Scaling your business is tough; balancing the budget to buy more materials and hire extra help is even tougher! Lots of business owners find it almost impossible to get affordable staff on short notice, especially for customer service.
But even though this can be quite a challenge, it’s not impossible. In fact, business owners just like you can get the help they need by hiring a virtual assistant or relying on an answering service.
Not sure which of these two solutions to utilize? Let’s review virtual assistants vs. answering services to determine which is right for your business overall.
What Is an Answering Service?
In a nutshell, a virtual answering service is a telephone communication company that gives your business “virtual receptionists.” These virtual receptionists work for your company while staying on the payroll of the answering service you partner with.
Specifically, virtual receptionists:
- Handle any incoming calls for your business
- Make outgoing calls when necessary
- Take notes or messages for your key staff members to review later
Answering services give your business several agents that can assist with call handling, outgoing messages, and other telecommunication needs. For example, answering services can resolve problems for clients and customers, answer frequently asked questions about your business, and set up meetings for your front-line sales representatives. They can handle many of the day-to-day tasks that are typically assigned to an in-house customer service team at a fraction of the price.
Even better, many answering services let business owners choose from customizable packages. This, in turn, allows those business owners to pick the best options and services for their needs.
If you like the idea of having a virtual team of customer service representatives working for your company — but also like not having to hire, fire, or manage them — an answering service could be right for your organization.
Pros of an Answering Service
Answering services have plenty of advantages that make them worthwhile for businesses just like yours.
For example, answering services may help your company save money across the board. Overall, they’re much less expensive compared to hiring one or even several full-time, in-house employees, for whom you have to provide not only a salary but also benefits.
Furthermore, answering services may help your company both acquire and retain long-term customers. Because answering services are staffed with professional CS specialists, you can rest assured that customer complaints or communications will be handled with the utmost professionalism and efficiency.
Customer complaints can be resolved quickly and easily, saving you considerable time and money in this way as well. Each answering service staff member is a professional and is well experienced in making phone calls, listening to customers, and other customer service skills.
Perhaps even more importantly, an answering service may enable your company to offer 24/7 customer service to your customers. This, in turn, allows your company to accept customer complaints or contact customers outside of normal business hours while your core staff members (including you) keep regular schedules.
Of course, answering services also save you time you’d normally dedicate to the hiring and training processes for an in-house customer service team. Answering services take care of all of this as they staff up their teams.
What Is a Virtual Assistant?
A virtual assistant is an individual as opposed to a team of customer service specialists or telephone communicators. Put simply, a virtual assistant is a trained individual who can help your business in many different ways for an hourly rate. Think of them as a flexible staff member who works for your company from afar.
Most virtual assistants perform tasks including but not limited to:
- Data entry and data organization
- CRM tasks and analysis
- Administrative tasks like scheduling appointments
- Answering phone calls or making outbound phone calls
Because virtual assistants are just individuals, they can’t replace a full customer service team. They can, however, stand in as affordable help for your brand if you can’t afford a full team member or if you need just one customer service specialist at this time.
Note that virtual assistants may require additional training to be brought up to speed with your company, its brand identity, the voice you want them to use when speaking to customers, and so on. Many businesses find this a small price to pay since virtual assistants can do more than answering services, which only handle the phones and minor customer relations issues.
Pros of a Virtual Assistant
Virtual assistants, of course, have their own benefits you should consider when deciding which to use for your business.
For starters, virtual assistants don’t require you to provide them with equipment or a seat at the table. They come with their own equipment, work remotely (and so don’t need space in the office), and don’t usually require any extra costs on your end. All you have to pay is the hourly rate.
Speaking of hourly rates, virtual assistants are only paid hourly. That means you don’t need to worry about benefits, paid time off, sick time, or anything else. Even virtual assistants with high hourly rates may be cheaper in aggregate because you don’t have to pay for all of these ancillary costs.
In addition, virtual assistants often result in better productivity for companies like yours. That’s because your front-line employees can focus more on high-priority tasks or on tasks that better utilize their specialized skill sets. In the meantime, virtual assistants can take over the mundane or day-to-day work previously assigned to your core employees.
Overall, virtual assistants provide the same benefits as trained receptionists but cost less overall.
Choosing the Best for Your Business
At the end of the day, only you can determine whether a virtual assistant or answering service is ideal for your company. Virtual assistants typically work for small companies that need one or two people but don’t want to hire (or can’t find the budget for) full-time employees.
Answering services, in contrast, are often better suited for larger companies or for organizations looking to scale rapidly. Answering services let companies take on additional customers quickly without having to add many more salaries onto the payroll.
Both options can be great ways to scale your business or improve your productivity. Consider customer demand, affordability, and what you’re looking for in remote help to make the right choice!