Auto Attendant Phone System vs. a Virtual Receptionist

Live Receptionist vs. Auto Attendant

Is your small business spending too much time answering phone calls? Answering the phone can be costly and distract you and your employees from building your business. Small to medium-sized businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups are turning to efficient and inexpensive alternatives to answering their phones and serving callers. In the past, companies often hired a receptionist to work from the office and answer phone calls. Virtual answering services or virtual receptionists have increased in popularity as more businesses have shifted to virtual and hybrid office environments. A live receptionist provides exceptional customer service at a cost-efficient price.

Determining if an auto attendant phone system or a virtual representative is right for your business depends on your organization’s needs. Each option has unique benefits and will reduce the time you and your employees spend answering the phone. However, with nearly 9 out of 10 consumers preferring a live representative, you may want to consider the value of a virtual answering service over a lower-cost auto attendant or interactive voice response (IVR) system. Most callers choose the fastest option to speak with a live representative, reducing the time the IVR saves and frustrating customers.

This blog will discuss what a virtual receptionist is and compare and contrast it to an auto attendant phone system. We will outline the benefits a virtual answering service provides and considerations when choosing a provider to help you decide if it is worth investing in a virtual receptionist.


What Is a Virtual Receptionist?

A virtual receptionist or virtual answering service is a team of live agents that receive calls on behalf of a business or individual. They save the valuable time you would otherwise spend answering the phone, allowing you to focus on building your business. If your phone system sends clients and prospects to a voicemail recording, you risk making callers feel ignored and may lose business.

Virtual receptionists scale with your business, answering concurrent calls and offering extended hours past the traditional office workday and on weekends. They are trained in customer service to ensure that your callers receive the attention they expect. A live receptionist can also do more than answer the phone and ask callers to leave a message. They can nurture leads and schedule appointments, so you won’t need to call back to confirm the caller’s contact information or add them to your calendar.


What Is an Auto Attendant Phone System?

An auto attendant phone system is like an electronic directory that offers pre-recorded prompts for customers to respond to and navigate to their intended line or department. If you have ever called a large corporation for support or customer service, you have likely experienced an IVR system firsthand.

While the systems can minimize interruptions and offer a satisfactory method of answering calls, their responses are limited. They often do not quickly respond to caller inquiries with the solution they need. Callers may find the system cumbersome and lacking in personalized and attentive service. Callers are also frustrated by unresponsive and repetitive IVR systems. Nearly 9 out of 10 customers have been frustrated when they need to repeat information they already provided to an IVR to a live agent. More than half of customers find that auto attendant phone systems don’t understand their needs and prefer a live representative.


Benefits of a Virtual Receptionist Over an Auto Attendant Phone System

Auto attendant systems are pre-programmed and automated, answering the phone and offering limited interactive options to callers. They are often confined to pre-recorded responses, deciphering caller intent, and transferring the caller to a live agent or voicemail. As you might expect, the capabilities of an IVR system are not ideal for every business and are not satisfying to many callers. The primary attraction of auto attendant systems is cost savings and 24/7 availability.

A virtual receptionist provides a satisfying and human experience for callers. Customers feel they receive the attention they expect when reaching a live receptionist immediately upon calling a business. Why do customers prefer calling over emails or live chat? Speaking to a live representative ensures the customer that their query has been received and will receive the appropriate attention.

While many virtual answering services are not 24/7, they do offer extended hours and weekend phone reception, ensuring more of your customers receive the attention they expect. Since a team of live agents is handling incoming calls, your callers will never get a busy signal or be sent to voicemail because a receptionist was out of the office.

Related: Here’s Why You Need a Live Answering Service for Your Small Business


What Services Can a Virtual Receptionist Offer?

A virtual answering service can perform many tasks that an auto attendant phone system cannot. Since an IVR only directs callers to the intended line or department, it saves minimal time compared to a virtual receptionist. In most cases, you or an employee will still need to pick up the phone after a caller reaches the end of the prompts. You or your employees may spend large amounts of time with basic tasks like confirming an appointment time or entering the customer’s information into your CRM.

Live receptionists are trained and guided by your preferences to respond to callers and can perform various tasks that IVR systems cannot. A virtual receptionist can provide the following services for your callers:

  • Answer the phone with your business name and a scripted response
  • Transfer callers to the correct line
  • Transcribe calls and send them to your email
  • Send callers to voicemail
  • Nurture leads and enter caller details into your CRM
  • Schedule appointments in your calendar
  • Filter spam and robo-callers to save you time


Considerations When Determining the Ideal Virtual Receptionist for Your Business

Virtual answering services provide various features. Finding the ideal service can add tremendous value. The primary reason businesses invest in virtual receptionists is their improved customer service. Research the provider and consider how well their receptionists can handle your callers and deliver exceptional service. A virtual answering service that provides coverage beyond your office hours and relies on professional and friendly live agents can help you make a good impression with callers. US-based service providers minimize miscommunications and may offer compliance with regulations like Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) for healthcare-related businesses.

Pricing can also be vital in providing value to your business for the cost. Virtual answering services may charge a monthly fee regardless of the number of calls you receive or charge for the minutes live receptionists spend receiving your callers. The latter pricing plan benefits businesses that experience a mixture of high and low volumes of callers. Such as businesses that see more callers during their peak season or a product launch. Startups and small companies save the most and have the most scalability when they pay for the calls received rather than a flat rate plan. 

Related: How To Find The Best Answering Service For Small Businesses


Partner With a Virtual Receptionist Service That Can Help You Grow Your Business

Auto attendant phone systems and virtual receptionists can help your business save time and money. IVR systems are inexpensive and efficient, but there are clear benefits to a live representative in providing satisfying customer interactions. A live receptionist can help you get more done with fewer distractions and is trained to handle calls on your behalf. Virtual answering services provide your business with a team of agents to answer your calls, so your callers will not need to wait in a phone queue or get a busy signal when they call your business. They reduce caller frustrations compared to IVR systems and having a single receptionist on-site.

A virtual receptionist from can help you grow your business by answering distracting calls. Our US-based live receptionists provide exceptional customer service and can nurture leads, schedule appointments, and transfer urgent calls to the intended recipient. Rely on our cost-effective virtual answering service and stop missing opportunities with callers. Sign up and try our virtual receptionist service today.


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