Live answering and virtual receptionists: What’s the difference?
Live telephone answering services and virtual receptionists are popular solutions among businesses that struggle with handling incoming calls. If you’ve been looking into such a solution yourself, however, you’ve probably wondered, “What exactly is the difference between them?”
Technically, live answering is a broad category that includes virtual receptionist services. In more practical terms, though, it usually refers to simple message-taking or call transferring services. Virtual receptionists can be more flexible, handling a wider range of tasks.
Live answering services
In a basic live answering setup, phone operators take incoming calls in your business name and respond to customers according to a script. In most cases, this script covers getting basic caller information and taking a message, which they then relay to your business.
Behind the scenes, live answering services can look quite different. Some might be small outfits of remote workers. Most, however, will operate out of call centres. Companies might have teams based in the countries they cater too, while others might have their teams based overseas.
As the term suggests, a virtual receptionist can perform most of the tasks of their non-virtual counterparts. This includes answering common questions, scheduling appointments, sending reminders and patching calls or relaying messages.
Many virtual receptionists work out of offices, but there are some that work remotely from home, as well. As with other live answering operators, they might be based in the same country as their clients or they might work overseas.
Which should you choose?
Your choice will depend on what gap you’re trying to fill in your office. If your main concern is making sure calls get answered, a live answering service would be a cost-effective, scalable way of doing so. On the other hand, if you need someone who can resolve simple queries or tasks on their own, a virtual receptionist service would be the better choice.
Here are some cases where one may work better than the other. If any of these match your situation, you can use it as a springboard for looking into answering solutions.
- Start-ups or small/medium businesses with limited staff
- Businesses that rely on phone calls for a significant portion of their leads
- Businesses that get lots of calls outside their usual office hours
- Remote workers or tradesmen who don’t spend much time in a fixed office
- Small businesses that handle a lot of appointments over the phone (e.g. independent clinics, professional services, real estate agencies)
- Growing businesses that need receptionist services, but don’t have the budget for a full-time staff
- Small teams that require receptionist services but don’t work in a centralised office
Get an expert opinion
Live answering services vary from provider to provider and even a single company might offer a wide range of customisation. Be sure to research each option thoroughly to see what matches your business.