So you want to know about virtual receptionist services? I can’t blame you! Between answering services, virtual receptionists, in-house receptionists, and virtual assistants, it’s easy to get confused about just how virtual receptionist services work.
But we’re going to change that today! We’ll do a quick run-through of what is a virtual receptionist service, an explanation of what a virtual receptionist can do, how much a virtual receptionist costs, and then finally just how a virtual receptionist service works.
Sound good? Then let’s dive in!
What is a Virtual Receptionist Service?
The easiest explanation is that a virtual receptionist service provides your company with a receptionist that isn’t located in-office. When someone calls your business, it seems like you have an in-office receptionist – but you actually have a trained receptionist handling the work virtually, saving you time, effort, and money.
When a caller dials your business phone number, their call will be answered by one of our professional virtual receptionists who will ask a few questions to learn about your caller’s issues and best decide how to help them. This might be accessing your calendar to schedule an appointment with you, transferring them to you or a member of your team, or taking down their information and sending those details to you for a call back.
We handle your phone calls, both in-bound and outbound, so that you can get back to building your business and helping your clients without worrying about losing leads due to missed phone calls.
Here at Donna Digital, our goal is to provide a virtual receptionist service so good that no one ever knows we’re not located in your office. Now, obviously, we would tell them that we’re virtual if they asked, but the goal is that we take care of your callers with a friendly and helpful demeanor such that they never even think to ask.
We have a small team of agents who will be able to get to know your business and your clients. A traditional answering service will not have any familiarity with your business or frequent callers due to how they are set up and structure their teams.
Time-sensitive situations are typically out of the scope for a traditional answering service. They will take down the information and tell the caller that someone will get back to them. Meanwhile the caller goes on to the next name on their list.
A high-quality virtual receptionist company will go the next step of taking down the callers information and schedule an appointment with you (if able), thus capturing the lead that you would have otherwise lost.
What Can a Virtual Receptionist Do?
Now that you have an understanding of what a virtual receptionist service is, let’s talk about some of the services that are available. Each virtual receptionist company offers different services and has different price points, so having an understanding of what a company can offer will be critical to finding the right one for your business.
Here’s what a virtual receptionist can do for your business:
1. Take Inbound Calls
- Take a message on the caller’s behalf
- Transfer the caller to the appropriate employee or department depending on the caller’s needs
- Answer questions based on what you want us to answer. This is usually done through an FAQ or other knowledge base that you provide us. Over time, your dedicated agents will be able to speak from memory as they get to know your business.
- Screen calls so that solicitors don’t get through and act as a gatekeeper.
2. Cold or “Blind” Transfer
This is when a call comes in and the caller asks for someone at your business, and the call is transferred directly to you or your team without checking to see if they’re available to take the call. Some clients prefer this method as we are able to screen out solicitors, but otherwise let all calls go through to you during business hours.
3. Warm Transfer
A warm transfer is when a call comes in and the caller asks for someone at your company and our agent puts the caller on hold in order to reach out to you before transferring the call. Based on your availability at that moment, our agent will then either: connect the call if you or your team are available, or will go back to the caller to let them know that you are currently unavailable and will take a message on your behalf, which will then be sent to you for review.
4. Message Taking/Voicemail
This is one of our client’s favorite services at Donna Digital Receptionists. In the event that you are unable to accept a call during business hours, our team of crack virtual receptionists will take a detailed message from the caller and send them to you via email so that you can triage and return the call on your own time.
Should a caller try calling outside our normal hours of 8am-8pm Central Time, they will get your professional voicemail message. These will be noted each morning and sent to you via email for review. Clients on our Plus plan will also have their voicemails transcribed and delivered each morning via email to review on their own time.
The ability to schedule appointments is one of the key differences between a virtual receptionist company and a call answering service. While an answering service will simply take a message from callers, a virtual receptionist company will be able to take it one step further and actually schedule appointments on behalf of our clients (provided that you give us access to your calendar).
Pair this service with our outbound calling capabilities and we can proactively schedule appointments before your client even calls in!
6. Outbound Calls
Simply answering the phone for you should help take away most of the growing pains in your business, but what about the other half of the equation? You’re in luck!
A good virtual receptionist company will be able to handle outbound calling in addition to inbound calls. Need to verify if a form was filed with your county courts? Done. Need to verify the time of a title closing? No problem. Simply email the details to your receptionist and they can take care of the rest.
It is important to make the distinction that we are not a cold calling or telemarketing service. Just imagine the tasks that you would ask of an in-office receptionist and then you’re likely on the right track.
7. Other Services
Some virtual receptionist companies also offer other services, such as chat, email, or customer service. These services go well beyond the typical virtual receptionist duties and start to blend into outsourced customer service. If this is something that your business requires, you should make sure that the receptionist service that you are considering offers this.
How Much Do Virtual Receptionists Cost?
Most virtual receptionist services charge either on a per-minute or per-call basis. Many will charge a base rate per month which comes with a certain allotment of minutes you have available, and then will charge ‘overage fees’ for each minute used that goes over your monthly allotment. Typical per-minute charges at other companies range from $0.75-$1.50 per minute.
Here at Donna Digital, we decided that this wasn’t a fair model for our clients. We know you’ll either not use as many minutes as you get with one of those pre-set options – or you’ll go over and end up paying a lot more. We did away with per-minute charges and simply have flat monthly pricing that you can count on and budget for month after month – no overage fees, ever!
Whoever you choose, a reputable company will be able to provide a full schedule of all the fees that they will charge you per month.
How Do I Set Up a Virtual Receptionist Service?
Finally, setting up a virtual receptionist service is one of the easiest parts of the whole process and is very simple from the client end:
- Tell us about your business
- Forward your number
- We handle the rest!
Once you decide to sign up, we will send you a new client welcome packet that will include all the information you will need to get started. We will also have you fill out a quick questionnaire that helps us understand your business. Included in this process will be a shiny new forwarding number that will be unique to you.
Based on your specific phone provider, the exact process may look a little different. But the general process will be something like this:
- Either call or log in to your phone provider’s administration website
- Locate your forwarding options
- Set the forwarding number to the unique number that we assigned you
- Decide if you want all calls to go to us, or if you only want them to be forwarded after a certain number of rings or during certain hours of the day. If you have a phone tree set up, you may want to only forward certain extensions.
- Relax, knowing that your phone calls are being handled in a professional manner while you get back to your business or life.
Your virtual receptionists actively listen and learn from your callers to determine their specific needs. After each call, we will jot down the pertinent details and send you a call summary email so that you can take action as required.
It’s as simple as that!
What Happens When Our Office is Closed or I’m Out-of-Office?
What if you want to take some time away from the office? How do virtual receptionist services work when you take a vacation?
We certainly hope that you get to book some vacation time in the near future, and a good virtual receptionist will absolutely be able to help you out with this. Most virtual receptionist companies will either have a proprietary app or assign you a dedicated account manager that you will be able to use to log ‘away’ time. This could be anything from a long business lunch where you want some quiet time, to a month long holiday.
In either case, you simply notify your virtual receptionist company that you will be unavailable and specify how you would like calls to be handled. Usually, clients will either direct their receptionist to take messages and provide them a digest of calls for shorter absences, or will designate another member of their team as the point of contact until they return for longer trips.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how a virtual receptionist company works and whether they might be a good option for your business! There are so many options out there that you can always find an option that is a good fit for your business. Just determine what factors and receptionist services are most important for you and take your time to find a company that is a good fit for your business.
Ready to learn more about how a virtual receptionist can help you grow your business?