Even though we live in a digital and social media age, there’s still a lot to be said about a business by the way it answers its phone.

While many small businesses and solo entrepreneurs rely on answering services to help them speak with customers, many others turn to voicemail systems to take incoming calls.

So which is better – answering services or voicemail systems? The answer really comes down to the type of experience that you want to create for your customers.

Here are some things to consider:

Both answering services and voicemail systems offer call coverage when you can’t be there.

Working with either system is a good solution if you’re not at your desk during business hours. If you’re in an industry that has you and the team out in the field for most of the day, it’s critical that there’s a reliable system to pick up the phone. Both options ensure that your calls are received.

Voicemail systems automate the incoming call process.

When you use a voicemail system, your calls are routed directly to an automated greeting that you may or may not be able to customize. This hands-off approach can be convenient for some businesses that don’t need to provide customer service and just need a reliable way to take incoming messages. However, callers may be more likely to hang up on a voicemail service than if they were greeted by a live operator.

Answering services can screen and route calls properly.

Unless you have a very fast and responsive voicemail service tree, all of your incoming calls are going to one inbox. This means that you and your team need to spend time sorting through calls and deciding which actions need to be taken. Urgent calls can get mixed in with the mundane, and leave the customers dissatisfied. In addition, new leads could get frustrated and find someone else to serve them before they get a call back from your office. With a live answering service, your virtual receptionist can screen the calls and decide whether they need to be escalated to someone right away or sent to voicemail.

Answering services can offer lead intake and nurturing processes to grow your business.

If your business doesn’t get new leads over the phone, or doesn’t really want to offer increased customer service, then a voicemail system can be a good fit. Otherwise, an answering service can help you take in new leads and provide lead nurturing that automation can’t possibly do. A live receptionist can collect intake information and answer basic questions about your business that a voicemail system simply cannot do.

The conclusion? While voicemail can be a good start to a basic phone system, companies that are on the grow need live answering services.