Telephone answering services have been around since the invention and widespread use of the telephone. This article answers questions like: how big is the telephone answering services industry? What are some of the answering services industry and trade associations?
The NAICS Classification of the Telephone Answering Services Industry
Telephone answering services have been in operation almost since the introduction of the telephone. The industry has its own “North American Industry Classification System” (NAICS) identifier – it is 561421 – Telephone Answering Services. The NAICS code definition for the industry is “Telephone Answering Services: This U.S. industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in answering telephone calls and relaying messages on behalf of clients or for other establishments of the same enterprise.”
The Census bureau notes that the U.S. Telephone Answering Service industry is comparable to the same industries in Canada and Mexico. The classification of this industry has the following subclasses (which all are identified using the same NAICS code of 561421):
|2022 NAICS||Corresponding Index Entries|
|561421||Answering services, telephone|
|561421||Emergency telephone dispatch (i.e., contractor) services|
|561421||Local call centers (e.g., answering services, message services)|
|561421||Message services, telephone answering|
|561421||Telephone answering services|
|561421||Telephone call forwarding services|
|561421||Voice mailbox services|
|561421||Wakeup call services|
Unlike some other NAICS classes (which are not as descriptive of an actual industry), the NAICS codes for the telephone answering service industry is quite accurate, and properly groups telephone dispatch services with telephone answering services, wakeup call services, call forwarding services, etc.
How Big is the Telephone Answering Services Industry?
The Saint Louis Federal Reserve Bank publishes statistics about the telephone answering services industry. The statistics are based on census bureau data collected every few years. A chart showing the Total Revenue for the telephone answering service industry in the United States is shown below.
In the chart, y-axis is “millions of dollars” of revenue of all telephone answering services companies that classified themselves in the telephone answering services class. The revenue is based on US federal income tax returns. The revenue for the industry has held relatively steady over the years, fluctuating around $2,000,000,000 (Two billion dollars). In recent years the total annual revenue has crept up to nearly $2.4 billion dollars. Source information from this chart can be viewed here.
Government data reveals other information about the size of the telephone answering services industry. For example, it is estimated that there are 1420 companies in this industry code, with a total employment of approximately 40,000 people.
Some sources estimate that the total number of telephone answering service providers has dropped from around 2,000 to under 1,000 companies in recent years. This drop does not seem to be a reflection on reduced revenue in the industry, but is likely a result of increased consolidation of answering service providers. Mergers and acquisitions of phone answering service providers has been quite dramatic. For example, Nexa Receptionists has been on an acquisition spree, acquiring a medical answering service from Crocker Communications as well another legal answering service branded as Alert Communications. Nexa now supports over 5,000 small and medium sized businesses through its growing portfolio of acquired answering service providers.
Telephone Answering Services Industry Associations
The telephone answering services industry has several trade associations, with the largest being the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI). The mission of the ATSI is to “advance the interests of all international telephone answering services (TAS) providers and improve their experience through education, resources and networking.” The organization provides educational resources to members of the group and organizes annual conferences and tradeshows to showcase innovations and advances in the industry. The organization has several hundred members, primarily from the U.S. and Canada.
Other industry groups supporting the telephone answering services industry include regional groups such as the Great Lakes TeleServices Association (GLTSA), the Western States Telemessaging Association (WSTA) and the Atlantic States Telephone Answering Association (AASTA). These regional groups provide educational resources as well as regular member meetings, allowing telephone answering service providers to meet in person and share best practices. WSTA, for example, describes itself as “comprised of dedicated centers bringing forth knowledge and experience. We are dedicated to the education of all telephone service representatives.” Recent meetings of WSTA have included a winter meeting in Park City Utah. The AASTA is dedicated to the education and promotion of industry best practices in the telephone answering industry and is primarily made up of members from telephone answering services in the Atlantic and New England States.
The Canadian industry association for telephone answering service providers is the Canadian Call Management Association (also known as CAM-X). CAM-X refers to itself as the Canadian “National Voice for the Telephone Answering Service & Call Centre Industry”. Members of CAM-X include a number of US based TAS providers as well as many prominent Canadian telephone answering services. CAM-X frequently holds events and training sessions.
Telephone Answering Service User Groups
An interesting aspect of the telephone answering service industry is that most answering services use the same answering service technical platforms. We discuss the answering service software elsewhere. Each of the main software providers have established very active user groups. For example, one telephone answering service platform is provided by Amtelco. Answering services that use the Amtelco platform participate in the active National Amtelco Equipment Owners group (“NAEO”). The NAEO puts it like this: “Discover the most advanced technology in the teleservices industry. Learn to maximize your Amtelco equipment for optimum efficiency and increased revenue potential. Imagine your business or hospital ready to meet the challenges of communications in the 21st century.” The organization includes a mentoring program, webinars with topics of interest to telephone answering service providers, as well as regular meetings. The NAEO annual conference is one of the biggest conferences in the telephone answering service industry.
The NAEO organization is not unique in the phone answering services industry. Another one of the largest platform providers in the industry is Startel. Startel also has an active industry group called the Startel National Users Group (or “Team SNUG”). The mission of Team SNUG is “to help its members using Startel software get the most out of their call centers. Our members include telephone answering services, call centers, and health systems. We work closely with our vendor Startel to help our members improve call center efficiency and profitability.” Team SNUG also puts on annual conferences that are well-attended and provides member benefits including webinars, certification programs and other training.