The Ultimate Guide: In-House Receptionist vs. Virtual Receptionist

By September 21, 2018 April 20th, 2021 Entrepreneur, Small Business, Telephone Support

It’s a rivalry for the ages, a question at the forefront of the minds of many small business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals: In-house receptionist or virtual receptionist?

In the days of questionable answering services and outsourced companies based outside of the US, the answer may have been an obvious one. Now, though, tools and technology have made virtual reception better than ever. Many businesses tout the service as their secret to success, as it allows them to cut costs and increase adaptability.

Still, some people remain on the fence when it comes to comparing the two. They’re left wondering if the savings are truly that great with a virtual receptionist, or whether their customers will be negatively affected by the lack of personal interaction.

We understand these questions and concerns better than anyone and are here to clear it up once and for all with our Ultimate Guide to picking which is best for you: In-House Receptionist or Virtual Receptionist.     

Cost of a Receptionist

In-House Receptionist

Wages for full-time, in-house employees are a major expense for any business, especially if you add on things like taxes, insurance, and benefits that are often provided. Vacation, sick time, personal leave, holidays, and even breaks throughout the day start adding up when it comes to a company’s employees.

  • The average in-house receptionist has an annual salary of $27,920 (U.S. News).
  • On average, life insurance costs $150. Health coverage adds $2,000-$3,000 for a single person, more if the coverage is for families, and dental plans can run $240-$650 (MIT).
  • Turnover costs an average of 16% of the annual salary of your receptionist (so $4,467.20 for the average salary mentioned).
  • On top of this, office supplies and overheads can tack on an additional $922-$1,106 annually, per employee (Chron).
  • Add in the costs of paying a manager to oversee this person or even the amount of time an owner has to spend managing them instead of working on more important tasks, and things really start adding up.

Virtual Receptionist

With a virtual receptionist company on the other hand, you only pay for the services you use. here is no additional cost for training, you don’t pay for vacations or sick time, and most importantly, you aren’t paying an annual salary with benefits and insurance.

  • You pay a service fee, not a salary.
  • You can select from various plans to fit your budget and needs.
  • No downtime or turnover costs.
  • Pay by the task, not by the hour, so there’s no downtime (The Admin Center Pricing).

Customer Service

In-House Receptionist

You really can’t beat the smiling, familiar face of a receptionist greeting you as you walk into a building. That human touch can be very important to some businesses, especially in a situation where walk-in clientele are fairly common.  

  • Familiarity with your clients.
  • In-person, human factor.
  • If you’re short staffed or your receptionist steps away, missed calls can happen, or customers can be left on hold waiting. In fact, 58% of people say they hate being on hold, and 15% are likely to hang up after waiting just 40 seconds (Salesforce).

Virtual Receptionist

Gone are the days of questionable service with virtual receptionists. Quality virtual companies will make it a point to learn every aspect of your business, and will give your callers an exceptional experience that stands on its own against (and may even rival) an in-house employee.

  • Multiple people trained extensively on your business, so whoever gets the call is going to be knowledgeable and helpful.
  • No long holds or wait times for customers; just quick, friendly service.
  • Often virtual reception companies will go above and beyond in their hiring, recruiting people with additional skills and who speak more than one language.


In-House Receptionist

When it comes down to it, an in-house receptionist is available when you are. From the time the company doors open to when they close, an in-house employee can be there, but this simply doesn’t cover the extra hours that are possible with virtual alternatives.

  • Available from open to close, but early mornings, nights, and weekends are left unmonitored.
  • On top of this, in-house employees require time off for vacation, sick days, or anything else that may come up, leaving gaps in your coverage at times (remember those stats about how much people hate to be on hold?).
  • Not to mention the fact that 50%-80% of people will simply hang up the phone if their call goes to voicemail (DestinationCRM), resulting in a lot of lost potential.

Virtual Receptionist

For ample coverage during the times that matter most, you just can’t beat the support that virtual reception services are able to offer.

  • Available for extended hours, from before you open until after you close, and on weekends too if you need it.
  • Virtual teams are comprised of multiple people, so when one is out for the day it goes completely unnoticed on your end – no disruption, no wait times, and no voicemail in place of a person answering your calls.  


In-House Receptionist

The reception department of a company is usually a “one man job.” And while multitasking skills are a part of the job description, it’s still one person doing everything.

  • An in-house receptionist is there in person with you, so if you have questions for them or want to exchange ideas they’re readily available.
  • They’re able to do unique, one-off tasks generally easier.
  • As their employer, they really get to know the ins and outs of your company.
  • They’re only one person – that means their skill-set is less robust and their time is limited.

Virtual Receptionist

When a virtual reception company is hiring, they usually try to find people with diverse backgrounds, broad experience, and unique capabilities that you simply can’t find all in one person.

  • With virtual reception services you have access to an entire team of people.   
  • There is no downtime in their service, so you can get things done faster and more efficiently.
  • Technology has made it easier than ever to be in touch with your virtual team at any moment. Their work is possible through the use of intelligent software and modern technology, so they’re familiar with how to keep you up-to-date and in-touch with your customers 100% of the time.


In-House Receptionist

When business is booming and it’s time to bring in a few extra hands to help out it’s exciting, but recruiting, training, and keeping employees happy is a tough task and can be a burden on resources. And on the flipside, when seasons get slow or the business enters a lull period, letting people go isn’t fun for anybody.

  • On average, it takes up to eight weeks for a new receptionist to achieve a full level of productivity, meaning that you have to wait that long to truly scale up, and lose money in the meantime (MIT).
  • That translates to a loss of 1%-2.5% of a loss in total revenue while the new hire gets up to speed.
  • Hiring and firing takes time, takes resources, and there’s no guarantee that the new person will stay around, meaning that you could potentially have to do it all over again.

Virtual Receptionist

Virtual reception services are set up to scale with you as quickly as you need, with a small increase in service fee.

  • There’s no need to hire temporary or seasonal workers to increase support during busy seasons.
  • No lag in productivity for training periods, and no loss in revenue as a result of downtime.
  • No turnover, because you always have a full staff of people at the ready to support your business.

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When it comes down to it, it’s hard to beat the quality and value that you can get with a virtual receptionist. Whether you’re looking to support your business entirely with virtual help or you’re interested in supporting your current in-house staff, you’re guaranteed to benefit from virtual reception services.

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