4 Types of Businesses that Could Use a Live Receptionist

person standing at a receptionist desk

A receptionist is a staple for any traditional company or office, but there are a lot of businesses that aren’t considered normal or traditional, but could still benefit from a virtual or live receptionist. A virtual receptionist will answer calls, forward them, take messages, and schedule appointments, all without being in the same room or the same company as you. Here are four types of businesses that could really use a virtual receptionist:

  1. An E-Commerce Business – If the only way you generate sales right now is through your website, then a live receptionist could open up the possibility of customers calling in their orders, or at least creating an alternative in case your website is down or the shopping cart isn’t working. The Internet is ubiquitous, and more and more folks are making purchases online and on mobile devices, but the ability to call in an order may allow for someone to place a really big order (to make sure you can fulfill it) or to have a choice in case the customer is uncomfortable with putting their credit card information online or wants to ensure that you are a legitimate business. A live receptionist can be that option, offering a friendly voice and even friendlier service.
  2. Women-Owned Businesses – Women may be starting businesses at a higher rate than the national average, but they still only generate 4% of the revenue. Why so little? A big part of that is that women tend to keep their businesses small, so they are easier to manage and to balance with family, perhaps another job, and other responsibilities. However, a Babson College study found that women entrepreneurs who hire someone within the first six months of business are more likely to reach a million dollars. Although a live receptionist isn’t the same as hiring a full time employee, the key for women entrepreneurs is understanding that they don’t have to do it all, and shouldn’t do it all, if they want a high growth company. A live receptionist is a good start, especially if the business doesn’t have an extra full time salary sitting around to pay this person.

  3. Fast-Growing Startups – Many startups are reluctant to hire a virtual receptionist, or to hire in general. Granted, there’s probably so much that needs to be done that there’s no time to look for someone appropriate. Perhaps the startup still needs to work on proof of concept or in forming the right partnerships. However, it’s those reasons that make a virtual receptionist a good idea instead of a bad one. You can have a live receptionist tailored to your business, so they can answer the phone the way you want and forward the right calls. This opens up time that would have otherwise been spent dealing with unimportant calls to prove the concept, form partnerships, and all that other startup stuff.
  4. Mom & Pop Shops – A small business like a Mom & Pop shop may not have a lot of work for a virtual receptionist, but that’s one of the great things about them. You don’t have to pay them for 40 hours a week. If you only have between five and 10 hours of work per week, you can pay a live receptionist accordingly, and then that’s an additional five to 10 hours that you have to do other things, like serve customers or market the business. Depending on the work, you probably don’t need the person to be in the shop with you, which makes a live receptionist an incredibly affordable option.

If you are willing and able to trust someone that you’ll probably never meet with company information or with your customers, then a live receptionist can really help your business to grow. With technology, being able to do that is much easier than five or 10 years ago.

The Value of a Live Receptionist

live receptionist
A live receptionist can provide more value than you might realize!

As more and more companies start up as virtual businesses, there is still a need for the appearance of a brick-and-mortar office, even if one barely exists. Perhaps the solopreneur or freelancer works from home, and perhaps much of the rest of the time is spent traveling. Still, it’s likely customers will still make an attempt to call your office. As you might not have one right now in the traditional sense, a virtual receptionist, also known as a live receptionist, is the solution.

Not long ago these kinds of services were utilized more for off-peak times, or when you were traveling for business or taking a family vacation. Situations have since called for more mainstream use, and they’ve now matured into more full-featured services. Call answering is now available 24 hours day, and other receptionist functions such as appointment setting and answering simple questions about your business are available. Some even provide a basic level of customer service.

What Does a Live Receptionist Do?

Essentially, what happens with a virtual receptionist service is this: a customer, client or vendor calls the phone number you have listed as that of your business. This number could be your own cell or smartphone number, but perhaps you are in a meeting, on a plane, or otherwise indisposed. The virtual receptionist – which is a live operator – answers the call as if s/he were sitting at a desk in what would be your office. This person screens calls, takes messages and disseminates whatever information you tell his/her company to provide to callers.

The appearance that it provides is one of legitimacy, with the feeling that you are a real person and are available for business inquiries—just not right now.

What Advantages are There to Having a Virtual Receptionist?

There is a distinct advantage in this: people like to call a business number and get a live person on the phone, preferably one that is knowledgeable about product information, and is able to answer basic questions. Contrast this with a voicemail recording—there’s no one to answer questions, or even any assurance there will be a call back and when that might be. If the customer wants to buy now, that individual doesn’t want to wait for a return phone call—not when there are others who are answering their phones with similar products to sell.

For busy companies that already have an on-staff receptionist, another benefit of a virtual service could be in assisting with overflow calls. You could also develop a tiered system in which the virtual receptionist answers and screens calls, and provides a certain level of support— including setting appointments, taking messages, answering questions and routing calls. For more serious conversations or questions, your on-staff receptionist could take over and provide a higher level of customer service, answer questions more fully, and work almost in an office manager capacity.

This is especially helpful when your on-staff receptionist is covering for an employee who
is out sick, traveling in an area where there is little or no cellphone service, or on an annual
vacation with his/her family. It might take a full-time operator to handle that individual’s
correspondence, with phone calls and email to answer and to respond.

What Should I have a Live Receptionist?

Having a virtual receptionist can also provide you with a more flexible schedule in general as to vacations and employees who travel—just assign the service to monitor their email and phone calls, perhaps send an email digest to the employee (if that employee is a hands-on type) at the end of each day.

With all the various choices available, a virtual receptionist and any included services could be just what your company needs: a presence with little actual overhead.

5 Questions You Should Ask a Virtual Office Company

woman in virtual meeting sitting in her kitchenGreat! You’ve decided that a virtual office is the thing for you! Now that you’ve made this decision, the next one to make is choosing the virtual office company. In major cities, there could be several companies to choose from. To help narrow your options and, ultimately, make a decision, here are five questions you should ask a virtual office company:

  1. Do you have other locations? – This is a critical question to ask if you are a travelling professional and would like somewhere to work at in the cities to which you travel to most often. By figuring out if your virtual office company has locations in those places, you may be able to use their services in those with little or no additional cost. This would save you the trouble of having to pay for additional offices, or finding somewhere to work at a coffee shop or a hotel business center.
  2. What’s your conference room policy? – Some virtual office companies may include use of the conference room in their virtual office services, while others may still charge extra by the hour. If you’re planning on using the conference room often, you may want to opt for a firm that offers the conference room as part of their services instead of as an hourly fee. Most companies, however, require that you book conference rooms ahead to time, whether or not you have to pay extra for that time.
  3. Do you offer a virtual assistant? – Virtual office companies also differ in how they provide a live receptionist. Some may only provide one upon request, while others come with the receptionist. In most instances, you would have to train the live receptionist in how you want your calls to be handled. However, that may not be necessary if just want someone to forward calls to you directly or to take messages when you are away.

  4. Would I be able to get a day office? – Typically, a virtual office only gives you mail forwarding and the professional business address. It’s a great option if you work from home. But, if you also want the option of another productive place to work, then it would be important to ask the virtual office company if you could drop in to the building for a day or for a few days a week/month. Some may have the space for it and be completely okay with you doing that. Others may ask you to book your time in advanced. Some may not allow that option for their virtual office services.
  5. How does your mail forwarding work? – Just about every virtual office company will have mail management services in some shape or form. With most virtual offices, mail forwarding is included. But, what if there’s a time you don’t want the mail forwarded? Who signs for the package when it comes in? Will you have to come in and pick up your mail from time to time? Those are things that need to be thought about when choosing a virtual office company. You’d hate to lose a check or an important bill because someone was careless.

There are probably many more questions that someone considering a virtual office ought to ask a virtual office company. What do you think? Did we cover all the important stuff, or did we miss something? Tell us in the comment section below!

Getting the Virtual Office Ready for Vacation

virtual office space
Your virtual office space may be empty, but it won't be to your customers!

June is halfway through, and what would count as the July 4 weekend (Independence Day falls on a Wednesday this year) is just around the corner. Even small business owners and entrepreneurs need vacations too. How do you ready your virtual office for your vacation, so that you can enjoy the time off without being bothered with phone calls or losing business because you are closed for a week?

Hopefully, you have live receptionist services available at your virtual office space so that you can have someone take messages while you’re away. A live receptionist will make it seem like your business is open by handling customer calls, orders, questions etc. without bothering you while you are away. This person will also act as a professional voice for your business, so it won’t be obvious that this person isn’t your secretary or an official employee. The live receptionist is someone who can handle these tasks in a timely fashion so they aren’t forgotten about, and potential customers won’t feel like you don’t want their business. If you don’t have a live receptionist full time, most virtual offices will allow you to have one for the week or two weeks that you are away, so you don’t have to have the service when you are back.

Another virtual office service you can opt for is mail forwarding or mail management, so the envelopes don’t clog the mailbox or pile up somewhere while you’re gone. You might not want the mail forwarded to your home, but you could forward them to a coworker or you could have someone keep the mail in a safe place until you return. This way, it won’t look like your office is closed, or that you aren’t organized enough to check the mail every now and then. It’ll also prevent mail getting lost or sent back because it can’t fit in the mailbox.

If you really have to work while on vacation, then what you could do is see if your virtual office company has services in the city to which you are travelling. Many virtual office spaces offer offices by the hour, or you could rent a conference room or a spend time in a lounge area. This option will beat working in the hotel business center, or trying to find a spot at a coffee shop or local library. At least the virtual office will have room for you, be a productive place to work, and have everything you need to get things done.

Overall, it’s important to ready your virtual office for vacation just like you would a traditional office or a home office. Not everyone goes on vacation at the same time, so you need to make sure that everything functions as if you were there, even though you might not be there at all.

Small Business Phone Answering Portrays Big Business Image

small business phone answeringOne of the last things a small businesses wants is appear small and incapable of doing what a big business can do. Sure, some small businesses don’t want to become a behemoth with tens of thousands of employees, but all small businesses want to assure their customers that they are professional and  able to handle everything that a big business can. One way small businesses can portray that big business image is with small business phone answering.

Small business phone answering, also known as a live receptionist or a virtual receptionist, is a person who handles all phone calls directed toward your and your business. This person isn’t based at your headquarters, but acts as a representative of you business. The virtual receptionist will screen calls, take messages, forward calls, schedule appointments, and process orders. Depending on the size of your small business, all that can be a lot for one live receptionist, so with Allied Offices you can have up to five virtual receptionists who can handle all of those tasks. This leaves you the chance to focus on your core business, instead of worrying about answering the phone.

Small business phone answering creates that big business image by streamlining your communications and having someone representing your business that is knowledgeable, personable, and organized. Never again would have to deal with a customer calling your cell phone while you are on the business line speaking with another customer. Never again would a customer have to leave a voicemail, or simply have the phone ring. A virtual receptionist will always be there to answer the phone and to handle the call appropriately.

Small business phone answering will also improve your bottom line in the long run. A live receptionist can process additional orders for you, and costs less than a traditional receptionist. Since this person also portrays that big business image, you end up with more people interested in becoming customers, and more of them can now become customers because someone is there to make that happen. A live receptionist can also help with customer service, working with unsatisfied customers and possibly retaining them and customers for your business (instead of a competitor).

Implementing small business phone answering may not seem like a huge change, or something that can make a big difference to your business. But, think of small business phone answering as adding one more person to the team, and having one more person on the team can make a lot of difference. If a big business is what you want, then a virtual receptionist could be the solution to make that happen.

How to Get the Most Out of a Virtual Office Space

executive virtual office spaceIf you’ve already invested in a virtual office space, then you’re probably already aware of the benefits a virtual office space can provide. But, are you getting the most out of your virtual office? Is there a way that you can get more bang for your buck, even more so than the money you’ve saved from making the switch from a typical office space?

There actually are ways to get more out of your virtual office! After all, we all like getting more for less, so here are few ways to get the most out of your virtual office space:

  1. Network with Others – Do you happen to run into others in your building or office space that are also using a virtual office? Have you ever talked to them about what they do? You probably should, as networking with these people could get you more business. You could also find someone who performs a service that you just happen to be in the market for. If anything, networking with others will make the place just a little friendlier.
  2. Use the Printing and Copying Services – If you already have a printer and a fax machine at your home office, it could be easy to avoid using these services at your virtual office. Save yourself those extra costs and use the printing, copying, and faxing at your virtual office space. It’s likely you’re already paying for those anyway, so it doesn’t make sense to pay for it twice by using your things at home.
  3. Have a Virtual Receptionist – Something that can cause a lot of hassle for small businesses and solopreneurs is the communications system. How do you handle tons of phone calls on top of all the other things you have to do? How do you have your communications appear professional? A virtual receptionist is the answer! Many virtual office spaces have this option, and a live-answering receptionist is a great solution to handling phone calls, to transferring them appropriately, and to giving your business a more professional appearance.

Some may just need a desk and a productive environment out of their virtual office space, but they can be much more than that if you want (or need). Don’t be afraid to make yourself at home in your virtual office space, instead of treating it as just another office or just as a desk and four walls to rent.

Why a Virtual Receptionist is Better than None at All

live receptionistFor small and micro-businesses, having someone dedicated to answering the phone and receiving customers is a bit of a luxury. You need every able bodied person to be doing everything from serving customers to managing inventory, from creating marketing materials to doing the accounting. Sometimes, you and your employees are just too busy to answer the phone!

This is where a live receptionist can come in. A live receptionist isn’t another employee, but someone with a virtual office or virtual receptionist firm who acts as the professional representation of your business. A live receptionist will be able to screen calls, forward them when appropriate, and take messages if necessary. Having a virtual receptionist will allow you and your employees to focus on the core of the business without having to miss a sales or customer call.

Of course, this live receptionist will be trained in the specifics of your business. If you need the virtual receptionist to schedule appointments or to take orders, that can be done. If you happen to need more than one live receptionist to handle customer service calls or phone orders, that’s available as well. Essentially, a virtual receptionist can help a small or micro-business to grow by answering more calls, taking more orders, and opening up more time for you and your employees to do other things. This means more money for the business, plain and simple.

virtual receptionistHaving a virtual receptionist is much better than having none at all, or even one of those automated answering systems that are always difficult for customers to work through. It’s a real live person answering the phone, able to meet any needs of the caller, without taking time away from whatever you need to be doing. It’s a consistent, professional impression that seamlessly connects with your business, without having to pay the costs of another employee at your company. A live receptionist is a must have for any small or micro-business, especially if alternative is no receptionist at all.