Being a virtual receptionist isn’t an easy job.
They’re the front of house for multiple businesses who are relying on them to answer and deal with phone calls from new and current customers, as well as potentially helping with diary management and admin.
It can be busy, it can even be a bit stressful when working with multiple busy clients who have a lot of phone calls.
But it’s a rewarding job and, since remote working became more of the norm, has become an increasingly popular job among people who value remote working, and even for those looking for a route back into work, who don’t want to – or can’t – commit to full-time hours.
So, is being a virtual receptionist the same as a regular receptionist job? And what skills do you need to be a successful virtual receptionist?
Are receptionists and virtual receptionists the same thing?
Receptionists and virtual receptionists do have much of the same job functions.
They answer calls, deal with customer enquiries, route calls to the right people, and take and deliver detailed, accurate messages in a timely fashion.
But arguably being a virtual receptionist is a tougher role because they’re working remotely, and are often working for multiple businesses at once.
Because they’re working remotely, they obviously won’t get the same face time with people that a receptionist would get, so they need to be able to manage communications to remove any barriers or isolation.
They also need to be more technically proficient as they’ll be using systems and communications platforms more regularly than a ‘traditional’ receptionist would.
So what skills make a good virtual receptionist?
1. Expert communication skills
It goes without saying that a virtual receptionist needs to have the highest standards of communication skills.
As the first line of communication between a business and its customers, virtual receptionists are trusted to deal with phone calls professionally and efficiently every time.
But because they work across multiple businesses, they need to be able to adapt to each company’s style of communication and have a good understanding of what enquiries the company gets, and how they should be dealt with.
Being a virtual receptionist isn’t the same as working for a call answering service in a call-centre, when they’re given a list of pre-set answers and nothing else to work with.
They’ll need to be confident dealing with customers in a personalised and professional way and be quick thinking to deal with enquiries they may not be ready for.
It’s not enough to say “I’m just a call answering service”. Virtual receptionists are an extension of the company they work for and will be expected to deal with enquiries as such.
2. Be proficient with technology
Virtual receptionists don’t need to be IT engineers, but they need a working knowledge of different communication and technology platforms to be able to do their job properly.
If they’re sending client messages over an app, or storing calls for clients to listen back to, they’ll need to be able to figure out how different platforms work and how they can be adapted around the client.
They might need to become proficient with diary or file sharing technology, understanding how to sync multiple calendars so they can manage booking meetings or organising diaries.
3. Be detail orientated
A virtual receptionist isn’t an answering machine, they’re the acting front of house for the company they represent and need to be professional with every call they answer.
And that means understanding the nuances of the businesses they work for, how those businesses communicate, what information they need from messages and calls, how they like that information presented and how they operate day-to-day.
All of this requires an incredible level of attention to detail.
And not just the details of one company.
Because a virtual receptionist could be working across multiple businesses at once, they need to carry this detailed knowledge about all their clients.
4. Be able to self manage
One of the biggest challenges of being a virtual receptionist is that they’re working remotely, so need to be able to manage themselves, their time and their workload without much supervision.
They’ll have a contact point at their office, and they’ll be in touch with a contact on the client side, but apart from that they’ll need to manage themselves and their own time efficiently.
Virtual receptionists also need to be able to deal with busy and sometimes difficult situations on their own as they won’t have the immediate contact with someone they’d have in an office, so being cool under pressure and confident is a must.
5. Understanding of privacy and confidentiality
Not all virtual receptionists will be dealing with commercially sensitive or confidential information, but they’ll still need to understand the importance of privacy and confidentiality in a business setting.
All day they’ll be dealing with enquiries from customers, if they’re working in B2B this could be sensitive business problems.
So it’s important a virtual receptionist understands these conversations aren’t meant to be topics of conversation at home.
If it’s an environment like a legal office or accounting firm, then a virtual receptionist could easily become aware of commercially sensitive information which must remain confidential at all times.
It’s possible a virtual receptionist in these kinds of environments could be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) stating they understand the commercially sensitive nature of the information they’re dealing with – but that will depend on the employer.
Mixing a good range of soft skills with technical proficiency
The role of a virtual receptionist is a varied one and to be successful they need a good mix of the traditional “soft skills” you’d associate with a high performing business reception, with enough technical proficiency to use the systems and platforms they’ll need to record and pass on calls and messages.
They won’t need to have all these skills straight away if they’re just starting out but if they have some of them, they could find a successful career as a virtual receptionist.