10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Hiring a Receptionist


Hiring an employee of any kind is a big deal. It’s an investment that needs to be made carefully, including taking the time to research the options and find the right person for the job. It also requires considering all of your options for sourcing help, including hiring a virtual receptionist or outsourcing to a remote contractor if you don’t have the means to hire an employee as part of your payroll. Of course, to figure out what’s best for your needs, you’ll have to ask yourself a few questions. 

Today, a receptionist is more of a Jack-of-all-trades than ever before. Aside from fielding phone calls, they also assist with emails, social media, marketing, and other needs. Some receptionists even handle scheduling and planning, as well as office management and other tasks. You can basically pick and choose what you need with the solutions that are available today, which should make it easy for your business to get the ideal fit no matter how you go about it. 

A receptionist gives any business a more professional image. It’s also better for your reputation—in today’s automated world, customers love it when a real person answers the phone. Unfortunately, if you’re any good at the business that you do, that person isn’t going to be you. That’s what a receptionist is for. Another perk of the modern receptionist is that you can even hire someone virtually or remotely if you don’t have room or a need for an in-house employee. 

All that will be part of your decision when hiring a receptionist. To decide what you need and how you can make the most of the solutions out there today, ask yourself the following questions. 

1. Is my business being disrupted by calls, messages, etc.?

If you’re attempting to conduct business meetings, talk to clients and vendors, train employees, or take care of other work, you don’t need to be interrupted by phone calls and emails every few minutes. Unfortunately, when you don’t have employees, or you don’t have a lot of them, you’ve got fewer people managing more tasks. That means that you’re constantly interrupted by anything that requires dedicated attention. If it’s a free-for-all when the office phone rings, it’s never going to be a productive workplace. Having a receptionist puts an order of operations in place and streamlines things so that your business is disrupted as little as possible. 

2. Who is in charge of managing the (physical or virtual) office? Are they keeping up?

The next question to ask yourself is an easy one: who’s doing the work now? Whether it’s you, your entire team based on who’s available, or anyone else, you need to figure out who is managing the day-to-day needs of the office, both physically and/or virtually, and whether they’re keeping up with what your business needs. Even if you’re the only one manning the ship, or perhaps especially if you are, it’s time to evaluate how that’s going. Is your office a mess? Are your files a cluttered, confusing trail of hurried decisions? If these things are going by the wayside, it can seriously impact the business in several ways. 

3. How many calls do you return in a day?

If you’re working on making the case for hiring a receptionist in the first place, this is a big one: how many calls are you missing? How many messages go unanswered? And yes, maybe you get around to returning them—but at what cost? Are you spending your evenings playing catch-up, or always feeling like you’re one step behind? The best way to avoid returning calls is to answer them the first time. With a receptionist, you can ensure that every call gets answered and addressed immediately, and if they require your attention, you’ll know about it. 

Sure, getting back to your audience is great; them getting answers the first time is even better. You could save a lot of return calls by letting a receptionist field them and screen out anything they can handle for you. In the end, you’ll have more satisfied customers, and you’ll only have to return the most important of calls or those that require your dedicated attention. 

4. How long does it take you to get back to messages?

Today’s audience doesn’t want to wait. They want quick answers and prefer to be able to reach someone rather than leave a message. If they do leave a message most people expect a response within 24 hours and some even expect a response in as little as 1-2 hours, so it’s important to stay on top of things. If you notice that you’re starting to fall behind, it might be time to get help. People want fast answers and if you don’t provide them, they’ll find a company that does. With a dedicated receptionist, you’ll get the messages that you need to get, and the urgent matters will be handled accordingly, improving your customer satisfaction and making people feel more valuable. 

5. What do I want a receptionist to do?

When you’re hiring a receptionist, or thinking about it, you’ve likely got a little bit of a preconceived notion about what you’re looking for here. Even if this is your first time looking for someone in this role, you still know what you are missing. Or, perhaps you know which areas are taking up too much of your time and could be better handled by someone in a receptionist-type role. In any case, you really have to think about which tasks and duties you want a receptionist to handle. That will help you figure out who to hire or how to find the solution that suits your needs. Every business is different. 

6. Can I afford to hire someone in-house?

If you can’t afford a receptionist, there’s no reason to even start looking. However, there are going to be times when you just need help. Fortunately, outsourcing and hiring remotely makes it a lot more affordable for you to get the help that you need today. You do still have to decide what you can afford, budget-wise. Think about the salary, benefits, training and onboarding costs, ongoing overhead, and so forth. These expenses all add up quickly, but they’re an investment that can be worthwhile. If you are still on a tight budget and don’t have room for all of this, consider outsourcing or contracting the help instead. 

7. Do I have time to manage an employee?

While having employees is necessary for some businesses, there are other instances where it might be too much to manage. Small companies and solopreneurs, for example, might not really be ready to manage someone and have to delegate tasks, train people, etc. There is no right or wrong answer here—it’s all about what you need. If you have the time to manage an employee, you can probably benefit from hiring an onsite receptionist. On the other hand, however, you might want to choose a virtual receptionist so that you can get it all done without having to be in charge of it all. 

8. How much am I missing in a day?

You’re a busy person and that’s great. The days tend to go much faster when you have things to keep you occupied and aren’t sitting around waiting for business to happen. Unfortunately, when business is good, that also means that you’ll be so busy that you run the chance of missing something. The last thing that you want is to have customers waiting hours for calls to be returned or having messages missed because only one person is fielding it all. The best solution is to ensure that you have someone dedicated to fielding those calls and messages. Then, you’ll get the communications you need and get the low-down on the rest later. 

9. How organized are your communications and admin tasks?

Organization is a huge part of success for any business. And yet, so many solopreneurs and SMBs that are just starting out have workspaces that look more like a bomb went off than anything productive is actually happening. You might think that you’ve got a well-crafted juggling act going on, but it’s probably not as good as you think. When you have a dedicated receptionist or assistant, they’ll be able to organize everything and ensure that your business operates like a well-oiled machine. It also allows you to focus on other efforts. 

Do you have a pile of messages and an inbox that’s overflowing that you just never have time for? Are you trying to manage it all yourself, but struggling to find the balance? Or do things just get done whenever there’s time? In any case, having a dedicated receptionist can improve these areas and so much more. 

10. Who’s doing the data entry?

This is another big part of business that often gets overlooked. No one likes to get caught up in the details (or spend hours sitting at the computer) but these are tasks that need to get done. From updating customer databases to checking digital inventories and even managing your vendor contacts list, having a dedicated person on these tasks ensures that they’ll get done promptly and effectively. It also ensures that you and your team are not spending hours sitting behind the desk doing the work that should be done by someone else. 

One final question: what fits your needs? 

With all of these questions, you’re essentially answering the same general question: what does your business need? There are a lot of different ways to go about getting help today. A receptionist could be a great investment. It could also be too much for your needs. Perhaps outsourcing offers a more affordable solution. Maybe you just want more help than an individual receptionist can offer. That’s where a dynamic option like a virtual receptionist service can come into play. 

Hiring an employee or otherwise sourcing help for your business is a big undertaking. It’s always better to go into the decision informed and prepared to make the right choice based on research and facts. If you just start randomly acquiring help or searching for solutions without knowing what’s out there, you could end up costing yourself more stress in the long run. It can be hard to choose to invest in support for your communications and admin tasks, but it's a good choice to make. 

The biggest factor, usually, comes down to money. What can you afford to spend here? Can you afford an employee? Can you even afford to outsource? At this point, you really can’t afford not to have a dedicated receptionist, but how you go about it depends on what fits your business. If you decide that outsourcing is a better choice, you’ll be happy to know that your company, customers, and others will all be in good hands when you choose a reputable virtual receptionist service. 

Speaking of reputable… 

Ask yourself whether outsourcing by partnering with Smith.ai is the better solution

While you’re on a roll with the questions, why not ask us how we can help? Instead of taking the time (and spending all the money) to hire a receptionist, you can partner with the dedicated agents at Smith.ai and get everything that you need. Plus, we’ll help you create a custom solution to suit your needs, no matter how big or small they might be. 

Ask about our 24/7 solutions for after-hours phone answering, live chat, SMS message answering, and so much more. We can even take care of your admin tasks, like scheduling, intake, and payment collection, plus anything else that you have in mind. That way, you can focus on your business and know that the rest is taken care of. 

To learn more, schedule a consultation to discuss what the 24/7 virtual receptionists can do for your business. You can also reach us at hello@smith.ai or (650) 727-6484.

Business Education
Written by Samir Sampat

Samir Sampat is a Marketing Manager with Smith.ai. He has experience working with businesses of all sizes focusing on marketing, communications, and business development.

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