As a customer, you’ve likely experienced the nightmare that is calling a business’s customer service number. Whether you’ve been stuck in automated menu purgatory or can’t get a hold of someone who understands the problem you’re experiencing, you’ve probably reconsidered ever doing business with that company again.

But as a business owner, how can you solve this breakdown in communication? Hiring additional in-house receptionists can strain your budget, and implementing more automation will likely frustrate callers.

If this is a challenge you’re facing, working with a live virtual receptionist could be the right solution for your team and your customers. In this guide, we’ll cover what virtual receptionists are and how they work compared to answering services and answering machines. By the end, you’ll be able to evaluate which option makes the most sense for you. 

What Is a Virtual Receptionist?

A virtual receptionist works for a third-party to answer phone calls on behalf of your business while providing the same professional and personalized service you would expect from an in-house employee. The primary distinction between a virtual and in-house receptionist is that virtual receptionists work from a location other than your office. Like an in-house receptionist, virtual receptionists do so much more than just answer the phone. They provide services that include:


  • Being the Voice of your Business: Phone calls are often the first impression someone will have on the quality of service you can provide. Receptionists—whether virtual or in-house—need to be welcoming and efficient to encourage callers to do business with you. 
  • Provide Customer Support: Existing customers need ongoing support, or they’ll be more likely to take their business elsewhere. Customers also expect your support team to be able to solve problems quickly. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, “67% of churn can be avoided if the issue is resolved on the first encounter.” Receptionists need to be supportive as well as knowledgeable in your industry to provide the best customer service. 
  • Route Calls: Receptionists connect callers with the team member best suited to provide support. Having a human answer the phone—instead of a lengthy automated menu—can significantly reduce call times for your customers. As stated above, customers prefer quick solutions, and receptionists help callers find answers more quickly.
  • Take Messages: Sometimes, the person that a customer wants to connect with won’t be available. Receptionists take messages in real-time, and there’s less risk missing a call. Virtual receptionists can provide the additional benefit of 24/7 availability, which means someone will always be ready to respond to assist your customers. 
  • Schedule Appointments: Service-oriented businesses rely on a full calendar to bring in revenue. Receptionists can juggle your business’s busy calendar to ensure that customers fit into your schedule neatly—avoiding customer service nightmares like double bookings and missed appointments. 
  • Industry-Specific Expertise: As the face of your business, your receptionists need to know your services and industry inside-and-out to properly assist callers. This may seem obvious, but it can be difficult for businesses with complex offerings—like medical and law practices—to find receptionists with in-depth experience in their industry. Working with virtual receptionists can solve this pain point because the best teams—like the ones at Berkshire Receptionists—are already trained in providing specialized support for medical, legal, real estate, and more!

Virtual receptionists act as an extension of your team with a singular goal: to provide the excellent service your customers expect and deserve.  

Whether you have a small business or a large corporation, a virtual receptionist can prove invaluable to your team. A high-quality virtual receptionist service will be available to take calls during business hours, evenings, and even weekends, ensuring you always meet your customers’ needs. Plus, these teams of specialists can handle multiple calls simultaneously, reducing wait times and improving the overall customer experience.

How Does a Virtual Receptionist Work?

A virtual receptionist is part of a third-party service, so these receptionists represent your business but are not part of your full-time staff. When someone calls your business’s phone number, a virtual receptionist will pick up the phone. When working with a professional provider, the experience will be so seamless for callers that they won’t know the difference between speaking with a virtual or in-office receptionist.

Even though virtual receptionists aren’t present at your physical location, they still integrate with your business’s processes. Berkshire Receptionists’ services can integrate with 5,000+ platforms. That means our receptionists can connect (with your permission) to your customer relationship management (CRM) software, your calendar, your communication network, and more. This integration allows virtual receptions to provide the best support for your business by:

  • Personalizing service for callers
  • Managing your schedule in real-time
  • Connecting callers with the right member of your team
  • And so much more

To see how it works, let’s look at specific services for a medical practice and a law office.

Medical Virtual Receptionists

Having a service-oriented virtual front desk for a medical practice improves the patient and employee experience. For medical service providers, virtual receptionists can:

  • Manage scheduling, which includes making appointments for in-person or telehealth visits, canceling and rescheduling appointments, and confirming visits with patients. With 24/7 availability, your medical practice can be there for your patients whenever they need you.
  • Process payments, which helps make visits go smoothly and ensures your business gets paid.
  • Stay current on healthcare industry updates to always provide helpful support for patients, especially during stressful conversations.

As a medical service provider, you know firsthand how important each interaction is, with patients who may be scared or anxious and sensitive health information being handled. For professionals like Plastic Surgeons, Cosmetic Doctors, Dentists, Out-of-network Physicians, Specialized Surgeons, and more, each call is an important patient who expects an extremely high-quality experience…and could be worth thousands of dollars. 

A premium service like Berkshire Receptionist will give your patients the white-glove experience they deserve. You’ll have HIPAA compliant receptionists who handle taking messages for doctors while they are in surgery or an appointment and after-hours messages. Additionally, we offer HIPAA Secure Messaging, as well as a web portal to view messages and update who is on-call.

Meet with our medical virtual receptionists to see how your practice could benefit from round-the-clock, experienced representatives.

Legal Virtual Receptionists

The best legal answering service is a team of virtual receptionists that reduce the administrative load for lawyers. If you run a law firm, then you know all too well that there’s a lot of work to be done outside of billable hours. If you or your lawyers are busy with administrative tasks—like conducting lead intake interviews or answering basic questions—that leaves less time and focus for working on cases. Fortunately, these are all tasks that virtual receptionists can take off your plate. 

With important cases and sensitive information flowing, law firms can’t afford to mishandle their client interactions. With Berkshire Receptionists, you’ll find high quality professionals who know how to stay cool under pressure—and deliver amazing first impressions (as well as second, third, fourth…). The attention to detail, on-going training, and consummate professionalism set Berkshire Receptionists apart. And did we mention that we integrate with Clio? 

Meet with our team to see how you can improve your customer service while getting valuable time back in your day.

What Is the Difference Between an Answering Service, an Answering Machine, and a Virtual Receptionist?

When searching for a live receptionist for a small business, it’s important to understand the differences between a virtual receptionist, an answering service, and an answering machine, which come down to:

  • Personalized vs. automated responses
  • Range of services
  • Level of expertise

Personalized vs Automated Responses

Personalized services have a human receptionist ready to answer your customers’ calls. This allows your customers to talk through the nuances of their issues and discover what next steps to take. Automated responses use a scripted menu to help customers guide themselves through support.

Virtual receptionists offer personalized services, so your customers can count on getting assistance specific to their exact circumstances. Answering services use a mix of personalized and automated services to expedite routine processes (like payment) while providing in-depth assistance for more complex calls. Answering machines only use automated responses to record customer needs or process simple tasks.

Every customer is different. Virtual receptionists provide the personalized care needed to satisfy each customer’s needs.  

Range of Services

Virtual receptionists, answering services, and answering machines can all provide the same basic services, such as taking messages, offering support, and scheduling appointments. The difference between these options is the quality of services provided. 

For example, answering machines can attempt to walk a caller through a question with a series of prerecorded prompts. However, virtual receptionists and live answering services provide customers with an actual person to speak with, so they can talk through challenges together and account for any unique circumstances.  

Level of Expertise

This qualification refers to how specific your answering service can be when responding to customers. For many industries, like real estate and law, customers will want to talk through complex situations. To provide the best service, your team should have the expertise to answer specific questions, understand the severity of certain challenges, or know who to connect with to find a solution. 

Automated tools like answering machines can only offer prerecorded answers, so they can’t provide specific assistance to each caller. Virtual receptionists or live answering services can support customers with industry-specific knowledge, if you hire the right team. At Berkshire Receptionists, our staff is trained in a variety of specialized industries, so your customers can count on assistance that actually helps them. 

What Are the Benefits of a Virtual Receptionist?

The benefits of working with a virtual receptionist include: enhanced customer service, increased availability, and cost savings. Here’s a closer look at the positive impact of these benefits:

  • Cost Savings: As a third-party service, virtual receptionists cost a fraction of the salary (and total compensation package) of an in-house receptionist. According to Indeed, the average salary for a receptionist is $46,536, which can strain budgets. Instead, you can expand your team with virtual receptionists. You’re also not limited to searching for an “answering service for a small business near me.” Because virtual receptionists are remote workers, you have more options for providers.   
  • Enhanced Customer Service: NPR reports that “customer rage” is at an all-time high. Brands make big promises when it comes to customer service, yet callers are greeted with lengthy automated responses and frustrating menus. Virtual receptionist services have a human on the other end of the line, so customers can get straight to the point. 
  • Increased Availability: The world would be a simpler place if problems only popped up from 9-5 Monday through Friday—but it isn’t. Ear infections start in the middle of the night. Personal injury incidents happen on the weekend. Real estate opportunities come and go during lunch breaks. Virtual receptionists can be available 24/7 to provide an after hours answering service for your small business, so your team never misses a customer who needs support.

When it comes down to it, the value of virtual receptionists is that they allow you to expand your customer support without breaking the bank.

What Are the Cons of an Answering Service or Virtual Receptionist?

People often think that virtual receptionists or an answering service don’t offer a quality experience. This can definitely be true, as the marketplace certainly contains providers who won’t get the job done right. You can spot lower-quality options by noticing the following characteristics:

  • Reliance on Automation: An automated answering service for your small business may seem like a quick fix for dealing with high call volumes, but relying on automation can harm customer experience. When choosing automated features, be sure to select straightforward tasks like payment processing.

    However, not all options rely on automation. Here at Berkshire Receptionists, your phone will be answered by a live human every time—and one who is trained specifically for your unique business!

  • Lack of Expertise: A cheap answering service for your small business might seem appealing at first, but providers that only promote their low costs likely lack crucial qualities such as industry-specific training. When customers call, they expect knowledgeable assistance. If your team can’t provide it, then that can be as bad as never picking up the phone.

Remember that training we mentioned? With Berkshire Receptionists, our professionals are given comprehensive industry-specific training to ensure they provide the highest level of customer experience. 

  • Difficulty Communicating with Spanish Speaking Customers: Other than English, Spanish is the most common language spoken at home in the United States. According to Statista, 40,537,337 Americans spoke Spanish at home. Businesses that don’t have bilingual receptionists can’t connect effectively with this demographic and will lose their business to competitors who can.

    At Berkshire Receptionists, our team prioritizes human connection with bilingual receptionists and training. You’ll find that these potential cons aren’t anything to worry about when you partner with us.

Are Virtual Receptionists Worth It? With Berkshire Receptionists, They Are.

The best answering service for your small business is the one that meets all of your customers’ needs all of the time. The quality of your customer service directly impacts your reputation and bottom line. At Berkshire Receptionists, we help your business provide best-in-industry support with the following features and services:

  • 24/7 availability
  • Industry-specific training
  • Bilingual receptionists
  • Lead intake
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Live call transferring
  • Spam blocking
  • Omnichannel communication
  • Payment processing
  • Integration with 5,000+ applications

Don’t put better connections on hold any longer: get started today