Technology has created new jobs that did not previously exist. For instance, a professional blogger was unheard of only a short time ago. Similarly, the technology eliminates jobs like switchboard operators, cashiers, bank tellers, administrative, legal positions, etc.
Technology changed jobs, too, making it easier to perform or allow a person to accomplish more tasks. One example is receptionist jobs; today, many people in this line of work operate remotely as virtual receptionists. These workers perform many of the same tasks as regular receptionists but remotely.
The virtual receptionist profession is growing globally, facilitated by software and technology. It is a profession attractive to many due to its geographic flexibility. A virtual receptionist works remotely, often at home, an appealing option. In addition, technology and software have made it possible for a freelance virtual receptionist to be located far from their client's office. Hence, they are often independent contractors working for a client and 1099.
However, virtual receptionists may work hours outside of the standard 9-to-5 hours and must be flexible with their schedule. This may be an advantage or disadvantage depending on your point of view.
Why do companies even hire virtual receptionists? What does a virtual receptionist do, and what skills do virtual receptionists need? Lastly, how do you become a virtual receptionist?
Why Do Companies Hire Virtual Receptionists?
Before we answer how to become a virtual receptionist, let's answer why companies hire virtual receptionists in the first place. Nobody wants to start in a career field with no future growth opportunities.
Many companies have eliminated onsite office receptionist positions and tried to replace them with technology in the drive for lower costs and higher efficiencies. An in-office receptionist needs space, a computer, training, salary, and benefits. Reportedly, a receptionist earned about $14.96 per hour in 2020. This rate goes up by about 31% to ~$19.60 per hour after adding non-salary benefits. Assuming 2,080 working hours per year, this means a full-time onsite receptionist earns about $40,768 annually. A small-to-medium-sized business owner can save quite a bit of money by switching to automated technology.
However, studies have shown that customers prefer connecting to a human for interacting with companies and customer service. They generally dislike automated systems.
We have all had the experience of calling a company, connecting to a phone tree, and not getting to the right person or department. What do we do? We hang up. Small-to-medium sized businesses can lose sales and create dissatisfied customers, which means lost business. Similarly, we have all experienced an automated chatbot that never answered our questions, which is frustrating.
An alternative is a virtual receptionist, who can fill the role of an onsite office receptionist and often at a lower cost. For the company, virtual receptionists can offer clients and customers human interaction and build a relationship without the added cost. For the worker, this trend represents an opportunity for those wanting the flexibility of working remotely, or with a different schedule.
What Does a Virtual Receptionist Do?
What do virtual receptionists do anyway? They fill the role of an onsite office receptionist but from a remote location. The exact role of a virtual receptionist varies depending on the organization they support. However, virtual receptionists perform the same primary functions in most companies, including communications, schedule management, administrative tasks, and database management.
Tasks Performed by Virtual Receptionists
The list below is a partial list of tasks performed by virtual receptionists.
- Answer and transfer calls
- Take messages
- Make calls to customers and other companies
- Respond to e-mails
- Answer FAQs
- Schedule meetings and appointments
- Maintain client calendars
- Make travel arrangements for business trips
- Manage contacts and e-mail lists
Virtual receptionists may be asked to perform other tasks depending on the job. Some examples:
- Answer letters
- Take notes at a meeting
- Process invoices and payments
- Prepare and send newsletters
- Social media management
How To Become a Virtual Receptionist
If you want to become a virtual receptionist, there are four main areas you need to consider: education and training, office space, equipment and technology, and your resume.
Education and Training
Most jobs require an education and training component, and a virtual receptionist is no exception. A virtual receptionist usually needs a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) test certificate at a minimum.
Some may require a college degree, possibly in business or communications, depending on the company. You may even need additional education or training; some jobs require bilingual skills, such as Spanish. However, it is not necessary to have a specialized degree.
Jobs usually require on-the-job training obtained by experience. This point is especially true to become a virtual receptionist with more responsibilities. Companies may not be willing to take a chance on someone without prior experience. However, the nature of a virtual or remote job makes it difficult to obtain on-the-job training. For this reason, many people desiring to become virtual receptionists often have onsite experience in an office.
A virtual assistant may also need training on computer software depending on the job. Using a computer is almost second nature to many people now. However, you may need an excellent working knowledge of specific software like MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and e-mail software.
Many people acquire this training in school or their first jobs. However, it may be possible to gain this training at local community colleges or online as part of a continuing education program. In addition, you may be eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit to help offset the cost of training.
To become a virtual receptionist, you need office space. The space does not need to be a rented office, but it should be a dedicated space in your home, allowing you to perform the job. This requirement means a quiet place for most people, free of distractions from kids and pets.
For instance, you can use an office room or spare bedroom with a desk.
Equipment and Technology
A virtual receptionist will need specific equipment and technology. Since you will probably be an independent contractor, you will need to pay for the equipment and technology. However, if the expenses are necessary for the job, it may be a business expense for tax purposes.
The number one item on the list is a computer with a large screen. The computer should be dedicated to the job and not shared with other family members. Some clients may require their software to be installed to interact with their customers and team members.
The second most important item is a reliable broadband internet connection. Again, since this is for work, it may be worth paying for faster speeds. In addition, a dedicated wired connection instead of wireless will improve reliability and speed.
You will need a dedicated landline and phone to work with your clients. Many people have cut their landline, but you may need one to become a virtual receptionist. It is not a good idea to have personal calls interrupting client calls. Another valuable piece of equipment is a set of headphones to reduce background noise on calls.
Lastly, you may need to buy productivity software like MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The reason: your client may expect you to have similar software to the ones they use.
Once you have the education, training, office space equipment, and technology, you are ready to find a job. However, if you intend to be an independent contractor, you still need a resume. Prospective clients need to make sure you have the minimum qualifications. However, they want to make sure you have the skills too.
Skills for a Virtual Receptionist
A virtual receptionist needs skills beyond the education and training listed above. Below is a list of skills you may want to highlight.
- Customer Support Skills – A virtual receptionist's primary role is interacting with the customer. If you have experience doing this, then highlight it. For example, if you already worked as an office receptionist or had another customer-facing job like a cashier, then let your prospective client know.
- Organizational Skills – You may have realized organizational skills are essential. You manage your schedule and, many times, your client's schedule. You may have more than one boss and need to manage calendars and incoming calls for multiple people.
- Typing and Writing Skills – Typing fast and taking notes is another critical attribute. You should undoubtedly highlight it if you can type at a certain speed, e.g., 60 words per minute.
- Computer Skills – Computer skills are a must for a virtual receptionist. These skills can include formal training, certification, or on-the-job training. Informal training counts too. If you have taught yourself specific software or apps, then highlight it. Small business owners may view it as a plus if you are savvy on the internet managing social media.
- Interpersonal Skills – A virtual receptionist will interact with people of different backgrounds and successfully manage relationships.
- Communication Skills – This skill is another important one. You should highlight training and experience with e-mails programs, online chat software, social media platforms, and telecommunication software.
There are many other items you can include in your resume. For instance, you can highlight your ability to work a flexible schedule and references of prior clients. Once your resume is completed, you are ready to find a position as a virtual receptionist.
Final Thoughts on How To Become a Virtual Receptionist
A virtual receptionist is a job suitable for many people who prefer to work from home. Technology and software have made it possible to perform the job at home versus the office. A customer may never know the virtual receptionist is not in the office.
If your goal is to become a virtual receptionist, make sure you have the proper education and training, office space, equipment, technology, and skills. For the right person, it can be a very satisfying career choice.
This article was produced by Wealth of Geeks.
Featured Image Credit: Wealth of Geeks.
Prakash Kolli is the founder of the Dividend Power site. He is a self-taught investor and blogger on dividend growth stocks and financial independence. Some of his writings can be found on Seeking Alpha, TalkMarkets, ValueWalk, The Money Show, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Entrepreneur, FXMag, and leading financial blogs. He also works as a part-time freelance equity analyst with a leading newsletter on dividend stocks. He was recently in the top 1.5% (126 out of over 8,212) of financial bloggers as tracked by TipRanks (an independent analyst tracking site) for his articles on Seeking Alpha.