who only work for your company, with a higher level of inbound and outbound phone, live chat, and email support.

Ruby Receptionists

Ruby Receptionists is an answering service based in Oregon that starts at a low cost of $45 per month. It includes live answering and message taking, as well as lead capture, appointment setting and after-hours support.

Solid Cactus

Solid Cactus is a customizable call center service that allows you to create a plan based on your business's needs and budget. You can choose from features like inbound sales, return management, after-hours support, customer service and live chat.

Stafford Communications Call Center

Stafford's call centers manage customer care for businesses of a wide variety of sizes. Industry expertise in customer care ranges from pharmaceuticals to food. Communication experts are among those that work as the customer care specialists at Stafford's call centers.

Stenocall

Stenocall is an inbound and outbound call center that offers a number of services, including customer support, order processing, helpdesk, appointment scheduling and lead generation. The company can also help you screen job candidates before hiring.

Sunshine Communication Services

Sunshine Communication Services offers both answering services and call center services. It includes four low-volume pricing plans and requires no setup fees or contract minimums.

TeleContact Resource Services

TeleContact Resource Services is a multilingual telemarketing service with a strong selection of both inbound and outbound services. The company will work with you to create a custom campaign that suits your needs.

The Jay Group

The Jay Group offers 24/7/365 live support for a full array of services, both inbound and outbound. These include call center services for specific industries, such as e-commerce, healthcare and insurance, government, higher education, and equipment manufacturing.

Transcosmos America, Inc.

Transcosmos America offers call center and answering services, and support both inbound and outbound needs. They also offer back office support services and social CRM support in addition to their lineup of inbound and outbound services.

USA800

USA800 call centers, owned by The Results Companies, operate in a number of different industries, including healthcare, insurance, government and education. In addition to inbound and outbound solutions, USA800 offers disaster recovery services, live chat support, email engagement and automated services.

XACT

XACT is our choice for best flexible call center service because it offers a wide range of pricing options and service levels that suit companies of all sizes. XACT also delivers a high quality of customer service.

Five Star Call Centers

Five Star Call Centers blends quality outbound campaigns, strong inbound services and great customer service to deliver an exceptional call center service for your business.

Signius Communications

Signius Communications is a simple yet effective inbound call center service that supports businesses with a very low call volume. It is perfect for a business that wants to outsource a limited number of calls without breaking the bank.

Specialty Answering Service

Specialty Answering Service offers an affordable HIPAA-compliant answering service for medical practices including smaller, independent practices.

Stericycle Communication

Stericycle Communication Solutions is a strong option for medical answering services. Its agents are well trained on medical terminology and HIPAA compliance.

TeleDirect

TeleDirect is our pick for best overall call center service for small business, thanks to its wide range of both inbound and outbound services, exceptional customer service, and availability of dedicated agents. TeleDirect also supports a variety of languages, making this company a versatile option for small business owners in any industry.

Go Answer

Go Answer is our pick for best inbound service, but it also offers outbound services and an internet answering service that completes the same functions as the call center. Its inbound services include order processing, customer support, helpdesk services and appointment scheduling.


Editor's note: Looking for the right call center service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko, Writer

Adam C. Uzialko, a New Jersey native, graduated from Rutgers University in 2014 with a degree in political science and journalism and media studies. He reviews healthcare information technology, call centers, document management software and employee monitoring software. In addition to his full-time position at Business News Daily and business.com, Adam freelances for several outlets. An indispensable ally of the feline race, Adam is owned by four lovely cats.