When a Virtual Receptionist is the Right Choice for Your Office

As the modern office landscape changes, so does the role of the receptionist. Accounting and financial pros recommend having an iPad receptionist app.

Originally published by The Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business. Reposted with permission.

Ever since the invention of the modern company, the receptionist has held an important role. He or she traditionally is seated at the front desk of an office, acting as the gatekeeper for all who come in the doors. Receptionists are also typically responsible for answering phone calls and ensuring that each call is routed to the appropriate person within the organization. In addition to these duties, it generally falls on the receptionist to sign for packages, schedule appointments, and inform co-workers when someone has arrived to meet with them. The receptionist is at the epicenter of any office, keeping it running like a well-oiled machine. 

However, as the face of the modern office landscape changes, so does the role of the receptionist. With the advent of the automated phone system, fewer receptionists are required to answer the main phone line and route calls appropriately, as they once were required to do. People calling an office now need only press a certain number or dial an extension to be taken to the desk phone of the party they are trying to reach. Additionally, since more people are conducting business online, the number of in-office meetings where a receptionist's presence at the front desk may be required has lessened significantly from even a decade ago. The concept of the office itself has also changed- more and more people are working remotely, reporting to the office virtually, and communicating with colleagues and clients via collaboration software, CRMs, emails, and text messaging rather than conduct business face-to-face. With the rise of the virtual office, online interaction, and e-commerce, is there even a place for a receptionist in a company anymore, or is she or he, like a fax machine or Rolodex, one more outdated relic that is no longer necessary in today's business world? 

Actually, the opposite is quite true. As we increasingly conduct business online, it is essential to maintain the human touches within our business framework. Remote offices, virtual meetings over collaboration platforms, and webcasts may be the most efficient way to work while still maintaining a balance between personal and professional life, but it puts us at a very real risk of losing the human factor that differentiates us from the machines we use to simplify our workday. As we become more and more isolated from our colleagues and clients on a daily basis, it is more important than ever to keep a human face- and voice- presiding over our operations, even if that person's front desk is more conceptual than anything else. For cloud-based organizations staffed with remote employees, a virtual receptionist may be the ideal way to bridge the gap between the past and future. 

What is a Virtual Receptionist?

Simply put, a virtual receptionist exists to give your clients the experience of talking to an actual human when they call your company's main number. This person works from home or another remote location of his or her choice, and answers call that have been forwarded from your main office number as people call in. Despite the many technological advances that have been made, many people still prefer to have the phone picked up by an actual person who can help direct them to the correct party. 

If you do have a physical location and office reception area, you might consider having an iPad receptionist app and some sort of reception area kiosk. You still no longer need to employ a full-time employee to answer phones and direct visitors - it's a huge saving for your practice. 

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When to Hire a Virtual Receptionist

In addition to providing clients with a human touch, a virtual receptionist can be the most practical and useful choice for a number of circumstances. For example, if your company employs a diverse group of remotely-located people across the globe, it doesn't make much sense to rent out an office space. However, the use of a virtual receptionist can give clients the impression that your company runs out of a traditional office, which can carry more weight with some of your more old-school contacts. 

A virtual receptionist can also come in handy when your company is staffed by only one person: you. It is becoming more and more common for start-ups to be run exclusively by one, or perhaps two, individuals. These people wear multiple hats and conduct all daily business operations, including customer service, production and manufacturing, accounting, and marketing. However, some people can understandably be wary of a company with just one employee. By hiring a virtual receptionist instead of answering calls yourself, you are giving your company a professional feel, as well as giving off the impression that your business is a lot bigger than it actually is! This inspires confidence in prospective and existing clients alike, helping you to grow. 

If you are just starting out and don't have enough in your budget to hire a full-time receptionist, but you want more than an automated phone system that greets clients with a robotic AI voice, hiring a virtual receptionist may be the best choice for you. Virtual receptionist services are considerably less expensive than hiring a person for your front desk. Not only will you be able to receive receptionist services for a relatively low monthly fee, but you won't have to worry about paying for an employee's medical and dental benefits, Social Security, and other considerable expenses when you hire a staff member. 

How Do I Find a Virtual Receptionist?

A simple Internet search using the keywords "virtual receptionist" will lead you to a number of links for companies that provide such services. However, not all virtual receptionist services are created equal. It's best to read reviews and ask other business owners, friends, or relatives if they have any recommendations. It is essential that you choose a reputable organization staffed by professionals who have been thoroughly vetted and trained. This can make all the difference when it comes to providing your company with a personal touch. 

Our increasingly automated world, while incredibly efficient, can sometimes be a cold one. By using a virtual receptionist to answer your calls and route them to the correct parties, you are providing the old-school feel of an office, even if your employees all live hundreds of miles away from one another. Hiring a virtual receptionist may be the ideal solution for your company- an opportunity to give your business that all-important human feels while staying within your budget.

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