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.


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