It originated decades ago, long before the smartphone or the internet existed. Most people encountered it late in the evening after business hours when they or someone they loved developed a fever or some medical problem they were not sure how to handle and called a doctor.
One Business Tool That Grew in Importance
A person answered all right, only it was not the doctor but the doctor’s answering service. In those days the answering service worked as a buffer between the anxious patient and the weary physician who just wanted a chance to get a good night’s sleep.
From those humble origins, the answering service has emerged as one of the essential business tools of the 21st Century, even though many laypeople and even businesspeople are not fully aware of what it can offer.
In this digital age—with clients, colleagues, and challenges worldwide—having an answering service has grown to become a necessity.
Answering Service Versus Voice Mail
One of the first great downsides of the digital age was depersonalization. Before automated voice menus, calling a business meant you heard a human being actually answer the phone.
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The virtue of talking to a person was that the caller either got routed to the right extension or got some helpful information: “Oh, you need to call this number.”
While automated dialing was vastly quicker and more efficient, it eliminated the human touch and often made getting to the right extension a treasure hunt: “I finally got to talk to a real person.” The default outgrowth of automated answering is a recording: “
Your call is very important to us. Please leave a message after the tone.” Compared to leaving a voicemail—and hoping someone hears it and returns your call—hearing an after hours answering service that responds professionally is delightful, relieving, and productive.
Duties of the Virtual Receptionist
Your answering service is actually a virtual receptionist who does a lot more than simply take notes about what your customer or co-worker wants to tell you. These are some of the abilities a well-trained, answering professional can do for your company:
- Represent your firm. Even in the online age, almost two-thirds of new customers contact businesses over the telephone. Hearing a live human voice encourages the caller.
- Provide pertinent information and answer basic questions. Proper answering service will be interested in learning everything you want to share with callers and will share that data just as you intend.
- Schedule calendar events, appointments, and contacts.
- Phone others on your behalf. The virtual receptionist is able to return calls to those in distant time zones as a go-between.
- Initiate personal contact. Does your website have a chat window? Have you considered the option of having a person call those who are chatting when a more personal touch would be helpful?
Industries in Need of After-Hours Assistants
The answering service began with doctors and, of course, the medical professions still need these virtual receptionists. Perhaps the surprising thing is how many medically related industries require this sort of help.
Physicians, hospitals, clinics, and testing facilities obviously need services. Similarly, drug stores, dentists, nurses who do home health care, and even palliative care facilities must have someone to answer the phone personally.
Many companies that offer emergency services must also provide responsive information through a virtual receptionist. These include disaster recovery teams, custodial cleaning companies, commercial supply houses, and delivery services.
Contractors such as plumbers, electricians, HVAC services, and even construction companies should provide a personal 24-hour portal for their clients. Legal and criminal justice concerns also should offer after-hours receptionists.
This includes attorneys, bail bonds providers, probation officers, and security firms. Naturally, this is only a partial sampling of the many industries that will benefit from a virtual receptionist.
Remote Assistants as the New Norm
The shift from in-person to digital communication is not the only factor resulting in the growth of virtual receptionists. As more employees are able to work from home successfully and productively, the need for remote assistants is dramatically increasing.
The answering services that have been developing the profession of virtual receptionists are best able to fulfill this expanding position. They tend to be adaptive and creative when it comes to meeting the job requirements of businesses to present an available, public-facing representative while you take care of business.
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