Whether you’re trying to avoid hiring a front desk receptionist or you already have a whole team of them, receptionist software will help streamline customer interactions and save time for your staff.
But “receptionist software” isn’t just one type of software. It’s an ambiguous category of digital tools, which makes it pretty hard to sort through all the options and find what you need.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the important distinctions you’ll need to understand and how your goals affect the type of software and features you need.
Let’s start by clarifying what you mean by “receptionist software.”
Receptionist software includes a wide range of programs businesses use to do one of two things:
They all simplify or automate repetitive tasks receptionists spend a lot of time doing—like scheduling appointments, providing information, or redirecting calls—but depending on your business, your budget, and the software, you may not need a front desk receptionist at all.
But what you mean by “receptionist software” will completely change the kinds of tools you’re trying to find.
In enterprise-level businesses, there are entire departments dedicated to some of the responsibilities a receptionist may have at a small Main Street business. Receptionists could have to:
It’s not just busywork. Receptionists are often responsible for doing customer service, marketing, and administrative tasks all at the same time. And there are several tools they may rely on to get things done.
When businesses use “receptionist software” to refer to tools that support their receptionists, they’re looking for social media management programs like Hootsuite, customer service software like Hubspot’s Service Hub, scheduling apps like Calendly, and business texting solutions like Numa.
These tools make a receptionist’s endless list of tasks easier to manage. They can control all your social media accounts from one place. They can use a “universal inbox” to see and respond to all inbound messages—email, live chat, or SMS—from a single dashboard. And when someone needs to schedule an appointment, they can navigate every employee’s calendar or simply send the client a link.
Alternatively, you might be looking for tools that allow you to automate the tasks a receptionist typically performs so that you don’t need to hire a receptionist. While a receptionist can handle a variety of tasks, they’re also the most expensive solution. Specialized software can often solve many of the same problems businesses expect receptionists to take care of.
The right phone answering service can automatically handle all your inbound calls.
A chatbot can automatically respond to inbound messages through social media, your website, and texting.
And visitor management software can turn your front desk into a self-serve check-in station for clients, customers, and business contacts.
When you search for receptionist software, you’ll find two main kinds of solutions: so-called “virtual receptionist” software and visitor management software. If you’re trying to choose the right solution for your business, it helps to understand the difference between these categories—because they’ll refer to themselves the same way in advertising.
Visitor management software helps you keep track of who’s in your building and what they’re doing there. It can also print off name tags so visitors feel like they belong, and employees know they do, too. Some solutions will also use SMS messaging to alert you when a guest checks in—so you know they’re waiting for you.
A receptionist can use visitor management software to coordinate appointments and ensure that guests have a smooth experience when they visit your business. But with a prominent location and clear signage teaching visitors what to do, you can use some visitor management programs to create a “self-serve” check-in station.
So this software can either support your existing receptionists or be part of a larger solution to reduce your dependence on administrative staff.
Virtual receptionist software is essentially a program that automates the process of answering inbound calls. This can be confusing because a virtual receptionist is actually a team of real people who answer the phone for your business. Virtual receptionist software companies may try to share the label of “virtual receptionist,” but they’re not the same thing. It’s really an auto attendant.
Using interactive voice response (IVR), virtual receptionist software gives your callers a menu of options they can navigate using their voice or the keypad. They can request information about your business, have the call forwarded to a specific person or department, or complete some basic transactions.
Businesses use virtual receptionist software to give customers a self-serve path to the service they need. The downside is that calls will often still wind up going to a voicemail box (especially after hours), and most consumers don’t appreciate talking to robots on the phone. But if you have a lot of inbound calls, this is one way to reduce the burden on your employees throughout the day.
Ultimately, the kind of solution (or solutions) you choose will depend on the problems you're trying to solve and your business goals. Here are some ways receptionist software can support your business and make life easier for your employees.
Missed calls hurt your business. Instead of leaving a voicemail, most callers will simply give up or call a competitor. Virtual receptionist software (better known as auto attendants) and other phone answering services can reduce or even eliminate missed calls by answering the phone 24/7 and ensuring every caller gets the assistance they need.
But if missed calls are your biggest problem, virtual receptionist software isn’t the right solution. Not only does it create a frustrating experience for callers, but it also routes some callers to an employee—so if they can’t pick up, you still wind up with missed calls.
Whether your problem is simply overflow calls or you want every call to get answered without an employee, it’s worth looking into another solution, like Numa. If you have more than five calls per day, we can help you save money and earn more business.
How many times do you end a call with a customer and think, “I wish they would’ve just Googled that”? When a customer contacts you to request basic information, it’s important to serve them wherever they reach you. But while serving customers is valuable, it’s certainly not always the best use of your time (or your staff’s).
Thankfully, repetitive interactions are excellent opportunities for automation. Visitor management software can automate the check-in process and notify employees when there’s a visitor to see them. And auto attendants can provide the information some callers need.
But automating repetitive interactions is where Numa really shines.
When someone calls your business, they want specific service. But an auto attendant drones through all the options, and callers don’t know if what they need most accurately falls under one of the later options. (Nobody wants to make the wrong choice only to have to start all over.) Numa doesn’t do that. Instead, Numa redirects callers to text conversations, where they can effortlessly request the service they need and get an immediate response that only includes the information they need.
Numa does the same with inbound chat messages from social media and your website. Using conversational intelligence, Numa understands your customers’ requests and provides the service they need—all while sounding like your employees. Any time Numa doesn’t know how to answer a customer’s question, it notifies you in a universal inbox, then learns from your response.
Over time, Numa enables you to automate more and more customer interactions without ever losing your brand’s voice.
Whether someone calls your business to ask about your hours or services, or they need to check in for curbside pickup, Numa has you covered.
Your employees are some of your business’ most expensive assets. Receptionist software can help reduce administrative costs by making your receptionists more efficient and freeing them to focus on more complex tasks. Or, if it makes sense for your business, receptionist software can help lower your overhead by eliminating the need for receptionists all together.
Receptionists provide a personal touch to every call and every in-person interaction. Businesses also often lean on them for miscellaneous tasks that don’t make sense for other employees to do. That may be worth paying for. But if your main problem is missed calls, there are far less expensive alternatives that also work after hours.
Numa doesn’t print name tags for you. And while many businesses use us for curbside check-in interactions, we don’t help you facilitate in-person check-ins. But if you’re looking into receptionist software because you need to empower your receptionists, prevent missed calls, and save time on repetitive interactions, Numa is an ideal choice.
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