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3 Things to Avoid When Using a Virtual Receptionist
Peter DeHaan

By: Peter DeHaan on February 24th, 2016

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3 Things to Avoid When Using a Virtual Receptionist

Virtual Receptionists 101

Most virtual receptionist services will answer your phone twenty-four hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. They often call this 24/7. Beware, not all 24/7 coverage is the same.

Around the clock live coverage is expensive to provide, and some smaller or newer answering services take creative shortcuts. There are three things to be aware of. While none are bad, they can provide you with less than what you expected.

Using Voicemail After-hours

During times when virtual receptionist answering services don’t normally have many calls coming in it isn’t cost-effective for them to have staff sitting there waiting for the phone to ring. As an alternative everyone goes home, and they fully automate their operation. 

This automation functions much like a high-end answering machine. Their computer answers calls and prompts callers to leave messages. Sometimes callers can even specify if their call is an emergency.

If the caller indicates the call is urgent, then the system automatically reaches you. In other cases the system mechanically contacts you whenever anyone leaves a message. Both scenarios can result in many unneeded interruptions.

Reverting to full automation when not many calls come in saves both you and them money. This is fine – assuming they let you know and you agree to this – but if you expect real people to answer your calls 24/7, this presents an unpleasant surprise.

How many of those folks hung up in frustration and then called the company’s competitor? I’ve done that. I bet you have, too.

Voicemail sends the wrong message. It communicates that callers and their concerns aren’t that important. It says “We’d rather save money than serve you to the best of our ability.” That’s not the right message to send.

Hidden Costs Using Voicemail Only After-Hours

Irritate Customers

What if your customers don’t like the impersonal nature of voicemail? When a customer calls with a complaint, their anger can escalate as they interact with technology instead of talking with a person who can help. Plus, in the time it takes you to call back, their frustration can fester even more. Instead of voicemail being a customer service tool, it becomes a customer disservice tool.

Lose Customers

Even worse, some customers won’t tolerate automation. If you exasperate them too much with your recordings, beeps, and inefficiencies, they will simply take their business elsewhere. When you look at the lifetime value of a customer, suddenly your inexpensive voicemail has become very expensive.

Waste Time

With voicemail you need to listen to all the messages. Then you need to write down the key information. Some people will drone on for five minutes and give their phone number just before they hang up. Others talk too fast and you have to listen to their message over and over, especially for addresses and phone numbers. What if you jot the number down incorrectly? What if you can’t read your writing or make sense of your notes? It happens.

If you still have the recording, you can listen to it again. If you already erased it (which is the efficient thing to do), then you need to scour your customer files and database to find their number. Or maybe all you have to show for your efforts is that you’ve lost the opportunity to respond. (Refer to the first two items.)

Play Telephone Tag

After a while of listening to messages you realize how much some people ramble. They can talk for two minutes and still not leave the key information you need. Then you need to call them back just to find out what they want. If they’re out, you leave them a message. Then they return the call and leave you a message, hopefully a complete one this time. Now that you’ve learned the reason for their call, you need to research the situation and call them back again.

But what if you need even more information from them? The game of phone tag rages on.

A virtual receptionist answering service is staffed by real people. A live answer is the best answer for your ringing phone. Answering services have people available to answer your calls.

Their staff are true professionals. They are trained on how to best communicate over the phone. They answer with a smile in their voice. They provide needed information to callers. They take accurate messages. And then they thank the caller for calling. That is so much more enjoyable than an impersonal recording with a beep.

Yes, some businesses need to use voicemail because it’s all they can afford. Maybe that describes your company. But other businesses hire an answering service because they can’t afford not to. I hope that describes you.


As an alternative to fully automating call processing during slow times some answering services outsource their third shift or some weekend work to other call centers.

Most times this works okay, but sometimes problems can crop up, as it adds another layer of complexity. Another concern occurs when the quality isn’t consistent between the two service providers. This is frustrating for callers and can cause problems for you.

Usually telephone answering services won’t tell you if they sometimes reroute your calls to another call center. If everything works as it should, then you won’t likely know either. But if problems occur, this can cause quite a dilemma.

Reduced Hours

Your call is important to us virtual receptionistA few virtual receptionist answering services only provide partial coverage, often skipping third shift or weekends. Others only provide business hours coverage.

In these instances, they may offer an automated solution outside their normal hours or they may route your calls directly to voicemail.

Ambs Call Center provides 24/7 Virtual Receptionist Service.

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