Want to grow your small business? Here are 5 ways a Virtual Receptionist might help
Anybody who has visited a customer-facing business, can't underestimate the vital role of a receptionist. The receptionist is the first person that visitors get to meet as they enter the premises. Whether the visitor is a lead who wants to find out more about your services, a returning client, or an applicant coming to a job interview, the receptionist represents your brand and company. As such, the reception area is a lot more than a waiting room. It is designed to be a welcoming space that makes your visitors feel at ease. Consequently, it's not uncommon for large organizations to work closely with an interior designer to manage the reception area. Making a positive first impression is hard work. We all know visitors are sensitive not only to the attitude of the people they meet – aka your receptionist – but also to the decor of their surroundings. It's not uncommon for visitors to wait several minutes in the reception area until their appointment is ready. Needless to say, elements of decor can share the business messaging, personality, and overall feel.
But when you run a small business, you don't have the opportunity to build a reception room for your clients, let alone hire a receptionist. However, you could consider the services of a virtual receptionist who will be supporting your team's success.
What does a virtual receptionist do?
A virtual receptionist is an outsourced professional who can handle incoming calls for your business. Just like an in-house receptionist manages calls from the reception desk, a virtual receptionist can provide the same service, but from another office. Additionally, a virtual receptionist relies on innovative call handling technology to manage incoming calls, forwarding, and other call management operations.
It's important to understand that a virtual receptionist is not a hired talent within your business. On the contrary, modern virtual receptionists sit in a call center facility where they work as a team of call operatives. Skilled telephone agents, they understand how to manage callers' expectations, handle difficult phone situations, and communicate clearly and politely with every lead on the phone.
If, as a small business owner, you are still considering the pros and cons of a virtual receptionist investment, here are the top 5 reasons why a virtual receptionist can bring your company to the next level.
#1. A virtual receptionist makes a positive impression
Just because you run a small business, it doesn't mean you can't compete against big names. Therefore, looking the part can be detrimental to winning customers over. However, even with the best intentions at heart, your staff is not trained to handle phone calls. Their area of expertise lies elsewhere. They are dedicated professionals who know how to do the work, but they may lack the skills to answer the phone confidently.
We all know how things can be for a small team. Your people are overworked. They try to juggle multiple work projects at the same time. As a result, time is of the essence. Therefore, their phone manners can suffer from the pressure they feel. Someone who picks up the phone in the middle of the workday doesn't think of saying a greeting message. Your callers need to know they've reached a business; otherwise, they might think they've misdialed and called a residential home.
Additionally, even if your employees make a point of greeting their interlocutors with a brief presentation message, everybody may be tempted to inject their personal touch. Where a large organization uses a pre-recording greeting message that is played at the beginning of each call, your small business relies on your employees to agree on the same message. Unfortunately, this can affect your professional image over the phone. Nerves, a sense of urgency, or inattention can cause one greeting to morph into many. All these different messages can influence your callers' perception of the brand.
A virtual receptionist can handle these issues for you, ensuring every caller knows exactly where they are. It might sound like a little detail, but it always makes a positive impression on your audience. A lot of your prospective customers can be put off by the absence of a corporate branding when someone picks up their calls. They want to feel like they're calling a real and professionally established business, which is precisely what a virtual receptionist can make happen for you.
#2. You are saving valuable time
We have a lot of respect for small businesses. Teams are not afraid to work hard to meet customers' expectations. You can't afford to waste time. Therefore, excellent time management is detrimental to your success. However, managing everyday calls, while being essential to your business operations, can be time-demanding. You can't afford to drop everything you're doing every time the phone is ringing. Even if the call is only a quick inquiry, it can take up to 20 minutes for an employee to recover from an interruption and go back to work. It doesn't take more than a handful of calls during the day to affect your productivity dramatically. Calls are, ultimately, disruptive, even though you can't afford to miss them.
The average customer call lasts approximately 6 minutes. A lot of small businesses assume that every employee could afford to spend that time dealing with customer's queries on the phone. However, when you think about it, for each 6-minute-long call, your employees waste another 20 minutes to clear their minds and find back their train of thoughts. This doesn't include post-call management, such as writing down a message or handling further customer service operations. As a result, even at a rate of one call per hour, your employees are likely to waste up to 70% of their productivity.
A virtual receptionist is there to free up your time. You can focus on what you do best while we handle the incoming calls for you. Additionally, a virtual receptionist service acts as a call filter system. A team of trained professionals can answer simple business inquiries, take messages, handle essential customer care operations for you. Only calls that require your involvement are transferred to you, which means that you can work uninterrupted. Besides, it's important to mention that you build a trust relationship with your virtual receptionist, letting them know which calls should be forwarded to you and which shouldn't, as well as when you can and can't be disturbed. As a result, you are finally in control of your time, and you can go through your to-do list without worrying about missing leads' calls.
#3. You are saving money
Hiring a receptionist costs, on average, $36,531 per year in the United States. The average salary of a receptionist is $13.54 per hour, but this can vary a lot depending on states and cities. Some receptionists can earn over $20.00 per hour. If your business is based in Seattle, WA, for instance, you'll be paying 29% more for your receptionist than in Alabama, where the average salary is 15% lower than the national average. On top of their wages, you need to pay for benefits as well as time off. When you run a small business on a tight budget, these are expenses that you'd rather do without.
An in-house receptionist also requires dedicated equipment and setting. If you think of the typical receptionist, you will need call management equipment, a front desk, a high-quality headset, and all the essentials of the office way of life. Additionally, you may need to consider additional rental costs to create a reception room. Even if your receptionist only needs to handle calls, you can't afford to have them sitting in the middle of a busy office. Your callers don't want to hear the office background noise.
On the other hand, a virtual receptionist doesn't require any additional equipment or office space investment. You can contract professional agents to manage your customer calls for as little as $5.50 a week. Your virtual receptionist has all the equipment they need and is ready to take on calls from Day One. You don't need to spend money on office furniture, call management equipment, or even training. Your virtual receptionist can provide dedicated and qualified service to all your callers without incurring increased costs for your business. Besides, because you pay for a service, and not for one extra employee, you don't have to budget for employment and team-related taxes. As such, you can use your budget where you need it most without having to compromise on business upgrades or investments.
#4. Your virtual receptionist can act as a PA
Hiring a personal assistant is the kind of advantage you would expect from a large organization. Unfortunately, in a startup or a small business, managers don't have the option to hire a PA. As a result, they can miss out on the many benefits that a PA can deliver to executives and decision-makers. Indeed, an assistant works exclusively for one individual and therefore gets to know their needs, routines, and ways of working. As a result, the PA is detrimental in boosting their professional career and network by creating effective time management strategies, taking notes, forwarding information via emails or texts, and also answering phone calls.
A virtual receptionist can replace the role of a PA in your business by providing support to a few members of your team. For individuals in sales or leadership positions, a dedicated virtual receptionist service can offer assistance in taking down callers' details and filtering calls to free up time when required. Additionally, a virtual receptionist can manage your diary and sort out appointments with your callers without needing to disrupt your day-to-day routine.
Just like with a personal assistant, you can choose to leave all your calls go through your virtual receptionist or select which phone numbers you wish to filter out and which you prefer to answer directly. As a result, small business owners can use the service to reduce their involvement in day-to-day operations and focus on business strategy and networking. You can also rely on your virtual receptionist to handle individual callers appropriately by feeding them relevant information. As such, depending on the call category, people can receive a range of information that can maintain their interests for your services. That's because your virtual receptionist understands just like a PA does how to manage people's expectations and needs on the phone. Similar to a PA, it's an ally to your professional network.
#5. Your virtual receptionist can reduce stress levels
Every workplace generates some level of stress that affects your team. Unfortunately, stress is unavoidable. Whether you need to manage tight deadlines or you've got to fix something for a client, it's impossible to avoid pressure in the office. For small businesses, especially, it can be hard to go through the day without dealing with increased stress levels. When you work with a small team, you've got less support available. Everything that happens needs to be managed almost entirely in-house, which can increase workload and pressures.
Consequently, when a client calls with a complaint or a prospective buyer wants to discuss their specific requirements, your stressed-out employees can find it hard to provide the appropriate response. It takes a lot of training to handle phone calls and de-escalate potential conflicts with difficult customers. The truth is that small businesses don't need to deal with this sort of stress. Your employees are highly skilled at what they do. But, if what they do best is not managing customers on the phone, the interaction is likely to increase their stress levels. We've all had an unpleasant conversation with a friend or a relative over the phone. We know how much it can affect our mood, even several hours, if not days, after the call. Customer calls can feel a lot worse when there's a conflict.
We believe that small businesses can do their best work in a relaxed environment, which is precisely what a virtual receptionist can provide. Because virtual receptionists are trained to handle all sorts of phone communications, they also know how to manage conflicts on the phone and help callers to find a solution to their problems. As such, they can help to maintain your office as pleasant and calming as possible.
In conclusion, a virtual receptionist can be a smart addition to your small business kit. Your answering service professional can help to grow your activities by improving your professional brand, saving your time and money, supporting executives in establishing a supportive network, and boost the mood in the office.