What is a Virtual Receptionist?

virtual receptionistAdministrative workers have changed titles a lot through the years. From front desk executive to receptionist, information clerk to office assistant, there’s no shortage of vocational descriptions worthy of these professionals. The roles of administrative workers change constantly, evolving to fit the duties thrust upon them. In the digital era, it’s no surprise that many such roles have become virtual in nature.

Over the last few years, a new type of administrative role has entered the field: virtual receptionists. So what is a virtual receptionist? A virtual receptionist is a real person that performs many of the same job functions as a traditional receptionist, including phone answering, appointment scheduling, and call routing.

What’s the difference between a traditional administrative worker and a virtual receptionist? A traditional receptionist sits in your office and is employed by your company whereas a virtual receptionist works from a remote location (usually a call center) and is an outsourced service provider.

You can typically hire a virtual receptionist service to cover your phone around the clock, answering your calls long after an in-house employee would head home for the day. Of course, the savings are also noteworthy – virtual receptionists are often far more affordable than hiring an in-house administrative employee.

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What Does a Virtual Receptionist Do?

To better understand what a virtual receptionist is, it helps to know what it is they do on a daily basis. A virtual receptionist often works an 8 hour shift like most other people. Line up three virtual receptionists in a row, and you’ve got phone coverage 24 hours a day. Businesses who use a virtual receptionist service generally have a few different receptionists handling their calls. If one is busy with a customer when another call comes in, a different receptionist picks up the phone so that callers are never left waiting.

Since most businesses value a consistent, professional, branded phone experience, virtual receptionists work from an intuitive script. This script guides them through the entire call, no matter what the caller may be dialing in regards to. Clients work with their virtual receptionist service to create a customized, ideal script. Receptionists train and get familiar with new accounts and any nuances they may contain. These scripts reflect the policies, procedures, and preferred verbiage used by a specific organization.

Once all the steps are built out and they are comfortable with the script, virtual receptionists begin to take calls on behalf of clients. In many cases, when it comes to US-based virtual receptionists, callers have no idea they’re speaking to someone who isn’t physically sitting in the office they called. Virtual receptionists aim to provide a seamless client experience.

Here are some of the tasks that virtual receptionists are able to perform:

  • Phone call answering
  • Share basic information with callers
  • Take/relay messages
  • Schedule appointments
  • Screen calls
  • Transfer/route calls
  • Pre-qualify sales leads and potential clients
  • Help customers place orders

In some cases, virtual receptionists even offer technological support. Basic troubleshooting can be included in any call script. This option is tremendously helpful for callers confused about how to use their new device or service. Because virtual receptionists work around the clock, your customers will never be left waiting for traditional business hours to get the help they need.

What’s the Difference Between a Virtual Receptionist and an Answering Service?

Virtual receptionists and answering services have a lot of similarities. However, there are a few subtle differences. Some organizations opt to hire an answering service over a virtual receptionist, because their requirements are fairly basic. They just want a live person to answer their phone, reassure their caller that they are a priority, take a message, and deliver it to the right person. Pretty simple.

Those who opt for a virtual receptionist service often require a bit more complexity in their call handling, which may include some of the tasks bulleted earlier. Realistically, a virtual receptionist often provides an answering service with the capabilities to go above and beyond.

Both options offer stellar customer service experiences. These services each enable you to make sure every call is answered quickly by a real person, which puts your callers at ease. By not putting them on hold or sending them to voicemail, they are far, far less likely to hang up and dial a competitor.

Basically, a virtual receptionist service is a more involved version of an answering service. Many companies find that their call handling requirements are met by some version of these services.

How to Set Up Your Virtual Receptionist Service

If you’re considering setting up a virtual receptionist service for your office, there are a few things to know upfront. Check to understand exactly what you’re getting; if you require 24-hour coverage, for example, you’ll want to make sure the package you select includes around the clock availability. Not all virtual receptionist services are available 24/7, so make sure to ask.

Also, be thinking of the policies and procedures you’d like your virtual receptionist to follow. If a caller asks for you by name, for instance, would you prefer the receptionist transfer the call or take a message? Are you open to taking calls when you’re in the field, and if not, how do you prefer your calls to be routed? Understanding your preferences and limitations can help guide your decision-making process.

Your virtual receptionist service will include an account manager that can walk you through other considerations when you set up your partnership. They will work with you to create a customized call script and learn about your organization’s goals. Ultimately, a virtual receptionist will work to provide the kind of customer service experience you’d provide every time – if only you had the time!

Give MAP a Try Today

Virtual receptionists bring true value to businesses large and small. If you’ve been curious about how such a service would fit into your professional lifestyle, consider trying MAP on for size. Employee-owned and operated in the United States, MAP has three decades of experience providing virtual receptionist services to our clients across the country (and beyond).

New clients can give MAP a try by signing up for a free, week-long trial of our live receptionist service. It’s a fantastic preview of the kind of assistance we can bring to your team. Get started now by giving us a call or filling out this form!

Related articles you might be interested in:

Five Ways a Virtual Receptionist Frees Up Your Schedule

Deciding Between an In-House and a Virtual Receptionist for Your Business

Incorporating a Virtual Receptionist into Your Business Strategy