Answering Service Vs Virtual Reception – What’s the Difference?

Answering Service Vs Virtual Reception – What’s the Difference?

Many business owners see a phone answering service and virtual receptionist service as the exact same thing. On the surface, they’re right, both types of businesses answer the phone when it rings

It’s how a virtual receptionist handles that call that differentiates them from a strictly answer service business.

We’re going to compare and contrast answering services and virtual reception services.

Our goal isn’t to sell you on why you MUST hire a virtual reception service, but rather consider understand the differences so you know what to expect.

Answering Calls

Both types of businesses answer calls, with a focus on doing so quickly. This is the easiest part of the whole process, answering the phone, and it’s exactly what you pay a telephone answering service to do, answer that call.

What happens after the call is answered is where things begin to differ and why the cost of a virtual reception service is more than an answering service.

Handling Caller Questions and Requests

If you’re business just needs someone to answer the phone and take a message, then an answering service should provide the level of support you need. What if the caller has some questions about your products or services. What if they want to book an appointment? What do you do then?

Virtual reception services generally invest more heavily in their software and technology as well as their people. This is to ensure that each business can provide specific details about their products and services such that each virtual receptionist can handle basic questions and even appointment booking.

You generally do not get that type of support from a straight answering service.

Want to see how we handle incoming calls and the information we can provide our receptionists? Click here to grab a free demo video of our services.

Beyond Taking the Message

If you sell items over the phone, provide support or book appointments with clients this is a task best left for a virtual receptionist.

So many tools and services are now available online, it’s possible to book appointments, answer questions, look up information and even process transactions simply with Internet access.

This is where virtual receptionists really separate themselves from an answering service. They truly are your receptionist just not right in your office.

Ideal Answering Service Customers

If your business simply requires someone to take a message and that’s it then a strict answering service will work for you. The cost will be lower, they won’t be answering common questions or booking appointments, but every caller will get an answer.

It’s difficult to come up with a specific industry that doesn’t need great customer service. Every marketplace is becoming so competitive, there just isn’t a lot of room for sloppiness anymore.


Ideal Virtual Reception Service Customers

If you receive phone calls then there’s justification for having a virtual receptionist on your team. That is if you struggle to answer your calls.

Businesses that already have an established front desk staff or reception team generally don’t require virtual reception, however, we do sometimes provide backup reception services for lunch hours, times with heavy call volume and sick days.

We’ve found that professional services such as lawyers and accountants as well as wellness services such as Chiropractors and massage therapists see big benefits in having a virtual reception service support their team.


What Now?

The next step is to grab our free demo video and pricing guide so you can see exactly how we are able to provide specific information about your business.

You can request the video here:


Why Virtual Reception for Medical Clinics Just Works | Smiledog

Why Virtual Reception for Medical Clinics Just Works | Smiledog

In the medical, dental or even chiropractic and wellness fields, a missed call can mean big bucks over the lifetime of a new patient. This is just one of the reasons so many medical clinics have enlisted the help of a virtual receptionist business to ensure all callers get a live person to speak with.

In this article learn why medical and wellness clinics are some of the largest users of virtual reception services, and why it’s important that new callers always get a live person to speak with when they call in.

Busy in the Office

You know the process. A patient comes into office, checks in at the front desk and sits down.

After their appointment, they go back to the front desk to pay for any services and possibly book their next appointment.

Each patient likely takes 8-12 minutes of time at the front desk with each visit. That’s 8-12 minutes that your front desk staff are unable to answer incoming phone calls.

This problem is the chronic condition that most medical and wellness clinics struggle with and why many clinics turn to virtual reception for medical clinics to bridge the gap.

In many instances clinics use a medical virtual reception service for call overlfow only. This means that if the phone isn’t answered within 2-3 rings in the office it bounces to your virtual reception service to ensure the caller gets a live person. This is an excellent way to keep costs low but ensure all callers get a live person to speak with.

[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=”KEY TAKEAWAY”] Using a virtual reception service for call overflow and backup only keeps your costs down but ensures every caller gets a live person to speak with. Give us a call today to discuss how overflow call service works and how you can set it up with your Telco. [/thrive_text_block]

Appointments to Book

Most calls that come into a dental, medical or chiropractic clinic are to book an appointment. Few people are calling to ask a lot of questions.

This means that if your clinic is using a web calendar then you can easily allow someone off-site, such as a virtual receptionist for medical clinics, to book appointments on your behalf.

Missed calls, means missed appointments which of course means missed revenue.

Lots of Competition

The nature of most medical, wellness and dental markets is that it’s highly competitive.

You’re quite likely not the only shop in town, unless you’re in a very small town. This means that if a caller cannot get someone from your business on the phone to book an appointment a whole list of other providers are only a Google search away.

Ensuring that every callers gets a live person to speak with, even if your front desk staff is busy with a patient in the office, is essential.

Virtual receptionist services ensure that all callers get to speak with a live person in a timely manner and can integrate with your online booking software to schedule appointments with your patients.

It’s a seamless operation that helps your clinic grow!

Want to see how we’re able to answer calls in your businesses name and book appointments for you as well? Grab our free demo video and price guide now.

Be Weary of Small Business Telephone Answering Software

Be Weary of Small Business Telephone Answering Software

The software industry has automated a lot of things and saved a lot of time. Small business telephone answering software is not one of those things.Most businesses are still what we like to call human to human. When you call into any sort of business you want to speak with another person.

  • You have a question
  • You want to buy something
  • You want to book an appointment

Software just doesn’t do that well.

Now, let me say that done right an auto attendant is not a bad thing. The issue is that most people who use small business telephone answering software to set up an auto attendant do a bad job of creating that auto attendant.

The key to using telephone answering software, whether it’s RingCentral, a service from the telecom or software installed on your office’s phone service, is ensuring people calling have an easy way to talk to a human.

Don’t make people jump through hoops and multiple levels of press this or that only to get to another menu. Give them an easy way to talk to a human.

Different Questions for the Same Issue

Have you ever called the toll free number for your bank and waded through the deep multi-level menus they have on there telephone answering software auto attendant?

You know you’re having an issue with your debit card. Let’s say you need to get it replaced, but you’re not exactly sure what menu option is the right one. After all, they don’t come right out and say “for debit card replacement press 5”.

This is a common issue of automated answering software systems. You create the menu, but you, as the business owner or manager, have specific knowledge about your company and industry.

What you call something may not be what a current or prospective customer might think it’s called. For this reason, complex auto attendant systems will lose you more customers than get them.

If you must have an auto attendant make it easy for the caller to speak with a live person. This way the caller can describe the issue they’re experiencing or ask their question to a live person.

Alternatives to Small Business Phone Software

Rather than software, there are live answer virtual receptionist services. These services are offsite and will answer every incoming call with a live person. The cost is likely more than answering software, but you’ll reduce the chance of losing any new business.

As mentioned above, having an auto attendant setup that gives 2-4 options for a caller, one of which is a live person to speak with isn’t a bad idea. You can then connect the “speak with a live person” option to a virtual reception service.

This solves the issue of needing an in-house receptionist but doesn’t increase your costs by sending every call to a live answer service.

Not Every Business Needs a Receptionist

It isn’t every small business that can afford an on staff receptionist. Not all businesses receive enough call volume to justify an in-house receptionist, even if they can afford it.

This is why small business telephone answering software is so attractive. It appears to solve a real problem. However, unless the business owner is tracking their inbound phone call metrics, they may think the software is doing a fantastic job.

Before you decide on using software to answer your company’s phone, explore your options. Grab our free demo video that shows how we handle inbound calls for our client’s businesses.

How Much Does Virtual Reception Cost? | Smiledog

How Much Does Virtual Reception Cost? | Smiledog

We get a lot of questions about our services.

Some from people who call in and want to know more about what we do and some from people who complete our Getting Started form and answer the question “What’s your biggest question or concern about hiring a virtual reception company”.

We find this information fascinating and want to dispel the myths and fears about hiring a virtual reception company to answer your calls, deal with your customers and help your business run smoothly.

Today we are going to address a question we get a lot:

How do we bill for services and does it make sense to use Smiledog even if my call volume is really low (e.g. 20 calls or less per month)”.

We’ll deal with this question in two parts, answering the last part first.

Is Smiledog worth it even if I have low call volume?

The answer to this is, it depends.

What does missing a call mean to your business?

Are you a wellness clinic where a new client could be worth hundreds of dollars over their life?

Are you a home services company where a missed chance to provide a quote to a homeowner could mean thousands of dollars in lost revenue?

We believe no matter how many calls you get, if there are new prospective customers calling you, then you should give them a live person to speak with.

Fewer and fewer people are leaving messages when they don’t get a live person. So don’t lose that chance to build a connection with a prospective new customer on their first call by letting it go to voicemail.

So, YES it’s worth having a virtual reception service even if your call volume is low.

YES, it’s worth having a virtual reception service even if your call volume is low.

Of course, the question of cost has to come into play here.

How do we bill for our services?

You can see our pricing page here. From that you can see we have two types of services:

  1. Daytime Reception
  2. Appointment Setting Service

Each service has a base package, $149 for Daytime Reception and $299 for appointment setting, that covers a set number of reception minutes each month.

If you go over the minutes included with that package you are simply charged per minute based on the number of overage minutes used that month.

Want to learn more about how Smiledog’s services work? If you’re ready to get started then take a couple of minutes to complete our Getting Started form here.

3 Ways Your Phone is Losing You New Business and Customers

3 Ways Your Phone is Losing You New Business and Customers

The phone is the gateway to most businesses. Even in this hyper-connected online world phone calls are responsible for more leads than email or forms on a website.

This means answering your phone when it rings is extremely important to the long-term health and growth of your business.

Here are the 3 types of callers you are missing out on if you struggle to get to the phone when it rings.

#1 Callers Not Leaving a Message

As high as 80% of callers today do not leave messages. When surveyed the response is because most don’t believe they’ll actually get a callback. So what do they do? They keep looking for someone to satisfy their need whether that be a chiropractor, roofing contractor or lawyer.

#2 Callers Listening to Voicemail Greeting but Hang Up

Most voicemail service will tell you what the number was that called. So if you get it soon enough you can call them back, but most callers, if they’re a new customer, will keep calling other options to find a solution. Making the need to have someone live answer every call all the more important!

KEY TAKEAWAY: Callers to your business rarely leave voicemails in this new age of instant gratification. It’s easier to call another provider than to wait and wonder “Will I Get a call back?“.

#3 Callers Who Leave a Voicemail

You might think if someone leaves a voicemail they’re waiting for your callback. That may be true if you have a monopoly for your industry in your area. Most businesses don’t have this luxury.

Callers will most often keep calling your competitors to find a second or third alternative to solve their problem, purchase the product or book the appointment. By the time you call back they’ve already engaged someone else.

Calls answered live, even if it’s just a live person to take a message create a different connection with the caller than voicemail or an auto attendant. They’re more likely to give your business a chance and have an expectation you will call them back.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Virtual Receptionists will answer every call to ensure new prospective customer speak with a live person. A different level of trust exists when someone leaves a message with a REAL person than a voicemail box.

Having someone to answer basic questions about your products and services or book appointments with callers if your business requires them will remove any chance of losing a prospective customer to an unanswered call or voice mailbox.

If you are missing a large volume of calls consider a virtual receptionist service to handle your calls full-time or part-time.

What’s the Right Way to Setup an Auto Attendant Service for your Business?

What’s the Right Way to Setup an Auto Attendant Service for your Business?

At Smiledog, our specialty is providing our customers the best in virtual reception services. Often, we’re approached with questions about auto-attendants, and whether they are worth considering as a cost-saving measure. In this high-stakes world of business where every dollar counts, it is only natural that business owners look for ways to economize in order to boost profits. While many companies opt for auto-attendants, we think that is often a mistake. You may ask, “Why?” Well, the answer is, simply, that most companies set up their auto-attendants in a way that really sacrifices customer service.

The Wrong Way To Use Auto-Attendants

If you want to increase customer frustration, then a poorly-designed phone system is a good place to start. When we say “poorly-designed,” it may be “great design” from the stand point of a phone company programming the auto-attendant. Most phone companies set up auto-attendants in a manner that makes it unlikely a call gets through to a live person. This reduces call volume and employee hours spent on the phone. However, anyone who has gotten trapped in an endless sea of options with no choice to reach a live person knows how frustrating these systems can be. Is that how you want your customers to feel when then call? Probably not.

Since the inception of auto-attendants, it’s become well-known that pressing 0 sometimes gets you directly to an operator. Once this became common knowledge, many people would just start pressing 0 whenever they reach an auto-attendant, without listening to the options. Some companies, wishing to keep call volumes to their receptionists low, eliminated this option all together. This solved the problem of companies who want to keep costs low, but it greatly increased the frustration of people who just wanted to talk to a “real person.”

The Right Way To Use Auto-Attendants

We feel that the best way to utilize an auto-attendant is to offer callers the option of a live answer, alongside automated options for things like physical address, directions, and more. Those who need a quick and easy answer can access it without incident, while those calling for the first time or with a particular concern can speak with a live person to get the help they need, say, by pressing 1. This splits the difference for businesses, allowing them to reduce call volume without causing their customers frustration.

You may think, well, that avenue defeats the purpose of auto-attendant, because you still have to have someone monitoring the phones. This is true, although there is another option. Smiledog could be your backup live call answer that you utilized with your auto-attendant. This would reduce call volume and increase your office productivity, and you maintain the level of customer service that you want as a growing business.

New Customers Grow Your Business

New customers calling your business want to talk to a live voice, not simply leave a voicemail or listen to a lengthy menu of options. There are many options these days, and you don’t want to lose a potential new client because they couldn’t get a person on the phone. Consider virtual reception as a backup for your auto-attendant, maximizing office productivity while also maximizing customer service.