Find the best type of receptionist for your business

What's the difference between an in-house receptionist, an answering service, and a virtual receptionist? Find out here in our comprehensive guide.

If you want your business to stay competitive, you need to offer excellent customer experiences, every time. U.S consumers are willing to spend 17% more to do business with companies that deliver excellent service, up from 14% in 2014. What’s more, feeling unappreciated is the #1 reason customers switch away from products and services. The most impactful way you can improve the customer experience for your audience is by making sure you have solid support staff. By taking the time to invest in creating a smooth, cohesive experience for your customers, you show them that you value them. A crucial piece of your support staff is a receptionist. You need someone to answer your phones, schedule appointments, and generally, serve as the first point of contact for all customers. (You might think this isn’t as important if you don’t have a receptionist at your front desk, but 68% of people still contact customer service by phone. First impression matters everywhere.) In the past, your only option would be to try to fulfil this role yourself or hire an in-house receptionist. Now, you have options with the rising popularity of outsourcing. But what exactly do those options look like, and what effect will they have on your business? What's the difference between an answering service and a virtual receptionist?

In-House Receptionist

The Pros

Your most traditional option, an in-house receptionist is able to greet customers at the front desk, take calls and messages, and work during your office hours. One true benefit of an in-house receptionist is that in-person greeting, which clients really do appreciate.

The Cons

Unfortunately, the benefits truly stop there. The average annual salary of a receptionist in the United States is $35,800. This might not seem unreasonable, but you have to consider all hidden costs. Training, vacation time, sick leave, and other benefits like medical and 401k matching all add up, fast.Another problem with an in-house receptionist is the fact that they only work during regular office hours. Depending on your industry, your clients are calling at all times and need immediate assistance or answers, or they’re moving on to the competition.

The Outcome

If you only have an in-house receptionist, they’re only available during regular business hours. It’s difficult to scale to meet your needs in a cost-efficient manner with entirely in-house staff. And because they are often expected to double up on duties like office management, they may miss calls. In-house reception might be the right option for you, but more likely than not, it’s going to cost you.

Answering Service

The next option is a call answering service.

The Pros

An answering service is straightforward: it’s a company that takes calls for your business. An answering service is the cheapest option on the market, and this is a big benefit for companies trying to cut costs.

The Cons

However, those costs have to be cut from somewhere, and over time, your company will feel it. Answering services are frequently outsourced overseas, which can result in poor audio quality, miscommunication, and unnecessary call escalation. Answering services also aren’t specialized. They are able to take calls and simple messages, but their agents aren’t trained in specific industries. If your clients are asking industry-specific questions, they won’t get the answers they need.

The Results

Answering services are also not going to be able to schedule appointments or integrate with your CRM. While these features aren’t strictly necessary for all businesses, they would normally be covered by an in-house receptionist. The results of hiring an answering service are mixed. When it comes to customer service, you truly get what you pay for. You’ll be getting your phones answered for cheap, but you also might miss opportunities due to communication issues, language barriers, and incorrect escalation. You also won’t have the opportunity to schedule appointments or integrate with existing tech.

Virtual Receptionist

Your next option is to utilize a virtual receptionist service. A virtual receptionist is an elevated alternative to an answering service-- they perform the same functions as an in-house receptionist while operating remotely in a call center. Most quality virtual receptionist services are located in the United States, and many have bilingual answering available as well.

The Pros

A virtual receptionist service can do everything an in-house receptionist does, at 1/10th of the cost. You can also find a service that offers answering 24/7/365, so your clients never have to seek out your competition and you never miss another opportunity. Virtual receptionists also offer customized scripting, industry-specific training, and call transferring and escalation. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive solution, a virtual receptionist is the right choice for you.

The Cons

Remember how we said you get what you pay for? That’s the same case with virtual receptionists. When looking at outsourced options, virtual receptionists are definitely more expensive than answering services. Be careful when pricing out virtual receptionists. A lot of services will charge premium prices without offering premium benefits. If a service is hitting the top of your budget and doesn’t offer features like 25/7/365 coverage, you should keep looking.

The Results

A virtual receptionist can transform your business’ success. If you’re looking for a quality but cost-effective service to enhance your customer experience, a virtual receptionist is what you need.

Move Forward with the Right Support

In-house receptionists, answering services, and virtual receptionists all have their benefits and drawbacks. The important thing is that your team gets the level of support they need. If that means a low-cost option with limited function or in-house support only during business hours, so be it.Overall, the best option when considering both price and quality is a virtual receptionist. You need a service that works as hard as you do. To see how other businesses have utilized virtual receptionists, read more here.

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