In-House vs Virtual Receptionist: Which is Right for Your Business?

Virtual Receptionist in Office
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What Does a Virtual Receptionist Do?

Virtual receptionists are real people who manage and triage phone calls, messages, emails, and more. They can transfer calls to staff members, capture FAQs, and provide tailored responses based on individual scripts and requests. Virtual receptionists can also manage online bookings, log messages into a client’s CRM platform and engage in lead nurturing via text in real-time. They adjust to your schedules and work according to your booking protocols. 

Virtual receptionists are skilled individuals who handle a variety of communication tasks remotely. They manage and triage phone calls, emails, messages, and more, effectively acting as the first point of contact for your business. Their duties include transferring calls to appropriate staff members, answering frequently asked questions, and providing customised responses based on predefined scripts and individual requests. Additionally, virtual receptionists handle online bookings and can integrate and update information directly into a client’s CRM system, adapting seamlessly to specific schedules and booking protocols. 

While virtual receptionists operate remotely, they also offer significant cost benefits. Employing a virtual receptionist can be far more economical, costing around $3,600 per annum, compared to over $55,000 plus superannuation for a full-time, in-house receptionist.  

Another major advantage of hiring a virtual receptionist is the reduction in managerial overhead. There’s no need for training or time spent on motivating them, and issues like sick leave, annual leave, or sudden resignations are not a concern. This makes virtual receptionists a highly efficient and reliable solution for managing your business communications. 


What is the Difference Between an In-House Receptionist and a Virtual Receptionist?

Aspect  In-House Receptionist  Virtual Receptionist 
Location  Physically present in the office  Works remotely 
Task Handling  Can manage calls, online inquiries, greet visitors, and handle physical mail  Primarily handles calls and online inquiries. 


The key difference between an in-house receptionist and a virtual receptionist is their location. 

An in-house receptionist works physically within the office, enabling them to handle tasks that require a physical presence like greeting visitors or managing physical mail. 

Conversely, a virtual receptionist operates remotely, focusing on tasks that can be handled virtually such as answering calls and managing online inquiries. 

Another difference point of a virtual receptionists is their scalability and flexibility. Businesses can effortlessly adapt the number of virtual receptionists they use according to fluctuations in call volumes, ensuring efficient management of calls during busy periods. On the other hand, traditional receptionists are constrained by their physical presence, which can make it difficult to quickly scale operations. 

Differences at a Glance:

  • Location: In-house receptionists are physically present; virtual receptionists work remotely. 
  • Task Handling: Both can manage calls and online inquiries.

Are Virtual Receptionists Worth It?

Virtual receptionists are a cost-effective solution for many businesses. They offer flexibility, working outside regular business hours and even on weekends and holidays, which enhances customer satisfaction through prompt service. Virtual receptionists lend a professional appearance to businesses and can easily scale their services in response to the business’s needs without the complexities of HR or training management. 

Virtual receptionists are a cost-effective solution for many businesses, providing significant flexibility and enhancing customer satisfaction. They are not confined to regular business hours, working evenings, weekends, and even holidays to ensure that customer inquiries are addressed promptly. This flexibility not only improves service quality but also lends a professional appearance to businesses, fostering a positive image among clients.  

Additionally, virtual receptionists can easily scale their services to meet the changing needs of a business, all without the usual complexities associated with HR or training management. This adaptability makes them an invaluable resource for companies looking to streamline operations and maintain high levels of customer service efficiency. 

Many small to medium-sized businesses lack a dedicated phone handler, requiring other employees to divert from their primary roles. This can reduce the quality of service, result in inconsistent call handling, and detract from their main responsibilities. 

“A legal firm we worked with, had two of their paralegals also handling incoming calls. This was leading to noticeable frustrations as they had to juggle numerous tasks unrelated to their main role, resulting in inconsistencies in how the calls were managed. It was clear they needed a better solution to maintain their focus on core legal duties without compromising the quality of their client interactions.” 

Implementing a virtual receptionist would resolve these issues by managing all incoming calls professionally and consistently. 

This allows the paralegals to concentrate on their paralegal tasks without the disruption of answering calls, enhancing their productivity and job satisfaction. 


Benefits of Virtual Receptionists

  • Cost-effective: No need for HR management or training. 
  • Availability: Operates during off-hours and holidays. 
  • Professionalism: Maintains a professional image. 

Cost-effective: Virtual receptionists provide a financially savvy option for businesses by eliminating the need for traditional HR management and ongoing training expenses. This streamlined approach allows businesses to save on overhead costs such as salaries, superannuation, and the resources typically required for hiring and developing staff. 

Availability: Virtual receptionists are available beyond standard office hours, offering services during off-hours, weekends, and public holidays. This extended availability ensures that your business can continue to respond to clients promptly and efficiently, heightening customer satisfaction and providing support whenever it is needed. 

Professionalism: Employing a virtual receptionist helps maintain a consistent and professional image for your business. They handle incoming calls and communications with a high level of professionalism, which reflects positively on your company. This is particularly beneficial for small businesses looking to establish credibility and a strong customer service reputation. 

Overall, virtual receptionists can transform the way businesses interact with their clients, offering a blend of reliability, professionalism, and flexibility without the associated costs of a traditional receptionist. 


What Are the Disadvantages of Virtual Receptionists?

While virtual receptionists bring many advantages, there are some drawbacks to consider: 

Aspect  Advantages  Disadvantages 
Physical Presence  Operates remotely, reducing office space needs  Cannot perform tasks that require physical presence 
Quality of Service  Can handle calls consistently and professionally  Quality concerns if not well-trained or monitored 
Personal Interaction  Reduces workload for in-house staff  May lack the personal touch of an in-house receptionist 
Information Management  Frees up in-house staff from phone duties  Requires regular updates and detailed scripts to maintain efficiency 


This table summarises the key advantages and disadvantages, providing a balanced view on the consideration of virtual receptionists for business needs. 

Virtual receptionist teams, not being on-site, may not inherently grasp the nuances of the business. Companies must proactively decide what information to relay to their virtual receptionists. This includes regularly updating them to keep all information current and crafting detailed scripts to facilitate smooth call flow. 

For instance, if a company introduces a new product or service range, it’s necessary to promptly update the virtual receptionist team to allow consistency in customer interactions and prevent any misinformation during calls.


How Much Does a Virtual Receptionist Cost?

The cost for virtual receptionist services in Australia varies widely based on the provider and the level of service required. Prices range from as low as AUD $25 per month for basic services to several hundred dollars for comprehensive packages that include extensive administrative support. 

Decision Factors: In-House vs Virtual Receptionist

Choosing between an in-house and a virtual receptionist depends on several factors: 

  • Cost: Virtual receptionists are generally more cost-effective. 
  • Business Needs: Virtual receptionists suit needs that are primarily virtual. 
  • Flexibility and Availability: Virtual receptionists offer extended hours. 
  • Professional Image: Both options can maintain a professional image. 
  • Scalability: Virtual services are easier to scale up or down. 
  • Customer Experience: Virtual receptionists ensure prompt call answering but may lack the personal touch some customers prefer. 

Common FAQs

Q: Can virtual receptionists handle complex inquiries? A: Yes, they are trained to manage a variety of tasks effectively. 

Q: How do virtual receptionists offer personalised experiences? A: They focus on building rapport and using active listening to tailor their interactions. 

Q: Are traditional receptionists better for confidential industries? A: Traditional receptionists offer physical presence which can be crucial for handling sensitive information securely, though virtual receptionists can also be equipped to manage confidentiality. 

Q: Can businesses switch between virtual and traditional receptionist services? A: Yes, many businesses use a hybrid approach depending on their needs.

The Final Decision

The decision to opt for virtual or traditional receptionists should be guided by the unique requirements and context of each business. Virtual receptionists provide cost-effectiveness, adaptability, and enhanced availability, making them ideal for dynamic and growing companies. 

In contrast, traditional receptionists deliver a more personal interaction and possess an in-depth understanding of the company’s culture and operations, which can be invaluable for businesses prioritising customer relationship building. 

Careful consideration of these factors, alongside specific industry needs, will enable businesses to make a thoughtful and strategic choice that aligns seamlessly with their long-term goals and the expectations of their customers. 

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Article by Michelle

May 2, 2024