A reality check about how a live answering service can impact your business today
In the past few years, we have seen businesses of all sizes using freelancers, consultants and services like virtual receptionists. But even as the virtual receptionist industry has grown rapidly, there remain some myths about what virtual receptionists can do for your business.
While a virtual receptionist solution might not be ideal for every company, there are some ways in which they can help businesses of any size in almost any industry.
So let’s get right into the myths.
Myth #1: “Virtual receptionists are expensive.”
A lot of business owners and managers believe that virtual receptionist services are very expensive. After all, you are hiring a trained expert to answer your phones (and possibly communicate over email and chat). So some assume that these services cost more than a pretty penny.
On the contrary, these services can be quite affordable. Typically, virtual receptionists are set up in groups in a call center and cover the phones for a multitude of businesses. The hard costs are spread across many different firms and you only pay for the minutes that they spend on the phone with your callers. It saves you from paying a receptionist just to sit there looking at a silent phone.
Regarding real dollars, most plans start at less than $200 per month. In comparison, the median salary for a receptionist in the U.S. is $30,025. That’s over 12 times what you would pay for a basic plan.
So, which of these options is expensive now?
Myth #2: “They won’t care about my customers.”
Some think that because virtual receptionists will likely never meet your callers face-to-face, they won’t care about the needs of those callers.
In reality, many virtual receptionist firms have made customer success an essential part of their services.
A good virtual reception firm will continuously train their staff and promote best practices. Virtual receptionists are also likely to be experienced. In contrast to a receptionist that might receive only a few calls per day, a virtual receptionist can receive many times that number, allowing him or her to build up valuable skills.
In practice, there doesn’t seem to be a problem in this area. Many clients are so happy with the service that they assume the virtual receptionist is a member of staff in the office they are calling.
Myth #3: “Virtual receptionists don’t speak English well.”
This can sometimes be true in disreputable firms. But if you hire a reputable, U.S.-based firm, you should have no problem with this issue, even when requesting after-hours service. In fact, industry-leading services offer bilingual and native Spanish speaking receptionists as well.
So how do you know if a firm offers native English speakers? If a company is tight-lipped about where its representatives are physically located, you can guess that their representatives are based overseas.
Myth #4: “Virtual receptionists just answer the phone and transfer calls.” Or: “A virtual receptionist is nothing more than a fancy version of voicemail.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. This is the bare minimum service that I imagine any virtual receptionist could perform. And frankly, it would be a bit pointless if that was all they could do.
In real life, virtual receptionists can perform any number of useful duties.
For starters, virtual receptionists can:
- Book or change appointments
- Perform data entry for things like insurance or payment information
- Field incoming sales calls and prep leads for your sales team
- Give descriptions of the services your business offers, or give directions
- Provide seamless reception services after normal business hours, or on weekends
- Reach out to clients to gather feedback or help with customer relationship management (CRM)
- Call to remind clients of upcoming appointments
Myth #5: “Virtual receptionists are only for small businesses or startups who can’t afford a full-time front desk person.”
It’s true that this service can be a great solution for small businesses or startups with a limited budget and a small volume of phone calls.
But they can also help larger businesses or enterprises that are not constrained by budgetary needs.
For larger businesses, virtual receptionists can provide backup for existing staff. They can provide front desk coverage after hours, on weekends, at lunchtime or when your regular staff members are otherwise occupied or on vacation.
For fast-growing companies, it can be easier to hire a competent firm instead of spending precious time and energy trying to hire the right person locally.
With a virtual receptionist, you know you are receiving a highly trained professional right from the start. You don’t have to worry about spending resources training someone on the basis of reception.
As a bonus, you don’t have to worry about that person leaving the company. If someone leaves the firm you have hired, you won’t have to scramble to try to hire the perfect replacement. And when you are growing your business quickly, the last thing you want to think about is hiring for a position you thought you had nailed down.
Myth #6: “I don’t need scripted call center employees.”
Again, this may be true for some agencies, but the reputable companies will provide highly trained, intuitive receptionists.
Yes, they will have a version of a script for your business. For instance, if an after-hours caller asks for you, your virtual receptionist can perform any number of actions, according to your instructions.
But the level of scripted-ness in the interaction is up to you. In short time, they will become more familiar with the types of calls your company receives. In many cases, the caller will not even realize that the person he or she is speaking with is located off-site.
Conclusion: Stop Worrying and Learn the Truth of Virtual Receptionists
As people become more comfortable with the idea of virtual receptionists, it is likely that many of the myths we have discussed will naturally fall away. But as the industry continues to mature, it is important to do your due diligence to ensure that your virtual reception firm meets the specific needs of your company.
With a little bit of prep work up front, you can find a team of virtual receptionists that can support your business from tiny beginnings all the way to the Fortune 500.