Your incoming phone calls are very important. It could be a new client with a big order, a current client needing help or another important phone call. Sending any phone call to voicemail is never a good idea.
There are several options you can use to better serve your callers. Three of the most common options include: a Secretary, an Auto Attendant or a Virtual Receptionist. Here’s a full comparison of all three to help you choose the right option for your incoming calls.
The most traditional option of the three is a secretary. This is usually an in-house employee hired on a full time basis to handle phone calls, take messages, greet walk-in clients, file paperwork and handle other tasks.
Larger corporations with large budgets hire secretaries to help keep their operation running. However, smaller businesses may not have the funds to add a $50K salary or a high hourly wage to their overhead.
Secretaries also make more sense for companies taking a large number of walk-ins. However, they may not be necessary for companies looking for somebody to answer the phones only.
An Auto Attendant
The automated secretary or automated attendant became popular as companies searched for ways to streamline their operation. This is literally a machine answering the phone with a recorded message. Callers are given a menu of options to choose from and transferred to the correct department.
Separate messages may be set up for general questions, such as business hours and location. Auto attendants can be sophisticated enough to allow a customer to call and check on their account or the status of an order without talking to a live person.
This option works well for companies with several departments and extensions. If they don’t want to hire an in-house secretary to handle the calls, this may be a good option. However, studies have shown, most callers prefer a live person on the other line.
A Virtual Receptionist
The newest option of the three is a virtual receptionist. This type of service actually provides you a team of receptionist ranging from 2 to as many as needed to handle your calls. With a virtual receptionist you don’t pay to have somebody sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Instead, you pay for only the time they are on the phone with your callers.
A virtual receptionist can take messages, answer general questions, take orders, schedule appointments, provide light customer service, respond to emails and more. They provide the smaller business an option for handling their incoming calls without the high overhead of an in-house secretary.
Many businesses, such as dental offices, contractors, ecommerce businesses and many others are switching to virtual receptionists. It’s a more cost effective way to have a live person answer the phones and provide a friendly voice on the other end.
Some virtual receptionist services are 24/7, while others provide service for 12 to 14 hours per day. Regardless of the service you choose, you can often expand your phone hours past your business hours. This can be very beneficial for companies receiving many calls after hours that go to voicemail. About 66% of those going to voicemail won’t leave a message, which could be costing you customers.
Making the Right Choice
After looking at all three options, it’s pretty easy to figure out which will fit best for your company. Even if you already have a secretary, a virtual receptionist can handle busy times of the year and overflow calls. They can also take the pressure off your secretary, since he/she will have other duties.
There really isn’t a good time to use an auto attendant with customers demanding better customer service. Many larger corporations are giving up the auto attendant and switching to virtual receptionists. This is the wave of the future and the best way to get great customer service without the high overhead.
After comparing a secretary, an auto attendant and a virtual receptionist, you should be able to make a better decision for your specific business needs. Make sure you look at it from all angles because the wrong decision could cost you customers, sales and profits.