Answering Service for Small Business: 6 Best Options

March 21, 2024 11 min read

Alex Doan

Alex Doan

What is an answering service?

An answering service handles calls for other businesses, primarily after hours, during weekends, or on holidays. Answering services help ensure that all phone calls are answered by real people, even during off-hours or busy periods.

Maintaining a competitive edge as a small business can be challenging in today’s fast-paced business environment. Rapidly evolving technology and ever-shifting customer demands create moving targets that are tough to capture without the right tools.

Routing calls to an answering service via a virtual receptionist also helps free up time and resources you’d otherwise spend managing calls internally. That way, you can focus more on scaling your business.

In this guide, we’ll explore the best answering services for small business owners to boost customer retention, plus what you need to look for before choosing.

Let’s start the comparison.

Answering ServiceBest ForFeaturesStarting Price
AnswerConnectMost businesses Minutes offered: 100–450+
Web chat, email support, call recording
$325/month + $2.95/minute
PoshPersonal service businesses Minutes offered: 0–1,000
Bilingual answering, outbound calling
$64/month + $2.20/minute
VoiceNationRound-the-clock serviceMinutes offered: 20–500
Unlimited long-distance calls, free call patching
$65/month + $2.19/minute
RubyCall forwarding and routing needs Minutes offered: 50–500
Third-party integrations, automatic inbound lead capture
$235/month + a per-minute fee
Abby ConnectDedicated account support Minutes offered: 100–500
Dedicated receptionist teams, call announcements, transfers
$299/month + $2.99/minute
Davinci VirtualSolopreneurs and startupsMinutes offered: 50–100
Advanced call routing, conferencing (Premium tiers)
$129/month + $1.75/minute

A complete call center solution.

See why top brands use Nextiva to handle calls at scale. Easy to use. Fast setup.


Best overall service

A screenshot of the AnswerConnect platform.

AnswerConnect is a live answering and chat tool that offers bilingual support. Their support team can help you by taking messages, routing calls, and qualifying inbound leads.

AnswerConnect can also help manage customer experience (CX) with personalization thanks to caller ID.


AnswerConnect offers a range of features in addition to live answering:

Plus, AnswerConnect has an overflow response system for busy hours to ensure no call goes unanswered.


There are three main pricing options from AnswerConnect:

  • 100 minutes included: $325 per month plus $2.95 per minute and a $75 setup fee
  • 300 minutes included: $425 per month plus $2.75 per minute
  • 450 minutes included: $825 per month plus $2.75 per minute and a $75 setup fee

There are also 14 additional pricing tiers for larger companies, from 600 minutes at $1,095 per month to 100,000 minutes at $168,995 per month. Plans from 600 to 5,000 minutes have a $75 setup fee, while larger plans have no setup fee.

AnswerConnect ProsAnswerConnect Cons
24/7/365 live answering
Live chat answering capabilities
Integration with most CRM systems
Bilingual Spanish and English receptionists
More expensive than some other offerings
Call reports aren’t customizable


Best for personal service-oriented businesses

A screenshot of the Posh platform.

Posh is a live answering service that offers outbound calling capabilities. Its knowledgeable agents specialize in customer service for businesses in health, wellness, real estate, and consulting.

Most notably, its outbound capabilities mean it can help capture and qualify leads and convert initial customer inquiries.


Posh offers several features to businesses of all sizes looking for phone answering service capabilities:

Thanks to its partnership with Zapier, Posh also offers integrations with 3,000+ business applications.


There are seven pricing tiers for Posh customers:

  • 0 minutes included: $64 per month plus $2.20 per minute
  • 50 minutes included: $119 per month plus $2.10 per minute
  • 100 minutes included: $204 per month plus $2.04 per minute
  • 200 minutes included: $394 per month plus $1.97 per minute
  • 350 minutes included: $664 per month plus $1.90 per minute
  • 500 minutes included: $924 per month plus $1.85 per minute
  • 1,000 minutes included: $1,794 per month plus $1.79 per minute
Posh ProsPosh Cons
24/7/365 live answering
Wide variety of pricing plans
Bilingual receptionists
HIPAA compliance
No live chat
No call recording


Best for small businesses needing to offer round-the-clock service

A screenshot of the VoiceNation platform.

VoiceNation is a live answering service provider and virtual receptionist solution.

VoiceNation provides agents with tech support know-how for small businesses without intensive resources. It also offers instant activation if you need an immediate live answering solution but don’t have the infrastructure to set it up quickly.


VoiceNation offers several features, including:

VoiceNation users can also take advantage of message delivery free of charge via channels like voicemail, email, or SMS.


VoiceNation offers five pricing plans:

  • 20 minutes included: $65 per month plus $2.19 per minute
  • 50 minutes included: $135 per month plus $2.19 per minute
  • 150 minutes included: $319 per month plus $2.19 per minute
  • 250 minutes included: $525 per month plus $2.19 per minute
  • 500 minutes included: $925 per month plus $1.99 per minute
VoiceNation ProsVoiceNation Cons
24/7/365 live answering
No fees for holiday or after-hours calls
Bilingual receptionists
HIPAA compliance
The mobile app includes additional fees for calling
Live chat is billed annually rather than month-to-month
No dedicated account managers outside of the Enterprise plan


Best for businesses with fluctuating call volumes and forwarding needs

A screenshot of the Ruby platform.

Ruby is a live answering and chat solution. Its agents are entirely based in the U.S. and have the expertise to assist with customer service, support, and even acquisition needs.

Ruby handles outbound calls, qualifies and captures leads, and routes calls to the appropriate party.


Ruby offers quite a few features:

Ruby is also known for exceptional customer service, a great option if you need outside help for a CX boost.


Ruby has four different live reception pricing tiers:

  • 50 minutes included: $235 per month plus a per-minute fee
  • 100 minutes included: $375 per month plus a per-minute fee
  • 200 minutes included: $680 per month plus a per-minute fee
  • 500 minutes included: $1,640 per month plus a per-minute fee

They also offer live chat as well as bundled reception and chat options.

Ruby ProsRuby Cons
24/7/365 live answering
Live chat answering capabilities
HIPAA compliance
More expensive than some other solutions
Bilingual receptionists aren’t 24/7/365

Abby Connect

Best for businesses that want a dedicated account manager

A screenshot of the Abby Connect platform.

Abby Connect offers live answering, chat, and virtual receptionist services. While live receptionists aren’t available on holidays through Abby Connect, live chat is available around the clock, 365 days a year.


The features that Abby Connect offers include:

Abby also features Zapier integration for compatibility with more than 3,000 third-party apps.


Abby Connect has three live answering pricing packages:

  • 100 minutes included: $299 per month plus $2.99 per minute
  • 200 minutes included: $549 per month plus $2.75 per minute
  • 500 minutes included: $1,199 per month plus $2.40 per minute

Abby also offers live chat as well as bundled reception and chat options.

Abby Connect ProsAbby Connect Cons
Live chat answering capabilities
Free outbound calls
Free trial
Limited receptionist capabilities
No custom script option
Live answering isn’t 24/7/365

Davinci Virtual

Best for solopreneurs and startups

A screenshot of the Davinci platform.

Davinci Virtual is a comprehensive business solution that includes live receptionist services. It’s a relatively affordable answering service offering businesses administrative services, like providing a physical address, customer support resources, and live receptionists.

Rather than compensate for business off-hours and holidays, Davinci takes over call support for extremely small teams. This means they don’t have live call answering services around the clock like other solutions.


Davinci Virtual’s Business plans prioritize their live answering services and offer quite a few features, like:

Live answering with Davinci is only available during standard business hours, and not 24/7/365, so callers may sometimes reach voicemai.


Davinci has four pricing tiers customers can choose from, split into two categories. Business plans are answering services, while Premium plans are more broad contact center solutions:

  • Business | 50 minutes included: $129 per month plus $1.75 per minute
  • Business | 100 minutes included: $239 per month plus $1.75 per minute
  • Premium | 50 minutes included: $249 per month plus $2.50 per minute
  • Premium | 100 minutes included: $319 per month plus $2.50 per minute

Each pricing tier has additional setup fees starting at $50 and up, depending on your needed services.

Davinci Virtual ProsDavinci Virtual Cons
Less costly than alternativesLive answering isn’t 24/7/365
No notifications for new messages
One-time setup fees
Minimum six-month commitment with no month-to-month option
No free trial

What to Look for When Choosing an Answering Service

The answering service you choose will often be the first impression for callers contacting your business. When you consider that 83% of businesses either lost a customer, missed a deadline, or terminated an employee due to miscommunication, that first impression becomes even more important.

These are the benefits the best answering services offer small businesses.

A telephone answering service can help boost customer engagement KPIs like customer effort score (CES) and customer lifetime value (CLV). It does so by increasing convenience for your customers so they might be more likely to walk away from the experience with a positive opinion.

The best small business answering services help engagement and retention by being:

By capturing customer attention on the first point of contact, an answering service engages and primes customers for the next step in their journey. Engaged customers are more valuable, too — according to Gallup, they drive a 23% premium over the average customer regarding wallet share among your competitors.

💡Even if an answering service checks all your boxes, you’ll still need to route the calls somewhere.

With a complete virtual call center solution like Nextiva, you can easily set up a connection to a third-party answering service and make sure customers reach the correct destinations.

How Businesses Use Answering Services

Businesses use answering services to keep lines of communication open with their customers when the usual team isn’t available. They might add the answering service to their call flow after business hours, during a holiday, or when a service outage hits.

A typical call flow that includes an answering service might look like this:

  1. A customer calls your business over the weekend while your team is off.
  2. The call triggers an interactive voice response (IVR) menu that prompts the customer for a response.
  3. The customer gives an input.
  4. The call routes to an answering service covering for the caller’s intended destination.
  5. The caller connects with a support agent from the answering service who notes the issue and sets up expectations for the next steps.
  6. If needed, your team follows up with the caller when normal business hours resume or via automated email or text.

Streamlining business processes can help make operations more efficient, lead to better customer service, and lower turnover rates. Keeping customers around for the long haul is important — the longer they do business with you, the more money they spend. They might even send new business your way, too.

Be There Any Time Your Customers Call

To compete in today’s market, you must be there when customers call. That’s day or night, weekday or weekend — holiday or not. With round-the-clock availability, professional call handling, and scalability, an answering service for small businesses can improve your customer service game and retention.

A Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution like Nextiva is essential to manage, route, and analyze those calls so you can be there for your customers even when you aren’t actually available.

A complete call center solution.

See why top brands use Nextiva to handle calls at scale. Easy to use. Fast setup.

Small Business Answering Service FAQs

If you’re still curious about an answering service for small businesses, check out these frequently asked questions.

What is the average cost of an answering service?

Live answering services cost anywhere from $64 to more than $300 monthly, plus a per-minute fee of around $2–3. The more minutes in your plan, the less your per-minute charge will likely be.

What are the small business benefits of an answering service?

An answering service can help:

Enhance customer service
Improve call efficiency
Reduce operational costs
Scale business operations
Be more available to customers

With an answering service, you can also free up time to focus on core activities like developing new products and acquiring new customers.

Who answers calls for an answering service?

Trained professionals, often called customer service representatives or agents, answer calls for an answering service. The answering service provider usually employs them, and they follow scripts and protocols provided by the businesses they serve.

What’s the difference between an answering service and a virtual receptionist?

Answering services and virtual receptionists serve similar purposes but differ in scope and level of service.

Virtual receptionists offer more than answering services, including call answering and forwarding and appointment scheduling. Virtual receptionists can also offer customers a higher level of personalization and are more integrated with day-to-day business operations.

What is the difference between an answering service and a call center?

Answering services and call centers handle incoming calls, but the size of the businesses they serve and the expertise of their agents can differ greatly.

Call centers can be larger in scale, while answering services typically serve only small and medium-sized businesses. However, answering services offer general services like call handling and recording messages. If you have broader needs, you might opt for a call center that can often offer more specialized services like technical support.

Alex Doan


Alex Doan

Alex Doan is an experienced senior marketing professional specializing in propelling growth for both B2B and B2C companies. Proficient in streamlining marketing operations for seamless sales transitions, utilizing analytics and consumer insights to achieve measurable outcomes. Committed to enhancing lead and customer experiences through effective journey mapping.

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