When setting up a virtual answering service system, it may be helpful to consider the difference between this and a conventional answering system, which can still be found in a number of offices today. A conventional answering system involves a number of telephone lines connected to a switchboard, which is then helmed by a telephone operator who routes the calls accordingly. In the event that the call cannot be routed, a light on the switchboard signals the operator to let him know that the person at that extension is no longer available. Upon receiving the signal the operator can then let the caller know that the person he is trying to reach is no longer there, and can simply ask if there is a message that the caller would like to pass on.
A virtual answering service system operates on the same principle, but not necessarily through the same means. In a virtual answering service system, the person providing the answering system no longer needs to purchase, install or maintain any type of physical equipment. In fact, the provider does not even have to have a central office from which to operate the answering service system – there is no need to keep multiple phone lines, and the system can continue to run even in the event of an electrical outage.
You will, however, need a human element in the virtual answering service system, so you will need to employ staff for this. But by virtue of the fact that you no longer need infrastructure such as machines, office space or phone lines, your virtual staff can work from anywhere. This set up is ideal for those whose lifestyles or preferences dictate that they would need to work from home. That being said, technology has made the use of an answering service extremely simple – all you really need are a number of clients and staff in order to get your virtual answering service system off the ground.
The system is actually quite simple. Software that you install will automatically queue the incoming calls that the system receives, and automatically routes the call to a pre-defined number or queue of your choosing. This is called ACD, or automatic call distribution, and is the process of routing calls to specified numbers or employees. In this setup, the ACD routes calls based on the concern, whether it be for sales, technical support, after-sales support or customer support. The list of types of callers can go on and on – all you will need to do is to define where and to whom those calls should be going.
You can set up your virtual answering service by contacting a number of service providers who specialize in this sort of thing. That being said, you can do some research on the Internet to find out which of the providers can aptly service your needs. You will also want to look at which providers offer support as well, since this can become a critical factor in service later on. Finally, take note of the number that the provider can assign – most will offer numbers with 800 or 888 prefixes, so if this is all right with you, you may want to go ahead and give the service a shot.