Does your business need a virtual receptionist or automated answering service? Since you’re reading this, the overall answer is probably yes! The more important question is what kind of automated answering or virtual receptionist service will be right for your business?
But let’s start at the beginning: why are virtual receptionists and answering services important at all?
It may (or may not) surprise you to learn that more than 72% of callers say they would rather hang up than leave a voicemail when calling a business. This could be a huge hit to your bottom line when the average small business misses around 12 calls per week.
One of the biggest impact and easiest activities that a business can implement is to simply determine how they can ensure that all calls are answered every time the phone rings.
Easier said than done, right?
Well one easy way to ensure that you never miss another business call is to use a virtual receptionist or automated answering system. In the rest of this article, we’ll cover the two different business solutions and help you figure out which one is right for yours.
Why Would a Business Need an Automated Phone Answering System or Virtual Receptionist?
A business typically finds that it needs an automated phone system or virtual receptionist when they grow to a point that the business owner is no longer able to work on growing their business due to the incoming call volume. It’s a dilemma that many small business owners face. You want to answer every incoming phone call as quickly as possible to ensure that you never miss a sale and are always providing the best service to your customers. However, you also need to devote your attention to the day-to-day operations of your business.
Since you can’t be in two places at once, you will need to bring on additional help to handle the phones while you get back to growing your business. Often, business owners have a difficult time giving up this part of their business. Or, perhaps, they don’t have the budget to hire a full time receptionist. That’s when a business like ours can step in to help.
What is an Automated Answering Service?
An automated answering service is just that: a basic software that will answer your phone calls with an automated script that will help a caller find the information they need. If you’ve ever called a business and gone through the “Press 1 for…” routine, you are familiar with these systems. Also called an IVR, or interactive voice response system, these are the most basic level of automated answering services and generally the first stop for many businesses that are researching a phone answering service since they are so widely used.
While these systems are often the cheapest of the answering services, typically, an automated phone answering system like this is best for much larger businesses with very complicated phone needs. For instance, banks often use these systems to help with self-service requests for customers with simple queries, such as checking bank balances, so that their in-house call center staff can be freed up to help callers with more complex questions.
When do Automated Answering Services Help Your Business the Most?
Automated answering systems excel when a company has either a very high call volume or when their callers have very simple needs that might be answered with a simple phone tree. Another good use of automated phone answering systems is when your business needs just a simple phone tree to direct the caller to a specific person internally, while publishing a single external business number.
If you have ever heard the term ‘auto-attendant’, this is just another term for an automated call answering service. If you are using Google Voice for your business and think that a very basic auto attendant is all that your business needs, they offer a free auto-attendant service that you can set up by following the instructions here: https://support.google.com/a/answer/9204988?hl=en
When Do Automated Business Answering Services Fall Short?
Where virtual answering machines tend to fall down, however, are when a business is more hands-on with their clients, or when each and every call matters. Automated systems tend to be the cheapest options on a per-call basis, but when a caller needs personal attention or when you need to capture lead information from a caller, they just don’t cut it. Since automated systems are, well, automated, by definition they just don’t have the personal touch or intuition that a human receptionist would have.
“When asked what the most frustrating aspect of a customer service experience is, over a third of U.S. respondents (34%) chose ‘Automated Telephone System (IVR)/inability to reach a live person for customer support.’” – Cathy Reisenwitz, 16 Call Center Stats to Help You Stay On Top of the Trends in 2018, Capterra
What is a Virtual Receptionist?
Virtual receptionists are real humans who manage your phones just like a member of your own team sitting in an office next to you. They can be thought of kind of like a fancy answering service with a human touch. A good one will be specialized to your industry and be able to help your callers with a MUCH higher level of service than any other type of professional phone answering service.
When Would a Virtual Receptionist Help Your Business the Most?
A virtual receptionist would be the best choice when you need to maintain a professional image to your callers while also being sure to capture inbound leads when you’re not available. The real advantage of a virtual receptionist over an automated phone answering service is that a virtual receptionist will be able to go the extra mile to take down a caller’s information, schedule appointments, and otherwise make sure that you capture the lead – while an automated answering service would do none of the above.
When Might a Virtual Receptionist Not be the Best Option?
If price is truly the biggest concern for your business, and you have a very high volume of calls that don’t require a human to answer, then a virtual receptionist may not be the best option. For some businesses, a simple, automated system is all that might be necessary. But those businesses are few and far between. Most small businesses will need a real human working the phones to ensure that your company is being presented in it’s best light while also making sure that your callers are being taken care of to the best of their ability.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an automated virtual receptionist. However, some businesses find that pairing a virtual receptionist with an automated answering service can be the best of both worlds. An automated system to handle the front lines, while a virtual receptionist handles calls that need a more personal touch.
So, is a virtual receptionist or automated answering service right for your business? Only you can definitively answer that. But hopefully, this post has helped you consider the various reasons why such a service could be a great option for you to help grow your business while also letting you get back to your life.
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