The virtual office services market has grown considerably over the last few years and is highly competitive. Companies range from huge call centre operators to single office set-ups.
The key is to decide what you want and then find a company that can offer a service to match your needs, and for a price you can afford.
Do you require just a basic messaging service, or the whole office experience? Do you require the use of the latest hi-tech equipment? Do you need a 24-hour service?
The larger companies generally offer more services and additional features, such as 24-hour answering services – often essential if you have foreign clients or run a 24-hour call-out service.
Larger companies are also more likely to have more advanced technology, and this should be a major consideration if your business is technology dependent.
Employing a larger company might also give the impression that you’re a busy and lively company, as your calls are likely to be answered by different operators who your clients will presume all work for you.
However, it can also have a downside as it will be obvious to regular clients that you don’t employ that many receptionists, pretty much defeated the purpose of the exercise.
Smaller firms can appeal by offering a closer and more involved working relationship. The employees of small firms are likely to work together and keep track of what each other are doing. They’re also more likely to know your business personally without having to constantly look-up details.
Many small businesses prefer the closer and personal touch that small virtual office firms can offer, but tend to move to a bigger player as their business expands and they feel they can risk losing that personal touch.
Size of company is not the only consideration, and there are other ways of discovering which company suits your requirements best.
It could also be worth considering how long a company has been in business and also how many staff they have. Experience is important and there’s also no point paying a company that doesn’t have enough operators to answer your calls.
If you can, have a chat with some of the receptionists at the company, and note how articulate and professional they sound. They are the frontline for your company and there’s little room for error.
Research by the Henley Centre, a business consultancy, found that 68% of customers would prefer to go to another company if just one call is handled badly.
Also, but by no means least, there are the costs. Direct comparisons are not easy because there are so many differing price structures.
However, it’s likely you’ll have to pay a one-off connnection fee of anything up to around £250 and then monthly payments ranging from £25 - £100, depending on the features of the service.
Read the small print carefully, as many companies make additional charges for the amount of messages that are taken and how they are delivered. Companies have preferred delivery methods and construct their charges accordingly.
Before signing up for anything, ask for a free trial. If a company is confident about the service it provides it should have no problem giving you a trial run. If they say no, start asking why.