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Answering Service vs. Virtual Receptionist vs. Call Center… What’s the Difference?

Posted in Infographics and tagged

Answering services aren’t always answering services. Sometimes they act like answering services, other times they’re virtual receptionist services, and other times they can be call center services.  So what’s the difference? Which one of these 3 services does your company need? To help you decide, we took 7 different inbound call scenarios and showed how the operator would handle the call based on the type of service provided – i.e. if they’re acting as your answering service, virtual receptionist, or call center.

Answering Service vs Virtual Receptionist vs Call Center Infographic

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<img title=”Answering Service vs Virtual Receptionist vs Call Center Infographic” alt=”Answering Service vs Virtual Receptionist vs Call Center Infographic” src=”https://www.specialtyansweringservice.net/wp-content/uploads/answering-service-vs-virtual-receptionist-vs-call-center.jpg” width=”2175″ height=”15386″ />
<pre><em>Image originally posted on <a href=”https://www.specialtyansweringservice.net/answering-service-vs-virtual-receptionist-vs-call-center-whats-the-difference/”>The SAS Blog</a></em>
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Scenario 1

Caller: “Help! My computer is stuck in the wheel of doom, and I don’t know what to do.”

  • Virtual Receptionist: “I hate when that happens! Let me transfer you to Mike in our tech support department. He will figure out that’s going on.”
    • Representative gathers Name, Number and Issue. They attempt to transfer the call to Mike in tech support. If no answer, they let the caller know that Mike is unavailable at the moment, but they will continue to reach out to him.
  • Answering Service: “I am so sorry to hear that. Let me take down your information, and I’ll have one of our technical support team members reach out to you as soon as possible.”
    • Representative gathers Name, Number and Issue. Message is texted and emailed to tech support.
  • Call Center: “I am so sorry to hear that, but I can certainly help you. Please tell me exactly what happened, and we’ll see if we can troubleshoot this over the phone.”
    • Representative follows a helpdesk script based on the caller’s issue, and provides detailed, Tier 1 technical support.

Scenario 2

Caller: “I am almost out of widgets, and I need to order another case.”

  • Virtual Receptionist: “No problem. I’d be happy to help you with that. Do you have your account number handy? I’ll pull up your last order.”
    • Representative accesses the company’s CRM system, looks up the caller’s previous order, confirms the new order details, and emails the request to the ordering department to process.
  • Answering Service: “No problem. I just need a few details from you, and I’ll pass your request to our ordering department.”
    • Representative gathers Name, Number, Item, Quantity, and Shipping Address. Message is emailed to the ordering department to follow up.
  • Call Center: “No problem. I can take care of that for you. What is the item number that you’d like to order?”
    • Representative accesses the company’s online ordering system, requests the item number or searches for the item to be ordered, enters the caller’s contact and payment information, and processes order while caller is on the line.

Scenario 3

Caller: “My son is sick, and I need to speak with a doctor right away.”

  • Virtual Receptionist: “Of course. It looks like Dr. Smith is on-call tonight. Let me take down  your information, and I’ll see if I can patch you through to her.”
    • Representative accesses the practice’s EMR system, looks up the patient’s information, takes a detailed message regarding symptoms, and attempts to transfer the caller to the on-call doctor. If no answer, they let the caller know that the doctor is unavailable at the moment, but they will continue to reach out and have her follow up. In the meantime, they are referred to the local ER if symptoms worsen.
  • Answering Service: “I am so sorry to hear that. I just need a few details, and I’ll have the on-call doctor follow up with you shortly.”
    • Representative gathers caller’s Name, Patient’s Name, Number, and a brief explanation of the Issue. They let the caller know that if they do not hear from the doctor within 15 minutes to please call back, or go to the local ER, if they cannot wait for a call back. On-call doctor receives a text and an email informing them that they have a new message and instructs them to call answering service for details.
  • Call Center: “I am so sorry to hear that. Is this an emergency?”
    • Representative ascertains whether or not the caller feels that this is an emergent issue. If it is, they gather the Caller’s Name, Patient’s Name, Number, and a brief explanation of the Issue, and they are referred to the local ER. The representative may also contact the on-call doctor by phone to inform them of the situation. If it is not an emergent issue, the representative lets the caller know that they would be happy to schedule an appointment for them. They access online scheduling software or a shared calendar, and they book the next available appointment.

Scenario 4

Caller: “Just my luck. My car broke down on the highway in a snowstorm, and I need a tow.”

  • Virtual Receptionist: “Oh no! Don’t worry, I’ll dispatch someone to your location right away, and be sure to put your flashers on. It looks like Tom and Rick are on the schedule tonight. What city are you in?”
    • Representative gather’s Name, Cell Number, Vehicle Make/Model/Color, City and Address or Nearest Intersection where the vehicle is located. They let the caller know that they’ll contact the closest driver and then reach back out to the caller with the driver’s name and ETA.
  • Answering Service: “I am so sorry to hear that. Let me take down your information, and I’ll have the driver get in touch with you.”
    • Representative gathers Name, Cell Number, Vehicle Make/Model/Color, State, City and Address or Nearest Intersection where the vehicle is located. On-call driver receives a text and email with the tow details as soon as the call closes.
  • Call Center: “I am so sorry to hear that. I just need a few pieces of information, and I’ll get someone out to you as soon as possible.”
    • Representative gathers Name, Cell Number, Vehicle Make/Model/Color, State, City and Address or Nearest Intersection where the vehicle is located. They dial through the on-call list repeatedly until they reach a driver who is available to handle the tow.

Scenario 5

Caller: “I’m supposed to be there for an appointment in 5 minutes, but I can’t figure out where you are.”

  • Virtual Receptionist: “No problem. Who is your appointment with? I’ll give them a heads up that you’re running a bit late. In the meantime, there are some landmarks that might help you locate us. Are you near any of these places?”
    • Representative gathers Name and Cell Number, and attempts to provide directions based on the basic location information at their disposal. If they cannot assist, they let the caller know that they will have the person they are meeting with give them a call to provide further assistance. Office is contacted, and caller’s details are relayed to the appropriate person.
  • Answering Service: “Okay. I only have the address information here. So, let me see if I can patch you through to the office.”
    • Representative gathers Name, Cell Number and person with whom the caller is meeting, and they cold transfer the caller to the appropriate party. Message is texted and emailed to the office to follow up.
  • Call Center: “No problem. If you can give me the address of your current location, I can pull up directions for you.”
    • Representative gather’s caller’s Name, Cell Number and Location Address, and accesses mapping software, pre-programmed with the office’s address. They provide point-by-point directions, and they remain on the line until they have reached the destination.

Scenario 6

Caller: “I have some questions about the kitchen installation promotion you’re running.”

  • Virtual Receptionist: “I would be happy to answer your questions! First, I wanted to let you know that the promotion runs through January 6th, and it requires a minimum purchase of $5,000. Now, what questions can I help you with?”
    • Representative answers the caller’s questions based on the information at their disposal. If the caller has additional questions or would like to schedule an appointment, the representative transfers them to the sales department.
  • Answering Service: “No problem. Did you have questions about pricing or permits?”
    • Representative uses the FAQs to provide basic answers to the caller’s questions and asks if they would like to schedule an appointment. If they are unable to answer the questions of if the caller wants to schedule an appointment, the representative gathers Name and Number, and lets the caller know that someone will get back to them within 1 business day.
  • Call Center: “Sure, I would be happy to help you, and if you’d like, I can schedule and appointment for an estimate. What questions did you have?”
    • Representative accesses the company’s website to research and answer the caller’s questions. If the caller has additional questions, the representative can schedule a phone appointment. If the caller would like to to have someone come out to the property, an in-person appointment can be scheduled. Based on the appointment type, the representative accesses online appointment scheduling software or a shared calendar, and they ask the caller what date and time would work best for them.

 Scenario 7

Caller: “I’m in apartment 386, and my sink is leaking.”

  • Virtual Receptionist: “I am sorry to hear that. We usually have a maintenance technician available on-site, 24 hours a day. Let me find out who is on duty, and I’ll send them to your unit.”
    • Representative gathers Name, Number, Building, Unit Number and a brief description of the Issue. They reach out to the on-call technician and dispatch them to the caller’s apartment.
  • Answering Service: “I am sorry to hear that, but I will get a message to our maintenance team right away.”
    • Representative gathers Name, Number, Building, Unity Number and a brief description of the Issue. Message is texted and emailed to the maintenance department to follow up.
  • Call Center: “I am sorry to hear that. I just need a few details, and we’ll see what we can do. Can you tell me, is it a slow leak or a fast leak?”
    • Representative gathers Name, Number, Building and Unit Number. They follow a helpdesk script based on the caller’s issue and provide simple instructions on how to turn off the water flow until the maintenance technician arrives. They dial through the on-call list once, leaving a voicemail on each attempt, including the caller’s details.

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Specialty Answering Service is a leading call center company, helping fast-growing businesses close sales and deliver amazing live customer support 24 hours a day. SAS' friendly virtual receptionists and customized call handling create an outstanding virtual office experience. There are thousands of small businesses already using our services. Try SAS for free today.

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