May 24, 2019

Answering Service vs Virtual Receptionist: Are They the Same? (3 Differences You Need to Know)

Woman on the phone with a virtual receptionist in Dallas

Both answering services and virtual receptionists offer over-the-phone support in many ways for your clients, customers, or potentials. But there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding their differences and how you should go about choosing one over the other.

Many articles on this topic have a clear leaning – telling you that the service you need just so happens to be the exact one they provide. But in truth, there are different industries that work better with one or the other.

And though it is true that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to answering or call services, we think we can help you narrow down what you need. We offer a huge range of services as well as custom packages, so you never have to pay for services you don’t really need or pay silly ‘add-on’ costs for the ones you do need.

But, before we jump into all of that, the big question – what is an answering service or virtual receptionist?

What is an Answering Service?

Answering services usually focus on just a few areas. These areas can include answering calls, taking messages, customer support, order entry, and voicemail services.

An answering service is meant to streamline your phone calls, especially if you are a large company with many calls coming in from many time zones, countries, or simply at all hours of the day.

If you have a 24-hour business, if your business is large, or if you have a high volume of calls on a regular basis, then an answering service might just be your favorite hire.

In the end, an answering service takes calls and delivers messages, whether that is during regular business hours or simply when you’re busy. Regardless of your industry or size, you’ll likely have a customer at some point who needs assistance or has questions after hours or when you are unavailable – the trick in deciding if answering services are right for you is the number of times that happens.

One missed call every month? You’re probably okay missing it. One missed call every week? Depending on the lifetime value of your customers, maybe missing that call is hurting your business. One missed call every day? You might want to seriously consider answering services.

Imagine how much more revenue you could be gaining if your calls never went to voicemail or never had a busy signal. Imagine if a knowledgeable, human voice was there to answer every question your clients asked.

What is a Virtual Receptionist?

A virtual receptionist goes above and beyond what answering services can do. A virtual reception actually means you have a dedicated receptionist who is trained on your brand, your company, and your customers.

Virtual receptionists first became popular to deal with the lack of training and specialized agents at call centers or within answering services. And though technology has helped answering services be able to offer a more experienced and trained voice to the industry, it still falls short for many technical or detailed trades, as they are mainly going off of a script which you provide.

Usually, answering services are call centers, or a place with people who know a little about your business – which works well if you simply need someone answering the phones to give address, hours, or general information, but not so well if the callers have product questions, price questions, or troubleshooting issues.

Virtual receptionists go quite a bit more in-depth into your business, products, and industry.

Having a virtual receptionist is like having an in-house receptionist, except for the fact that it’s lower in cost and they don’t take up a desk in your office.

What Are the Differences?

Just like their name says, virtual receptionists cover all the areas an in-house receptionist would cover. This means that – at its very core – answering services answer, and virtual receptionists not only answer, but perform outbound calls as well.

There may be quite a bit of overlap between answering services and virtual receptionists, but there are large differences as well.

Though there are many tools for businesses to stay connected with their own team, it can be difficult to connect with your audience unless you have a plan in place for both outbound and inbound call flow.

Difference #1. Outbound vs Inbound Calls

As mentioned above, one of the largest differences between answering services and virtual receptionists are their calling abilities.

If you are looking for someone to answer your phones – but have no need for outbound calls, then (true to its name) an answering service might be the better choice.

If you are more interested in appointment confirmation, appointment scheduling, emergency dispatch, event registration, surveys or other call services which include outbound calls being made, then a virtual receptionist is probably more along the lines of what you need.

Difference #2. Large vs Small Businesses

If you have a small business, then there are many small business tools you should consider working with, but answering services might just be the best one for you. This is because you may only need support during closed hours, or any busy hours or seasons your industry has – and that’s exactly what the flexibility of answering services offers.

This isn’t to say that there are no industries in which small businesses do not need a virtual receptionist as well, but they are rarer – such as charities or event centers, giveaways, small doctor offices or dentists, etc.

On the other hand, a very large business can also often benefit from answering services, as they usually have a larger call volume which requires more manpower to handle, sometimes more manpower than the company can spare. Depending on the industry, again, the need for outbound services, or a virtual receptionist, may be needed as well.

We often see that small businesses only need one service (except in select industries) while large businesses usually opt for both inbound and outbound assistance.

Difference #3. Detailed vs General Support

The final difference between answering services and a virtual receptionist is the level of detail.

Answering services have a script, given by you, to follow with their calls – this can be extensive or relatively short. In addition, some information can be gleaned from your website for certain customer questions and support. However, the main duty of answering services are to respond to questions the script answers or take messages that will be delivered to you in a timely manner in the method in which you choose.

A virtual receptionist is trained in your industry, brand, and with your specific business in mind, meaning your customers and callers will receive more detailed and specific services and answers. Though your virtual receptionist can still follow a script if requested and provided, they are able to answer questions and provide support based on their knowledge and training in your industry as well.

Answering Services vs Virtual Receptionist: Now That You Know the Difference – Which Does Your Business Need?

Don’t let all the online buzz confuse you – it’s as simple as answering support for answering services, and receptionist support for virtual receptionist services.

Ask yourself what your business needs, what services it truly requires, and then talk to one of our expert professionals who can walk you through your best options, pricing, packages, or make a custom mix of services to perfectly meet your business’s needs.

Contact us today for your 7-day free trial, more information, or to get started right away!