The Rise of the Virtual Receptionist in the UK

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smiling man receptionist answering a call online

Receptionist services are the front line of most sizeable business; fielding calls from clients, partners, suppliers, and customers is all in a day’s work. 

In recent years there’s been a noticeable shift towards having an automated virtual receptionist on the ‘front desk’. According to Gartner, the percentage of digital workers using some type of virtual receptionist is expected to hit 25% in 2021, up from less than 2% in 2019. It’s not just the usage that’s increasing – the level of sophistication built into these services is growing too. 

With first-hand experience in this pioneering technology, we’re excited that more and more companies in the UK are realising the potential that comes with the best virtual receptionist systems for small and large businesses. But before we get into those benefits, let’s look at a more fundamental question.

How does a virtual receptionist work?

Having a virtual receptionist can offer a number of simple, yet incredibly useful functions to help almost any business run more smoothly. So, what sort of things might you expect from a virtual receptionist service?

Put simply, they provide an automated answering service. In addition to fielding incoming calls to your business and taking messages, your virtual receptionist system would typically offer functionality such as placing any orders being made, scheduling appointments, collecting leads, and making live transfers. Some are even able to answer frequently asked questions, like your company’s opening hours and location.

If you’re a business that’s installing a virtual receptionist, there’s usually a bit of customisation involved. Sometimes your provider will handle everything for you, but you should be able to specify your preferences. For example; what hours will your virtual receptionist work – around the clock, during regular office hours, or just over lunchtime? Other features could include your automated phone receptionist software putting specific, known callers straight through to a particular team or member of staff. 

For the caller, on the other hand, a virtual receptionist service is presented as a simple voice menu – similar to those used by most call centres, helping guide customers to the right department. You’ll probably have to request to be put through to a member of the team in order to speak to a human. However, with tasks like scheduling appointments, making a purchase, and leaving a message, it’ll likely just be a case of navigating a menu using the numbers and symbols on your keypad, or your voice.

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What are the benefits of having a virtual receptionist?

With a virtual receptionist service, it’s like you’ve got another pair of hands in the workplace. This technology is ideal for freeing up your team members from menial tasks, helping raise productivity as well as morale. Less time spent on admin means your colleagues can shift more of their focus to rewarding and fulfilling tasks. 

The fact that a virtual receptionist can be available 24/7 is great news if you do business internationally. Your overseas clients can get in touch and place orders during working hours that are convenient for them. At the same time, you know you are less likely to miss important calls and potential sales opportunities, by giving your customers different ways of finding the information they’re after and placing orders. 

Of course, email and digital purchases are often the go-to saviours in terms of keeping business ticking over around the clock. But many clients still prefer to pick up the phone, so a good virtual receptionist system can offer your business a valuable additional tool.

Why is it important to answer every call?

It would be an understatement to say that the digital age has heralded a change in the way we do business. Phone calls, however, remain a big part of the way we interact as professionals. In fact, around 79% of customers prefer to interact with businesses over the telephone. Phone calls are simply more immediate. 

It can also often be the case that customers calling in are more intent on making a purchase, doing business, or offering feedback, compared with people who follow us on social media or submit an online enquiry. That call waiting could be a potential client dialling through the search listings of companies like yours, looking for a potential supplier. Scenarios like this are why it’s a good idea to have some kind of automated or virtual receptionist in place to help out.

Opportunity calling

Here at RingCentral, we’re big fans of automation. You just need to take a quick look at our product range to see that. RingCentral Office, for example, offers its own virtual receptionist service, meaning you’ll never miss another call again.

RingCentral Contact Centre helps you elevate your customer support offering with smart software, such as skills-based routing (connecting customers with the best person or team for their query), self-service options, and intelligent routing. 

If you’re sold on the virtues of automated receptionist software, why not get in touch with one of our experts by calling us on 0800 098 8340. We’re always open for a chat.

Now read the ultimate guide to what VoIP is and how it benefits business

Originally published Mar 03, 2021, updated Jan 16, 2023

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