What Is a Virtual Receptionist and Why Your Business Needs One

Quick Answer: A virtual receptionist is a person who answers your business calls and handles clients on your behalf from an off-site location.

Maddy Martin

No matter what kind of business you run, growing your company and boosting your sales and revenue is typically a top priority. However, growing your business isn’t always easy, as it takes a lot of time and resources to successfully funnel leads through the sales process in hopes of landing them as a client. That’s where virtual receptionists can be your solution.

But wait, what exactly is a virtual receptionist? 

In this article, we’ll walk you through what a virtual receptionist is, what they do, and how your business can benefit from these services.

Table of contents:

What is a virtual receptionist?

What does a virtual receptionist do?

Benefits of hiring a virtual receptionist

what is a virtual receptionist?

What is a virtual receptionist?

Virtual receptionists perform almost all of the same tasks as an in-house receptionist, such as taking inbound and outbound calls and responding to client inquiries, but from a remote location.

Although these professionals work for an outsourced agency, they will give the impression that they are a part of your in-house team. As a result, when a caller dials, they won't be aware that a third-party answering service is taking their call.

What does a virtual receptionist do?

Unlike automated answering services, virtual receptionists are real people that seamlessly integrate into your business — they’re simply an extension of your existing team. 

While taking messages and returning calls are often a virtual receptionist's main duties, Smith.ai virtual receptionists can perform a wide range of other services for your company including (but not limited to):

Learn more about each of these features of Smith.ai's virtual receptionists below.

how virtual receptionists work

Perform outreach campaigns

Not only will virtual receptionists make callbacks on your behalf, but they can also serve as your sales outreach team. Receptionists can make calls on your behalf to recipients sent to them via a spreadsheet or outbound API.

You can set the start date, tempo, time, and number of calls, as well as the language to speak and the directions to be followed. You can also define the on-call actions to be taken (like warm transfers or appointment bookings).

By making outbound calls, virtual receptionists can help business owners and operators achieve a wide range of objectives, including but not limited to:

  • Immediate lead follow-up (e.g., calling people who fill out an online contact form)
  • Routine calls to existing clients (e.g., appointment reminders, work status updates)
  • Prospective client engagement and lead nurturing (e.g., calls made to event registrants or webinar attendees)
  • Information gathering and appointment booking for prospects from lead-generation platforms (e.g., Yelp, Thumbtack, Nextdoor)
  • Review requests to boost online reputation efforts (e.g., calls to recent satisfied customers)

Screen your leads

It can be very frustrating when you waste your time on unqualified leads. Virtual receptionists will screen leads on the first call using your specific criteria so you spend time on leads who are actually fit for your business.

They’ll qualify a lead by asking for context — not just a name and phone number. When you are spending time with qualified leads, you can accelerate business growth and efficiency, ultimately increasing your revenue with ideal clients. 

Schedule appointments

Virtual receptionists can screen new leads as a fit for your business, then book appointments or sales calls directly on the calendar you already use.

Additionally, after setting up appointments with your leads and clients, they can send follow-up emails or texts with all the information clients need to adequately prepare for your meeting.

To ensure that you don't miss any appointments, a virtual receptionist will send appointment reminders on your behalf. They can also take care of rescheduling appointments and set up a new time that works for you and your client so you can eliminate unnecessary “phone tag.”

Process payments

Virtual receptionists can also integrate with your payment software for a seamless experience for you and your clients.

If you charge for consultations, virtual receptionists can take payments from your qualified leads after they schedule them on your calendar. That way, your leads are screened, booked, and paid by the meeting time.

Moreover, if you need to collect an overdue bill, virtual receptionists can call your clients for payments, and they’ll facilitate the credit card transaction on the spot.

When you put virtual receptionists on the case, you can reduce your workload and the time it takes to get invoices paid.

Offer 24/7 support

Compared to traditional receptionists who answer calls during set open office hours, virtual receptionists are working behind the scenes 24/7 (including weekends) so you never miss an important call or customer sale. After all, missed calls mean missed business opportunities.

Whether you need phone answering, sales outreach, or even live chat services, virtual receptionists can provide you with 24/7/365 support. With calls and messages handled around the clock, you can rest easy knowing that a real person is taking your incoming calls while you're focused on growing your business.

With an after-hours answering service, you can advertise that your business is available by phone 24/7. You can be sure that telephone calls outside of your regular office hours will be answered by a live agent. When your clients are on the phone with virtual receptionists, they'll think they're chatting with your in-house team.

Filter spam calls

Virtual receptionists can also block spam calls and robocalls, so you regain time — and trust that any incoming calls (or transfers that reach you) are relevant. 

At Smith.ai we automatically block over 20 million known spammers and stop robocalls from ever getting to our receptionists. If a new spammer does get through, we immediately add it to the spam list.

Any spam or unwanted sales calls that get through are blocked for free by our live receptionists. We’ll make a note of the number and add it to our spam list.

You can even add your own block list by uploading bulk or individual numbers you wish to block for your business. You won't be charged for calls coming in from these numbers.

Answer messages through various channels

In this day and age, phone calls aren’t the only channel clients and potential leads use to contact businesses. Some virtual receptionists are able to handle more than just phone calls and can even respond to messages sent by text, social media, and live chat.

With Smith.ai handling these messages for your business, you can put in less effort to constantly monitor SMS and social channels, and get a better return on your time – and on your investment in a virtual receptionist service. Did you know that 50% of marketing dollars are spent on leads that don’t convert? Virtual receptionists will close that gap and maximize your conversions.

5 Benefits of hiring a virtual receptionist

As you can see, virtual receptionists can do a lot for your company and relieve you and your in-house staff of many time-consuming responsibilities while simultaneously increasing sales and lead engagement. Consider some of these main advantages of using virtual receptionists for your company.

1. Boosts productivity

Work requires focus, but interruptions from calls, chats, and messages from all directions kill productivity. While qualified leads are worthwhile interruptions, spam calls and unqualified leads are time wasters. However, you may not always realize a lead’s qualification until you engage with them.

Virtual receptionists will not only handle all of your calls and messages, but they can also qualify your leads and weed out spammers so you don't have to lose any of your valuable time.

virtual receptionists reduce business bottlenecks

As demonstrated above, a bottleneck develops when there are too many inbound leads and not enough personnel to handle them or reply in a timely manner. 

It’s not just a bottleneck — these are real people. The business bottleneck also shows just how challenging and time-consuming it is to handle inbound leads, and how this hurts the chances of having time to follow up with new leads and prospects.

By outsourcing your calls to virtual receptionists, you can free up internal personnel and assign such duties to knowledgeable agents who have received training in all relevant fields.

2. Saves money

In the U.S., a full-time receptionist makes about $15 per hour. Once pay and benefits are factored in, that sum jumps to $21.23 per hour. This equates to about $3,397 monthly or $40,000 annually for your business, and wages are rising. This doesn’t even include the time and money spent on interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and training a new receptionist.

With a virtual receptionist service, you get not only quality answering services, but also the added bonuses of 24/7/365 support, no sick days, and no management issues to deal with. In the long term, virtual receptionists are far less expensive than in-house receptionists.

Because of Smith.ai’s exceptional utilization and the fact that we only deploy agents to our clients when they have incoming calls, we are able to use them much more effectively than individual businesses and pass along significant savings to our clients. Plans are available for just a few hundred dollars a month (see pricing page for current plan details).

You can spend the savings you receive from using virtual receptionists to expand and grow your company.

3. Captures more leads

Like we briefly mentioned earlier, some inbound calls are spammers, others are unqualified leads, but some are your next best clients. 

It's easy to become overloaded or run out of internal resources when dealing with a large number of inbound leads. This can cause you to miss calls or respond slowly, both of which will cost you a lot of potential customers.

The key here is that responsive businesses win new clients. If you don't immediately follow up, those prospects will go to a competitor. In fact, following up with leads within the first minute of their contact increases lead conversion rates by almost 400%.

responsiveness wins new clients

This goes to show that hiring virtual receptionists will have an immediate impact on your conversion rates. 

4. Elevates customer experience

Skilled virtual receptionists ensure that your customers' calls and messages will be promptly answered, returned, and handled with care and professionalism. 

Since virtual receptionists are skilled customer service specialists that know how to represent your brand appropriately, they can offer a superior customer experience that will ultimately increase your retention rates.

5. Improves professionalism

Customer service is one of the many hats that small business owners and their employees wear. However, managing every client interaction with poise and professionalism requires a particular kind of skilled individual or team. 

By hiring virtual receptionists, you can place that responsibility with an agent trained in sounding professional and boosting customer satisfaction.

Virtual receptionists can also boost your company's credibility and help you build a reputation as a professional. When a receptionist answers the phone on your behalf, customers can see that your business is a formal organization with a well-organized process.

Get started with Smith.ai virtual receptionists

With immediate problems solved by virtual receptionists, new targets become achievable and your business is bound to grow. 

At Smith.ai, our live virtual receptionists capture and qualify leads, book new clients, and build better connections with your existing clients, 24/7. We also offer a variety of features that can assist with just about anything your business needs. 

Get started today or book a consultation to see how our virtual receptionists can help your business grow and achieve your goals. 

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Maddy Martin

Maddy Martin is Smith.ai's VP of Marketing. 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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