9 Reasons Your Small Business Needs a Virtual Receptionist


Whether you are just starting out and keeping a close eye on your balance sheet as you build your client base or have an established team of people working with you, investing in a small business virtual receptionist has a strong ROI to help you grow your business. 

Smith.ai knows from our experience partnering with small businesses that you’re busy, but you also may be a bit uncomfortable handing over some of the day-to-day work like answering the phone to someone else. That’s why we’ve pulled together a list of ways a virtual receptionist can benefit your business to put you at ease.

What is the role of a virtual receptionist?

Virtual receptionists are just like a typical in-house receptionist, except they don’t work in the office. 

A virtual receptionist can:

They can focus on one or two of these activities or do all of them depending on your business needs.

why you need a small business virtual receptionist

Why you need a small business virtual receptionist

You may think you don’t need a virtual receptionist for your small business, but you’d be surprised by all the reasons you do.

1. Business communication is moving online

Even just a few years ago, the majority of new business would come to you through the telephone, but the internet has drastically changed that. Now, 82% of leads come from Twitter in the B2C sector and LinkedIn is responsible for 80% of leads in the B2B vertical. If you aren’t online, you’re missing leads.

Many customers also use live chat to resolve customer service issues. In fact, millennials would rather communicate with businesses via live chat than any other communication channel because they find it accessible, convenient, and fast. However, only 52% of businesses offer customer service via online chat despite the fact that 81% of consumers use live chat. 

A virtual receptionist can manage information coming in from all these different channels quickly to boost customer service, which will help your bottom line — online conversions alone can increase by about 8% if online interactions are personalized by a live human rather than a chatbot.

2. People still want to talk to a human 

75% of customers want to talk to a real person when they need something.

Letting your calls go to voicemail or sending callers through a loop of menu prompts means you're making those clients wait to talk to a real person. A small business virtual receptionist can easily handle calls so that your clients and potential leads can connect with a person right away, immediately building client connections that will keep your business thriving..

3. Clients want an immediate response

Keeping your existing clients happy will not only keep them coming back and spending money, but it will also help you save money in the long run. Advertising and other initiatives to bring in new clients can be up to 25 times more expensive, while the profits from increasing customer retention by even 2% is equivalent to a 10% decrease in costs.

So how do you keep clients happy? One way is to give them an immediate response when they call the office or reach out online. A HubSpot Research survey found that 90% of customers value an immediate response, which they defined as under 10 minutes.

A virtual receptionist can route clients immediately to whoever can best help them so they feel like they are a valued member of your business. They’ll repay the favor with positive online reviews and word-of-mouth referrals in the community, the best form of free advertising.

4. Leads value a quick response

Clients aren’t the only ones who want a quick response; it’s even more important with leads. 

Depending on your business, leads have many options at their fingertips. Sure, they may leave a voicemail message for you with their question, but they’re probably going to call the next person listed in their Google search. In fact, the first business to respond to a lead will get their business 35%-50% of the time.

So you need to respond quickly. In fact, research shows that minutes matter. Responding within one minute to a lead increases conversions 391%, while responding within two minutes only increases conversions 160%. 

A small business should answer every phone call and web inquiry, and a virtual receptionist can make that happen so you can turn leads into clients and grow your business. 

5. Spam calls are a distraction

The average American receives 31 spam calls a month, which isn’t a big deal when you can simply let the unknown number go to voicemail and then call them back if it’s legitimate. 

A small business can’t afford to not answer the phone from an unknown caller, because each unknown caller can be a new lead. But you also can’t take time out of your busy schedule to weed out the spammers or try to figure out how to block them all yourself.

A virtual receptionist can. Smith.ai automatically blocks spammers, but if they do get through, our virtual receptionists identify them and add them to our spam list. 

6. Incoming calls can be overwhelming

If you only have one person answering the phone, your small business can develop bottlenecks during peak call times, which will increase your customer churn rate and cost you business. 

Just because you have an in-house receptionist doesn’t mean you aren’t missing important phone calls. You can supplement your in-house receptionist with a virtual receptionist to take overflow calls during peak call times to ensure you answer every call.

7. You deserve your evenings and weekends free from work calls

Client needs don’t end promptly at 6 p.m., and they definitely don’t take weekends off, which means you need to be available 24/7/365 to grow your business. 

But that can have serious repercussions on your physical and mental health. People who work 55.5 hours or more a week:

Almost half of people with poor work-life balance also report their relationships with family suffer, and 47% also saw a decrease in the quality of their friendships. 

Hiring a virtual receptionist to answer phone calls after hours allows you to be responsive whenever your clients need you or new leads reach out, while also allowing you to take a break over the weekend with your family and coach your daughter’s soccer team on weeknights. With a virtual receptionist, you can return to work the next day refreshed, rested, and ready to be productive.

8. Interruptions and multitasking lead to costly mistakes

It may not seem like a big deal to stop what you’re doing to answer the phone, but research shows refocusing after an interruption can take up to 23 minutes.

Let’s say you’re a small local law office and you get an average of 10 calls a day. That means more than three hours of your day is spent trying to refocus after an interruption. If you’re the only person in the office, and you’re responsible for doing everything from paying the bills to setting appointments, researching cases, and actively attending court, you aren’t getting as much done and will probably need to take work home with you at the end of the day.

Even if you try your best to balance answering the phone and online inquiries while doing your day-to-day work (and only 2.5% of us are considered “good” multitaskers), inefficiency can lead to 50% more errors.

Working with a virtual receptionist will allow you to stop multitasking and minimize interruptions, ultimately making you able to take on more clients to grow your business.

9. Highly trained receptionists are hard to find (and keep)

Hiring a new employee is expensive: SHRM estimates you’ll need to shell out $4,700 to recruit, hire, and train a new employee. Training for a receptionist is especially important as they are the voice of your company, and it’s important they sound professional. To keep them, you’ll need to budget $45,760 per year, on average, and receptionist salaries are on the rise.

Once you have a receptionist, they’re hard to keep. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there will be 142,300 job openings each year for receptionists, but most of those openings result from turnover rather than new positions. 

Working with Smith.ai for your virtual receptionists means you’ll have a highly trained team at your disposal without all the headaches of recruiting, hiring, training, and covering sick days when your in-house receptionist can’t come into the office. 

signs your small business needs a virtual receptionsit

How does a virtual receptionist work?

The answer is however you want them to! The best services give you a lot of flexibility.

Smith.ai offers a variety of service options ranging from 24/7/365 call answering to just after-hours support or coverage during peak call times. We can just answer the phone for you, or you can have us conduct outreach as well.

Plus, with month-to-month pricing, you can change how virtual receptionists work for you based on what you need that month, or if your needs change seasonally.

Regardless of how you use Smith.ai’s virtual receptionist services, you’re sure to see a positive impact on your business. Don’t take our word for it — check out our case studies to see how we’ve helped real businesses grow and work more efficiently.

Average pricing for a small business virtual receptionist

The price of a virtual receptionist for your small business varies based on your needs. Some businesses allow you to pay by the minute or offer a monthly subscription or pricing tier.

Smith.ai makes pricing easy and predictable by charging you per call rather than per minute (which also means our virtual receptionists are only on the phone as long as is needed to meet the client’s needs, not dragging out “talk time”). We don’t charge for spam calls, we offer flexible add-ons so you only pay for precisely what you need, and we don’t require annual contracts or charge setup fees. 

Give Smith.ai a call and see how we can help your small business grow

Smith.ai can help you turn pain points into opportunities. Whether you’re looking for after-hours call support, full-time call answering, live chat, or outreach capabilities, Smith.ai has an affordable solution for you. Schedule a consultation today to see how Smith.ai’s virtual receptionists can help grow your small business. 

Sources: Digital Media Stream | OK to Post | Comm1000 | Salesforce | TrustPilot | PWC | Edubirdie | Cognism | Invespcro | HubSpot | ZenDesk | Velocify | Truecaller | The Lancet | Cambridge | Grand Canyon University | Cleveland Clinic | SHRM | Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Written by Maddy Martin

Maddy Martin is Smith.ai's SVP of Growth. Over the last 15 years, Maddy has built her expertise and reputation in small-business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, partnerships, and SEO.

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