Over the last few years, virtual receptionists have become more and more popular. Slowly, they are replacing traditional in-house receptionists. However, if you own a start-up or a mid-size business and have started thinking about more affordable business alternatives in order to speed up your path to success, you might have come across the value of a virtual receptionist and are now looking for some additional information regarding the role of a virtual receptionist and the way they can enhance your business growth.
If you are asking yourself “What is a virtual receptionist?” and “What is the difference between a traditional receptionist and a virtual receptionist?” – you landed on the right page. I will answer all of your questions (and more) and help you maximise the growth potential of a virtual receptionist. I do not intend to convince you that traditional receptionists should no longer exist but only to prove that modern business solutions (just as a virtual receptionist is) can be more convenient and cost-effective than traditional receptionists who sit in your office and are employed by your company.
Table of contents:
- What is a Virtual Receptionist?
- How can you get a Virtual Receptionist?
- 4 benefits of a Virtual Receptionist
Virtual (or remote) receptionists are customer service experts that typically work remotely in a small team for an outsourcing provider (or a receptionist in a virtual office) and answer phone calls on behalf of a business. This is the simplest definition of a virtual receptionist that I can give you. Basically, a virtual receptionist is a call answering service.
Virtual receptionists have the same responsibilities as traditional receptionists but they do not work in your office and are not hired directly by your company.
Allow me to open a brief parenthesis before I start teaching you more about the responsibilities and duties of a virtual receptionist. Even though they are called “virtual” receptionists, they are not actually robots beeping in a corner of your office every time you receive a phone call. Your clients won’t speak with a virtual personal assistant or receptionist in the same way as some of them (or even you) speak with Siri – which is good as you do not want your clients to start asking funny questions to your virtual receptionist (In case you don’t know what I’m talking about – New Idea published a list of 20 hilarious and honest answers from Siri that you can ask her yourself. If you don’t have Siri, I can bet that one of your friends wouldn’t mind borrowing you his phone).
So, as I was explaining previously, a virtual receptionist is not a robot – or an automated answering service that uses voice queries to answer questions or an interactive voice response (IVR) system that interacts with callers without a real human on the line. They are real people, who are trained to answer phone calls on behalf of your business. It is highly likely that you already know what an interactive voice response (IVR) system is, but in case you are not sure about it, I will give you a simple definition: an IVR is an automated phone system technology that provides information via pre-recorded messages. Does “Press 1 for Sales, 2 for Support…” sound familiar to you? That’s an IVR.
Now let’s get back to talking about the responsibilities of a virtual receptionist and below you will find a list of the main tasks that they can handle for clients:
- Answering FAQs – Virtual receptionists are trained to answer basic questions concerning your business. Therefore, you should not be worried that the most basic of phone calls will be sent to you to answer. Even if you get a virtual receptionist your customers will receive the appropriate answers to their most common questions related to your company and if they are unable to answer them, they will redirect the call to you.
- Taking messages – This is the most common in Australia for virtual receptionists, where they answer the phone, pretend to try and get hold of the representative (which they never can). They then take down the caller’s information and message and forward the information onto you. Therefore, you won’t miss any detail that can be extremely important for your business.
- Scheduling appointments – Virtual receptionists can take calls from clients and schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments for you. Also, you are free to choose the scheduling software that you prefer most.
- Live transfers – When it comes to live call transfers, there are two options available: 1. Calls ring your phone first, then if you do not answer, they are redirected to a virtual receptionist after a few rings. 2. A virtual receptionist can answer calls, place the caller on a brief hold while they contact you, ask if you are available to take the call, then forward the caller right to you. The choice is up to you.
- Processing orders – For e-commerce businesses, virtual receptionists can process orders (for example, passing the orders from the e-commerce platform to the warehouse or ordering the product for a customer directly from your website).
- Collect leads – A virtual receptionist can collect lead information so you can keep track of callers. Or, they can be trained to use your personal customer database and update it with lead information.
Also, bear in mind that virtual receptionists are suitable especially for startups, small businesses, mid-size businesses, and for those businesses looking to offer a personalised customer service experience. When it comes to large B2C companies, businesses with thousands of customers, and companies in high-sales industries that receive a large call volume, other call answering services can be more appropriate (such as an IVR, that I mentioned above, or a call centre).
I can bet that you are already thinking: “That’s obvious, I can call a Virtual Receptionist Company”. You are right, you can do that. But the main purpose of this section of my article is to outline that you can get a virtual receptionist for your business as a separate service or an answering service included in the services provided by a virtual office. The choice you make should be dependent on your business model. Consider the following two scenarios:
- You do not have a physical office (meaning that you work remotely)
In this case, the best choice for your business can be a virtual office as it will provide you with a range of services that can give your business a more professional appearance (for example, a professional business address, a secure business mailbox, rentable boardrooms and meeting rooms, and much more). Except for these services, a premium virtual office (click here if you are interested to learn more about it) can provide you with a virtual receptionist as well.
- You have a physical space where you meet your employees
Your business model may require the presence of your workers to be at the same place to work together as a team (for example, this can be the best choice for creative industries). It doesn’t matter if your physical office is a traditional office, co-working, or serviced office (click here to learn more about the difference between these workspaces). In this case, you may need a virtual receptionist as a separate service (without other services provided by a virtual office, which I mentioned above).
That’s all I have to tell you concerning the way you can get a virtual receptionist. Analyse your business needs and model and make your choice.
Now that you have got an overall picture of what a virtual receptionist is, I will try to answer another question that you have (I can bet that you have this question): “Why should you get a virtual receptionist?”. The answer is: “Because a virtual receptionist can bring a wide range of benefits to your company”.
First, allow me to open a new parenthesis. In case you are asking yourself if there is any other alternative to a virtual receptionist in order to establish flawless communication with your customers, below you will find a list of the options that you have – of course, presuming that you own a start-up, a small company, or a mid-size company.
- You answer your phone by yourself – It would be a great idea if your business could grow by itself while you’re busy answering phone calls.
- You hire a traditional receptionist – This can be a better idea than answering phone calls by yourself, but you should expect to pay high employee costs.
- An IVR – I explained to you what an IVR is in the first section of this article. If you don’t have thousands of customers, an automated voice that says “Press 1 for sales” might not be the best way to strengthen the relationship with your customers. According to App Developer Magazine, “more than half (51%) of consumers have abandoned a business altogether because they’ve reached an automated menu of options, known as Interactive Voice Response (IVR), losing that company $262 per customer every year.”
- A call centre – A call centre is not a bad idea, but call centre agents work in large teams that might not be suitable for a business that does not have a very high number of customers.
Hopefully, the list above will help you have a better understanding of the benefits that a virtual receptionist can bring to you (in comparison with other call answering services). In summary, it is more flexible, more affordable and applicable to most businesses.
Now let’s see the most important advantages of a virtual receptionist:
- Save your business money – Getting an outsourced virtual receptionist means that you will save money that you would normally spend on hiring an in-house receptionist (for example, you avoid recruiting and training costs, salary costs, payroll taxes, incentives, etc.). A virtual receptionist is less expensive than you think and does not involve hidden costs, as long as you choose a reputable virtual receptionist provider. Also, with a virtual receptionist you will pay for what you use, asmost virtual receptionist providers offer different plans and packages that include a fixed number of calls per month and a fixed price for each phone call handled in case the number of calls included in the package is exceeded.
- Save you time – A virtual receptionist will allow you to focus on the most important activities of your business. Therefore, you will save precious time that you can invest in your core business. Also, you don’t need to recruit or train them which helps you save time as well. Moreover, a virtual receptionist will allow you to free up your in-house staff for more important tasks, meaning that also your employees can save time and focus on more significant responsibilities.
- Make your business appear more professional – Even if you just started up your business and you have enough time to manage phone calls and concentrate on the most important activities of your company, a virtual receptionist will still make a significant difference. It will make your business appear larger and more professional. Virtual receptionists will never miss a phone call or answer calls while driving or stuck in traffic (as it might happen if you decide to answer your business phone calls by yourself). They will also show your customers and prospects that you are large and successful enough to afford a full time receptionist – or at least appear as though you are able to. And last but not least, your business will appear more professional because they can be available 24/7/365 in order to respond to customers outside of business hours.
- Improve customer satisfaction rates – A virtual receptionist is fully trained and professional and can ensure a personalised customer service experience, meaning that they can tailor the customer service experience to the needs and preferences of individual customers and provide them with the highest level of customer service. As a result, you will have happy, more engaged customers. Also, you can make your customers happy by offering them bilingual customer service support (by choosing a bilingual virtual receptionist).
To sum up, virtual receptionists can bring significant benefits to your company, such as saving time and money, giving your business a more professional appearance, and improving customer satisfaction rates. As a result, your business will grow faster.
But we are not done yet.
Let me give you one small piece of advice, be sure to choose the most trustworthy virtual receptionist provider you can find (when reviewing them, use your intuition, make research, or ask your friends before choosing one). A high-quality virtual receptionist provider will ensure a completely different and more positive service experience for your customers. What do I mean by “different customer service experience”? A customer service experience with a receptionist who has a positive attitude and good listening skills. A receptionist that will make your customers forget common stereotypes about receptionists (such as “A receptionist can send you to hold hell”, “not understand your questions” or “go around and around in circles because they want to talk to someone”). And last but not least, we would be more than happy if you could take into consideration a virtual receptionist provided by B2B HQ as well.
In the end, customers are the most important part of your business.