Answering services vs. virtual receptionists: Which is better for your business?

Answering service vs. virtual receptionist: side-by-side illustrations of two people answering the phone and chatting, communicating on behalf of small businesses, with checkmark and X comparison above

Customers are more demanding than ever, putting pressure on small businesses to be more responsive. First contact with customers is often over the phone, so most businesses need someone manning the lines at all times. Thus, businesses should decide whether to use an in-house receptionist, virtual receptionist, or answering service.

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, in-house receptionists can be cost-prohibitive—so let’s explore the options of virtual receptionists versus an answering service!

What is an answering service?

Answering services are pretty simple. They’re third-party companies that handle your incoming calls. That’s about it. They pick up the phone, give general responses to callers, and take messages (especially during off-hours or busy times when you need extra support).

What comes with an answering service?

Not much! Their main function is taking messages and passing them to your business later, so you can deal with them when it is convenient.

Some answering services offer basic call routing, meaning they redirect incoming calls to the appropriate person or department.

Answering services are typically available around the clock, so your business shouldn’t miss any calls. Some also offer emergency call handling, particularly for healthcare or property management-related businesses.

What does an answering service typically cost?

Answering service costs vary but can range from $50 to $450 per month or more.

Providers typically charge by the minute, so the price you’ll pay depends on the volume of calls. You’ll also pay more if you select optional additional features, though again these are quite limited.

What are some limitations of an answering service?

One of the biggest drawbacks to an answering service is the lack of a personal touch, as opposed to what an in-house or virtual receptionist can offer.

Beyond that, the largest disadvantage is the clearly limited scope that such services can provide. Again, they’re mainly restricted to taking messages and doing a bit of basic call routing.

Answering services simply aren’t designed for dealing with complex caller inquiries or issues. As a result, there’s a potential for costly miscommunications!

What is a virtual receptionist?

Think of a virtual receptionist as an in-house receptionist without the hassles. They do all the things an answering service does plus many of the vital tasks an in-house receptionist can do for your business, too!

What comes with a virtual receptionist?

Ruby virtual receptionists integrate seamlessly with your business, serving as an extension of your team.

They provide expert call handling 24/7, 365 days a year, can manage appointments, route calls, field general customer inquiries, and provide personalized customer service. They also screen spam callers and filter out time-wasting robocalls.

What does a virtual receptionist typically cost?

Ruby’s plans are priced to be a fraction of the expense of an average in-house receptionist salary, after adding employer cost. And we offer scalable pricing plans for businesses of all sizes, with bundled options that include live chat agents for your website!

What are the advantages of a virtual receptionist?

By design, virtual receptionists offer a far more interactive and tailored experience for callers than a simple answering service.

Using our proprietary system, our receptionists have instant access to all the information your business provides, so when they pick up a call, it’s like they are right there at your office. This helps to elevate your business’s image, conveying a stronger sense of being well-established and professional.

Our services can easily be scaled based on demand, so if you need a little extra help during a busy season, we’re there to ramp up with you! If things slow down, it’s a breeze to scale back as needed, to ensure cost-effectiveness.

Ruby integrates with many business software programs you may already be using—such as Clio, Zapier, Rocket Matter, MyCase, and Nextiva. These are just a few of the benefits you’ll get when you use Ruby!

In conclusion…

Answering service or virtual receptionist? It’s almost like comparing apples and oranges.

Or, looked at another way, you could say that where an answering service’s offerings end, a virtual receptionist is just getting started! Our virtual receptionists offer a more holistic, integrated, and personalized approach that translates into better customer engagement. This, in turn, can drive sales and boost your bottom line—something a message-taking service can’t provide.

Our flexible features and capabilities include:

  • 24/7 live answering
  • Mobile app notifications
  • Custom voicemail
  • Bilingual English/Spanish services
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Call forwarding
  • Robocall filtering
  • Outbound calling
  • Lead capture
  • Scheduling
  • Payment processing
  • Webforms
  • Number porting and hosting
  • HIPAA compliance
  • Answering FAQs

To learn more, check out Ruby’s comprehensive guide to virtual receptionists and discover what option is right for you!

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