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.