A virtual receptionist answers calls 24 hours a day and never goes sick or gets tired. So how do you create such a paragon of virtue?

Do you need a virtual receptionist?

There are lots of reasons why companies of all sizes should use a virtual or digital receptionist rather than rely on a real person. Some phone companies will refer to this as IVR which stands for Interactive Voice Response. Basically it is a system that talks to callers, gets information and puts calls through to the right people. The virtual receptionist consists of voice menus which prompt the caller to press buttons on their phone to perform an action. It saves time for the caller and your business and works, for free, 24 hours a day!

Having said that your virtual receptionist must be set up with care and attention to detail. It should allow you to direct the caller to the person they want, or need to talk to easily. In the modern world with GDPR you need to make sure that your virtual receptionist handles callers data correctly.

With some phone systems you are on your own when you design and deploy your virtual receptionist but with Birchills Telecom we will do all of the configuration work for you. You just need to decide how you would like it to work.

What simple features are there?

Let’s’ imagine you are a caller who knows the person you want to speak to, then you should be able to enter the extension number and be put right through – or you could have a menu option which allows you to press a number for a certain extension.

In many businesses it’s more probable that you will want other options such as speaking to accounts, sales, marketing and so on. This is easily set up with most systems. You can make your company look larger by inventing departments that don’t really exist. So you could direct calls to marketing and sales to the same extension.

Sometimes, you will have more calls than people who can deal with them. Then you can put the call into a queue. It is good practice to make sure the caller knows how long they may wait and where they are in the queue, as well as offering to call them back or take a message.

It also makes sense to allow callers to press zero to get straight through to a receptionist. And if callers miss the right option for the options to play again.

More advanced features

Every companies needs are different and virtual receptionists can do far more than basic functions. The only limitation is what you can do with 10 key numbers on the callers phone.

So, you can have virtual receptionists with many levels of menu. For example, you could have a top level menu which said “For Sales press 1” and then the next menu could say “For Cloud Products press 1”, “ For legacy products press 2” and so on – always allowing the caller to return to the higher menu.

You can have your system respond with different virtual receptionists or messages depending on the time of day or weekends or holidays.

Top tips for your virtual assistant

Keep the menu options short and give the number at the end.

Bad example: “Press 1 for online or cloud sales on a weekday between 8.00am and 5.00pm during the week or after 7.00pm at the weekend”

Good Example: ” For online sales press 1″ (if you need to explain about hours then you can do it in a message, later)

Make sure that the messages that you use are spoken clearly, without background noise. You may consider employing a professional actor. Listen to them back.

Make sure that you test out the system and get feedback from customers and friends on how it is working.

GDPR compliance

At the very least the system is capturing the phone number of the person calling and when the call is made. You may choose additionally to record the call. You can read about the law and call recording here.

So, you need to ensure that the data security, handling and processing arrangements are covered in your systems as are the other points raised in the regulations. Birchills Telecom has addressed these issues as a data processor and is happy to help. With other companies, especially foreign ones, you may struggle to ensure compliance.

How to set it all up

With most systems you need to go into the portal and configure the options to suit. With Birchills Telecom either jot down what you need and send it to us or give us a call and the work is done for you for free.

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