A Brief Guide to Call Answering Services

When it comes to finding help for your small business, there are a number of choices to choose from.

The best way to go about finding the best receptionist service for your company is to learn a little about each one and then compare them all and see what the best fit is for your brand. Some services are better for large businesses, some are better for small. They can also vary by price, location, and the quality of services they provide. Below are detailed descriptions about all the different types of receptionist services so you can decide what is the best choice for you.

Answering Service

An answering service can be described as a position where a live person is used to receive inbound calls for a business that is unable to accept the call. The person hired to do this job will most likely be off-site but they will have a dedicated line for the company. When a person calls an answering service they will speak to an operator who can provide them with information about things like when the business will re-open and the daily hours of the business. They will also be able to do tasks like schedule appointments, give general information about the business over the phone, and screen phone calls.

Some of the skills a person who works at an answering service must have is great communication skills, customer service skills, the ability to multitask, and excellent phone etiquette.

An answering service is best for a professional that may have a receptionist but they need additional help. It is also ideal for a small business who wants to have someone available for their clients after-hours.


A switchboard is a place in a business where all the incoming phone calls are connected. A switchboard operator is someone who filters those calls and determines the best place to forward them. Switchboard operators can be run by a human, but they can also be computerized.

An example of a switchboard would be when a person dials 911; A live person answers it, determines the type of emergency the caller is involved in, and then determines the appropriate service the person needs. Another example of a switchboard service would be when a person calls their cell phone provider. Through automation, the company can filter if a person speaks English, what they are calling for, and what department should handle the call. The call is then forwarded to the appropriate employee who then helps the customer.

A switchboard service is ideal for any large business where numerous calls need to be filtered. It is also used for companies that do not want the general public to be able to contact any and all employees directly.

Virtual Assistant

A virtual assistant is usually a person who works from home or independently but provides small businesses with administrative, technical, or creative services. Some of the services of a virtual assistant can be similar to the service of a personal assistant. This includes making travel arrangements, bookkeeping, scheduling, and data entry. A virtual assistant usually does his or her job remotely.

Because a lot of businesses and companies do a lot online and digitally, and because so many tools for businesses are online, the need for virtual assistants has risen tremendously. The ideal person to hire a virtual receptionist would be someone who needs light assistance so they can free up their time, but also someone who does not need help from a full-time in-house employee.

Message Service

A messaging service can be one of two things: a voice mail type service that takes messages for a company, or a text messaging service that can send short messages. Most commonly though, it is a voice mail service.

Even though messaging services can be impersonal they are widely used for businesses who just want a platform for their clients to be able to leave messages and communicate with a staff member. They can also use it to make appointments, cancel appointments, take orders, etc. Often times businesses also use messaging services as an automated way to send texts, emails, and voice messages to a large group of people at once.

Call Center

A call center is typically a centralized telephone facility that employs a large number of people to handle a large number of inbound and outbound calls. Imagine a person with a headset on, looking at a computer, in a room with hundreds more similar to them. They probably work at a call center.

Call centers are almost never used for small businesses. Usually larger companies like banks, insurance companies, and telemarketers utilize these agents for their companies.

Some skills of a person working in a call center include being a great communicator, being able to multitask, and they must also have a lot of patience. Because the position can be stressful and demanding, call centers usually have a high turnover rate.

Outsourced Receptionist

An outsourced receptionist is similar to a virtual receptionist in the fact that they are primarily used for businesses who don’t want to hire a full time in-house receptionist to handle the day-to-day tasks of the company.

Outsourced receptions are ideal for businesses who want to save money, for CEOs who want to free up more time, and for companies who want a constant point of contact for their clients. Sometimes outsourced receptionists are used temporarily to handle the workload when a company is in a transition period and they are between receptionists, but they can also be used full time.

Customer Service Center

A customer service facility, also called a contact center, is usually a center that handles different phone requests from clients. Customer service centers are similar to call centers because they are a large facility meant to handle a large volume of calls, but they can also handle other communication tasks including sending faxes, emails, letter. Sometimes they also have live chat options that they make available to clients.

Customer service centers are impersonal but are usually used by bigger companies as a way to have a single point of contact. The are also usually outsourced.

Virtual Receptionist

A virtual receptionist is a excellent option for small businesses and new businesses to use for a variety of different reasons. Virtual receptionists can do everything a normal receptionist can do, at a fraction of the cost. Virtual receptionists can answer phones, make appointments, screen phone calls, manage schedules, and more.

One great aspect about a virtual receptionist is that they give the impression of being in-house when they are really in a remote location. Another great aspect of a virtual receptionist is that they can be available for other times other than just 9-5.

Virtual receptionists can save companies money and make them look good to clients. Companies that hire virtual receptionists can also tailor their services to properly fit their brand and needs. Abby Connect is an excellent option for a virtual receptionist service.

Regardless of the type of service you choose, make sure it is the right fit. Do your research, read reviews, and take your time deciding which service will be best for you. That way you are happy and your business can continue to be successful.

Written by

Hope Holland

Hope Holland

Hope joined Abby Connect in 2016 as a receptionist. She now leads the Sales Team in their efforts to help small businesses with their communication needs. Hope has always valued the customer experience and understands how crucial it is for businesses that want to succeed. With this mission, she strives to help businesses connect with their clients and improve the experience their business offers.

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