How To Choose a Virtual Receptionist Service

Customer Service Small Business virtual receptionist
May 26, 2021 / 5 min read

If you were to be on the lookout for a new in-office receptionist, you’d almost certainly take a decent amount of time to find the right person. You’d review resumes, interview multiple candidates, and make sure that your future employee had all the skills and traits necessary to do the job well while fitting in with your company culture.

You want to do the same thing when choosing a virtual receptionist service. It’s so crucial to choose the right virtual receptionist service for your business, and in this post, we’re going to discuss how to do exactly that.

1. Consider How You’ll Use a Virtual Receptionist’s Services

If you’re reading this post right now, there’s a very high chance that you were already considering hiring a virtual receptionist service for your business. This means that you have an idea in mind for how you want to use that service.

A chiropractor’s office, for example, might be at their wit’s end trying to manage appointment bookings and cancellations, so callers who enter the extension to make or change an appointment could be sent straight to the virtual receptionist.

And maybe a small catering company just doesn’t have the manpower to handle the influx of calls that come during wedding season to ask about pricing when only a small percentage might convert. They want all potential inquiries to go to the service.

And then there’s the eCommerce beauty company who wants all incoming calls to go straight to the virtual receptionist because they don’t want to handle any interaction with customers themselves unless they have to. (No judgment, some of us choose to work online for a reason).

Think about why you want the service. This will help you determine what features are needed, the call volume you expect, compatibility with your software, and more.

2. Prioritize Quality & Reliability At Every Touchpoint

The last thing that you want is to spend time getting onboarded with a virtual receptionist service that doesn’t pan out. While you might be excited about the time savings, great customer service should be a priority… for both you and your customers.

Make sure you’re looking for a virtual receptionist that meets the following criteria:

  • Strong customer support for you, so you can resolve any concerns or get help with troubleshooting right away
  • They only hire experienced agents, who they then train thoroughly, to work with your customers
  • You’re confident that the virtual receptionists are capable of offering the same level of support as your internal team 

If you wouldn’t hire any of the agents to work in your office given the chance, you shouldn’t hire them as a third-party vendor, either.

3. Find Providers Offering Services You Need

Remember what we talked about in step one?

That chiropractor will need someone who can schedule appointments in the software they’re already using.

The catering company needs help with capturing lead information and potentially qualifying leads, including telling callers about different price points or informing them that they’re booked for the day in question. 

The eCommerce company needs a receptionist who can use their eCommerce management solution to take orders, process payments, answer product questions, and check an order status or tracking number.

These are all very distinct needs, so you must find an answering service that is capable of providing what you need both now and in the future.

Here at PATLive, for example, we offer all of the above and more, allowing us to help a diverse range of clients. We can register users for events, process payments, place orders, capture lead information, cancel appointments, answer calls in Spanish, and more. You can see the services that we offer here.

4. Assess for Flexibility & Scalability

You know what you need now. You might have a standard incoming call volume of about 50 calls per month that average around 350 minutes total. That’s easy enough to assess month-over-month.

But maybe during Christmas and before back-to-school season that beauty company sees skyrocketing sales— and call volume. For those three-week periods that come twice a year, their call volume doubles. And they’re hoping to scale by 50% in as little as two years.

Most businesses are in flux, whether they intend to be or not. Many are growing or receding, plenty have busy seasons, and even unexpected events like COVID-19 forced businesses to unexpectedly scale back.

The last thing a lot of businesses needed (but unfortunately many experienced) was having their businesses forcibly shut down during COVID while still having to pay for their full allotment of calls per the contract they’d signed.

Because of this, it’s crucial to choose a virtual receptionist that will scale up and down with you. Look for a provider that doesn’t require contracts, and who allows you to choose the number of minutes (and the features!) you need on a monthly basis.

If you’re not sure what you need (and frankly, even if you are), look for an answering service that offers a free trial. This gives you a chance to see how much you’ll use the service and test the quality to make sure you’re happy. We’ve got a 14-day free trial here.

5. Find Around-the-Clock Coverage

Part of the beauty of a virtual receptionist service is that your customers can be assisted 24/7, 365 days a week without you needing to worry about scheduling graveyard shifts or overtime.

Have someone calling on Christmas eve to inquire about their lost gift? Having a virtual receptionist answer that call and provide an update is a good way to put out a fire before it turns into six different negative reviews on every online platform that customer can find. (They may even become MORE loyal to your brand than if the order was never late in the first place.)

Providing your callers with a live, friendly voice to gather information, process payments, answer questions, register for events, and book appointments around the clock is a massive asset that will help your business grow exponentially while improving the customer experience.

6. Look For a Seamless Extension of Your Business

While it may feel unlikely that any third-party service provider would be able to act as a seamless extension of your business, that truly is what a good virtual receptionist service should do.

With top-notch technology at PATLive, we’re able to set up call handling that you can personalize for your business so we’re helping your customers exactly as you would.

We also offer extensive integrations so that we can work alongside your team at any level of your choosing.

Want us to track customer orders through Etsy and log the history of the customer experience after the fact? Done.

Are you a property manager who wants us to log and notify you of renters’ complaints through TrueRent? We’ve got you. 

Have a gym and want us to register new members online through MindBody? We can do that, too.

We’ll learn your brand, how you want to work, and how you want us to interact with your clients to become that extension of your business that you’re looking for.

7. Consider Your Budget

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential virtual receptionist candidates, one of the last puzzle pieces that needs to be fit into place is the budget.

Some answering services are almost absurdly expensive, and some may seem cost-effective upfront but really have an abundance of hidden fees.

Find a service with prices that work for you now, and that you expect will work for you long-term.

What to Avoid When Choosing a Virtual Receptionist Service

So far we’ve talked about everything that you want to look for when choosing a virtual receptionist. Now we want to talk about the red flags that should send you running.

Here’s what to avoid when choosing a virtual receptionist service for your business:

  • Extra costs for integrations
  • Extra costs for call handling types, like appointment-scheduling or payment processing
  • Any service that hires receptionists that aren’t based in the U.S.
  • Any service that doesn’t offer 24/7 coverage, 365 days a year
  • Limited call handling instructions that read like a strict script and not your business
  • Contracts that lock you into rates, call volumes, or even the service, especially for year-long periods

Virtual receptionist services are capable of transforming your team’s day-to-day life in the best way possible without changing your customer experience in the slightest (aside from, perhaps, faster call answer times and more hours of availability).

The right virtual receptionist is capable of acting as a seamless extension of your business while the wrong one could misrepresent your business, so it’s crucial to choose wisely. Take advantage of free trials and it is always recommended to regularly test your service thereafter.

Want to get started with PATLive as your virtual receptionist? Start your free trial here.

 

 

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