An answering service is a company that manages phone calls on behalf of another business. Although the definition is simple enough, there are different types of answering services. Virtual receptionist services are not the same as automated answering services, and one is likely a better fit for your business than the other. With that said, it’s important to learn the differences between the two before making a decision.
Below we’ll explain the reasons that business owners opt to partner with call answering services, and the differences between virtual receptionists and automated systems.
Do I need a call answering service?
If your business’ call volume has you feeling overwhelmed and you think you could benefit from working with an answering service, you are likely the perfect candidate. Here are some signs that it’s time to partner with a telephone answering service:
- Your phone is ringing faster than you can your staff can answer it
- Business leads are slipping through the cracks
- Customers are unsatisfied with the level of service they are receiving
- Your appointment book is unorganized, and you don’t have time to fix it
- You’re spending your nights and weekends answering business calls
- You have Spanish-speaking customers that you can’t effectively communicate with
- You’re about to launch a marketing campaign that will generate a spike in phone calls
- You’re about to enter your busy season and you’re feeling unprepared
- You would like to be able to service more customers and grow your business
How virtual receptionist services differ from automated answering services
Once you’ve determined that your business can benefit from working with an answering service, it’s time to educate yourself on the different options that are out there. Business owners have two main options when selecting the type of answering service they would like to work with:
- A virtual receptionist service, also known as a live answering service, provides trained live agents who work remotely to answer a business’ incoming calls.
- An automated phone answering service, also known as an interactive voice response (IVR) system, interacts with callers using voice or keyed-in responses.
To help you select the best answering service for your business, we’ll outline the key differences between the two:
- The human touch vs. a robot. Unlike automated phone services, live answering services enable callers to be assisted by a real, live human. If your business is one where callers especially need friendly, sympathetic, compassionate care, a virtual receptionist service is recommended. Some business types where this may apply include medical practices, funeral homes, and law offices.
- Basic vs. personalized assistance. If many of your callers have complex needs, the trained virtual receptionists at a live answering service will be the best fit. If most of your callers are looking for immediate assistance on simple matters, an automated answering service should be sufficient.
- Automated answering services are cheaper than live answering services. However, it’s worth noting that most customers would prefer to speak with a live person versus an automated system. If providing exceptional service is a top priority for your business, consider how many customers a virtual receptionist can help you win in the long run.