- Answering services and live virtual receptionist services offer different solutions for small businesses.
- If your business needs a high-level service that sounds like an on-site employee, a virtual receptionist may be right for you.
When it comes to phone answering, there’s a variety of tech-savvy solutions for small businesses. Among them are answering services and live virtual receptionist services, which at first blush appear to be synonyms. Both services answer calls live, can take messages, and are a fraction of the cost of an in-house receptionist. But that’s where the similarities end.
What do answering services typically do?
- Answer calls live.
- Gather basic information from callers.
- Take messages and send them via email. Although, some answering services may fax your messages to you or “batch” messages, sending all of your messages at the end of the day.
Because answering services are often open 24/7, they are usually used as a backup or after-hours solution (think of your doctor’s office when it’s closed for the day). They may be able to connect calls to you (e.g., in the case of an emergency), but there may be additional fees. Since they perform rudimentary tasks, they are generally less expensive than virtual receptionist services.
What can live virtual receptionist services do?
- Answer calls live with your custom greeting.
- Transfer calls back to you live, wherever you are (i.e., your desk phone, home phone, cell phone, etc.).
- Let you know who’s on the line before connecting the call; you can decide which calls you’d like to take.
- Gather different information based on the type of call. For example, they can try your desk phone for current clients but for potential new clients, they will also track you down on your cell phone.
- Take messages with detailed information.
- Email and/or text your messages to you immediately.
- Email voicemail messages to you as .wav files.
- Extended business hours (but typically not 24 hour service).
- Answer FAQs about your business, such as descriptions of your services or directions to your office.
- Place calls on your behalf to relay or gather information or confirm appointments.
Virtual receptionists function much more in place of, or in addition to, in-house receptionists. Some services can easily update your call handling instructions on the fly. Going into a meeting? Just as you would tap your receptionist on the shoulder, simply call or email your receptionist service (some services even have an iPhone app) to have them let callers know and take messages while you’re away.
The amount of background noise is another factor to consider. Answering services are known for a cacophony of noise from adjacent agents; virtual receptionist services, on the other hand, sound much more like they are in your office.
Wondering if a service is right for your business? Give them a call! You’ll be able to hear how they sound and, best of all, get a sense of how your clients will be treated when they call you!
Katie Wilson is an Online Marketing Champion at Ruby Receptionists. Recalling an era when friendly, professional phone answering was the norm, Ruby provides personalized, live virtual receptionist services for small businesses nationwide.