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Live Answering Service vs Virtual Receptionists

It is a common misconception that a live answering service is the same as virtual receptionist services. They both look very similar, so it’s no surprise that some people outside the industry construe them as the same. The main difference between the two is not about the physical appearance, but rather how the calls are managed.


What is a Live Answering Service?

A live answering service is where an agent answers your incoming calls using a tailored script customised to your business. The phone operator asks a set of questions (based on what you have designed in your script), and then relays the message to you immediately via SMS, e-mail, telephone call or your client portal. A basic live answering script generally covers the caller’s name, phone number, message and any other information directed by the client using the live answering service.

Instead of diverting missed calls to an automated message bank, a live answering service ensures that real humans answer the call. It also means that your customers can contact the business and speak to someone at any time of the day. In most cases, a live answering service is available 24/7, extending far beyond the traditional 9-5pm trading hours.

It ensures that disruptions are mitigated or handled more efficiently. For example, companies can divert their phones to the Phone Answering Provider when experiencing an outage, or in the event of a call volume surge. Even if the live answering service isn’t utilised at all times, having this process in place can form an integral component of your business continuity planning.

Common examples of businesses who use a live answering service:

  • Start-up businesses with limited staff
  • Businesses who receive a significant proportion of their leads via telephone call
  • Businesses who receive calls outside their trading hours
  • Remote workers, tradesman and other similar professionals who have their hands tied up all day and are unable to answer their phone while working on site

What is a Virtual Receptionist?

A virtual assistant or receptionist can perform more complex tasks than a basic live answering service. In addition to answering calls, a virtual receptionist can take bookings, send SMS reminders for appointments, provide help-desk or technical support services, process orders, manage payment gateways, escalate urgent calls to managers or on-call technicians, provide lone worker monitoring and more.

The virtual receptionist handles these calls according to protocols and processes that have been developed ahead of time. The virtual receptionist follows a custom script designed by you so that the operators stay on brand and on message.

Instead of employing an in-house receptionist who might not be utilised at all times, it is cheaper to engage a virtual receptionist service. Usage-based pricing delivers you better cost efficiency because you pay for each call taken. Rather than paying a fixed salary to an in-house receptionist, a virtual reception services allows you to convert your fixed costs into variable costs. It also ensures your clients receive great service from friendly customer service operators for a fraction of the price.

Common examples of businesses who use a virtual receptionist:

  • Businesses who receive a significant proportion of their bookings via telephone call (e.g hospitality, professional services, trades, beauty and more)
  • Businesses which require a reception service, but don’t want to pay full-time wages
  • Remote workers, real estate agents, tradesman and other similar professionals who are attending sites most of the day.

Which should you choose?

The choice between a virtual receptionist and live answering service depends on the missing piece you’re trying to fill in your business. If your main concern is to ensure that all client calls and leads are answered, then a live answering service could be a cost-effective and viable solution. In contrast, if you’re seeking someone to resolve client queries, take bookings and handle other administrative tasks, then a virtual receptionist is a better alternative.

We recommend speaking to a business partner who has the flexibility to offer both services. This will allow you to discuss your exact needs and specifications with a trained expert in both fields.

Get In Touch

TMC’s business model offers both. Our services range from basic live answering and message taking to dedicated support teams. We can assist with live answering, after-hours, overflow call handing and more. If a service requires extra supervision, TMC can provide a dedicated team member who directly manages delivery of your outsourced service. Our clients are also provided with an opportunity to outsource on a long term, short term or ad hoc basis.

TMC’s ability to deliver measurable business outcomes is backed by over 45 years of experience. We have a proven record of working with all types of businesses, from large organisations to sole traders. TMC has the best people and technology to ensure optimal delivery and performance at affordable prices. Call us at 1300 728 268 or contact us for more information.