Choosing a Conference Call Service: A Buyer's Guide

As the remote workforce grows in 2019, being able to communicate with co-workers around the country is critical. Conference calling services help facilitate that collaboration. 

While email, instant messaging and video chats all have their place, conference calling remains a primary communication tool in today's work environment. When face-to-face meetings aren't possible, many organizations turn to conference call services to help colleagues communicate and collaborate.  

Conference calls allow groups of professionals to meet remotely over the phone. Unlike video conference services that require camera-equipped computers and special software, all that's needed for a conference call is a telephone.  And since everyone already knows how to place a phone call, conference calling eliminates barriers to a smooth and productive remote meeting.  

In this guide, we highlight the conference call services we think are the best for businesses in 2019. We also explain how we selected our best picks, how much you should expect to pay for a conference call service, the different types of conference call services and what features to look for when choosing a service.   

Additionally, we provide a comprehensive list of conference call services in case the options we recommend aren't a fit for your business.

Editor's note: Looking for information on conference call services? Use the questionnaire below, and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need.

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Best Conference Call Services

Best Service Overall: Conference Calling by Vast Conference 

Conference Calling by Vast Conference is a robust service that offers everything businesses need, including the option of both reservationless and operator-assisted services. This gives you the freedom to host everyday meetings, as well as large formal conferences when the need arises. 

The reservationless system supports up to 500 callers at a time. It is available in both monthly and pay-as-you-go pricing plans. The monthly plans allow you to host as many calls as you want each month for one flat fee. Prices range between $14.99 and $39.99 per month. The plans vary depending on the number of people that can be on a call at once and cloud storage space. The pay-as-you-go plan costs 3.5 cents per minute, per caller. 

The operator-assisted service can handle calls with up to 6,000 participants. This type of service is typically used for large formal conference calls. You have access to an operator who will help you plan and run the call;  they go over itineraries, send out email invitations, greet callers and conduct Q&A sessions, among other things. 

Conference Calling offers a wide selection of valuable features, such as customizable greetings, dial out options, call recording and web controls. In addition, users have access to HD video conferencing tools for face-to-face video calls. This also allows for screen sharing when making presentations. 

You can read a full review of Conference Calling on our sister site Business.com. 

Best Free Service: FreeConferenceCall.com 

FreeConferenceCall.com has everything small businesses need in a conference call service, all for no cost. The reservationless service allows businesses to conduct conference calls with up to 1,000 attendees. Calls can be scheduled in advanced or hosted spontaneously. 

In addition to the free plan, there is also a paid plan – StartMeeting – that costs $14.95 per month. The biggest differences between the two plans is that those using the free service are presented with ads for FreeConferenceCall.com when they join a call. Ads for the service are also included on email invitations that are sent to participants. The paid plan doesn’t display ads. 

Both plans include call recording, web meeting controls, keypad commands, and the ability to have participants leave a main conference to join a break-out room for a subconference call. 

FreeConferenceCall.com also lets you host online meetings that allow for screen sharing, chat tools, drawing tools and recording options. 

The service integrates with Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar and offers a mobile app for iOS and Android devices. 

You can read a full review of FreeConferenceCall.com on our sister site Business.com. 

Best Service Within a Phone System: RingCentral 

RingCentral is an impressive unified communications system that has an equally impressive conference call service built into it. The conference call bridge comes standard on each user's extension and can support up to 1,000 callers at a time. 

The system allows any user to host a conference call without having to schedule it in advance. It includes free call recording and a Microsoft Outlook integration makes it easy to schedule a meeting. RingCentral offers local dial-in numbers in more than 50 countries for meetings with callers located outside the U.S. 

The conference call services are included in the RingCentral Office platform, a unified communications system that offers everything businesses need in a phone system. It has a wide range of calling, collaboration and mobile features. This includes voicemail, voicemail-to-email, one-touch calling, call recording, auto-attendants, IVRs and a softphone. It also includes video conferencing and a mobile app for iOS and Android devices. 

Costs for RingCentral Office range from $29.99 to $59.99 per user, per month. You save $10 per user, per month if you pay annually. There is a 30-day free trial. 

You can read our full review of RingCentral on our sister site Business.com. 

Best Service for a Remote Workforce: Webex 

Webex from Cisco is a web conference service that includes conference calling. With this service, participants can connect to a meeting either via their phones or computers. 

For anyone to join a meeting by phone, the host must join online via their computer or change the meeting settings to allow everyone to connect from their phones. 

Those on the phone can participate just as if they had joined from a computer. WebEx includes call recording and a call-me tool that allows the system to call you when the meeting is set to begin. 

Webex is available in three different pricing plans that vary based on the number of people who can attend a conference, how many host licenses you can have, the amount of cloud storage space and the level customer support. Prices range from $14.95 to $29.95 per host, per month. You save 10% by paying annually instead of monthly. 

A bonus of Webex is that all users have access to its Teams platform. This is a digital workspace designed to facilitate collaboration among employees. It includes group messaging, file sharing and whiteboarding. 

You can read a full review of Webex on our sister site Business.com. 

Methodology 

To determine the best conference calling services, we started by looking at a comprehensive list of nearly 30 conference call service providers.  We pared that list down by focusing on vendors that had solid online reputations, such as those services that were consistently ranked highly by other websites. 

We also visited each company's website. If a company stood out to our reviewers, it was added to the final list. We eventually narrowed the pool of contenders to 17 service providers: Arkadin, AT Conference, ConferenceCalls.com, Conference Town, FreeConference, FreeConferenceCall.com, Free Conference Pro, Infinite Conferencing, InterCall, No Cost Conference, PGI, RingCentral, Totally Free Conference, UberConference, Vast Conference, WebEx and Zip Conferencing. 

Next, the team continued to research each contender by investigating its services, watching tutorials and how-to videos, testing out the service when possible, and reading user comments. After narrowing the list down even further, we contacted the customer support team of the finalists, posing as business owners to gauge the type of service each provider offers its users. In all, they analyzed each system based on the following criteria:

  • Type of services: reservationless, operator-assisted or both
  • Call controls
  • Call recording
  • Features
  • Integrations
  • Mobile apps
  • Cost and cost structure
  • Customer support
  • International access
  • Better Business Bureau complaints and rating 

Types of Conference Call Services 

There are two main types of conference calling services: reservationless and operator-assisted. While the two cover the same basic idea of allowing multiple people to be on one conference call at a time, they vary in how they are used and how many people they can support. 

  • Reservationless service: This type of service allows you to host conference calls 24/7, and no advanced scheduling is needed. Your conference line is always available for you. This type of service is used for everyday conference calling and can generally support anywhere from 50 to 1,000 callers at a time. They also include a number of valuable tools, like call recording and online host controls. 
  • Operator-assisted service: If your business holds formal conference calls that need a personal touch, choose a provider with operator-assisted services available when you need them. With this type of service, a dedicated representative helps you plan the meeting ahead of time by sending out invites and ensuring the call's itinerary makes sense. During the call, the representative greets callers, gathers their contact information, and manages speakers and question and answer sessions. After the call, they can provide you with the participant list and a recording and transcription of the call. 

Cost of Conference Call Services 

Conference call services typically have two sets of cost structures. Some charge you on a per-call basis, while others charge a flat monthly fee for unlimited use. 

With pay-as-you-go plans, you a charged a per-minute fee for each caller. For a reservationless service, these fees typically range from 2 to 10 cents per minute. Operator-assisted services are more expensive, where per-minute fees range from 15 to 30 cents. It is important to remember that these per-minute fees are for each participant on the call. For example, a 30-minute reservationless call with eight callers, including the host, would likely cost between $4.80 and $24. A 30-minute operator-assisted call with 100 participants would cost between $450 and $900. 

Unlimited monthly plans are usually only offered with reservationless services. With these plans, you can host any length of meeting as often as you want. Unlimited monthly plans tend to range from $7 to $60 per month. Many conference call providers offer multiple pricing plans that vary on how many people can join a call at one time. 

Depending on the service provider you choose, there can be some extra fees. Some providers charge extra for things like call recording, translations, transcriptions and customized greetings.

Conference Call Service Features 

When choosing a conference call service, it is important to ensure it offers what your business needs. Among some of the most important features to look for include: 

  • Caller limits: Choose a service that can support the number of meeting participants you have, whether that's five, 10, 50 or several hundred. Many reservationless services support several hundred callers, while most operator-assisted services can handle several thousand callers at a time. 
  • Call controls: With some services, the host can manage the call from their phone's dial pad; other services allow the host to control the call from an online portal. Both options give the host the ability to mute callers, start call recordings, lock the call and end the call. The web controls also give the host the added benefit of seeing who is on the call. 
  • Call recording: Most services allow you to record each conference call, but providers differ in how the recordings can be played back. Some providers keep them stored in the cloud so those who missed the meeting can to listen online or by calling in and accessing the recording over the phone. Other providers allow you to download the recording so it can be played back or emailed to others. Some services burn the recording to a CD and mail it to you. 
  • Mobile app: Some conference call services offer a mobile app for iOS and Android devices that make it simple to schedule, host and participate in conference calls from a mobile device. 
  • International access: If you plan to host conference calls with participants located overseas, make sure the conference call service you choose makes it easy for them to join the call. Many services offer local dial-in numbers in countries around the world. 
  • Calling tools: There are two main calling tools that you may find valuable. One is a dial-out feature that allows you to put your conference on hold and add someone to the meeting by calling them directly. The other is a call-me option that has the service call participants when the meeting is scheduled to begin. This removes the burden of having to remember the dial-in and access numbers. 
  • Integrations: Some conference call services integrate with email and calendar services. These integrations, such as with Microsoft Outlook, simplify the process of scheduling conferences and sending out meeting invites. 
  • Online meetings: Many conference call services include online meeting tools, such as HD video streams and screen sharing. These tools allow you to see everyone who is in the meeting and make presentations visual or discuss specific documents that everyone can view. 
  • Customer support: Make sure the conference call service provider you choose is available to answer your questions when you need them. In addition to offering phone, email and live chat support, some services allow you to contact an operator for help in the middle of a conference call by dialing *0.

What to Expect in 2020 

Artificial intelligence will likely see an expanded role in conference calling services throughout the rest of 2019 and into 2020. Currently, several different companies use artificial intelligence to turn phone calls and conference calls into smart calls.   

Instead of  diligently take notes during an important call, you may be able to turn that task over to an artificial intelligence that can take notes for you and provide you with all the key points when the call is over.   

One phone system and conference call service provider, DialPad, has already introduced this type of technology into its services . Last year DialPad acquired Talk IQ, a provider of speech recognition and predictive analytics technology. With this technology, DialPad, which also offers UberConference, unveiled VoiceAI. The new feature provides users with, among other things, real-time call transcriptions and end-of-call summaries that include action items, follow-ups and important moments.  

While DialPad is one of the first to build this type of technology into its core platform, we expect other providers to follow suit in 2019. Artificial intelligence is becoming more prominent in a wide range of B2B services and software, and vendors don't want to see all their competitors get a leg up.  

Conference Call Services

Here is a full list of conference call services and a summary of what each company claims to offer. This alphabetical list also includes our best picks. 

AnyMeeting – AnyMeeting is a web conferencing service that includes conference calling for up to 200 callers. Your AnyMeeting account includes a conference call number and PIN codes for you and your attendees. Pro subscribers can provide their attendees a U.S. toll-free number to call for their meetings. As a conference call host, you'll have full call controls, including the ability to mute and unmute attendees, lock the call, and control entry and exit chimes. anymeeting.com 

Arkadin – Arkadin offers both reservationless and operator-assisted conference calling services. Arkadin Anytime, the reservationless service, hosts meetings with up to 100 participants and features call recording, one-time PINs and phone keypad controls. The operator-assisted service provides a dedicated representative who helps plan and manage your conference call. arkadin.com 

AT Conference – AT Conference is a completely on-demand conference call service that allows you to conduct conference calls 24/7 using any landline or mobile phone. It has an easy-to-use platform with cloud conferencing tools. AT Conference also offers operator-assisted conference calling services. atconference.com 

Civicom – Civicom offers both on-demand and operator-assisted conference calling services. The on-demand service supports up to 2,500 callers, while the operator-assisted service can host meetings with as many as 5,000 callers. Features include call recording, full host controls, secure entry, pre-conference green rooms, hands-free conference entry and instant call summary reports. civi.com 

ConferenceCalls.com – ConferenceCalls.com's audio conferencing is easy to use, and its reservationless conference calls require no contracts or commitments. It has local access coverage in over 20 countries, along with toll-free access and global dial-out options. The reservationless service supports calls with up 50 people and offers call recording. Operator-assisted conference calling is also available. conferencecalls.com 

Conference Calling – Conference Calling by Vast Conference offers reservationless and operator-assisted conference calling services. The reservationless service can support up to 500 callers at one time, while the operator-assisted service can host calls with up to 6,000 participants. The service features web controls, call recording, custom greetings and outbound dialing. conferencecalling.com 

Conference Calls Unlimited – Conference Calls Unlimited provides phone conferencing, web conferencing and operator-attended services. The company offers customized pay-per-use and monthly pricing. The on-demand service is available 24/7 and includes call recording. conferencecallsunlimited.com 

ConferTel – ConferTel offers on-demand, unassisted audio conferencing for everyday use as well as operator-assisted services for large-scale, high-profile conference calls that require special attention and white glove concierge services. Features include call recording, custom greetings and transcriptions. confertel.net 

ConferenceTown.com – ConferenceTown.com was developed to offer free conference calling to both corporations and casual users. ConferenceTown.com offers a Free Instant Conference option, which allows you to start a conference instantly, without registering or signing up. The service supports up to 5,000 callers at a time and includes call recording for no charge. conferencetown.com 

FreeConference.com – FreeConference.com offers a complete set of free audio and web conferencing features, including international dial-ins, moderator controls, call summaries, screen sharing, call recording and SMS notifications. The reservationless service can host calls with up to 400 participants at one time. freeconference.com 

FreeConferenceCall.com – FreeConferenceCall.com is a reservationless service that allows for unlimited calls each month for no cost. The service features HD audio conferencing, screen sharing, video conferencing, audio and visual recordings, customized greetings, security features, calendar integrations and mobile apps. freeconferencecall.com 

FreeConferenceCalling – FreeConferenceCalling is a reservationless conference call service that allows you to host meetings on-demand with up to 1,000 callers. The service features call reporting, call reports, and an online conference manager. freeconferencecalling.com 

Free Conference Pro – Free Conference Pro is a free, full-featured audio conferencing service. You can make unlimited conference calls without having to pay for any bridging time. Both on-demand and scheduled conferencing is available. Both options can support as many as 800 callers at one time. freeconferencepro.com 

Infinite Conferencing – Infinite Conferencing offers reservationless and operator-assisted conference calling services. The reservationless service, which supports up to 100 callers, includes dual passcodes, international dialing, dial out, call recording and mobile apps. infiniteconferencing.com 

Instant Conference – Instant Conference is a reservationless conference call service that can support as many as 150 participants on each call. The web-based moderator controls let the host monitor attendance and activate call features, such as recording or changing the call's muting configuration. An online control panel displays available Caller ID information, and you can "ping" individual participants to take roll call. instantconference.com 

InterCall – InterCall's Reservationless-Plus service does not require reservations or operators. You control the conference commands from your telephone keypad, and you can select from English, Spanish or Portuguese for your system prompts. In addition, use the Conferencing Center to manage your account and conference calls online. InterCall also offers customized features and operator-assisted services. http://intercallonline.com/ResPlus 

No Cost Conference – No Cost Conference provides instant, unlimited, automated conference calls that are free and take place over regular telephone lines (including cell phones) – no computer or internet access is required. The conference call services are available 24/7 with no scheduling. Callers may also access conferences via VoIP services like Skype. The service can host as many as 500 callers at one time. nocostconference.com 

OnConference – OnConference is a conference call service with toll-free access in more than 100 countries. No reservations or advanced bookings are required, and you can host up to 96 participants. You’ll get your own dedicated access codes, and the service features call recording. onconference.com 

PGI – PGI's GlobalMeet conference calling service offers both reservationless and operator-assisted options. The reservationless service features call recording and web controls. The operator-assisted service helps with planning and running the conference calls. Customer support is available 24/7. pgi.com/globalmeet-audio-conferencing 

QCONF – QCONF is a reservationless conference call service that features unlimited conferencing minutes, call recording, Outlook and Google integration, branded welcome messages, customized invitations, real-time controls and SMS reminders. qconf.com 

RingCentral – RingCentral is a business phone system that includes a robust conference calling service. Each user has access to their own conference bridge, which can support up to 1,000 callers at a time. The reservationless service allows users to host conference calls without any advanced scheduling. The conferencing feature integrates with Microsoft Outlook. ringcentral.com 

Toll Free Conference – Toll Free Conference offers both reservationless and operator-assisted conference calling services. Reservationless meetings can host up to 300 callers, while the operator-assisted service can support up to 6,000 participants at a time. The service features call recording, web-based call management and a conference call reporting platform. tollfreeconference.com 

Totally Free Conference Calls – Totally Free Conference Calls allows you to host a conference whenever you want. No reservations are required. Free calls can support up to 500 callers at a time; however, for a nominal fee the limit can increase to 10,000. Features include an echo canceler, full web controls, call recording, scheduled replays, presentation mode, Q&A mode and reports of the call’s details. totallyfreeconferencecalls.com 

Turbo Bridge – Turbo Bridge provides a "meet-me" conferencing service, where all parties dial into the system. No special equipment is required, and most callers dial in with a standard landline or mobile phone, though callers could also connect through a computer. The service can host meetings with up to 300 callers at one time. Call recording is available for no extra charge. turbobridge.com 

UberConference – UberConference is a reservationless conference calling service that allows you to launch meetings from the office, home, or on the go with any device. It features screen sharing, call controls, custom hold music, call-you tools, call recording, dial-out options, international calling, and mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. uberconference.com 

Webex – Webex is a web conferencing service that allows participants to join meetings via the phone. Once one participant has joined online, all the other participants can join by dialing in. This gives your employees the flexibility to join a web conference even if they’re not near a computer. The service features call recording and a call-me tool. webex.com 

Zip Conferencing – Zip Conferencing offers reservationless and operator-assisted conference calling services. The reservationless service, which can host meetings with up to 300 callers, includes call recording, customizable settings, call blocking and multiple-presenter controls. The operator-assisted service can host meetings with up to 3,000 participants. zipconferencing.com

If you'd like your company to be added to the list and possibly considered as a best pick for our next round of reviews, please email your request to: b2bconsiderrequest@business.com.

Editor's note: Looking for information on conference call services? Use the questionnaire below, and our vendor partners will contact you to provide you with the information you need.

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