Tech-enabled virtual receptionist vs. automated phone service.

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Automated phone service vs live person

Before the technology boom, there was only one way to get your office phone answered—someone had to physically pick it up. These days you have plenty of options.

With phone trees, automated phone systems, and auto-attendants, you don’t even need a real person at your phone anymore. Or do you?

In the age of technology, human interaction is more valuable than ever. But that doesn’t mean technology doesn’t help. If you don’t want, or can’t afford, an in-house receptionist, you have two basic choices:

  1. An automated phone system
  2. A tech-enabled virtual receptionist

What works best? Technology or human? We’ve found that it’s often the marriage of technology and the human element that makes the biggest impact.

Automated phone answering system.

An automated answering service or interactive voice response system is a phone system that interacts with callers without a real human on the line. The entire phone call, or phone tree portion of the phone call, is done through interactions with a preset machine.

These systems vary, depending on what you’re looking for, but they have some general processes in common:

  1. Answer incoming call
  2. Play pre-recorded message
  3. Ask callers for their intent 
  4. Transfer caller or provide pre-recorded information.

Automated phone system strengths:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Customizable

Automated phone system weaknesses:

  • Lack of human interaction negatively impacts customer service
  • Inefficiency in automated systems can frustrate or confuse callers
  • Without regular oversight, there is a risk of undiscovered malfunctions

The bottom line: While automation may sound like a great idea, an automated phone system runs the risk of alienating you from your customers or a potential new customer, by putting a mechanical wall between them and you. It can save you money, but it also runs the risk of costing you priceless customers and time.

Tech-enabled virtual receptionist service.

A virtual receptionist service is a real, live receptionist answering the phone for your business and a key part of your business’ team and tech toolkit—but instead of working out of your office, they work out of their own. At Ruby, they’re located in Portland, Oregon.

Different virtual receptionist services offer different suites of features. Ruby Receptionists offers a full-suite of phone services including:

  • 100% live call answering
  • Spanish-speaking receptionists
  • message taking and voicemail boxes
  • call transferring
  • Intakes
  • sophisticated call-handling
  • feature-rich mobile app
  • outbound calling

While callers are taken care of by a real person, Ruby’s proprietary technology is providing the receptionist (and you!) the tools needed to provide the caller with the best possible experience. The greatest advantage of Ruby’s technology? Callers don’t even know that the receptionist doesn’t work in your office!

Get the guide.

Discover how a virtual receptionist service will help you boost your bottom line!


The biggest difference between an automated service and a virtual receptionist service is the way technology is used. With an automated service, you’re basically getting a robot. A virtual receptionist service, on the other hand, is technology-enabled, but still a real person. You get all the benefits of sophisticated technology, and your customers get to talk to a real, live human. A friendly voice on the other end of the line makes a great impression that will help you win business.

Virtual receptionist strengths:

  • Sophisticated virtual receptionist services allow for a high-level of customization
  • Receptionists provide callers with fantastic first-impressions

Virtual receptionist weaknesses:

  • More expensive than an automation system
  • Limited to the information you provide the receptionists
  • Services aren’t 24/7 the way an automated system could be

Discover everything there is to know about a virtual receptionist service!

What is right for you?

Business size, preferences, call volume, industry—all of these factors play an important role in choosing the right service for your unique business needs. If customer service is important to you, we always recommend providing callers with access to a real person instead of a robot (for more, check out our guide to the ROI of personal connections). It tells your customers that they’re important to you. It’s a small thing your business can do to make a great impression that turns callers into loyal customers.

Want to learn more about a virtual receptionist service? Learn more in our free ebook, What is a virtual receptionist?

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Missed connections translate to lost revenue. With Ruby, you have a partner in gaining and retaining customers. Plus, we’re so confident you’ll love our service, we offer a 21 day money-back guarantee*.

*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the cancelled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner.