What Is A Virtual Answering System And Why Startups Should Invest In One

October 19, 2021
What Is A Virtual Answering System-featured image

Creating your own virtual office so you can work from home as a remote freelancer may be on your list of things to do. If you’re considering a career in the digital economy, a virtual office setup guide may be very beneficial for you. One important part of that planning should include careful thought about your phone service.

While you mull that thought, some of the world’s biggest remote companies have previously achieved greater goals to become full-scale enterprises.

Read on to learn more about answering services and call centers, including what they provide and how much they charge.

What Is A Virtual Answering System

Virtual Answering System – How Does It Work?

The services provided by virtual answering systems may include answering incoming calls, managing email interactions, monitoring social media, and covering live web chats.

Small businesses can use answering services to supplement their customer service efforts or to completely outsource their customer service needs. The cost of answering services vary based on the intricacy of the service and the number of calls received.

What makes a phone call virtual? 

Partnering with companies to answer and monitor phone calls is the basis of a virtual contact center business model. The fact that it is a “virtual” center allows it to be placed anywhere in the globe, independent of the location of the company that it serves. 

A virtual call center company may serve companies that take inbound customer service or technical calls but do not want to make the financial investment in dedicated in-house personnel to do so.

Unlike other types of businesses, this one can be established quickly and cheaply, and it has the potential to generate substantial amounts of revenue.

What do virtual assistants do?

Known variously as virtual receptionists, call center services, and live receptionists, answering service providers may be an invaluable asset to a small company that wants to enhance its customer service but cannot afford to hire an in-house receptionist or customer care representative. 

Answering service providers vary in complexity from the basic to the complicated, and they provide a wide variety of services that may assist small businesses to handle calls, emails, social media, and live online chat with simplicity, as well as manage their customer service departments.

Can they take calls?

A virtual answering system allows companies to outsource the answering of their phones to a third-party provider. Certain services, such as responding to simple questions and message taking, are very easy; others, such as offering comprehensive customer service, are more complicated. 

Virtual answering services are very flexible and can be tailored to suit the specific needs of a business. They are also quite affordable. 

In certain instances, these requirements are basic and simple, to the point where they can be fully automated. In other instances, a specialized agent may be needed to lead callers through a guided discussion.

Inbound calls are handled in a variety of ways by most call centers and answering services, including simple automated options such as the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) tree, which provides callers with a menu of options to choose from before their call is automatically routed to the appropriate party. 

Human agents may be assigned to handle your account when dealing with more complicated issues, according to answering services. These agents may get intimately acquainted with your company and, in certain instances, even act as your sales representatives to close sales on your behalf. 

Some companies even provide outbound calls to assist in driving sales and generating new leads.

How much do virtual answering systems charge?

Costs for virtual answering systems vary.  They are often decided by the complexity of the services you need and the typical number of calls you receive. 

Although the pricing plans used by answering services might differ, the following are some of the most common charges you will see:

Charged on a per-minute basis

Some answering services will charge a flat amount per minute, while others will charge on an hourly basis. Your overall monthly fee is influenced by the number of calls you made during the month.

Subscriptions are charged monthly

Some answering services charge a monthly subscription fee, which includes a set number of minutes that can be used for any call center service they provide. For example, if you purchase 1,000 minutes per month, those minutes could be put to use for a variety of different services such as message taking, FAQs, and order management services.

The rate charged per hour

While most answering services charge a per-minute rate for shared agents, some charge a per-hour rate for dedicated agents, who are often reserved for services that require a dedicated agent. Dedicated agents are typically available for $15 to $25 per hour, depending on their experience.

An answering service may charge any of the following fees or upcharges in addition to whatever flat rate is quoted to you: 

Setup fee

Installation fees are one-time expenditures that cover the cost of getting your account online or setting up an IVR tree for your business.

Holiday rates

When it comes to holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, some answering services demand a premium rate. Inquire about these fees, as well as what days are considered holidays by the answering service.

Time spent by agents on the job

When a representative is working on your account, whether or not they are connected to a caller, they are billing you for that period as agent labor. There are some answering services that do not charge for agent work time, but others do. Make certain to inquire.

Billing on an incremental basis

In some cases, answering services bills on a second-to-second basis, which means that you are only paid for the time an agent is connected to a caller in real-time. Others use incremental billing, which means they estimate your bill by rounding up to the nearest increment after each increase. 

The reason for this is because if a 1-minute and 6-second call were logged as “1.0 minutes and 6 seconds,” it would appear that way on your bill.  Some answering services, however, round up to the nearest minute, which has the potential to significantly increase prices.

How are virtual receptionists utilized?

When it comes to business assistance, a virtual assistant may be either a single individual or a group of specialized agents. Virtual assistants take messages and transfer calls.  Depending on what additional services you decide to include, your working relationship with a virtual assistant will be very important. 

Virtual assistants can help with other initiatives and administrative duties that are not directly connected to answering the telephone. For instance, they may be able to help your clients make travel arrangements in addition to offering complete customer service. 

Most of the time, a virtual assistant only assists a limited number of small companies or individual company owners.

Using your EMR or CRM, for example, a virtual assistant might log in and give account updates and a scheduling plan. Their business email address may be used to communicate with customers and develop connections with them. This is particularly true in the medical sector and other highly specialized fields of employment, such as engineering.

Guide to Setting Up a Virtual Answering System

Guide to Setting Up a Virtual Answering System?

Using a virtual office, businesses may get a physical address as well as office-related services without incurring the costs of a long-term lease or hiring administrative staff.

Virtual offices allow workers to operate from any location while still having access to amenities such as a postal address, phone answering services, conference rooms, and videoconferencing.

A virtual office may increase productivity since it relieves employees of administrative duties as well as the need to travel to and from work. Each employee has the freedom to work from wherever it is most convenient for them, and the business is freed from only hiring employees who live in the local vicinity of the company’s headquarters.

As more and more individuals discover methods to work from home, the advantages of having a virtual office will become more and more apparent.

How Do You Set Up a Virtual Answering System?

The most challenging aspect of operating a remote business is overcoming communication problems. Your first line of defense in this area should be to invest in technology that will aid you in improving communication with your staff and clients.

You’ll need technology solutions that can handle both internal and external communications so your staff can function efficiently and your customers can contact you when they need you. A virtual answering system can be one of those technological solutions. Here are the steps to follow.

1. Select a Business Phone Service Plan

Most businesses cannot operate on a one-size-fits-all basis. Your phone service must meet the demands of your company.

Choose from among fundamental, professional, enterprise, and ultimate plans to meet your company’s communications requirements.

2. Assign Phone Extensions to Individuals

Phone extensions make it possible for employees to easily dial one another and smoothly route calls from one person to another. Because these virtual numbers are intended to be used internally, you won’t have to be concerned about the possibility of these phone numbers being misused.

It is always possible for individuals or an administrator to modify phone settings, such as call forwarding, voicemail, and caller identification, whenever needed.

3. Make a recording of your phone greetings

An auto attendant plays an automated welcome when someone calls your company’s phone number.

If a client calls your company, this message will be the first thing they hear, so make sure it is well-worded and professional. Select a team member who speaks courteously and has a pleasant speaking voice, then follow the instructions to start your recording.

4. Begin making and returning phone calls

With the free business phone app, you may make unlimited phone calls to anybody from your computer. Using the mobile software, you may even finish calls from your iOS or Android smartphone while on the go.

If you need to take a break, you may divert calls to whatever phone number you choose, including your mobile phone if you want to remain anonymous.

How Do Virtual Phone Systems Work

How Do Virtual Phone Systems Work?

A virtual answering system may be used from home or the workplace, and installation does not require any additional gear. All you need is an internet connection to make and receive phone calls from the phone number associated with your business. 

Compared to past generations, modern VoIP phone systems can be supported by nearly all cable and DSL connections, a considerable advance over prior generations.

A virtual answering system offers remote workers the flexibility to work from wherever they choose, using just their laptop, mobile device, or desk phone as a mode of communication. 

There is no discernible difference between the two, according to customers and coworkers. When used in conjunction with your CRM, it will provide an additional boost to your productivity and efficiency.

A virtual answering system operates in the same way that traditional phone networks do, by managing every call that comes into your company.

It is possible to add every member of your team to your system after it has been set up and running, enabling calls to be routed to whichever PCs and phones you want, whether they are mobile phones or landlines.

How do you use virtual phone numbers?

The concept of virtual phone numbers is still somewhat mysterious, even though most individuals who own and operate a company are familiar with the concept of virtual phone numbers. 

A virtual phone number and a normal phone number aren’t that dissimilar in terms of function.  It is a little easier to understand the concept if you think of a virtual phone number as being just like a regular phone number except it is hosted by a virtual service provider. You may perform a variety of tasks with your virtual phone number, for instance:

  • Even though a virtual number is not associated with a physical phone, you may make outbound calls from any of your current phones, with the caller ID displaying your virtual number.
  • Contacting you via your virtual phone number is similar to contacting you through any other phone number.  The caller will have the same experience as if they were calling any other phone number. 

When a call comes in via your virtual number, it is instantly routed to your phone.  The only difference is that one comes from a physical phone the other comes through a computer network.

  • It is possible to activate text messaging on a virtual number. To your clients, it looks and works just like regular text messaging.  To you, it is enhanced text messaging. Depending on what texting service you are using, you will be able to not only send and receive texts as usual, but you will also be able to manage and organize the messages you get.
  • It is possible to add conventional extensions to a virtual phone system in the same way that they would be added to a traditional wired office system.  These extensions may be assigned to certain individuals or departments as part of the overall system.
  • When setting up a phone system, maintaining a professional appearance is a major concern. You may want to consider using a Call Menu, also known as an auto-attendant, so your callers may push a number and are immediately connected to the appropriate person. Fortunately, adding this functionality to a virtual phone number is a straightforward process.

How is the voice transmitted over the phone?

Digital telephone systems are of three major types. These are: 

  • A fixed digital telephone system, which is connected to the main telephone network via cables, allows users to connect to the Internet through voice calls.
  • Cellular telephones make use of digital signals that are sent through radio waves.
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems transmit and receive voice conversations over the Internet. 

Understanding how these different systems operate may assist you in making informed decisions about the telecommunications equipment that is most suited for your company’s needs.

With VoIP, a tiny microphone takes up the caller’s speech and transforms it into a stream of digital information in a manner similar to traditional telephones. Using radio signals, this information is transmitted to a receiver, which in turn transmits the digital information to the recipient’s mobile phone. 

Each cellular network has a certain spectrum of radio frequencies under its control.  Each phone has a unique frequency, which prohibits other cellular users from hearing calls intended for other phones.

How they work technically

Virtual answering systems are hosted off-site by a third-party supplier, who is responsible for their upkeep. Since this is a new technology, the terminology is not fully standardized and may at first be a bit difficult to understand. For instance, the phrases “virtual,” “off-site,” “cloud-based,” “hosted,” and “hosted PBX” all mean the same thing: that phone system servers are located in a location other than your place of business (i.e., “in the cloud”).

Calls to a business may be routed to a variety of devices, including desk phones, mobile phones, desktops, laptops, tablets, and landlines. Business owners can set up virtual answering systems themselves over the internet using a user-friendly interface, eliminating dependence on IT personnel.

Traditional business phone systems may take several weeks to install and configure. The majority of businesses that use conventional PBX phone systems do so in partnership with their local telephone provider. 

For businesses to operate successfully, they must buy or lease PBX equipment in addition to wired desk phones for each employee. These wired phones are available in two configurations: standard landlines and VoIP phones (Voice over Internet Protocol).  (Voice-over-internet-protocol means the phone is wired directly to the internet instead of a traditional landline)..

In addition to the initial wiring expenses, continuing connection fees are associated with each connected phone. In most cases, traditional corporate phone systems can only be used with wired desk phones. Smartphones, laptops, and tablets are incompatible with wired phone systems.  However, when using VoIP, all of these devices are compatible with each other.


How Can Startups Use A Virtual Answering System

How Can Startups Use A Virtual Answering System? 

How much do virtual answering systems cost?

Investing in a virtual phone platform is a one-time investment that may produce significant benefits for any kind of company, but it is especially important for startups because it allows them to make low-cost phone calls.

To expand their customer base, new companies must often conduct a large number of cold calls and network with other businesses.  Finding the cheapest way to do this is very important for cash-strapped young companies.

VoIP phone service providers go out of their way to create affordable price plans for new companies, ensuring that they get the best possible rates for their services.

This lowers the costs associated with corporate communications while also providing startups with access to the highest possible High Definition audio quality as well as innovative features. Another excellent feature of VoIP service providers is their ability to customize packages to meet customer needs.

Suppose your company has an outbound call center that must make a large number of outgoing calls every day. Your service provider will set up a pricing plan that offers outgoing calls at the lowest feasible rate.

Startups are small but smart and quick to adapt to technology

Startups have to anticipate the unexpected and adapt fast.  The coronavirus epidemic has added a new dimension to the turbulent entrepreneurial experience: figuring out how to function in a business climate that may change weekly.

Entrepreneurs who can adapt to new environments may have a window of opportunity.

Reasons/benefits a virtual answering system offers startups and entrepreneurs

Using a virtual business phone service, as opposed to a conventional telephone, offers many benefits that you should consider.

These systems are extremely scalable.  Businesses may start with simple VoIP phone service and progressively add more services or extra customers as their needs grow.

Not only can a phone system be tailored to the particular requirements of a company – and be able to expand with it – but customers will also avoid paying for services they do not need.

Additional features include the ability to integrate multiple communication channels – such as video calling, online faxing, or SMS text messaging – within their virtual calling platform.  This is not possible with traditional telephone service (POTS.) 

Customers and colleagues can interact on the channel that is most convenient for them, and all discussions will be automatically synchronized across all channels and devices to ensure that no essential information is missed.

Features that phone answering systems cover for the most common business problems

Virtual telephony gives you access to a variety of sophisticated tools that make it easier to collaborate with others and share data. Call recording features, for example, may allow new companies to maintain an electronic history of all conversations.  These can later be retrieved to offer better training to employees.

A variety of additional capabilities, such as call forwarding, guarantee that customers’ calls can be passed to any other mobile or landline number, ensuring that not a single business opportunity is lost. 

For communications with foreign customers to occur at a time convenient for both parties, call planners may assist executives in organizing business communications with them.

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