March 14, 2009
By Victor Mataraso, M.B.A.
When I tell people we provide off-site or virtual telephone reception services, I am often asked if that is similar to a virtual assistant (VA). Virtual assistants represent a growing category in business and can be a valuable addition to your virtual office. However, there are some significant differences between a virtual assistant and a virtual receptionist (also referred to as an off-site or remote receptionist).
The most significant difference is that virtual assistants typically are not interested in answering your business telephone calls in real-time. Instead, most prefer to do project based work that allows them the flexibility to work on their own hours. By contrast a virtual receptionist is standing by to answer your business calls when they come in, assist callers in real-time, and seamlessly connect the calls you want back to you on any phone number. Unlike a traditional telephone answering service, a virtual receptionist communicates with you in real-time throughout the business day and is usually equipped to connect calls, schedule appointments, register seminars, place orders and more.
Virtual assistants, on the other hand, often take on projects that may not be ideally suited to a virtual receptionist. With widely varied skill sets, VA’s may specialize in written correspondance, have software expertise, presentation development skills, organization, research, marketing or a myriad of other specialties.
Another difference to keep in mind is that a virtual assistant will often work on a project basis or a monthly retainer, while a virtual receptionist service looks to provide ongoing call handling from month to month and functions as the front-end for your business. While these off-site receptionists are sometimes capable of handling various administrative tasks, their skills are best used in handling business that needs to be conducted in real-time via the phone such as call connections or appointment scheduling. In fact, should you have a virtual assistant on your team, your virtual receptionist can easily route a call to them, if desired, in such a way that your caller won’t even realize both your receptionist and assistant work from a remote location.