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Virtual Assistant vs. Answering Service: Which Is Right for You?

Virtual Assistant vs. Answering Service: Which Is Right for You?

Every business gets to a point where they need additional help. And that’s great! It only means your business is thriving. And if that help is needed in the customer service department? Even better, as we all know about the success that outstanding customer care can bring.

While this is a good situation to be in, the hiring process can still be daunting. Here are ways to make the decision easier when deciding whether to hire a virtual assistant or an answering service.

Many options exist when it comes to putting together a customer service team. Virtual assistants and answering services are two great options when you don't need to hire a full-time team member. As with everything, virtual assistants and answering services have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to improving your customer service.

Here are ways to make the decision easier when deciding which option is best suited for your company’s needs.

What Is a Virtual Assistant?

Virtual assistants (VAs) are employees that you hire on an hourly basis. They can help your team in with a variety of tasks.

Usually, they assist with your customer care responsibilities. This includes answering your phone and replying to emails. But, the general misconception is that virtual assistants only do that. In reality, they are more of a personal assistant. They can perform practically anything that is under their expertise. VAs can help you with recruiting, digital marketing, or even routine tasks and errands.

Think of them as an extension of your company.

Let’s review the pros and the cons of hiring a virtual assistant:

Pros

  • You can hire a specialist with specific skills to help with exactly what you need
  • Typically hired hourly. Thus, if you need part-time help, you only pay them for the amount of time they work on your tasks. Plus you don’t have additional costs such as health insurance, PTO, and other benefits
  • Since they have specific tasks to accomplish without needing the “big picture” (which in-house employees tend to need), their efficiency and focus increases
  • By clearing time-consuming tasks off your table, you get enough time to focus and devote to growing your business

Cons

  • VAs are usually one person, and the amount of help your business needs can overload their work capacity
  • Training them takes time. That time can usually extend depending on the complexity of your processes
  • If you employ a VA as a full-time team member, it is a high investment. There is also a certain level of responsibility that comes with additional costs (salary, benefits, PTO, etc.)

What Is an Answering Service?

Incoming calls, outgoing calls, and transfers are all handled by answering services. These are comparable to conventional receptionist tasks. In contrast to a virtual assistant, an answering service gives many agents rather than just one person.

As a general rule, answering services don't handle your marketing chores or any other jobs that a virtual assistant could do. However, they can answer frequently asked questions and assist with pressing problems. Also, providing a great customer service experience is truly their specialty.

Depending on your demands, answering services often charge a monthly or yearly retainer fee.

Here are some of the pros and cons of hiring an answering service:

Pros

  • Many offer around-the-clock service, which is exactly what you need if you have customers all over the globe and in different time zones
  • An answering service team is usually less expensive to hire instead of hiring just one in-house team member
  • You don’t have to deal with hiring, training, or turnover. Thus, saving you time for more important things as the call center manager handles everything else
  • Answering service employees have specific training to handle customer impediments in various challenging scenarios

Cons

  • This may not be the best option if your needs exceed the customer service team’s expertise. After all the call center is just to answer customers’ phone calls
  • You have to do proper research before partnering with an answering service. Especially, as outsourcing to the wrong company can harm your brand’s reputation

How To Choose Which Is Best for You

Both solutions have more in common than you may imagine, despite the obvious differences. An answering service customer care representative and virtual assistant both go through extensive training. That is if you hire a VA from a trusted company.

In the end, the answer to this question depends solely on your needs as a company. If you need phone calls answered by high-level customer support, then hiring an answering service may be the right option for you.

On the other hand, if you need a right-hand person to help with in-depth tasks beyond solely customer service needs, then, hiring a personal (virtual) assistant is probably a better option.

Whichever you choose, make sure to get quotes. Speak directly to the company you wish to hire to see how they train their employees. See what exactly they can help with, and how available they are. Make sure they fit your needs and budget to help accomplish your goals.

Good luck!

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