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What do you need to look for in a Virtual Receptionist?

November 16, 2011

What are virtual receptionists?  Virtual receptionists are employees that work in an office other than you own. They are usually equipped with high-tech Computer Telephone Integration Software, and are trained by you to act as an in-house receptionist would.

Virtual receptionists are different from a call center or an answering service. A virtual receptionist is trained specifically on your company. She can transfer calls to you, take messages, schedule appointments, return calls, perform customer fulfillment tasks, as well as any other function an in-house receptionist would do. She is also available to complete all sorts of administrative work.  For example, she can be responsible for anything from word pressing, data entry, presentations, binding, organizing your CRM, to sending out documents.

Choosing a virtual receptionist is as important as hiring an in-house receptionist. They will be the first impression most people will have of your company.  You want to make sure that they are a right fit for you and your company. It is important to look for the following qualities:

  • Are you able to meet with the receptionist(s) handling your calls, so you can judge if they are a right fit for you and your business?
  • Is the receptionist equipped with the tools they need to be able to answer you calls accurately and professionally?
  • Are they able to be trained or retrained quickly and easily if you have a new procedure or instruction for them?
  • Can you hear their smile over the phone? Their voice is the first impression your potential clients are going to hear.  Make sure that the person sounds professional and happy to be doing their job.
  • When questions are asked do they have the ability to answer them and move through the call without hesitation? Make sure to evaluate the execution of the call.
  • Are they prompt in answering your calls? It is very important that you never miss a call! See to it that the receptionist is prompt in call answering and can get the caller the information they need so that the caller will be satisfied with the call.
  • Do they have access to your schedule?  Having someone that can schedule, reschedule and confirm your appointments can free up your time.  Also, confirming appointments secure a better success rate.

What are the cost benefits of hiring a virtual receptionist versus hiring an in-house receptionist? According to payscale.com , the average cost for an in-house receptionist is $27,821.50 annually.  Not to mention the cost of office equipment, furniture, phones, space, benefits, and employee taxes, which all together could cost an additional $16,000 a year!  A Virtual Receptionist costs typically $1900 to $3600 a year.

Why should you hire a virtual receptionist instead of answering your calls yourself?  First, you are usually not able to answer every call; there will be times where you will be meeting with a client, traveling, or you may have a family commitment, and so answering your phone will not be possible. With a virtual receptionist, you can guarantee that all of your calls are answered. Another good reason to consider having a virtual receptionist is the ability to set boundaries with your clients and callers.  If clients have direct access to you at all times, they begin to call after hours, or at moments when it is not convenient for you to talk to them. Having a virtual receptionist will help you funnel your calls during normal business hours, and will enable you to distinguish between those you would like to speak with immediately, and will allow you time to get back to others when it is convenient for you. Also, filtering your calls so that you do not have to speak to unwanted solicitors will save you time and a headache. Time is another factor to consider. Think about how many times you are interrupted by calls in your day – you will realize that you can be more productive if you are just given the opportunity to focus on your tasks instead of answering the phone. Also, personal time is great reason to consider hiring a virtual receptionist.  At some point, you are going to want or need to take some time off.  With a virtual receptionist you can take a vacation and rest assured that someone you trust is there to answer the phones and handle client inquires while you are away.

When it comes down to hiring an in-house receptionist, a virtual receptionist, or doing it all yourself, you will see that a virtual receptionist offers the least amount of cost, risk, and headache, as well as giving you the opportunity to grow your business.

Alexis Daly, Sales Manager at 317 Virtual Services, LLC. 

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