Live Answering Services vs. Automated Systems: What’s Best for Your Business?

When running a business, deciding how to handle incoming calls is crucial. The two main options are utilizing a live telephone answering service comprised of real people or implementing an automated phone system. There are distinct advantages and drawbacks to each, so how do you determine what will work best for your specific business? Carefully examining the key differences in cost, customization, scalability, and customer experience for these services can lead to an informed decision.  

Cost Comparison 

One of the first considerations is how using a live answering service or an automated system will affect your budget. Automated systems require an upfront investment to purchase, install and set up the software and phone equipment. Some popular providers offer monthly subscription plans to spread out the costs over time. Nevertheless, there are often still substantial one-time fees for customization and integration. There may also be per minute usage fees that add up each month.

In contrast, most live answering services simply charge an affordable monthly fee based on expected call volume and needed features. Because they supply the staff, phones, software, and infrastructure, you avoid large upfront expenditures. According to the folk at Apello, this predictable, monthly expense structure is easier for budgeting purposes. With little long-term commitment or investment in equipment, adjusting call volume according to seasonal fluxes or growth is more convenient as well.

Customization Ability

Automated phone systems are inherently rigid in their customization capabilities beyond choosing menu prompts and adjusting routing rules. However, most include advanced options like voicemail, dial by name directories, automatic call distribution and more. The main benefit is the ability to tailor the order of prompts and options specifically to match your business needs. Creating separate flows to handle sales, support or product inquiries is simple. But crafting an excessively complex system with too many layers of prompts can frustrate callers.

In comparison, live call answering provides immense flexibility completely customized to your distinct business. Agents can be trained in industry specific terminology to sound like an internal employee rather than outsourced help. Custom intake forms can gather caller information before routing to the right representative. Rules determining who to connect callers with or what info to collect can be adjusted instantly rather than waiting on tech teams. No programming skills are required because you can just explain needs directly to the live service manager. Options are really only limited by imagination, budget and scope of services offered.

Customer Experience Impacts  

Perhaps most importantly, choosing automated verses live call handling greatly impacts the customer experience when interacting with your business. Automated systems detract from personal connections through endless menus, robotic voices, and lacking context for inquiries. After business hours, there is rarely any option for human interaction. Even when customers eventually reach reps, hold times between routing can be lengthy. This impersonal experience reflects poorly on a brand for those seeking real-time problem resolution.  

Meanwhile, live answering facilitates meaningful conversations through undivided attention and empathy. The customizability even allows matching specific agent traits like personality and language with inbound callers. Direct human interactions build rapport and trust, which reinforces customer loyalty. Having call experts familiar with top products and policies boosts first call resolution without frustrating hold periods. Extended availability beyond normal staffed hours also caters to more time zones or customers. Live answering simply provides more sincere, thoughtful support that drives positive brand impressions.


When choosing between implementing an automated phone system or using a live telephone answering service, carefully balance your budget allowance, need for customization, expected business fluctuations and desired customer experience when evaluating these core service factors. For sustained growth over many years, live answering outperforms automated systems for overall quality and flexibility. 

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