Before the technology boom, there was only one way to get your office phone answered—someone had to physically pick it up. These days you have plenty of options.
With phone trees, automated phone systems, and auto-attendants, you don’t even need a real person at your phone anymore. Or do you?
In the age of technology, human interaction is more valuable than ever. But that doesn’t mean technology doesn’t help. If you don’t want, or can’t afford, an in-house receptionist, you have two main options—an automated phone system or a tech-enabled virtual receptionist. What works best? Technology or human? We’ve found that it’s often the marriage of technology and the human element that makes the biggest impact.
Automated phone systems
An automated phone or interactive voice response system is a phone system that interacts with callers without a real human on the line. The entire phone call, or phone tree portion of the phone call, is done through interactions with a preset machine.
These systems vary, depending on what you’re looking for, but they have some general themes in common. They typically answer incoming calls and play a message, then ask callers to either speak in response to a question or press a button. Then, depending on the system, options, and the caller’s input, the automated phone system may play some pre-recorded information, route the caller further down in the phone tree, or connect them with a human.
Automated phone system strengths:
- Easy to use
Automated phone system weaknesses:
- Lack of human interaction negatively impacts customer service
- Inefficiency in automated systems can frustrate or confuse callers
- Without regular oversight, there is a risk of undiscovered malfunctions
Automation is the future, right? While automation always sounds like a great idea, an automated phone system runs the risk of alienating you from your customers or a potential new customer, by putting a mechanical wall between them and you. It can save you money, but it also runs the risk of costing you priceless customers and time.
Tech-enabled virtual receptionist service
A virtual receptionist service is a real, live receptionist answering the phone for your business—but instead of working out of your office, they work out of their own. At Ruby, they’re located in Portland, Oregon.
Different virtual receptionist services offer different suites of features.
Ruby Receptionists offers a full-suite of phone services including 100% live call answering, Spanish-speaking receptionists, message taking and voicemail boxes, call transferring, intakes, the feature-rich Ruby mobile app, and outbound calling–to name a few. While callers are taken care of by a real person, Ruby’s proprietary technology is providing the receptionist (and you!) the tools needed to provide the caller with the best possible experience. The greatest advantage of Ruby’s technology? Callers don’t even know that the receptionist doesn’t work in your office!
The biggest difference between an automated service and a virtual receptionist service is the way technology is used. With an automated service, you’re basically getting a robot. A virtual receptionist service, on the other hand, is technology enabled, but still a real person. You get all the benefits of sophisticated technology, and your customers get to talk to a real, live human. A friendly voice on the other end of the line makes a great impression that will help you win business.
Virtual receptionist strengths:
- You only pay for the time a receptionist spends on the phone
- Sophisticated virtual receptionist services allow for a high-level of customization
- Receptionists provide callers with fantastic first-impressions
Virtual receptionist weaknesses:
- More expensive than an automation system
- Limited to the information you provide the receptionists
- Services aren’t 24/7 the way an automated system could be
What is right for you?
Business size, preferences, call volume, industry. All of these factors play an important role in choosing the right service for your unique business needs. If customer service is important to you, we always recommend providing callers with access to a real person instead of a robot. It tells your customers that they’re important to you. It’s a small thing your business can do to make a great impression that turns callers into loyal customers.