Live Phone Answering Services Explained

Live phone answering services provide 24/7 customer support for your business. Learn the benefits and how to use live phone answering services.

While many interactions take place online, there is still a high demand for live phone answering services. The biggest advantage live phones have over email or digital chat is the ability to speak directly with a customer in real time and address their needs. Some companies use an automated customer service to address calls. While this can be a useful tool, customers prefer to talk to a real person. Automated services are also limited in how much support they provide, since they rely on pre-programmed responses.

There are two options available for live customer support, a traditional answering service and a virtual receptionist. Both services are almost identical in the support they provide. There are a variety of both virtual receptionist and answering services to choose from. Listed below is everything you need to know about selecting the right customer service option for your business.

Answering Service vs. Virtual Receptionist

An answering service is not the same as having a receptionist. A receptionist is an employee who works on site and takes calls for the office during business hours. An answering service works after business hours, taking messages and providing limited customer support. Answering services are an alternative to voicemail, letting your customers speak directly with a live person so they know their call is being taken seriously. Answering services can answer common questions and assure customers with more complicated issues their problem will be resolved as soon as possible.

Virtual receptionists are remote workers who provide administrate support for a business. A large part of this involves answering and redirecting calls. They also provide customer support services similar to an answering service. The biggest difference is virtual receptionists are more involved with the office. Answering services act as a third party, while virtual receptionists are remote employees.

Which option you choose is largely up to personal preference. Many businesses use both options, hiring a virtual receptionist to work during business hours, but switching to an answering service to handle any calls after business hours.

Benefits of Live Phone Answering Services

For most businesses, the main reason to use a live phone answering service is superior customer service at a reasonable cost. Hiring live receptionists to answer calls 24/7. Smaller businesses with limited space greatly benefit from live phone answering services, since it is otherwise unreasonable to hire an in-person receptionist and setup a space to field calls. 

Live phone answering services provide a personal touch. Customers respond much better when they speak with a live agent instead of receiving an automated email response. Live answering services can also expediate calls. You can setup emergency responses, letting the service contact you outside of business hours to handle specific requests, while placating customers with less severe issues.

Phone answering services are largely beneficial for customers, but they also streamline business efficiency. With both answering services and virtual receptionists, you create a baseline system to follow. This makes it much easier to organize your messages. You can easily update your live phone answering services to provide new information to clients. Both services free up your time, allowing you to focus on more important workplace issues without making your customers or clients feel ignored or disrespected.

What to Expect from Live Phone Answering Services

The exact services may vary based on the package, but live phone answering services all share several common tasks. The first is taking messages, which includes the name of the caller, when the call occurred and what they were calling about. You can hire a live phone answering service to schedule appointments on your behalf, sending alerts whenever you receive a new appointment. This service is more common with virtual receptionists. 

Your live phone service will also redirect your calls as needed, acting as a bridge between you and your customers. This is more efficient than using an automated system, and also less frustrating for your customers. Answering services and virtual receptionists can also provide basic customer support, answering common questions and keeping your actual customer service team free to handle more important issues.

Ruby Receptionists

At a glance, Ruby looks like an overpriced live phone answering services. Looking at the benefits, the higher price is easily explained. Ruby Receptionists uses a single rate for after hours service, something most other live phone answering services charge extra for. There are multiple packages to choose from, each providing a different number of receptionist minutes. The smallest plan, Ruby 50, starts at $219 each month as of writing. Ruby 500, the most expensive plan, is $1,500 a month. There are no additional setup charges or other hidden fees when you make an account, and all plans come with a 21-day money-back guarantee. Ruby also provides both English and Spanish speaking receptionists.

Ruby is a great service if you want to know exactly how much you’ll pay each month. Many other services mask their total costs by including different surcharges, making what seems like an affordable deal end up costing significantly more than expected. With Ruby, you know exactly how much the service costs. While Ruby is primarily an answering service, they also provide virtual receptionist services.


VoiceNation primarily works with smaller businesses. It is one of the most experienced live phone answering services, providing a dedicated account manager for every client. It also places a greater emphasis on providing business analytics, letting you know when you receive the most call volume, what the calls are about and how long calls tend to last. This is helpful for reshaping your customer service needs. While there are no fees for after-hours calls, there is a small 10 cent fee per minute whenever you place an outbound call. A basic plan starts at $69 each month, providing 25 receptionist minutes. There are several additional tiers offering more minutes, all the way to Enterprise for $799 a month and 600 minutes. As of writing, a free seven-day trial is available with 30 receptionist minutes.


Nexa is a flexible virtual receptionist provider. The company provides different receptionists based on your business, with extra options for insurance, home services and legal professionals. Instead of using multiple tiers, Nexa provides custom plans based on your needs. Before committing to a plan, you can apply for a 30-day free trial.

Nexa works closely with their customers to provide the best customer support possible. When you are creating an account, a manager will walk you through the process and make sure all your needs are covered. They will also make suggestions for how to best use the virtual receptionist services. Through the mobile app, you can monitor call activity in real time.