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Virtual Receptionist: A Guide to Using Telephone Answering Services to Your Business’ Advantage

Phone Related Customer Service Statistics Infographics

In an ever-increasing number of alternatives in terms of communication platform, some will come and go, but telephones will always be here to stay. As a businessperson, it is your responsibility to stay ahead of the curve and explore other modes of communication like emails, chats, and social media.

To some degree, it will be beneficial to the company, but always remember that customers would always prefer to interact with humans, rather than computers. Well, one thing’s for sure, those application programs will not be able to distinguish the emotions of your customers, moreso empathize with them.

With all the latest advancements in technology, phone call still remains as the most reliable way a customer can reach you. When you post advertisements for your business, whether it’s online or traditional print media, you don’t always expect them to go into your office or shop and ask you personally about your product or service. Instead, they give you a call. This has been the norm, long after the rise of other communication platforms, and it doesn’t seem that it is going to change anytime soon.



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“Every business is a People Business.”


Wonder why large corporations put too much emphasis on customer support, and why they’re willing to spend big chunks of money to pay the salaries of customer support representatives?

A simple way to answer it is that every business, no matter how small or big, is considered to be in People Business. Regardless of whether you’re running a product or service-based business, it should always be your top priority to build a good relationship with everyone, most especially to your customers.

In this modern age, there are so many ways a potential customer may reach you. With so many alternatives like email, text, messaging apps (Skype and Viber), social media (Facebook and Twitter), and even the Contact Us section on your website; still, nothing compares to the traditional phone call in showing how much you value your client.  



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Also, no matter how quick your computer and internet are, nothing can solve the issue of a customer faster than communicating with them over the phone. Customers crave for fast result. If you’ll be placed in their position, you will not be happy if a company won’t be able to provide immediate solution to your problem.

Well, it’s a fact that good customer relationship must be reciprocal, but this will not be accomplished unless companies will start to initiate it. You cannot expect your customer to be loyal to your business from day one. It is slowly earned over time by showing how much you value them, and there’s no better way to show it than doing simple things for them like providing good telephone customer service.

Everyone has already experienced being passed from one telephone operator to another, and when frustration strikes, customers tend to just hang up the phone. Consider yourself lucky if an actual person answered your call, as most of the time, you’ll just hear their automated phone answering machine say these lines:

The most cringe worthy phrases customers don't want to hear

Whether you’re calling to simply inquire or request for assistance to any specific product or service, there’s nothing more satisfying to a customer than hearing an actual, live person’s voice on the other end of the line, and not just an automated phone answering service.

With all the cringe-worthy phrases that these automated devices say, there’s a good chance that they would get under somebody’s skin, no matter how composed the callers are. Sometimes automated phone answering might even do more harm than good. People in general simply don’t have the patience to wait for their turn, especially if placed under endless loop with so many irrelevant instructions being given and has nothing to do with why they called in the first place.

If you’re one of those companies who makes their customers follow some nonsense routine like asking them to just email their concern, or making them follow an automated phone instruction where you’re going to ask them to press for a specific number, pointing towards a specific issue with a suggested solution, until they’ll just suddenly give up out of frustration. Then, make no mistake, you’re only adding fuel to the fire. At the end, your courses of action in providing customer assistance only worsen the situation. What started only as a mild frustration towards your company before the issue occurred had developed into a full-blown hatred as a result of your lack of empathy. It may not be true, but in the eyes of a clouded mind, that’s the fact. Things could escalate really quick if you do not have a front liner to your business. In case you have this area covered, how does your front liner interact with your customers? Can you even entrust them with a sensitive area of your business where they can either make or break your image and reputation in the eyes of the customers?

Always remember that you’re only given one chance to make a good impression. Actually, it only takes 7 seconds before a potential customer makes their judgment. Therefore, it is only sensible to put your best soldier on the front line to ensure you win.

The next question is, does your company have any good soldiers?

Considering that as an owner, you can only do so much, and won’t be able to entertain all customer-related concerns. In fact, you should be working on your business, and not in your business. By all means, hire someone who can do this job for you. It’s better to always be prepared as you’ll never know who’s going to be the next person to call, as it might be the biggest break your company is waiting for.



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Ideal for Startups and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises


If you’re running a small or medium-sized entity, then you might think that getting the services of a telephone answering company to get all your phone inquiries is just a waste of your hard earned money. I cannot blame you if you think that way, as every dollar counts when you’re still in the stage of your business where you’re trying to grow it. But before you even outright reject the idea, think first of all the benefits that your company will gain from it.

Let’s start with the cost, and I’ll be using Cloud Phone Answering as an example. A small enterprise might expect an average of 4 to 5 calls during a normal day, and might increase depending on the business’s peak season. Using the average 22 working days per month, then it will be advisable to choose ReceptionistPlus 100 from the packages offered. With this service, you’ll be paying for only $125 per month for a total of 100 calls, with excess calls amounting to $1.75 each. To analyze it further, you’ll only pay $1.25 for the first 100 calls.

Clearly, it’s a big bang for your buck. If you will compare this cost against the cost of hiring a receptionist, whose paid on average of $2,500 per month ($30,000 annually) in the U.S. according to PayScale, then outsourcing the service is obviously the winner.


“Flexibility - For Every Specific Need, There’s a Specific Solution.”


As much as possible, you also have to consider how much flexibility a service provider can offer. As not all businesses have the same requirements, choose someone who can provide personalized packages that will suit your needs. Whether you’ll only need it for an hour a day or full 24-hour coverage, it’s always good to choose a company who could adjust to your specific needs.

Speaking of company’s specific needs, most businesses, especially start-ups and SMEs, tend to expand rapidly. If you happen to predict that this issue will soon become a problem, then try to choose a company who would give you the freedom to easily upgrade or downgrade your subscription; much better if they could offer a month-to-month agreement.

It may be hard to find a phone answering service provider who could give you all of that. One advice that I can give you is to look for a company who primarily caters to small businesses and sole traders. You may not be able to find so many options with all the standards that we earlier discussed, but in the instance that you’re able to find a company who could be as flexible as Cloud Phone Answering, then compare and see if they could really keep up their end of the bargain. Sometimes, the only way for a customer to see the difference among competing companies is to actually try their product or service, and get a firsthand experience if what they are claiming is true.

Phone Answering Fact - Customer's Name

In-House vs. Outsourced Customer Support for Large Enterprises


As your business is slowly getting bigger, the company’s need for customer support also increases. The link between these two should always be taken into consideration as customer-related issues will soon start to appear. Whether the concerns being brought up by the customers are due to their own fault or caused by the company, the best thing to do is to pacify the situation. Sometimes, customers just only want to be heard, and to have someone who’ll truly listen to their concern.

Virtual receptionist – as another way to call it – is not only suitable for start-ups and SMEs. Large enterprises may also greatly benefit in outsourcing their increasing need for customer support, or they might even consider entrusting the whole division, if it will benefit the company in terms of cost and efficiency.

With all the costs that come in establishing an in-house call center like renovation, office equipment, and personnel, some companies might be better off using the money in other areas of their business – especially if you do not have the capacity to train your staff the right way. In addition, you also have to consider the monthly operating expenses that come with running this division.

Phone Answering Fact - By the Numbers

In deciding to outsource your customer support to capable hands, you’re ensuring that this side of your business is being effectively taken care of. Also, business persons must be aware that not all phone answering companies are created equal. It is every company’s responsibility to conduct a thorough due diligence of the company in question. Considering that all companies are qualified, and possess the skills, competency, and technical background required; the next thing that you should consider is the passion and their genuine belief in your product or service. If they sincerely believe in your business, then I can say that you have found the perfect partner to delegate the sensitive task of customer support.

By now, you have all the time in the world to put all your effort in other areas of your business and be more efficient. Maybe it’s just the missing piece so you can finally stay away from being bombarded with customer complaints on a consistent basis.

It’s no coincidence that the best companies also happen to provide the best customer service. Take Apple and Amazon as an example. Both companies do extremely well in the area of customer support. It’s almost impossible to find anyone having a problem in regards to how they handle customer complaints. As a reward, consumers helped them become the number one company in their industries, respectively under consumer electronics (Apple) and e-commerce (Amazon).


“Everyone has to be able to work in a call center.” - Jeff Bezos


Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, stated that all Amazon managers are required to undergo a two-day call center training every year, himself included, to help them practice humility and empathy. While this practice may not be adopted by every company out there, it only shows how important it is that you understand your customer needs. With this, you’ll be able to serve them right.

Regardless of whether you decide to create an in-house call center or outsource it altogether, customer experience will always have a big impact on your overall business. For the most obvious reason, it shows how much value your company puts to their clients. This reason alone could help you attain loyal customers, something that is hard to achieve nowadays considering how competitive the market is right now, regardless of the industry.

What are your thoughts on using a Virtual Receptionist? Will you hire a telephone answering service for your small business?

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