Business Services

Everything You Need to Know About Using a Virtual Receptionist

Everything You Need to Know About Using a Virtual Receptionist

Does your business regularly receive out of hours calls that go to voicemail? Do you find yourself torn away from important work with the incessant ringing of your work line? For service businesses looking to attract customers, missed phone calls can greatly limit their growth. But you cannot sit beside your phone at all hours of the day. And callers don’t like reaching voicemail - 80% will hang up before they leave a voicemail. 

The solution is a virtual receptionist or answering service that provides flexible support for businesses looking to capture new customers and delivers excellent service around the clock. Why virtual? As more businesses move away from physical offices and flexible working becomes more common, virtual receptionists can answer their phones from anywhere, adding another element of flexibility that benefits organizations and their customers. 

What Is a Virtual Receptionist?

A virtual receptionist service (also called an answering service) answers calls on behalf of a business. Virtual receptionists are used to fulfilling different functions, depending on the needs of the business. Some use an answering service instead of an in-house receptionist, some use the service only after-hours, and others turn on the service as they require throughout the day. 

How Does an Answering Service Work?

A virtual receptionist will link to your business line and pick up incoming calls at pre-agreed times. They will have access to information about your company and will follow a call script that aligns with your aims. They can answer queries, forward important calls to members of your team, and take messages when you are busy or unavailable. Apart from answering calls, many virtual receptionists offer additional services and functionality. Some may charge extra for certain features; others may offer it all as part of your package. 

How Can Businesses Benefit From a Virtual Receptionist?

Partnering with a virtual receptionist is an excellent way for large and small businesses to bring in extra support. 

Secure Customers

Answering your phone is a crucial stage of the buyer journey for many businesses. Making a great first impression is key to securing customers - make a poor impression, and you will not get a chance to try again. 

We know that purchasing decisions are heavily influenced by people’s emotions, and making callers feel welcome is the first step to getting their business. A virtual receptionist is a customer service professional capable of answering your calls without any distractions.

Build Relationships

Relationships are crucial for most successful businesses, whether these are with existing clients, stakeholders, or new leads. The guarantee of a professional and friendly voice answering your phone helps to establish consistency and trust with your callers. 

Improve Organization

In busy companies, it can be difficult for owners and managers to stay up to date with every call. Most virtual receptionist services take advantage of cloud technology to give you a central place to view every call you received and contact histories. 

The data provided by your virtual receptionist can give you valuable insights into your business. By identifying frequently asked questions, you may discover areas for improvement in your marketing content. You can also view a contact’s previous calls, quickly familiarising yourself with a client who may need particular support. However, this information can help you to build a detailed understanding of your business. 

What Features Should You Look For?

Answering services and virtual receptionists offer a diverse range of features. Depending on your business model, some of these features will be essential; others may be less attractive. These are some of the features that you should look out for and factor into your choice of service.  

Live vs. AI Receptionists 

Some virtual receptionists have a team of live receptionists who answer all calls; others use AI software to answer calls. This is a matter of preference. An AI receptionist delivers consistency, no matter how many calls you receive, and can handle simple, frequently asked questions. On the other hand, many callers prefer to speak to a live virtual receptionist for their empathy and ability to respond to complex requests or queries.  

Customizable Scripts

Your script, or call flow, is a list of the specific questions that your virtual receptionists will ask your callers. Most virtual receptionists will have the ability to personalize your greeting so that your callers know they have reached the correct business. Some will help you edit the full call script, set relevant questions, and even create multiple flows for different callers types. 

Appointment Setting

Many organizations find that the best time to get clients to commit to an appointment or meeting is during a call. That is why many businesses use virtual receptionists to schedule in-person or video meetings on their behalf. With access to your calendar, through integrations with apps like Calendly, Google Calendar, and Setmore, virtual receptionists will get commitments from your callers.

Outbound Calling

Virtual receptionists can do more than answer your calls. Contacting email and web form inquiries can be a draining process for businesses, but virtual receptionists can take this responsibility off your shoulders. This helps you save time, as your virtual receptionist can screen the new contacts, efficiently handling basic questions, and getting details of potential clients for you to follow up with. 

Live Chat

Do you offer a live chat option on your website? 90% of US consumers find chat options useful, as people get more used to messaging for immediate support. Some virtual receptionist services offer a live chat option as well, providing the same service as call answering through your website chatbox. 

Technology Integration

In the name of efficiency, some answering services can integrate with your CRM to automatically sync contact information and message notes between their platform and your CRM. This helps you to understand your contacts and incoming messages at a glance and ensures that every contact is categorized and tracked. If you already use a CRM, check with your prospective receptionist service that they can integrate with your current systems. If not, why not? CRMs are a powerful way to leverage customer data and support your sales strategy.  

Language

Depending on where your business is based, you might require a bilingual answering service. Certain virtual receptionists in the US employ English and Spanish speaking receptionists so that your customers aren’t limited by a language barrier. If your business caters to Spanish-speaking customers, you’ll definitely want a virtual receptionist that reflects that.

Location

For some companies, the location of their virtual receptionists will matter immensely. Many are wary of call centers, especially those based outside of their country. Luckily, virtual receptionists have a variety of working models, including some based in multiple locations and some who work from home. This will influence their hours of operation and potentially their service reliability. A virtual receptionist service with receptionists operating from multiple locations within the US has more insurance against inclement weather or power outages. 

Virtual Receptionist Industries

Who can benefit from working with a virtual receptionist? If your business has ever missed a call that lost you a new customer, or you’ve found yourself answering your business line out of hours, an answering service will make sure that doesn’t happen again. Answering services are especially valued by small business owners and self-employed or solo professionals. It can be incredibly time-consuming to manage your own business, and many of the low-value tasks fall to you at all hours of the day (and night). 

Industries that can benefit from answering services include:

  • Legal
  • Finance
  • Healthcare
  • Services, i.e., Plumbers, Electricians
  • Property
  • E-commerce 
  • Tech and IT
  • Marketing
  • Education

Some virtual receptionists may specialize in a particular industry, while others offer general support for all businesses. If you work in an industry that requires specialized knowledge, you may prefer to work with an answering service experienced in that sector. 

Conclusion

A virtual receptionist can be a huge source of support for growing businesses, helping them to capture new customers, build relationships, and organize their workflow. For small business owners, they can be an invaluable time-saving resource, freeing them from answering calls at all hours and allowing them to focus on the work they do best. The best virtual receptionist services are true partners, continually working with your company to improve their answering and support your growth. 

If you are looking for a virtual receptionist that can deliver the right service for your business needs, take a look at GoodFirm’s best answering services

Eden Bright
Eden Bright

Eden Bright is an experienced Content Writer with LEX Reception, a team of expert virtual receptionists who specialize in legal answering. Their team provides 24/7 answering and support for attorneys and law firms, helping you to grow and achieve your goals.

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