There are actually a few free business answering services out there (we aren't one of them). They may be a great option for those who are on a budget, or who don't need everything that a business answering service can offer. However, the free version shouldn't be considered a better alternative if you can pay for a live answering service. You get what you pay for with a free business answering service, and free may not be the best option for your growing business. Below are a few free business answering service examples, and we'll outline what they provide and why they may fall short for some folks.
There are two downsides to Google Voice. The first is that you need a Gmail account in order to get one setup. Although many people have a Google account, it's not exactly the most professional account or email address to use. If you're setting up Google Voice for business purposes, using a Google email address may not be the best option. It's not flexible if your business grows and you need someone else to access this phone number. The second is that Google Voice is only really good for solopreneurs and single-member managed businesses. It's great to have one number that forwards to your home, cell, and maybe a business phone, but that can't really work if it forwards to four different people, or to phones that multiple people would answer. It would be a bit embarrassing if two people answer a customer call at the same time!
Skype is free for the most part, although you do have to pay if you actually want a phone number. It's a great option if you need something for international calls and you don't want to rack up an exorbitant bill. However, Skype as the business answering service for your business isn't that great. First of all, you have a screen name instead of a phone number, which doesn't look very professional. Second of all, it's also not that professional to ask for screen names in order to contact people. Third of all, like Google Voice, Skype really only works well for one-man operations. It's difficult to scale your answering service using Skype, unless you pay for every single number and have it installed on the devices of your employees.
A Free Trial
A free trial isn't a bad idea if you want to see if a particular business answering service vendor will be good fit, or it you want to see if business answering services would be useful for your business. However, a free trial shouldn't be considered a cheap way to ease into an answering service, or a way to get the service at a discount. If improving the bottom line and cutting costs are important, and you think a business answering service can help with that, then the best thing to do is to shop around and to choose a vendor carefully, instead of looking for ways to get the best deal and to cut corners. Besides, not every business answering service vendor has a free trial option, so only looking for a free trial may otherwise eliminate perfectly good providers.
Choosing a Business Answering Service
When making a decision, we're certainly not saying that cost shouldn't be a factor, or shouldn't even be the biggest factor. What we are saying is that it shouldn't take over good judgement when choosing a quality service or in simply finding the cheapest option. All factors should be considered equally, and choosing a business answering service should come down what's best for the business today and in the long run. A free business answering service can't necessarily achieve that.