Professionals everywhere are looking for better and more efficient ways to do business, whether they’re in the legal, real estate, retail or other fields.

Slow sales and budget cuts mean offices are running on increasingly limited staff, so when work increases, it can be hard to keep up. When the phone’s ringing off the hook and you simply can’t answer it, what’s a business owner to do?

Hiring another employee means paying for more equipment, more space and often, paying for someone who isn’t doing anything in particular when the flurry of activity is over. An answering service can do many of these same jobs, acting as a virtual extension of your real office. It can also allow a solopreneur to give the appearance of a real office even if they are working out of their home. 

These are just a few ways that answering services can act as virtual offices:

Call answering. No matter what time of day it is, you can have a bank of people on staff to answer the calls that are coming in. Unlike a receptionist that can only handle one call at a time, a team of virtual receptionists can take several calls simultaneously during the busy part of your day and manage the calls that trickle in after hours. Your customers will appreciate not being forced to talk to a machine.

Appointment setting. A reliable appointment setter has to be extremely organized and linked to your calendar in real time — it’s a job that talented people make look easy. Answering services keep client appointments organized, even if one client needs to change an appointment many times. With answering scheduling services, you won’t have to worry about losing the Post-It you wrote that appointment time down on, either, with the software integration these services provide.

Customer service. You can turn your answering service company into your personal customer service bank if you can provide the information needed to service your clients over the phone. From passing along rental information to giving technical advice, your answering service can quickly become a second-to-none customer service team.

Message forwarding. It’s great to have someone answering the phone, but it’s also important that people who need you right away are able to reach you. Through message forwarding and message relay services, you get the messages from your urgent callers right away, instead of having to wait for the morning’s call log. Those hours can make a big difference to customer satisfaction, even if it’s not a big emergency.

Disaster call management. As much as we hate to think about it, disasters happen — and businesses have to be prepared. Your customers rely on you to help them maintain a sense of normalcy and reassure them that everything’s going to be ok in tough times. When you can’t get to the phone, your answering service can provide the answers your customers are looking for, reschedule appointments and give everyone a sense that an end of the chaos is in sight.

In the Internet Age, professionals are increasingly working from home or in smaller offices in tandem with their team of virtual employees. A virtual office can help you handle an increase in workflow by managing the day-to-day chores like answering the phone and setting appointments.