Owning a small business means juggling a lot of jobs, including answering the phone.

Although responding to customers is one of the most important things you can do to build your business, you can easily spend the bulk of your day doing nothing but that and letting other important tasks, like marketing or reordering inventory, go by the wayside.

It doesn’t always pay to hire a full-time employee just to catch the phone calls that come in waves, but no one really wants to talk to your voicemail. There’s a middle ground, though: hiring an answering service. Not only will having a virtual receptionist give your customers and callers that same warm feeling you wish you could always provide, but the services will be provides with the highest levels of efficiency, professionalism and, yes, friendliness.

A live answering service isn’t for every business, but a good one can help solve a number of challenges that many businesses face, including:

Providing customer support 24 hours a day. You can’t always be there to answer the phone, no matter how dedicated you are to your business and customers. Having an answering machine or voicemail to catch messages isn’t much better, though, since more and more people are refusing to leave a message at the tone. Having an answering service available 24/7/365 means that there will always be a friendly voice to greet your callers, help them feel more comfortable leaving messages or asking questions and get them what they need quickly and smoothly.

Handling common problems without interrupting the flow of business. Providing your answering service with instructions to help handle common calls can save you time and money. When someone calls to ask about your business hours or returns policy, your answering service will provide that information without having to get you involved. They can even give scripted advice in response to problems frequently encountered by apartment tenants or provide legal clients information on what paperwork they’ll need to bring with them to their appointment.

Re-routing calls to a designated emergency number. Answering every phone call that comes in after-hours on the off chance that one will be an emergency is a recipe for big time burnout. Instead, you can have your virtual receptionist field all of the standard calls and contact you or a designated person in case of an emergency. This way, you don’t have to sweat all the small stuff and can really relax during your “off” time.

Generating an organized log for call-backs. Making a list of callers from your voicemail can be an arduous job, especially when you’d rather be doing anything but. By routing calls through your answering service partner, you’ll receive a tidy log of callers, their needs and phone numbers that you can quickly check off as you contact. Being this organized gives you the chance be very responsive to customer needs, since you’ll return calls more promptly and not forget a particular message you might have scribbled on the back of the napkin left over from your lunch.

There are many challenges that hiring an answering service can solve quickly and affordably, no matter what your size or type of business. Legal answering services and medical answering services are specially trained to keep your clients’ information confidential and secure, as well as being a friendly voice on the other end of the phone.