2020 Business Guide to Virtual Receptionist Services

Virtual Receptionist

Editors Note:  This article was updated on November 19, 2020, originally published on December 17, 2019, and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

What if you could get back 1 hour a day? What about 30 minutes?

You could leave the office on time or focus on the next big deal that will catapult your business.

A major culprit for businesses spending a lot of time and money is answering inbound phone calls.

You have several options to solve this problem:

  • add a new employee
  • hire a virtual receptionist
  • send calls to a voice mail

In many cases, businesses are saving as much as 78% percent hiring a virtual receptionist versus a full-time hire, according to one data source.

Ideal for all business types that require a receptionist’s service, this option will do much more than just answer phones for you.

If you are considering hiring one, this guide is for you. We will explore:

  • What is a virtual receptionist?
  • How can they help your business?
  • On-Premise vs. Remote Virtual Receptionists
  • How much does this service cost?

Let’s get started…

What is a Virtual Receptionist?

It’s important to know that they are not robots saying prerecorded messages. They are human beings that answer phone calls remotely in a professional manner.

If you hire a live receptionist, you’ll benefit from the skills of highly trained professionals without the trouble of conducting interviews and preparing them. Moreover, you will pay a lot less for the work they provide than if you were to hire an on-premise receptionist.

They answer phones and represent your business. They are experts in call handling, can even handle hundreds of calls a day, and are always available for your clients.

Virtual receptionists do pretty much everything an in-house receptionist does at a lower price point.

Also known as virtual assistants, they provide a live answering service from their virtual offices or call centers. Companies specialized in offering phone answering services have virtual assistants ready to answer calls for you and provide customer support. Many services can provide receptionists 24 hours a day and are always happy to answer questions.


How can they help your business?

Any unanswered phone call is a lost potential client. With a virtual receptionist, you will never miss another call. You can expect to have a professional voice answering and managing all of your calls. They will:

Answer calls

The primary job of a virtual assistant is indeed to answer calls. They answer your company’s telephone and reply based on a script you provide.

Take messages

Live virtual receptionists answer calls based on your scripts and write down the caller’s information and message and deliver the information to you so that you don’t miss any critical details.

Schedule appointments and manage cancellations

If you have scheduling software in place, a virtual receptionist knows how to use it to schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments for any business.

Order management

Virtual assistants can handle any orders. They can take and process various orders, including maintenance requests and even outage reports during natural disasters.

Customer service

Offering a 24-hour live receptionist means you will always be there for your customer calls ready to answer their questions, whether they’re calling:

  • late at night
  • after business hours
  • on weekends or holidays

Your customers will know that they can always rely on a real person to answer questions they have about your business.

Transferring calls

Call transfer is part of their job description, which means your customers are directed to the right people or departments. Moreover, call transferring allows you to personally answer important calls or have the virtual receptionist transfer the call to you after getting your approval. In case you don’t want to answer, after a few rings, the call is sent to your skillful virtual receptionist, who will know what to do next.

Call Filtering

Do you only need to receive important calls? Are you receiving a lot of unwanted calls?

A receptionist can qualify and filter out unwanted calls. Ensuring you have more time to focus on the calls that matter most.

On-Premise vs. Remote Virtual Receptionists

More and more businesses are hiring virtual receptionists.

As expected, working with live receptionists has its advantages and disadvantages, just like hiring on-premise receptionists does.

You need to decide whether your business will benefit more from the service of an on-premise receptionist or the efficiency and affordability of a virtual receptionist.

Pros and cons of hiring on-premise receptionists:


  • face-to-face training
  • shares the company values
  • helps with on-premise office tasks
  • in-person monitoring
  • face-to-face evaluation


  • higher salary
  • training expenses
  • holiday pay
  • benefits
  • office space
  • office supplies
  • utility costs
  • Not able to work 24 hours

As you can see, while on-premises receptionists may provide a higher level of professionalism and can be more invested in the company’s interests than remote receptionists, they are also more expensive and add to common staffing overhead issues.

Pros and cons of hiring a virtual assistant:


  • more affordable
  • more choices
  • no holiday pay
  • no benefits
  • no personal days
  • no healthcare costs
  • no overtime costs
  • less staffing issues
  • no charges for IT equipment (they have their own)
  • lower maintenance costs


  • not on-premise
  • no guarantee you get the same virtual assistant
  • cannot help with on-premise activities
  • harder to manage/monitor their activities

A poorly trained remote receptionist or a live assistant with a poor attitude may reflect poorly on your company’s reputation and affect your business. Since remote receptionists are not a part of your team, they might not be as dedicated to the company’s success as your on-site staff. That’s why you need to hire a virtual receptionist company known for its expert assistants and impeccable reputation.

Virtual Receptionist Services

How much does a Virtual Receptionist cost?

The cost of acquiring this service depends on several factors, including call volume and the type of business you’re running. There are typically four types of plans for a company that wants to hire these services:

Pay by the minute

It is common for services to charge by the minute, so you pay for the time you use. Most businesses prefer this model. Using this model, you pay for both outgoing and incoming calls.

For example, at Unicom, we bill only for live agent time. Meaning you only pay for time agents are working on your account.

Other services may charge you a base rate plus a per-minute charge.

You must understand how the provider calculates call time. The best way to get these details is to ask for a breakdown of all charges.

Pay per call

Some companies prefer to pay per call. With this model, you do not pay per minute, but just by the number of phone calls you receive. Plans typically include a base rate plus a charge per call.

See how providers classify a connection. Some basic questions you can ask include:

  • What happens if someone calls and hangs up?
  • What if it is a wrong number?
  • Is there a limit on how long the call can last?

Imagine getting your bill and seeing hundreds of calls, but you know you only received a couple of dozen calls.

Finally, you want to provide a positive customer experience, and limiting the call time could negatively impact the caller’s experience.

Monthly fees

A majority of companies charge month to month. Built into the plan is a specific amount of minutes plus a fixed rate for additional minutes.

A monthly subscription can be a cost-effective model, depending on your monthly call volume.

If you can accurately calculate your monthly call volume, this could be a useful model for you.

Tiered pricing

Companies will offer different levels of pricing for their services, known as tiered pricing.

The higher levels are more expensive and will include more features than a base level tier.

Make sure to verify what each level includes. Check for any additional charges besides the base charge.

Free Trials

It is not uncommon for call centers to provide a free trial of their services. Remember to read the fine print and look for any hidden fees or setup costs.

Most free trials are too short for you to evaluate the quality of the service.

If you plan to integrate a new service into your processes, can you decide in 7 days?


Virtual receptionists are becoming a popular choice for small businesses to large organizations that have to handle too many client calls. It’s an affordable service that ensures all customers receive their answers and contributes to a higher level of customer satisfaction.


Devin Bailey
Devin Bailey
I've been in the call center industry for over a decade. A big part of my job is educating businesses on the role telecommunications and outsourced task procedures can play for their business. Understanding their processes is critical to verify and implement the right services. When I am not in front of clients I manage the technological infrastructure in the call center.