In a world now filled with location independent vagabonds, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs that are operating mostly or 100% in the virtual space, it’s more important than ever to ensure you’re completely available to your clients and partners 24/7, 365 days a year. While you might be the only official employee of your ecommerce empire, freelance operation, etc., you can’t be the only person running the show.
It’s important to have the right support staff in place, such as virtual assistants to complete menial tasks, a dedicated receptionist or reception team, and even managers to guide staff members if time isn’t a luxury you have. A virtual receptionist should be the first hire you make when incoming phone calls become a burden to answer, or when you’re operating on an international or global level and can’t get to the phone at all hours because you’re an actual human being and need to sleep every day!
5 qualities solopreneurs need to demand from their virtual reception team
Before delving into the various benefits a virtual receptionist can offer you, the solopreneur, let’s look at some of the most important qualities you should demand from these phone-answering professionals:
1. Communication skills
- Look for excellent verbal and written communication skills. If the receptionist doesn’t speak or write in yours and your customer’s preferred language effectively, this can lead to dropped calls, lost business, and just as bad: miscommunications that lead to sales issues and critical mistakes being made on projects and contracts.
2. Professional attitude
- The best receptionists answer the phone in a clear and pleasant tone each and every call. The old mantra of “never let them see you sweat” should be the goal of any receptionist — even when dealing with a caller that’s unreasonable or abusive. Remember, this is your business and you’re paying them to make your brand desirable by offering consummate customer service every time a customer deals with you.
3. Ability to take constructive criticism
- When it comes to a downright terrible hire, it’s best to just terminate them. This goes for freelance virtual receptionists and those who’re provided to you by virtual office service firms. For those who just need coaching at the start, perhaps from time to time as your business evolves, you need to have team members to respond to constructive criticism with positivity, and show they understand your requests by implementing your suggestions.
4. Multitasking ability
- Anyone over 30 years of age likely still has an image of receptionists and secretaries from the old days before the entire world was online. We’ve all seen them in movies and professional’s offices all over the world. They can have a phone shouldered up to their ear, a notepad in one hand, and another typing away on a keyboard. If your call answering needs are demanding, your receptionist(s) needs to be able to handle those conditions.
5. Industry-specific experience
- While this quality won’t necessarily be mandatory for all solopreneurs out there, it’s something everyone needs to consider before hiring a virtual receptionist, or signing on with a virtual services company. If you work in an industry where technical prowess and knowledge of your company and/or the services and products it offers is needed, don’t expect to train a newbie from scratch and have them be successful. Furthermore, industries such as healthcare have specific laws and regulations regarding who can and can’t take even a simple phone call from a patient/client.
Since they operate globally and you may never observe your receptionist answering a call, make sure to note all feedback you get from customers, and even go to the extent of having a few friends and family call your business occasionally to identify any bad hires before they cripple your business.
How a virtual receptionist benefits a solopreneur
There are many ways a virtual receptionist can benefit even the smallest business. Here are a few brief benefits to consider.
1. Accelerating branding and growth
Imagine how good it makes you look when each and every call coming into the business is answered promptly and efficiently. It stands to reason that when all calls are answered and the caller is either directed to you, gets a resolution to their call directly from the receptionist, or receives an expectation regarding a call-back time, your business is going to expand faster.
Growth is often limited to the service level offered — better service equals faster branding and the resulting growth that results from top-notch customer service.
2. Multiple support channels
Virtual reception isn’t just limited to answering phone calls, like receptionists from days gone by. Nowadays, virtual receptionists and customer care teams work online and off. They can answer calls, forward those calls to the appropriate team member, take messages, schedule sales calls, close deals for you, and handle online chat and email support as well.
There are many services that offer the above mentioned support, as well as other add-ons. You can also find multiple virtual staff to handle these support functions separately. Best, virtual staff costs pennies-on-the-dollar less than a physical office employee would.
3. Potential for more passive income
Can you count all the hours it took you to first launch your business? It’s difficult to keep a running tally of those hours when you’re building something you’re passionate about. However, it takes close to 6,000 hours at least in year one to launch any successful business (based on 16 hours/day, 365 days/year). There’s development, hiring/firing, marketing, sales, customer service — so many elements to deal with.
Aside from development of a product or service, which is largely on the solopreneur him or herself; marketing, sales and customer service are the most time consuming. A virtual receptionist can help you set up meetings, close sales, and service clientele, all while increasing your brand’s market value by offering impeccable service levels to callers.
Hiring a virtual receptionist offers much less hassle than an offline-based employee. You can choose a private and dedicated freelancer if wish, or seek out a service to handle calls 24/7 or on demand. Best, you’re not bound by the various employment laws that govern the hiring and firing process — such as when and how you can fire someone who isn’t doing their job correctly and hurting your reputation.
A virtual receptionist is the perfect answer for a solopreneur that doesn’t have the funds to hire, or time or facilities to accommodate office employees.