February 23, 2018

Smith.ai vs. AnswerFirst: Live Answering Service Comparison

How do you decide the best live answering service for your business? It’s all about choosing the company with the best features at the most affordable price. Today, we compare Smith.ai to AnswerFirst virtual receptionists.

Setup fees, trials & contracts

Smith.ai

  • No setup fee
  • No contracts
  • 30-day/10-call free trial (whichever comes first)

AnswerFirst

  • Setup fees incurred at the live-operator per-minute rate
  • No contracts
  • No free trial

Discussion: It’s easy to feel more comfortable when committing to a new service when you can try it out for free first. AnswerFirst does not provide a free trial period; Smith.ai does. Additionally, setup takes an estimated "60 to 90 minutes" with AnswerFirst, and customers are billed for this time at the live-operator rate (varies by plan type, but it will be between $1.03 and $1.12 per minute). According to a recent email from their team, the average cost is $65 to $130, which is a steep price if you simply want to try the service. At Smith.ai, even for your free trial, you're set up and treated like a regular, paying customer.

Monthly plans

Smith.ai and AnswerFirst both offer flexible monthly plans based on your call volume.

Smith.ai

  • $60 for 10 live receptionist calls and 1 live transfer number
  • $150 for 30 calls and 2 live transfer numbers
  • $450 for 100 calls and 5 live transfer numbers
  • Custom plans available

AnswerFirst

AnswerFirst charges $20 per billing cycle (4 weeks) and you pay per usage, with rates that vary depending on the number of calls that come in. Rates range from $1.03 to $1.12 per minute, as follows:

  • $1.12 per minute for 0-99 minutes
  • $1.11 per minute for 100-199 minutes
  • $1.10 per minute for 200-299 minutes
  • $1.09 per minute for 300-399 minutes
  • $1.08 per minute for 400-499 minutes
  • $1.07 per minute for 500-599 minutes
  • $1.06 per minute for 600-699 minutes
  • $1.05 per minute for 700-799 minutes
  • $1.04 per minute for 800-899 minutes
  • $1.03 per minute for 900+ minutes

Discussion: Although AnswerFirst only charges you for the minutes you use, you can still end up paying more than you would with Smith.ai. Say your average call is around five minutes, which is the average business call length based on Invoca research. At $1.12 per minute from AnswerFirst, 10 live calls (plus their base fee) would cost you $76 for the same service as Smith.ai’s $60 plan.

Note also that AnswerFirst charges for wrap-up time after each call (recording call notes, setting the call disposition, and logging other data). When you're charged per-minute rather than per-call, your costs are more variable. It's also far more difficult to calculate the cost of acquiring new clients when you're paying per minute rather than per call. With Smith.ai you know exactly how many calls were answered and how many turned into new clients, the conversion cost is easily calculated. 

Overage costs

Smith.ai

  • $6/call on the $60/month plan
  • $5/call on the $150/month plan
  • $4.50/call on the $400/month plan

AnswerFirst

Because AnswerFirst offers pay-as-you-go plans, there are no overage fees, but per-minute rates are as follows:

  • $1.03 to $1.12 per minute for live answering services
  • $0.25 per minute for virtual receptionist services, like call patching 

Discussion: Smith.ai does not charge by the minute, but by the number of calls our virtual receptionists answer. If we're assuming an average of five minutes per call, that means Smith.ai competes mightily with rates between $.80 and $1.20 per minute, compared to $1.03 to $1.12 per minute at AnswerFirst. 

Features

Smith.ai and AnswerFirst offer the following features:

  • Voicemail services
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Payment collection
  • Call summary reports
  • U.S.-based receptionists

 

Smith.ai has the following additional features:

 

AnswerFirst offers the following additional features:

  • 24/7 coverage
  • Online dashboard with call data
  • Call recording
  • Inbound email processing
  • Mobile messaging app with HIPAA and HITECH compliance (additional fee)

Discussion: Virtual receptionist services from Smith.ai and AnswerFirst share a similar set of core features. Both Smith.ai and AnswerFirst are well equipped to answer and direct your calls. If you need 24/7 coverage, AnswerFirst offers that, while Smith.ai doesn't, but we find most businesses would rather not pay for services outside of regular daytime hours. And if it'a s scripted call center, high volume experience your business needs, Smith.ai's more personalized approach may not be the right fit. It depends on your business. Smith.ai also doesn't offer email processing — it's up to you to determine if that will have positive ROI for your business.

What does yield significant business growth is having your virtual receptionists qualify and schedule appointments with new leads, and serve as first-tier customer and technical support. (Smith.ai integrates with your helpdesk ticketing software so skilled team members can handle the support request after we triage it to the right department.) And a major time saver is Smith.ai's outbound calling feature. Our receptionists can relay messages to clients, call clients with appointment reminders, and more. 

Summary

AnswerFirst and Smith.ai are both distinguished in the large crowd business delivering live answering services first and foremost because their receptionists are all U.S.-based, leading to higher overall conversation quality between the receptionists and your customers. But beyond that, the experiences differ significantly. AnswerFirst is a massive operation supported by call centers, whereas Smith.ai takes a 1:1 approach with each client — no matter which receptionist answers your calls, the caller will get the sense that you have an in-house receptionist, who is highly knowledgeable about your business and equipped to fully represent you. For businesses looking to truly build better, more meaningful relationships with their clients, like law firms, IT consultants, marketing agencies, financial advisors, and more, we think you'll appreciate the Smith.ai difference.

Smith.ai client testimonial

Don't just take our word for it! Here’s what one happy Smith.ai client had to say:

“I have been using Smith.ai for about two months and I am extremely pleased. The ease of use, reasonable cost, and very professional staff have made this one of my best business decisions of the past year.”

- Kevin Levine, L. Kevin Levine, PLLC

Learn more about Smith.ai

Smith.ai virtual receptionists are trained to learn your business and build a relationship with your customers. Discuss your options with us by calling (650) 727-6484 Monday through Friday between 6 AM and 6 PM PST. You can also reach us by email at support@smith.ai. Signing up for our 30-day/10-call free trial is a great way to get started.

Share this on Twitter | Facebook