The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed several aspects of our society and how we go about life. With Zoom meetings becoming the new norm for everything from office conferences, to classroom lectures, to your child´s dance class, the transition to virtual interaction is on the rise. Though the current global pandemic will eventually one day come to an end, many of the changes in how we go about our work lives will most likely remain permanent. One recent study that looked at pandemic-induced remote workers and their employers believes that around 16 percent of those remote workers will continue to work from home long after the COVID-19 health crisis ends.
While there are obviously some jobs that require a physical presence in a brick and mortar building or office, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that many jobs and professions can continue to offer productive, helpful, and prolific work from a remote location. In many ways, the COVID-induced transition to remote working is also a natural evolution that comes with the increased digitalization of the workplace. With the internet, increased connectivity, and a seemingly endless array of cloud-based collaboration tools and platforms, the role and regularity of remote workers should only continue to grow.
One area where remote employees should continue to see solid growth is in the area of office administration. More specifically, office assistants, secretaries, phone receptionists, and other similar occupations might continue to be hired remotely even after the COVID-19 pandemic recedes. For many businesses, transitioning to a virtual office answering service might be a common-sense move that comes with numerous benefits and advantages. Below, we take a look at how a virtual office answering service might make sense for your business.
What is a Virtual Office Answering Service?
Recent studies have shown that more than six out of every ten phone calls that customers make to small businesses go unanswered. It´s understandable: many small business owners are putting in 80 hour weeks and juggling dozens of different tasks at the same time. Answering phone calls around the clock is often one of those tasks that gets left undone. Of course, it´s close to impossible to convert a potential customer into a practical sale if you never have the opportunity to actually talk with that customer.
A virtual answering service is a simple and straightforward solution that helps small business owners add extra personnel to attend to customer phone calls at a fraction of the cost of hiring another full-time or part-time employee. Virtual answering companies are generally cloud-based or online services that take calls for other companies. Client or customer phone calls to your business will be forwarded to a third-party operative answering service where they can take messages, forward calls to the designated person on your workforce team, or engage in other predetermined tasks that your telephone communications warrant.
Benefits of Outsourcing to a Virtual Office Answering Service
A virtual office answering service offers several, tangible benefits for businesses of all different sizes. Firstly, the cloud-based internet platforms utilized by virtual office answering services allow you to have extra personnel working from the safety of a remote location. With COVID-19 cases continuing to spread, remote workers are a great way to follow public health protocols aimed at minimizing the risk of outbreaks. Other benefits that come with hiring a virtual answering service include:
- Lower labor costs despite a boost in personnel for your business: Virtual answering services generally charge on a per-minute basis, with an average cost falling somewhere between $1 and $2 per minute. If your business requires around 300 minutes per month, the extra $300 to $600 you pay to a third party answering service will almost certainly be less than what you would end up paying a full-time secretary or receptionist. Furthermore, the best virtual answering services such as those provided by Hartley & Associates attend calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; something that is virtually impossible with regular employees unless you have a budget to pay astronomical overtime salaries.
- Ability to avoid expensively prohibitive employee benefits: Another benefit that comes with hiring a virtual office answering service is that your business will benefit from extra personnel without having to invest in expensive employee benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employee benefits account for approximately 30 percent of total employee compensation costs, with a national average of $11.48 per hour. Outsourcing to an answering service can thus drastically reduce your total payroll and labor costs.
- Improved customer service, customer retention rates, and sales revenue: In the best of cases, a virtual office answering service will be pay for itself through increased sales and revenue for your company. Forbes Magazine reports that “84% of companies that work to improve their customer experience report an increase in their revenue,” and “73% of companies with above-average customer experience perform better financially than their competitors.” A virtual office answering service with trained personnel in your particular business niche will ensure that your calls are properly and efficiently attended to, thus increasing the probability of converting a curious customer into a sale and long-term client.
What to Look for in Virtual Office Answering Service?
If you feel that you simply cannot handle the volume of incoming calls and you don’t want to hire another full-time employee, it might be time to hire a virtual office answering service. It´s important, however, to search for an answering service that will fit the specific needs of your company. Make sure to prioritize virtual office answering services that have demonstrable experience in your niche. A company with zero experience in the HVAC industry, for example, might struggle to answer some of your customers´ basic questions.
Furthermore, the best virtual office answering services should also be able to offer a personalized service that fits the specific needs of your company. When negotiating the terms of a contract, make sure to ask if the answering service can provide diligent message taking, call forwarding, order management, and other essential customer service tasks. Additionally, the top virtual answering services might also have software platforms that can be seamlessly linked to your company for easier appointment scheduling, messaging, and other essential tasks.
A virtual office answering service is often the best way to improve your customer service at a fraction of the cost of hiring another employee. Contact us today at 866-918-8700 or fill out our online contact form.