An at-home receptionist is a person who answers the telephone and completes other business-related activities for one or more businesses from the comfort of her own residence. Also known as virtual receptionists, these home-based administrative assistants are most appropriate for businesses that do not require private offices in which to conduct their daily activities, such as some salespeople, personal trainers, real estate agents or private investigators, for instance. Using an at-home receptionist is an economical way for a business to appear to have a separate office and thus seem more established or larger than it actually is. Furthermore, leaving a message with a pleasant and helpful live person — as opposed to recording a complaint or request on voice mail — can help to increase or retain customer satisfaction. An at-home receptionist, then, not only answers telephone calls in the name of the business, she also provides friendly customer interaction and conducts some business-related activities.
Receptionists in general are charged with providing the public's first impression of a business, and their professional demeanor can therefore be very important. A business' use of an at-home receptionist — as opposed to a noisier telephone answering service — is intended to give customers three distinct impressions. First, that they have reached a calm, capable and established office. Second, that the individual they are seeking is regrettably busy at the moment. Finally, the receptionist emphasizes the importance of customers' calls by taking detailed messages, if necessary, and promising a promptly returned telephone call.
With the use of email, a smart phone or an online calendar, an at-home receptionist may also be capable of scheduling, canceling or rescheduling appointments for customers with immediate notification to the business owner for whom they work. Not only does this further the impression that there is, in fact, a physical office, but something has actually been accomplished beyond a simple exchange of messages. Depending upon the extent of services purchased from the at-home receptionist company, correspondence or invoices may also be typed, printed and mailed. An at-home receptionist can also build valuable business relationships with long-time customers by recalling preferences or details of their orders.
As a career field, the opportunities for receptionists in the US will continue to grow over the coming years. Growth in virtual positions as a portion of this field is not certain, though increasing use of technology and focus on cost savings likely mean that at-home positions will also increase. At this time, statistics on the rate of use of at-home versus at-office receptionists are not available.