Phone Answering: In-house or Outsource?

A receptionist is usually the person who gives your customers and prospects a lasting impression of your business. Much like the greeter at an exclusive condominium complex, or delivery driver from your new favorite restaurant. A good impression makes it much easier to maintain relationships with customers, suppliers, and partners.

Phone answering service

A bad impression will obviously make running your business successfully much harder. Nearly any business, big or small, can benefit from a receptionist answering their calls. The choice really comes down to whether you need a physical person sitting at a desk in your office, or if outsourcing to a virtual receptionist or team of receptionists makes most sense.

Here are some facts to consider, to help you make the right decision for your business’s (and customer’s) needs.

Flexibility: In-house reception can greet all your customers

An in-house receptionist can greet all your customers, both those who call and those coming into your physical office. In fact, the receptionist is the face of any business with a brick-and-mortar presence.

Customers will get to know them, and many will look forward to visiting your office just to see them to exchange pleasantries and shoot the breeze.

Flexibility: Not all businesses need a physical receptionist

For people running an entirely virtual business — or offline business where you don’t actually want customers visiting — a virtual “remote” receptionist or reception team makes the most sense.

It only makes sense if all you need is someone to greet, and route phone numbers, and/or take after hours messages.

Productivity: In-house reception can do more than just greet customers

When you need to organize a huge party or convention, or an impromptu meeting comes up, who are you going to call on for help? A physical receptionist can also be a personal assistant — making calls, ordering goods and services, organizing your meeting area, ensuring everyone’s coffee cups are filled, paying bills as they come in, etc.

They can also be put in charge of ordering office supplies as they’re needed, and stocking other essentials such as coffee and beverages.

Productivity: Virtual reception offers more flexibility in pricing

A physical receptionist can be your biggest asset when either the phones are ringing off the hook, or they’re able to handle multiple other tasks while working in your busy office. On the other hand, if all you require is someone to answer the phone and other reception-only tasks, it’s guaranteed you’re going to be paying a physical receptionist to sit around — probably sit around a lot.

You’re also responsible for covering for them when they become ill for a day — or weeks. Not to mention benefits and other incentives required to bring in the best talent. Most outsourcing firms charge by the call or the minute, meaning you’re only paying for what you actually need.

Workload: In house reception can only handle so much

If your business receives a reasonable number of calls a day, a single receptionist can handle that with ease. If you need a team of receptionists manning your phones, you might as well label your business as a call center. And that’s going to get expensive to fund!

A person or two can only handle so many incoming calls at once, and people don’t like to be put on hold for very long. Established customers will get ticked off, and prospects may hang up and never call back.

Workload: A virtual service is built for high call volumes

When your calls are routed through an established virtual reception service, there’s a literal team of phone answering service professionals ready and waiting for incoming calls. A potential drawback is that you won’t always have the same person answering your phone calls.

However, professional services use software that lets the receptionists answering your calls know exactly how to greet each caller, so each interaction comes off as professional as possible.

Office receptionists on the job

Costs: Physical receptionists cost you more than their salary

Keep in mind that the facts on this page aren’t meant to be biased. The fact that an offline receptionist costs more money doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it to your business. You have to weigh all the facts, including deciding if you need someone to greet customers as they enter the office, and to handle more than just phone responsibilities.

These are very important considerations, despite the limitations they have in how many calls they can handle at once. With that said, there are many costs to consider if you’re on the fence, and think your business could get away with either option, without sacrificing service levels:

  • Salary: On average, one receptionist will cost $30,000 — $50,000 thousand a year in salary, depending on experience level when hired, or time spent with the company.
  • Benefits: Social security, healthcare, 401k, pension, sick pay, vacation time — all these costs can add up to an additional $15,000 — $20,000 thousand dollars per year. All told, a receptionist can cost you up to $70,000 a year, before you even think about heading to the furniture or computer outlet to get them the equipment they need.
  • Office space: Keep in mind that if you already have a furnished office, with computers, phone lines, and whatnot available, then you obviously need that office to run your business, reducing the costs of hiring a physical receptionist. Commercial leasing costs vary widely, but a small 1200 ft space will run at least $2,000 — $3,000 thousand on the low end. Then there are utilities, essential services (Eg., Internet, janitorial), supplies, furnishings, and much more that all add up to tens of thousands a year in expenses.

Costs: Virtual reception eliminates a lot of obligatory costs associated with offline employees

The cost of a virtual receptionist can also vary widely. Consider the following facts though, before making a decision which is right for you:

  • A virtual receptionist can come in the form of a freelancer you hire to complete the task, or via a service that can offer a team of receptionists to be placed at your disposal. Regardless, you don’t pay for their office space, utilities, Internet connection, coffee, lunch, etc.
  • A freelancer can be paid a much smaller hourly fee if you go that route, minus benefits and any normal obligatory government-imposed expenses you’d pay for an offline employee.
  • A service will generally charge you either by the call, or by the minute. For busier businesses, some can sell you a monthly package of a prepaid amount of calls answered or minutes spent on phone calls.

Hopefully, the facts listed above will help you decide which phone answering option is best for your business needs.

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