Whether you’re working in a close-knit team or own a one-person business, you want your phone ringing off the hook all day. Calls are proven to convert customers 10 to 15 times more frequently than website visits.1
There’s just one problem: who’s going to be responsible for answering all those calls? A missed call could mean a lost customer.
Hiring a dedicated receptionist can be prohibitively expensive for small businesses, but answering the phone yourself—or delegating it to a supporting team member, like a paralegal or dental hygienist—can be inefficient, distracting, and even a liability.
As for answering services and call centers? They lack the personal touch that earns client trust.
Fortunately, we’re living in the digital age, today there’s one cost-effective and practically-effective solution for this familiar plight: a virtual receptionist.
What Is a Virtual Receptionist?
The term ‘virtual receptionist’ is typically used to refer not to a person but to a company that provides the same phone services as an in-house receptionist for their client’s businesses.
Despite the ‘virtual’ part of the name, virtual receptionists are staffed by real, human people, and in most cases, multiple employees will be assigned to handle the needs of a particular business.
These offsite customer service professionals are adept at integrating with a variety of contact management and scheduling systems. Their experience and background make them equipped to harmonize seamlessly with your operations and to provide a hospitable, attentive experience for any customers that call.
With the best Tier 1 virtual receptionist services, you often get a dedicated team of receptionists who get to know your business–sounding just like they’re in your office.
What Is the Role of a Virtual Receptionist?
The exact services a virtual receptionist provides vary widely from one company to another, but there are a few tasks that almost every virtual receptionist can perform:
- Answering and transferring calls – The primary responsibility of a virtual receptionist is to receive calls courteously on behalf of your business, alert you or designated staff to the call if important, and transfer the call to the appropriate party if desired.
- Screen calls – Virtual receptions screen out solicitations, so no one at your company will ever have to hear about their car’s extended warranty ever again.
- Take messages – If you are outside of office hours or otherwise do not wish or need to take a call, a virtual receptionist can take a caller’s message or record a voicemail.
- Make outgoing calls – Virtual receptionists can make calls on your behalf to customers, partners, and other stakeholders, connecting you when the other party is reached.
- Answer FAQs – Virtual receptionists will often be familiar enough with your business that they can answer the most frequently asked questions, handling many customer interactions without needing to refer to someone in-house.
- Schedule meetings and appointments – Virtual receptionists can usually interface with calendar management platforms like Outlook and Google. This enables them to schedule meetings and appointments directly with callers on your behalf.
- Client intake – Virtual receptionists also frequently interface with customer relationship management (CRM) software to capture callers’ contact information and track communication history.
- Live chat – Some virtual receptionists offer live chat services so that your business is represented by the same quality care by phone and online.
The hyper-connectivity and cadence of modern communications have put a new burden on businesses looking to grow, but that is short on bandwidth. If you’re getting more calls or emails than you can currently handle and are looking to grow your business without taking on new personnel (or diluting your own or your current staff’s attention), a virtual assistant may be well worth considering.
Benefits of Bringing a Virtual Receptionist Onto Your Team
Many businesses or entrepreneurs feel shy about onboarding a virtual receptionist, owing to concerns about their ability to fully integrate with their systems and their ability to genuinely sound like part of the team. But there are several unique advantages of hiring a virtual receptionist that make a savvy business decision a sincere boon to the relationships you have with clients, customers, and leads.
Capture 100% of Calls Live
A virtual receptionist will never be too busy with some other task to answer the phone. Their primary role is to ensure no call goes unanswered, often by offering 24-hour service. For this reason, you can be sure you’ll never miss a lead or important message.
No Need to Manage, Hire, or Fire
Many costs are impacted by increasing your in-house team—and some are less obvious than others. These under-the-radar costs might be:
- Salary – Adding a salary to your bottom line can be a big risk for smaller businesses. Legal receptionist salaries average $48k per year.1 Virtual receptionists, however, are typically paid per call or per minute, so you can increase your support staff exactly as much or as little as your business needs.
- Benefits – Depending on the size of the company, a full-time in-house receptionist may require medical coverage and retirement account matching.
- Personnel hours – Team members with even higher pay grades than receptionists have to take the time to review resumes, interview candidates, and eventually manage any additional staff.
- Team cohesion and morale – Firing an employee can be emotionally taxing, especially if they are well-liked. Often, businesses must sever ties with staff through no fault of their own, but because their role is inefficient.
$62 billion per year is lost to poor customer service.1 And while you and your staff may be experts at your jobs, that’s not a guarantee of phone etiquette.
Virtual receptionists should be people who are:
Not only are these skills and qualities any receptionist should have, but many virtual receptionists bring their own unique knowledge to the job, like second language services (bilingualism). In many cases, callers who interact with the virtual receptionist may not even know that they’re talking with someone who works outside of your business. Most good virtual receptionist services have customers who come in with gifts for asking to meet lovely receptionist they spoke with.
Often, your virtual receptionist comes to know and develop a personal rapport with your regular contacts and best customers, so you can trust your business always looks authentic and credible, especially if your virtual receptionist provides a dedicated team like Abby Connect.
Achieving flow is an important ingredient of doing quality work, and refocusing after an interruption can be a challenge. If you or your staff are answering calls, you’re probably not performing other, more specialized tasks as efficiently as you could.
By letting a virtual receptionist answer your calls, screen out solicitations, and answer FAQs, you can make sure the people in your office are only on the phone when it’s welcome and necessary.
As mentioned, virtual receptionists are paid by the minute or by the call, allowing you to scale up at a realistic, need-based rate without worrying about an additional salary and all the related costs of adding personnel.
In addition to the time and money saved by not increasing your staff, hiring a virtual receptionist leaves you and your team free to do your jobs. How much a live receptionist costs and the efficiency they provide to your team can save hours of time (and money) each week.
What Isn’t a Virtual Receptionist
Three services—virtual assistants, answering services, and call centers—are often confused with virtual receptionists, but with a few important distinctions.
In some cases, business owners are searching for a team member who can perform tasks like:
- Purchasing gifts
- Organizing events or vacations
- Managing social media
- Conducting research
- Light bookkeeping
While responsibilities can sometimes overlap, companies that hire a freelance virtual receptionist—an individual, rather than a company—may ask them to take on jobs that a virtual assistant would typically handle.2
However, if your business is inundated with calls—and this is the goal!—your virtual assistant may find themselves as much distracted by the phone as any other employee whose time is better spent on other aspects of their workload.
In this case, a virtual receptionist could still be a necessary part of your growth strategy while they can ensure you never miss a call from existing or new potential clients and allows your team to focus on billable hours.
Like a virtual receptionist, answering services field calls on behalf of your business.
But in most cases, they have a less personal relationship with your business, don’t know as many details about you or your customers, and read from a script. Typically, this provides callers with a more generic experience than a virtual receptionist brings.
The cheapest option for answering calls, call centers are usually overseas and hire people with very little training in customer service, often with limited or thickly accented English. Their goal is to get your caller off the line as quickly as possible to get to the next call.
Answer Your True Calling—Let Abby Connect Answer Your Calls
You didn’t become an attorney or a dentist or an accountant to answer phone calls all day. You want to win cases, brighten smiles, or get the biggest refunds for your clients.
With Abby Connect’s virtual receptionist services, a dedicated team of customer service professionals that understands your business will take care of your phone calls, in English or Spanish, 24 hours a day, and make sure only the calls you want to get through to you. You can rest assured knowing you have a dedicated team of 5-10 receptionists who are focused on taking calls for your business so you can focus on more important tasks.
But more than just taking calls, we can gather client data, schedule appointments on your Outlook or Google calendars, and integrate with your workflow systems. We also offer live chat services, so interactions with your company are handled consistently on all fronts.
And with by-the-minute pricing plans that let you save—in both cost and peace of mind—you can focus on the reasons you chose your profession in the first place.
- Lawclerk. Why Solo and Small Law Firms Should Outsource Phone Answering Services. https://www.lawclerk.legal/blog/why-solo-and-small-law-firms-should-outsource-phone-answering-services/
- WeWork. What is a virtual assistant and what do they do? https://www.wework.com/ideas/professional-development/business-solutions/what-is-a-virtual-assistant
- ABA Journal. Take one thing off your plate with virtual receptionists. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/journal/articles/2022/take-one-thing-off-your-plate-with-virtual-receptionists/
- ZipRecruiter. What Is a Virtual Receptionist and How to Become One. https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Career/Virtual-Receptionist/What-Is-How-to-Become
- Wealth of Geeks. How to Become a Virtual Receptionist. https://wealthofgeeks.com/virtual-receptionist/