Monthly Archives: March 2011


Compare: Virtual Receptionist or In-house Receptionist?

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Is a virtual receptionist really better than an in-house receptionist?

Everyone from sole traders to PLCs use virtual receptionists, there’s no fixed rule on business size or number of employees,
so how do you decide if outsourcing to a virtual receptionist service, or hiring your own employees is the best step for your business?

Advantages of a Virtual Receptionist

Outsourcing to a virtual receptionist service provides some key advantages unobtainable when employing your own in-house staff:

Cover

Virtual receptionist services provide extended hours of coverage, such as enhanced core business hours, weekends and even 24/7 cover. Although it is possible to hire many in-house staff, create and manage a rota, provide supervision, resources and building access during extended hours, the high costs and logistic load far outweigh the convenience of outsourcing to a virtual receptionist service already set up to provide the level of cover required.

With a static, in-house team your business has a fixed capacity to deal with enquiries. If you have one receptionist, your service levels plummet when more than one customer telephones your business at the same time, he or she simply cannot answer more than one call. The advantage of a virtual receptionist service is ‘surge’ capacity – when there is a spike in the number of enquiries, additional members of call handling staff immediately are available to answer enquiries – without any ongoing financial burden to the business. Surge or spike capacity is particularly important if your business takes sales orders via the telephone; an instantly expandable team of pre-trained order taking virtual receptionists can ensure every possible sale is captured, a functionality which an in-house team simply cannot accommodate.

Skill

In an ideal world, in-house staff would be able to turn their hand expertly to every new task arising within the business, but in reality, not everyone is good at everything. The advantage of outsourcing to a virtual receptionist service is immediate access to a rage or personnel with a wealth of skills and training, without the associated time, expense and uncertainty of hiring and training staff yourself.

Virtual receptionists are adept in a broad range of service areas such as:

  • order taking including upselling and cross selling
  • call patching
  • quote provision
  • outbound calling including sales, customer service and credit control calls
  • complaints
  • technical support
  • and all associated ‘soft’ skills such as handling distressed or angry callers.



A pool of experienced call handling staff available at the touch of a button eliminates in-house training costs and provides instant access to skills outside your current business range allowing you to respond immediately to market changes and grasp opportunities ahead of your competition. Outsourcing to a virtual receptionist service for your call handling also has the added advantage of cost effectively equipping your business with niche skills for short term or one-off projects (such as a telesales campaign) which may be difficult or impossible to recruit for internally on a short-term or contract basis.

Time

In-house recruitment and training is time consuming. Outsource to a virtual receptionist service and trained staff are
ready and waiting on a permanent basis, eliminating the headache of finding experienced staff, and retraining as they move roles or leave your business completely.

Technology

Beyond the myriad personnel skills available via a virtual receptionist service, consider the advantages of technologies accessible to your business by outsourcing to a company specialising in communications.

Provisioning resources in-house means buying, configuring and maintaining equipment yourself, but a virtual receptionist service will relieve your business of this load while providing the added advantage of keeping up with cutting edge technologies, which may be beyond your in-house capabilities or budget.

Virtual receptionist call centres are equipped with tens or hundreds of inbound telephone lines, alleviating the need for you to purchase advanced telephone systems or rent many telephone lines to ensure your customers can always get through. Backup and disaster recovery measures ensure robust business continuity for your communications, which is often unfeasible for small or new start businesses to put in place. Programmable outbound diallers complete customer service surveys in a fraction of the time an in-house member of staff might take to complete the same volume of courtesy calls. If your customer base receives critical communication at exactly the right moment – because you have outsourced to a virtual receptionist service with the technology and staffing capacity to guarantee prompt completion – the advantages are substantial.

Consistency

A virtual receptionist offers the advantage of consistency of service over an in-house receptionist. Consistency in business processes ensures maintained quality of service for customers and quality of internal processes for your staff. While an in-house receptionist is at lunch, on a break or on holiday, other members of staff within the business will bear the load of the receptionist’s duties. A virtual receptionist service will automatically manage variations without drain on alternative in-house resources. The biggest advantage, of course, being to eliminate the detrimental effects of unplanned absence, such as sickness. Unexpected absences can impact other in-house staff and service levels considerably, often with a large window of disruption while alternative measures are implemented.

Cost

Although all of the above points translate directly into cost saving advantages of a virtual receptionist over an in-house receptionist, many businesses outsource primarily to gain a fixed bottom-line saving, regardless of other less tangible business benefits.

At the most basic level a Pay As You Go virtual receptionist service offers 68 hours per week of receptionist cover at just 1.3% of the cost of hiring a 40-hour per week in-house receptionist on minimum wage. If you would pay more than minimum wage, the saving is even greater, not to mention.

Advantages of an in-house Receptionist

Despite all the above disadvantages, in-house staff can offer some benefits outsourced staff cannot, for example, while a virtual receptionist can still carry out administrative tasks in between call handling, they cannot put your physical files in cabinet inside your own office or make a cup of tea!

In the unlikely event that you have not converted to electronic systems, and day-to-day manual tasks are still critical to your business, then hiring your own receptionist may be a better option. A virtual receptionist service can still be used as an overflow or back up to cover peak times, lunch breaks and holidays.

An in-house receptionist can also greet visitors to your offices, but you may be able to cut out the overheads of office and employee completely with a prestigious virtual address service.




For further information on virtual receptionist services, call 01273 741 400.

How to forward calls from an iPhone

Friday, March 18th, 2011

Call forwarding from an iPhone to a virtual receptionist service is one of the most useful features for business users. IPhone call forwarding is quick and simple, if you know how, and can be turned on or turned off at the touch of a button.

Enable Call Forwarding on an iPhone

If your call divert from your iPhone is currently switched off there will be no blue handset with an arrow icon on the display bar at the top, to the left of the clock.

To enable call forwarding from an iPhone:

  • Tap the Settings app. By default this is on the home screen.
  • Scroll down to the Phone menu option and tap.
  • Tap Call Forwarding.
  • Slide the OFF switch to ON.
  • The Fowarding To field will appear. Simply enter your virtual receptionist divert number in your instruction document. If forwarding from outside the UK, remove the first zero and use +44 (where + is the code to dial out of the country you are in, and 44 is the code to access the UK.)
  • When you’re done, tap the Call Forwarding back arrow in the top left hand corner to confirm.
  • In some versions the ON/OFF slider may have gone back to the OFF position. If so, slide to ON to activate.
  • A blue handset icon with an arrow pointing to the right will appear to the left of the clock on the top menu bar to indicate call forwarding is active.


Disable Call Forwarding on an iPhone

If your call divert from your iPhone is currently switched on there will be a blue handset with an arrow icon on the display bar at the top, to the left of the clock.

To disable call forwarding from an iPhone:

  • Tap the Settings app. By default this is on the home screen.
  • Scroll down to the Phone menu option and tap.
  • Tap Call Forwarding
  • Slide the ON switch to OFF
  • The blue handset icon with an arrow pointing to the right will disappear on the top menu bar to indicate call forwarding is deactivated.


For further help diverting calls to your virtual receptionist service call 01273 741 400 or 0800 849 3990.

Foreign Office bumps call handling to rescue stranded Britons in Libya

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Call Handling demands rose beyond 1000 calls per day when British citizens and their families in the UK bombarded the Foreign Office with pleas for assistance.

As protests against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi increased, hundreds of Britons evacuated via chartered flights and two ships, including British warship HMS Cumberland. Tens of thousands of foreign nationals have flooded borders with Egypt, Tunisia and Niger in efforts to escape the deadly uprisings.

Call handling requirements subsided when the majority of British citizens reached safety, however an estimated 170 people – mainly oil workers – remain trapped in remote camps in the desert.

Vodafone restores call handling following theft-induced outage

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Hundreds of call handling clients reverted to virtual receptionist services when theft of Vodafone equipment cut off hundreds of thousands of customers.

Vodafone suffered widespread loss of coverage after a break in at its facility in Basingstoke, some time between 1am and 2am on Monday morning. The outage disrupted call handling as well as data and other mobile services.

While no official update was available on the Vodafone website, according to an administrator on the Vodafone forum, the theft of “specialist network equipment and IT hardware” denied hundreds of thousands of customers proper communication for most of the business day. Although the administrator reported that the loss of service was “mainly confined to parts of the M4 corridor and some areas either side,” customers as far as Cornwall reported loss of call handling capabilities.

Businesses across the country fell back on disaster recovery and business continuity plans, invoking virtual receptionist services to co-ordinate mobile workers and remote staff who rely on mobile network coverage to keep in touch. Call handling staff rerouted calls to home or office landlines within minutes, or moved entire departments across to the virtual receptionist service with order taking capabilities and appointment booking services.

Meanwhile sole traders who rely exclusively on their mobile phone as a single point of contact were crippled by the blackout. Without the backup of a virtual receptionist service, callers were greeted with the recorded message ‘the number you have dialled is not in service,’ leaving potential customers floundering in the dark.

Business continuity packages available include reroutable virtual phone numbers and remote virtual reception desks from as little as £13.50 per month.

For more information on disaster recovery and business continuity call handling or virtual receptionist services call 01273 741 400.

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