It’s more important than ever for a business to be reachable 24/7, especially for smaller companies that still need a competitive edge. A virtual assistant phone answering service is a communication solution that businesses of all sizes can leverage to provide better customer service.
Businesses have several choices for communicating with their customers, but it can be time-consuming to manage all incoming calls on a given day. Without the proper tools, you risk missing out on business-essential communications or leaving customers feeling less than satisfied with your service.
Virtual assistant phone answering services are useful during busy periods, but they’re also useful when customers or prospects call after business hours. Most consumers prefer talking to a live person. In fact, a survey published by Business Wire found that 55% of customers believe that the ability to reach a live agent is the single most important customer service feature a business can offer.
So how can a virtual phone assistant streamline your business, greatly improve your professional image, and elevate your customer service? Keep reading.
The Basics of a Virtual Assistant Phone Answering Service
A virtual receptionist is an efficient and economical way to have live customer service agents answer phone calls without hiring a dedicated support team. Virtual assistants don’t require office space but can provide a variety of services for your business, including:
- Answering and forwarding calls
- Booking appointments
- Taking messages
- Fielding common questions
A virtual phone assistant can help your business during and after business hours. A live receptionist can answer your calls and provide various services based on your business needs. The service you use may also offer AI-based automated answering after business hours, routing calls to another number or sending you notifications via email or text 24/7.
Why Businesses Benefit From A Virtual Assistant Phone Answering Service
Customers have high expectations about businesses being available or returning their calls promptly. According to Statista, 70% of customers expect a response the same day. This is really the bare minimum of what people expect. An efficient virtual assistant phone answering service gives you the ability to answer calls immediately.
A quality answering service can be a powerful tool for small businesses that may lack the budget to hire a full customer support staff. Whether a business is run by one person or a small team, virtual assistants save time while allowing your business to build a professional image and deliver first-rate customer support.
A virtual assistant will answer your calls in a professional manner, using a script that’s personalized to your needs. Callers can’t tell that you’re using a virtual assistant service. Receptionists will answer the phone using your business name with any personalized greetings that you prefer. In addtion, there are other advantages to having a virtual phone answering system in place, such as:
Answering the phone can take up a great deal of valuable time. Many calls don’t require a high level of expertise but require one-on-one attention. This includes answering basic questions about a business or booking an appointment. Even tasks that only take a few seconds, such as transferring a call to the right extension, can interrupt your workflow. Having a virtual assistant phone answering service handle your calls allows you and your team to spend more time on other important business-related tasks while customers have their needs met.
Reducing Hold Time and Call Abandonment
Customers don’t appreciate spending time on hold, having to repeat information to multiple parties, or having to call back later. Many customers never call back. They may think it’s less hassle to call a competitor. Customers also don’t like being transferred from one extension or department to another. A Zendesk report found that 68% of customers find it irritating to be transferred.
With a live virtual receptionist, you can significantly reduce hold time and call abandonment. A virtual assistant can reduce the need for transfers by handling simple communications and more effectively forwarding important matters to the proper channel.
Improving Customer Satisfaction
Customers place at least as much value on a company’s customer support as on the quality of its products or services. McKinsey found that businesses deemed customer experience leaders had double the revenue growth of competitors. A customer’s impression of your business often starts with a phone call.
When calls are answered promptly and in a courteous and professional manner, customers immediately have a positive impression of your brand. This can make it more likely that you’ll get repeat business, recommendations, and positive reviews.
While outsourcing customer service is an expense, it’s also an investment in your business. As noted, it can lead to greater customer satisfaction and revenue. Another point to consider is that using a virtual receptionist is more economical than hiring dedicated support staff. You avoid the complications of payroll, benefits, and other issues associated with hiring employees. In addition, you don’t need to provide office space for customer support. Truelist reports that using a virtual assistant can save businesses up to 78% on costs associated with running daily operations.
Features To Look For In A Virtual Assistant Phone Answering Service
It’s important to find a service that’s a good fit for your needs and budget. Different companies and plans will offer their own features along with various price points. The following are some features to look for in a virtual receptionist phone plan.
Virtual Assistants Who Can Answer Common Questions
Old-school answering services in general only answered the phone and took messages. A modern virtual answering service can do quite a bit more. They can serve a purpose similar to a FAQ section on your website, but with more personalization and greater knowledge of the customer.
By answering callers’ questions, virtual receptionists cut down on your workload. Many people who call a business have unique situations but similar, common questions. The receptionist can answer directly or refer the caller to a source that provides the solution.
The Ability to Efficiently Take Messages and Detailed Notes
For questions that the receptionist can’t answer, it’s important to get the message as soon as possible. You can instruct the virtual assistant phone answering service about how you want to receive messages—for example, whether you prefer them forwarded to you via text or email.
Related: Choosing the Right Business Phone System: A Comprehensive Guide
A good virtual receptionist can take detailed call notes when necessary. When you have a busy schedule, it’s not enough to know that someone called and wants a callback. It’s important to know whether they are a prospect, an existing customer, someone marketing their own products, or another category. Knowing the person’s needs or agenda gives you a better handle on professional communication in less time.
Call Forwarding for Efficient Communication
Call forwarding is another helpful service to look for that streamlines operations. With the right service, you can have calls forwarded to another number, such as your personal mobile number or an appropriate extension, while always maintaining a professional appearance. There’s also the option of having callers leave a message in your voicemail box.
Call Screening to Reduce Spam
A high percentage of calls made to any number can be classified as spam. As a business, you don’t have the luxury of ignoring calls from unknown numbers. Hence, if you or your staff answers your own calls, you probably waste valuable time dealing with unwanted pitches, wrong numbers, and other irrelevant calls. A virtual receptionist screens your calls and only forwards the ones that matter to you.
Appointment Setting for Customers and Prospects
Booking appointments is another useful task that virtual assistants can handle for a business. This is a crucial and often time-consuming task for business owners and their employees. A virtual receptionist can organize the whole process by making, changing, and canceling appointments. Meetings can be automatically inserted into your calendar to easily keep track of your schedule.
Training in Multiple Industries and HIPAA Compliant
Having a virtual receptionist who can answer the phone, take messages, and reroute calls is valuable in itself. However, it’s even better if you have receptionists who can field customer questions. For this, you need people with knowledge in particular industries, such as medical, legal, or real estate. When a virtual receptionist has this type of specialized knowledge, it builds your company’s credibility and allows you to deliver better customer service.
In fields such as legal and medical, it’s especially important that virtual assistants are familiar with basic guidelines. For example, providing incorrect legal advice could create liabilities for a firm. For medical companies, the virtual assistant phone answering service has to be HIPAA compliant.
Businesses must always consider their budget when choosing options. One of the benefits of virtual receptionist services is that you can find plans that match your usage. This is in contrast to paying dedicated support staff by the hour or week. Find a service that offers flexible plans so you only pay for the services you need. As your business grows, you can scale up.
Find The Right Phone Answering Service For Your Business
Taking advantage of the right tools can help your business operate, grow, and thrive. Virtual receptionists are invaluable to small businesses with tight budgets in any industry by providing the services you need in a simple package. Phone.com offers flexible phone solutions for businesses, including virtual assistant phone answering services, VoIP phones, video conferencing, and more. To learn about our plans or to request a demo, contact us today.