Smith.ai vs. AnswerFirst: Live Answering Service Comparison

Angie Wilson

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 & Contracts

Smith.ai

AnswerFirst

  • Setup fees based on complexity of your account
  • No contracts
  • No free trial or money-back guarantee

Discussion: It’s easy to feel more comfortable when committing to a new service when you can try it out risk-free first. AnswerFirst does not provide a risk-free period; Smith.ai does, with our 14-day money-back guarantee. 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, you're set up for free with a customized plan, no matter how long it takes.

Monthly Plans

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

Smith.ai

  • $210 for 30 live receptionist calls and 1 live transfer number
  • $360 for 60 live receptionist calls and 2 live transfer numbers
  • $750 for 150 live receptionist calls and 5 live transfer numbers
  • Custom plans available
  • 15% annual discount when paid up front

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: We're just going to say it: Trying to predict your monthly bill with AnswerFirst seems like a 7th grade math problem. Do you have any idea how many minutes you use each month? How many minutes your answering service take to handle new leads? Current clients? It's very tough to know. If you start with AnswerFirst, you'll likely end up with an "aha" moment when you see your invoice at the end of the month.

What do you probably know about your business? How many calls you get each month (especially when you don't have to consider spam or sales calls). Smith.ai filters out spam, sales, and wrong numbers for free, then charges a flat, predictable rate for the calls you really wanted in the first place. It makes for easy budgeting and ROI calculations.

Keep in mind one last thing: AnswerFirst charges for wrap-up time after each call (recording call notes, setting the call disposition, and logging other data). That can add a full minute, or more for a promising or complex call, to your total charges.

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 are turned into new clients, so the conversion cost is easily calculated. 

Overage Costs

Smith.ai

  • $7.50/call on the $210/month plan
  • $6.50/call on the $360/month plan
  • $5.50/call on the $750/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 is fairly comparable between $1 and $1.40 per minute, compared to $1.03 to $1.12 per minute at AnswerFirst. Although Smith.ai's prices might seem slightly higher, the flat fee structure will ensure there are no long calls pushing your whole average into pricey amounts.

Features

Smith.ai and AnswerFirst offer the following features

  • 24/7 live call answering
  • Live call transfers
  • Voicemail services
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Payment collection
  • Call summary reports
  • North American-based receptionists

Smith.ai has the following additional features:

AnswerFirst offers the following additional features:

  • 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 mobile messaging apps, AnswerFirst offers that, while Smith.ai doesn't, but we find most businesses would rather not pay for services that are unnecessary, like mobile apps. And if it'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 signing up for a free consultation with our team or get started risk-free with our 14-day money-back guarantee!

Try Smith.ai now

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Contact our sales team today at (650) 727-6484 or schedule a call.

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