A virtual receptionist service can add a professional face to your business’ call answering, ensuring you deal with enquiries quickly, professionally and efficiently.

But that’s only if you choose the right virtual receptionist.

Choose the wrong one, and you could end up with a call centre service that treats your business like an anonymous number on a balance sheet, and treats your clients and prospects exactly the same way.

There’s lots of options available to you when looking for a virtual receptionist service.

You can choose a freelancer, or you can choose a professional service with years of experience providing virtual assistants and receptionists to all different kinds of businesses across different sectors, with millions of phone calls dealt with and plenty of testimonials.

To help you out, here are a few questions to ask any virtual receptionist service before signing on the dotted line to make sure they’re the right fit for you.

1. How many clients do they have?

This is always a tricky one.

If you’re potentially the virtual receptionist’s only client it means they’re either new to the job and might not be able to offer the level of service you want, or they’ve not been able to keep their clients.

If they’ve got a large number of clients, do you risk becoming just another face and have your calls fall through the cracks?

You need to find a provider with a good mix of clients and more importantly, with case studies or testimonials from those clients.

2. How can they prove they’re answering calls properly?

This is where a lot of phone answering services and virtual receptionists fail.

They’ll provide you with your messages, but you won’t know how they dealt with the call to get the message because you never get to hear it.

Choose a provider that will give you access to all your phone recordings so you can check exactly how your virtual receptionist is dealing with calls.

For the record, at Face For Business we provide instant access to all your phone recordings via your client app, or portal, so you can hold us accountable and ensure we’re meeting your expectations.

3. What services do they offer?

Sure, you might only need a phone answering service for now.

But what about later when you’ve used your newly found extra time to grow your business?

Now you need help managing your diary and booking meetings.

If you’ve decided to choose only a phone answering service, that means going back out to find another provider to help with diary management as well. It also means splitting the tasks across two providers, which isn’t ideal.

Find a virtual receptionist service that offers all these services under one roof, even if you only need one of those services immediately.

When the time comes you can always add diary management to your phone answering service and, because it’ll be dealt with by the same company, you know the service will be joined up and you won’t run into problems later on.

4. What hours are they available?

Many business owners choose a virtual receptionist to get an out of hours phone answering service so they can switch off and spend time with family and friends at the end of the day, without missing an important business call.

But if your virtual receptionist is only available until 5:30pm, then what’s the point.

Make sure your virtual receptionist service offers an out of hours service to ensure you don’t miss those important business calls when you’re spending quality time at home.

Also, do they offer a weekend service?

You should also ask how their out of hours service works in terms of getting your messages – i.e. do you still get them immediately, or are they sent the next working day?

5. How would they handle a situation they may not be prepared for?

As much as you work with your virtual receptionist to understand the types of calls they’ll be taking and how to deal with them, there’ll always be the chance they’ll get a call they’re not prepared for.

In this situation you want someone who is calm under pressure, and ideally someone with the experience of dealing with unexpected calls.

If your virtual receptionist panics or gets flustered, it removes that mask of professionalism. Especially if the request is something a customer would expect your company to deal with easily.

Try running a few scenarios past your virtual receptionist to see how they’d deal with them.

6. How would you handle a client call when you’re struggling to understand what they need?

It does happen every now and then.

Someone will call us and the signal may not be great and they’re cutting out, or we’re just really struggling to hear or understand what they’re saying.

If this happens to your virtual receptionist, how would they deal with it?

Remember, you’re trusting them to not only put some professionalism into your call answering, but to make sure you get accurate messages that could be important to your business.

7. What types of clients do they typically work with?

If you’re a large company, would you be happy choosing a virtual receptionist who’s used to dealing with sole traders or small businesses?

Similarly, if you’re a small business do you want a virtual receptionist whose priority is the big multinational company they’re also dealing with?

Depending on the size of your company, you’ll probably be dealing with differing types of calls with different levels of complexity and requirements.

Make sure your virtual receptionist has the experience dealing with a business like yours so they at least know the basics of what your type of company expects from the service.

8. Do they specialise in any specific sectors?

Similar to the size of your company, the sector and industry you work in can often dictate what type of calls you deal with.

For example a sole trading carpenter isn’t likely to get the same types of enquiries as a large pharmaceutical company.

Choose a virtual receptionist service that has people trained specifically to work in your particular industry.

This greatly reduces the chances they’ll be caught out by unexpected questions or enquiries, and they’ll have the experience to provide a professional service within your industry.

9. How would they communicate with you?

How your virtual assistant communicates with you is as important as how they deal with customer calls.

You’re hiring them to make your life easier so how they communicate with you should be a part of that.

Are they just taking messages and emailing them to you? What if the email gets lost in the deluge of spam you get every day?

Are they expecting to call you at the end of the day and update you about messages?

Or, do you get your own dedicated client app or portal, where everything you need is instantly uploaded so you can access it from one place? (This is what we do by the way).

10. Can they provide any case studies or client testimonials?

This is a big one.

Every virtual receptionist or assistant will tell you they can professionalise your phone answering, book your meetings, organise your diary and help make your business run smoothly.

But can they prove it?

Have they done it before for other businesses?

Ask if they’ve got case studies or client testimonials that back up what they’re saying.

If they don’t, can you really trust they can do the job they say they can?

11. What kind of training do your VAs get, and is it regular?

Another big issue but one that is often overlooked by businesses that are new to hiring a virtual receptionist.

Sure, the provider may say they offer a professional service, but if that consists of giving a receptionist a phone, a computer and a script, how professional is that really?

Your virtual receptionist should be trained to a high level to deal with day-to-day business communication. They need to be organised, cool and calm under pressure, professional and consistent in how they deal with you and your customers.

Ask what kind of training your virtual receptionist gets.

And find out if it’s a quick two day course when they first start, or if training is an ongoing thing so they’re always keeping their skills at a high level.

12. Is there an early exit fee?

Let’s face it, you can sign up for a virtual receptionist with the best intentions and high hopes, but sometimes things just don’t work out.

Maybe you weren’t as busy as you thought you were going to be when you hired them.

Or maybe the service wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and you want to look elsewhere.

Are you tied into a minimum service period? Is there a fee if you want to leave early?

Ask the question and make sure you’re satisfied with the answer before signing on.

13. How does the pricing work?

What kind of pricing model does your virtual receptionist service use?

Is it a flat fee depending on the services you sign up for?

Is it a Pay As You Go service based on the number of calls they take, or hours they spend dedicated to your company?

Before you sign anything, make sure you understand exactly what you’ll be paying for and how the fee is worked out.

Know what you’re getting from your virtual receptionist service

You’ve got a big decision to make when it comes to hiring a virtual receptionist.

You want to make sure you get it right.

And you want to make sure you choose a service you can stick with in the long-term so you can get on with running your business.

By asking the questions we’ve been through you’ll be able to properly examine which service is best for you based on your needs and budget.

Want to ask us a few questions to see if we could be a good fit for your business?

Get in touch with us and our team can run through the services you’re looking for and would be more than happy to answer any questions to find out if we’re a good match for you and your business.