Workspaces are shrinking and offices are becoming increasingly virtual as more employees are being sent home to telecommute.

With this approach to work becoming the norm today rather than the rule, it’s really quite a surprise that you don’t have a virtual receptionist yet. Although a virtual receptionist can’t greet visitors to your physical office, chances are good that your visitors are popping by mostly via social media and Skype.

So what can a remote receptionist do for your business?

Like any service available through an answering service company, a remote receptionist can perform as many or as few functions as you request.

These are just a few of the most common you might encounter:

Call routing. If there are several people working in the same office (real or virtual), your remote receptionist can handle all your call routing. When someone calls your main number, they’ll be greeted by an operator, then forwarded on to the area that best meets their needs. If no one happens to be at their desk, your remote receptionist can send the caller to the intended person’s voicemail, or, if they allow, to their mobile phone.

Overflow call handling. When the main phone rings in the office, you try to answer it every time, but sometimes you’re with a customer or you’re on the other line. No worries, your remote receptionist can handle it just like they were there in person! You’ll never have to worry about another missed call or an on-hold caller hanging up and calling the competition. Although a remote receptionist might cost slightly more than an answering machine or voicemail, the sheer volume of calls they’ll save will more than pay for their expense.

Answering common questions. Certain types of businesses like retail shops lend themselves to calls about the same questions again and again. When callers simply want to know the store hours or the return policy, it’s easy to arm your remote receptionist with the right tools to answer those inquiries. Property managers and other service-based companies can even provide answers to common problems so customers aren’t charged needlessly for situations they could have fixed themselves.

Appointment setting. Many businesses run by appointment only, but it often takes them a great deal of time to set those appointments. That’s ok, your remote receptionist has this covered, too. Using software that can easily integrate with what you’re already using, they can take over some or all of your appointment setting, freeing you up for other jobs, like handling those appointments or designing more marketing materials to keep the phones ringing.

If your small business doesn’t have a remote receptionist yet, it’s time to get one. With most answering services that provide them, you’ll only pay for the time you use, so they’re significantly cheaper than hiring a full-time employee to watch the phones with the hopes they’ll ring. A remote receptionist can literally watch your business around the clock, too, allowing your customers expanded access to your business and giving you a more polished front, just like the bigger companies.