What Is a Virtual Receptionist?

J. Beam
J. Beam
A virtual receptionist can work from a different time zone, making him or her available outside of normal business hours.
A virtual receptionist can work from a different time zone, making him or her available outside of normal business hours.

A virtual receptionist is an phrase used in the business sense that refers to an individual who answers phones or performs the duties of an on-site receptionist, but is not actually located at the primary business’s location. Customer service representatives, answering service agents, and even appointment schedulers could all be classified as a virtual receptionist if they are working off-site or at a remote location. In the majority of cases, the receptionist is working from a home office.

A virtual receptionist will need a dedicated landline phone.
A virtual receptionist will need a dedicated landline phone.

A company that employs virtual workers often does so to improve customer service by extending hours of availability and covering all time zones in addition to saving money on overhead and payroll costs. In this role, an individual’s job duties typically include taking incoming phone calls. Often, these are calls for product ordering or questions about product ordering, but retail is not the only field that employs virtual workers. For instance, medical staffing companies sometimes employ these receptionists to answer incoming calls after hours and schedule temporary workers to fill in at area hospitals that are short-staffed.

Receptionists must be able to multitask smoothly.
Receptionists must be able to multitask smoothly.

A virtual receptionist typically works for a company as an independent contractor rather than an employee. There are exceptions and some companies do hire remote workers on an employee basis. There are pros and cons to each situation, so those seeking employment as a virtual receptionist or remote worker should consider each carefully. Typically the arrangement is made between worker and company as a mutually beneficial situation. The worker has the flexibility to work from home, while the employer saves money on computer hardware, electricity, and other operating costs.

Virtual receptionists often use a hands-free headset so it is easier to multitask.
Virtual receptionists often use a hands-free headset so it is easier to multitask.

Since the job title and description is so varied, job seekers should use caution when searching for these types of positions. In reality, while there are hundreds of legitimate companies that have jobs for these receptionists, they are not always prominently advertised or easy to find. Avoid companies that claim to offer jobs, but charge for software or other items they claim are necessary to do the job. In most cases, a legitimate virtual receptionist job offer will require only access to a computer with high-speed Internet, a dedicated landline phone, and noise-canceling headset.

Industries that hire these receptionists or customer service agents are varied and range from insurance companies, catalog retailers and floral retailers to medical answering services and television ad campaigns. Chances are, you might even have called and ordered a product recently or contacted a company’s customer service department, reaching a virtual receptionist without even knowing it.

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    • A virtual receptionist can work from a different time zone, making him or her available outside of normal business hours.
      A virtual receptionist can work from a different time zone, making him or her available outside of normal business hours.
    • A virtual receptionist will need a dedicated landline phone.
      A virtual receptionist will need a dedicated landline phone.
    • Receptionists must be able to multitask smoothly.
      Receptionists must be able to multitask smoothly.
    • Virtual receptionists often use a hands-free headset so it is easier to multitask.
      Virtual receptionists often use a hands-free headset so it is easier to multitask.