Answering Service Blog

Answering Services vs Virtual Receptionists - What to Know

Written by Aaron Boatin | January 02, 2018

Though they have their own, unique terms, answering services and virtual receptionists aren’t wildly different on a fundamental level. They may have been entirely separate in the past, but growing companies have started to provide a wide range of services that blur the line between them.

The differences between these services could sway you toward one provider versus another, however. If you’re not sure which type of support your business needs, this blog outlines the similarities and differences between answering services and virtual receptionists, and helps you get a better grasp on how to choose the right service.

To compare providers, download our free comparison checklist here:

How are Answering Services and Virtual Receptionists the Same?

No matter which kind of service you choose, answering services and virtual receptionists will offer many of the same kinds of support. An offsite agent will answer your prospects’ or customers’ calls on your behalf. You can also choose to lean on these services only when you’re unable to take calls, such as at night, on weekends, over the holidays or when you become too busy.

Depending on the nature of they call, your agents can perform simple tasks and forward or transfer calls to you or your team members. As far as how they handle those calls, you define the proper workflow. Of course, a thorough partner will recommend best practices that could help you streamline your call process.

Lastly, agents answering your phone calls are trained professionals. They are experienced customer service reps and already approach your callers with professionalism. That being said, there will always be differences between providers.

How do Answering Services and Virtual Receptionists Differ?

As you can see, there is quite a bit of overlap between AS and VR. Their differences are less black and white and more along a spectrum. The support answering services provide tends to stop around what we’ve already covered, though. Virtual receptionists tend to handle plenty more answering the phone and connecting you with your callers.

As their name implies, virtual receptionists can handle many of the same takes an in-office receptionist could perform for you. These “outbound” tasks they can handle for you include:

  • Scheduling and appointment reminders
  • Taking sales orders
  • Help Desk support; and in some cases, Tier 1 technical assistance
  • Industry-specific support, including for medical, IT and mechanical businesses

By necessity, virtual receptionists are typically more connected to your business than answering service partners. Their role requires far more interaction with your team.

This evolution of virtual reception didn’t happen by accident. As businesses (like yours) sought a greater level of support with maximum cost efficiency, call centers and similar provider expanded their services. Ambs’ recognized this need and an opportunity to evolve.

How Can You Choose Which Service Is Right For You?

When business owners or managers first consider phone support, they often think only of the need for answering services. But the more research they conduct, they uncover more opportunities for support that they didn’t know were available.

Before choosing a partner, first ask, “What does my business need? How can my business streamline its operations?”

You may only need a warm, polite and professional person to answer the phone when prospects and customers call. But you may truly need a partner who can serve as support staff and deliver an extra level of service. You may not need every last offering a virtual receptionist offers, but many partners can customize your program to meet your exact needs.

Thankfully, many established call centers offer both answering services and virtual receptionists, so you may not need to look into too many different providers to meet your specific level of support requirements.

How Choose the Right Partner

Once you’ve identified the type of partner you want to work with (and the features you’re interested in) you want to determine which provider is best suited for your team and business.

Make sure you know what service you’re signing up for, and what support you can expect from your partner , based on the information above. If you’re unhappy with the level of service you’re getting, it could be because your expectations are different than what your provider (or plan) offers.

Due to many discrepancies business’ expectations and their partners’ realities, we’ve developed a comprehensive checklist that can help you evaluate answering service and virtual reception providers.