What is a virtual receptionist? What does a virtual receptionist do? How does a virtual receptionist differ from an answering service or call center? What makes them “virtual,” exactly? And what are the benefits of a virtual receptionist for your business?
You’ve got questions—we’ve got answers. I could run through each question and give you a dry explanation, but it’s probably faster (and more fun to read) if I show you what a virtual receptionist does.
A call with a virtual Receptionist
Imagine this: You’ve just placed a call to a business. Let’s say it’s your local printer—you need fliers printed for a last-minute event. As the phone rings, your heart rate rises a bit with anticipation:
How long will this take?
What kind of customer service are you about to experience?
Will the person on the other end be able to help you? Are they going to answer?
Will you even be talking to a person, or are you about to encounter something else entirely—one of those automated systems that seems to offer every help option except for the one you need?
But then someone answers—a human being.
You tell Danielle about your last-minute order. She listens to your explanation, making you feel heard. When you ask about the printer’s hours, and a couple of basic FAQs, she has the answer ready. Then, she offers to transfer you directly to the sales manager.
You say sure, that sounds good.
Within a couple of minutes, you’ve had your questions answered, you got in contact with the sales rep, placed your order, and you never even had to talk to a robot. Customer service: complete.
Ready for a twist? Danielle isn’t actually located at ABC Printing’s offices, nor is she technically an employee of the company.
Danielle is a virtual receptionist.
Shocker, I know. “But she seemed so real!” you’re thinking. “She was able to handle the call so effectively!”
That’s because Danielle is real. (Well, she’s a fictional construct for this blog post, but you get the idea). And the reason she can seamlessly provide customer service for a company she doesn’t work at is that she’s been thoroughly trained to do it. Danielle is a human receptionist, the same as any professional who takes calls and coordinates other forms of business communication for a living. She’s “virtual” in the sense that—to a customer or client—she’s virtually identical to an on-site receptionist.
Over the phone, a virtual receptionist can do pretty much everything a conventional receptionist does, including…
- Answering calls
- Representing your business to callers
- Transferring calls
- Scheduling appointments
- Taking messages
- Collecting and relaying information on your behalf
- Making outbound calls
- Resolving basic customer/client issues
How virtual receptionists differ from other answering services.
A virtual receptionist is not…
- …a call center. Call centers are built for size and speed. They’re used by businesses that need to handle a high volume of low-complexity calls at once—as quickly as possible. In contrast to virtual receptionists, who provide personalized customer service experiences, call center agents typically work more or less exclusively from pre-written scripts. Call center teams are much larger than virtual receptionist teams (think 200 people versus 20) and tend to undergo less intensive training.
- …an interactive voice response system (IVR) or other automated solution. Again, don’t let the word “virtual” confuse you—virtual receptionists are living, breathing humans. They can understand more than button presses and programmed conversation strings, and they can do more than transfer a caller or offer rudimentary self-service assistance. Virtual receptionists adapt their approaches to every context and caller, meaning they can handle urgent requests on the fly and work around unforeseen obstacles.
The benefits of a virtual receptionist
Given the premium customers place on personal connections, as well as the ways in which excellent customer service is a key differentiator, practically any business can benefit from having a virtual receptionist available to answer calls. Indeed, recent customer service trends suggest phone calls are more important than ever.
That said, virtual receptionists are especially advantageous for small and growing businesses. Consider a few reasons why:
Virtual receptionists can answer calls when you’re busy. Your time is valuable. Don’t let incoming calls get in the way of your and your team’s productivity. A virtual receptionist can engage with prospects, handle customer issues and inquiries, and collect critical information when you’re otherwise preoccupied.
Virtual receptionists can answer calls when you’re closed. Not every call comes in during the bounds of normal working hours. Rather than allowing potential sales opportunities go to voicemail or sacrificing your personal time (and sanity) attempting to make yourself available, leverage the flexibility virtual receptionist services provide.
Virtual receptionists can help your business save money. You don’t need to hire a full-time, on-site receptionist to ensure excellent customer service. Virtual receptionists can fulfill the same role at a fraction of the cost of hiring and training an employee.
Virtual receptionists can increase your customer satisfaction rates. Human connections increase customer loyalty. Report after report bears this out. For instance, Invoca found that 80% of consumers are likely or very likely to become a repeat customer after a positive phone experience.
Ruby’s virtual receptionists
At Ruby, our live virtual receptionist services stand apart for the quality of our team and the depth of our platform. Over 10,000 business owners have trusted our virtual receptionists to represent them and their companies. And with an average 20% increase in sales inquiries and customer service satisfaction among Ruby customers, as well as 2–3 times quantifiable return on investment, it’s easy to see why.