As a thriving small business owner, you handle a lot. In fact, a recent study by Inc. found that the majority of small business owners work at least 50 hours per week. And 70% of respondents reported regularly working during the weekend. At a certain point, most small businesses recognize that they need additional support. In today’s increasingly digital world, it’s even possible to contract with a virtual receptionist or assistant to provide support.
You might have also heard about virtual assistants and how they can help your company. So what are the main distinctions between a virtual receptionist and an assistant we’ll focus on in this article? The key things that separate a virtual assistant from a virtual receptionist are, in general, the scope of their duties. For example, a virtual assistant typically manages projects, schedules, and internal correspondence in addition to providing a wider variety of organizational and administrative help. On the other hand, a virtual receptionist is responsible for handling front-desk tasks such as taking calls, addressing client questions, and scheduling appointments.
But what is the virtual receptionist meaning and how does that compare to virtual assistants overall? How do you determine which is right for your business? And, perhaps most importantly, how do you find the best virtual receptionist for your small business? You’ll find answers to these questions and more below.
What Is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is a third-party contractor who provides remote administrative support to one or more small businesses. Think of a virtual assistant as you would any sort of personal or executive assistant—their main role is to keep you and your business organized. They perform a range of functions, usually with the help of digital communication tools, including email management, appointment scheduling, data organization—and occasionally providing specialist services like creating web content.
It’s important to note here that virtual assistants primarily interact with you and your team; they’re focused on day-to-day operations. This differs from virtual receptionists who are much more customer focused (more on this later in this article.) So what are a virtual assistant’s qualifications and what do they do for businesses?
What Are the Duties of a Virtual Assistant?
Generally speaking, a virtual assistant services list includes the following responsibilities:
- Booking meetings for you and/or your employees
- Making travel arrangements for your company
- Managing digital files and records
- Performing data entry
- Responding to emails and other forms of correspondence
Of course, some virtual assistants have additional skill sets. It’s not uncommon for virtual assistants to have expertise in areas like bookkeeping, social media management, or website management.
What Are the Downsides of a Virtual Assistant?
While there are many ways in which virtual assistants can improve the efficiency of business operations, they are not without their drawbacks. Generally speaking, these limitations are a result of both the nature of the services they provide and the scope of their knowledge. Let’s look at the top three weaknesses of a virtual assistant and how that can impact your business:
- Indirect Customer Interaction: Because they frequently concentrate on administrative work and support rather than one-on-one customer interaction, virtual assistants may not provide immediate, effective customer care or be able to address urgent problems.
- Lack of Industry-Specific Training: Although virtual assistants often have a wide range of skills, it is possible that they have not received industry-specific training. This means that their capacity to efficiently handle queries or duties unique to a given industry may be limited.
- Inconsistent Availability: The fact that virtual assistants, especially those managing several clients, may not always be available when needed—with the lack of 24/7 availability—could cause delays in completing tasks and communication response times. For companies that need constant, on-the-spot support, this might be a big drawback.
Simply put, while virtual assistants can be a huge help with administrative tasks, it’s important to remember that they do have their limits—especially when it comes to customer service. What are other solutions you can use rather than a virtual assistant? A virtual receptionist might be the answer you’re looking for.
What Is a Virtual Receptionist?
A virtual receptionist is a third-party vendor who answers customer phone calls and other forms of communication on behalf of a business. Just like an in-person receptionist, virtual receptionists are often the first point of contact between a customer and your business. Their role is especially beneficial for companies looking to maintain a professional image and efficient customer service without the overhead costs of a full-time, in-office reception staff. As a voice for your business, it’s imperative to find a virtual receptionist who is not only well-versed in your industry, but also who can handle customer calls professionally, communicating clearly and concisely with customers.
What Does a Virtual Receptionist Do?
Virtual receptionist services vary from company to company, but you can expect them to perform tasks such as:
- Answering phone calls, live chat, and other inquiries
- Delivering customer service and support
- Scheduling appointments for the business
- Providing industry-specific expertise
- Routing calls when appropriate
- Taking messages for you or your team
Virtual receptionist companies like Berkshire Receptionists also offer additional services and features, like spam blocking, payment IVR (interactive voice recognition), lead intake, and application integrations to further streamline your business operations.
What Should I Look For in a Virtual Receptionist?
Choosing the right virtual receptionist is a critical decision for any business, as this role significantly influences client interactions and the overall customer service experience. In addition to handling calls and scheduling, a virtual receptionist represents the business remotely and follows your brand’s established customer relations guidelines. So what should a virtual receptionist business offer to make sure they’re the right fit? Here are the top three things you should look for in a virtual receptionist:
- Professional Communication Skills: Being able to communicate effectively and professionally with your customers is especially important because your virtual receptionist will frequently be your clients’ first point of contact.
- Reliability and Availability: To ensure that customers can reach you at all hours—whether it’s during operational hours or after your office is closed—and that they receive reliable service, you need a reputable receptionist service that can answer calls and schedule appointments effectively.
- Customer Service Skills: When it comes to answering questions and keeping customers satisfied, nothing beats a solid customer service provider—and as a part of your team, virtual receptionists offer unparalleled customer experiences.
Overall, choosing a virtual receptionist can have a significant impact on your company’s productivity and the level of satisfaction among the customers you serve.
Virtual Assistant Vs Virtual Receptionist
With all of the above information in mind, the primary difference between virtual assistants and virtual receptionists is their focus; while assistants are operations-focused, receptionists are customer-focused. So how do you decide which is right for your company?
If you’re looking for someone to predominately handle internal needs, like travel arrangements, data entry, and file management, a virtual assistant may be the right fit. As you begin your search, create a list of tasks you need performed. This will enable you to find the right person—with the right skills—for the position.
If you’re looking for someone to handle customer-facing responsibilities, such as taking calls, answering inquiries, and scheduling appointments, a virtual receptionist may suit your needs. As a voice for your business, however, finding the right receptionist is critical. You should look for features like:
- Industry-Specific Training: Especially in highly-technical fields like law, healthcare, and real estate, it’s important to find trained receptionists. At Berkshire Receptionists, our team is trained to support businesses in your industry.
- Bilingual Receptionists: Support both English and Spanish speaking customers with bilingual agents. With 13% of people in the United States speaking Spanish at home, this is a critical service offering.
- Omnichannel Support: Today’s customers expect to be able to reach you in the way that’s most convenient for them. At Berkshire Receptionists, we offer support through phone, chat, email, and SMS to better support your customers.
- 24/7 Availability: Your customers don’t always operate on a standard 9-5 schedule. Virtual receptionists, like those with Berkshire Receptionists, ensure your business never misses a call.
Find the Best Virtual Receptionist For Your Small Business with Berkshire Receptionists
When you’re looking for a virtual receptionist to support your business, you want the best. Since 1943, the team at Berkshire Receptionists has been providing unparalleled services and support for our clients. Our team recognizes that our success depends on your success, and that’s why we offer best-in-class services and features like:
- 24/7 availability
- Appointment scheduling
- Bilingual receptionists
- Industry-specific training
- Integration with 5,000+ applications
- Lead intake
- Live call transferring
- Omnichannel communication
- Payment processing
- Spam blocking