Making the decision to hire an answering service can be a difficult one. After all, you’ve had your trusty answering machine or computerized menu tree for years and it’s always done the job — hasn’t it?

The fact is that up to 82 percent of your after-hours callers aren’t leaving messages because of your voicemail or answering machine, but they much more likely would if a live person had picked up the phone.

Beyond simply catching more calls, a live person provides these benefits for your customers:

Timely responses. When you get busy, your answering machine or voicemail suffers from loneliness — it’s true. The messages it has been carefully collecting for you may go unchecked for days, significantly slowing your response time to the customers who left them. If any of those messages were from customers in trouble, you’ll have a hard time rebuilding trust with them.

A virtual receptionist will not only weed out the customers simply wanting to leave a message from those in real trouble, she can also organize those messages into a neat and tidy call log that you can easily manage at the start of each day (or whenever you want to review it).

Empathetic ears. A customer with a late payment or other problems may be less likely to communicate with a computer system. After all, the coldness of that machine is the last thing these callers need in their time of trouble. Connecting to another human who can empathize with their situation, provide comfort and even suggest solutions is a great way to up your customer service points.

Simple, frustration-free answers. No matter when your customers call, they’re looking for a quick solution to their problems. Digging through menu after menu only leads to frustration, which can then lead to fewer customers. By providing your virtual receptionist team with the information it needs to help your customers with their basic requests, you can also lighten your own workload while providing immediate answers to common questions.

These points also apply to callers who try to contact you during or after a serious disaster. With a virtual assistant or emergency answering service team already in place, you’ll have someone who can give your callers basic instructions and reassure them that you’ll be back online in no time.

Consider your customers’ needs when you’re deciding on phone answering solutions. If you were calling a business, would you rather speak to a person or leave a message and hope someone actually returned your call? A live telephone answering service is one of the best investments you can make to retain current customers and even win new ones.