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Automated Receptionist Vs. Virtual Receptionist – How do they compare?

automated receptionist

Thanks to the development in software, ease of use, and the availability of apps on our mobile phones, technology is a crucial feature in an entrepreneur’s toolkit. Whether you are a solopreneur or the CEO of a global corporation, technology is vital.

Although the telephone was invented back in 1876, it remains the most vital medium of communication with customers, clients, and specific targeted audiences for many businesses. This is especially true when it comes to selling high-end products; most people will want to talk to someone about particular features regarding a car, for example, before booking a test drive.

The telephone is also vital when it comes to providing excellent customer service or customer experience. Being able to speak to the right person quickly and efficiently is essential for customer satisfaction. For this to happen – an automated receptionist is often used. Using an automated receptionist makes the process easier and more efficient for both the customer and the business.

What is an automated receptionist?

An automated receptionist is often referred to as an “auto-attendant.” An automated receptionist is a type of computerised answering service combined with a switchboard. It is often described as a voice-menu system used in telephony to route callers to the right person without a human operator or receptionist.

The automated receptionist will help to redirect calls to the right people or the correct departments. For example, if you call a company and you are greeted by a voice that asks you to “press 1 for sales, 2 for customer support, or 3 for all other inquiries,” then you are most likely using an automated receptionist system.

Automated receptionists are vital for large businesses, which would otherwise need to employ hundreds, perhaps thousands of receptionists to route callers to the right people. 

Larger businesses can manage calls efficiently and provide the fastest way for a customer to reach the right person. For smaller companies, an auto-receptionist can give a more professional greeting and help the business establish the customer’s needs before answering the phone. For example, if someone presses “1 for sales”, they can be either routed to a salesperson, or the business owner can answer the call with an understanding of the caller’s intentions.

Automated receptionists can also have sub-levels, whereby the caller is asked to choose an option twice. So, for example, the caller may press 1 for support on the first level/greeting. Then on the next level/greeting, the automated receptionist may ask the caller to select either 1 for small businesses or 2 for enterprise customers.

What are the benefits of an automated receptionist?

The main benefit of an auto attendant or automated receptionist is that they can send the caller to the correct person or the correct department as quickly as possible. This, in turn, speeds up overall business operations, which is vital if they are used for a busy call centre. 

Whilst automated receptionists are never particularly popular with callers eager to speak to someone, they are still much quicker than manually routing calls. From the business’s perspective, they provide a cost-effective solution. Again for busy call centres, the alternative would be to have dozens, possibly hundreds of receptionists who route calls manually. Whilst this would provide a human touch, it would cost the business significantly more. 

IVRs or Interactive Voice Response are effectively automated receptionists but with the ability to recognise speech and route calls accordingly. With an automated receptionist, callers have to use the dial-pad to select numbers for different options. 

What is a virtual receptionist?

A virtual receptionist is a receptionist who does not reside within your office or your company. Receptionist services are outsourced to a third-party company, which offers what is effectively a telephone answering service.

With high-end virtual receptionist services, the receptionist is dedicated to your business, in that there will only be one receptionist that answers your calls. They will work in a small team, so that calls are still answered if the receptionist is unavailable for any reason. The team will typically specialise per industry. For example, a small real estate team may answer calls just for real estate companies. This specialisation enables them to provide a service, just like an in-house full-time receptionist, but for a fraction of the price.

What are the benefits of a virtual receptionist?

Virtual receptionists are an excellent service for businesses of all sizes. For small business owners, a virtual receptionist can provide a great first impression. By having a dedicated and professional receptionist answer your calls, you can create an excellent first impression of your brand and even give the illusion of being a large company, even if you work alone, from home. 

Virtual receptionists can also reduce interruptions. With research showing that a single interruption, such as an annoying or unwanted sales call, can take on average 23 minutes to ‘recover’ and get back to work, having a virtual receptionist take these calls instead can really enhance your productivity. 

A virtual receptionist can also route your calls to the correct people and departments, although not on a vast commercial call centre scale like an automated receptionist can. However, a virtual receptionist can be used on an overflow basis as well as fully outsourced, so if you have a call centre or team of receptionists that can’t handle all of the calls during peak hours or peak season, then a virtual receptionist can help.

Moneypenny’s Virtual Receptionist Service

A virtual receptionist can take inbound calls through a call forwarding system. With Moneypenny’s award-winning telephone answering service, you also get a state-of-the-art phone answering app. Available in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play store, the Moneypenny app allows you to quickly update your status and availability in real time and contact your dedicated receptionist wherever you need.

Rather than a virtual receptionist per se, you get a Moneypenny PA. Think of your Moneypenny PA as another great member of your business and your team. We understand that your business is something precious to you and that you want it represented in the right way by a highly professional and experienced receptionist. With this in mind, we ensure that your Moneypenny PA is matched precisely to you and your business. Based on experience and industry knowledge, we pick a Moneypenny PA that you will be proud to call a member of your team. 

With a dedicated PA, instead of speaking to a different receptionist each time they call, your customers and callers will speak with one dedicated receptionist who will know your business, and your callers, as well as a full-time receptionist, would. 


A receptionist that knows you & your business

You get a chance to introduce yourself and your business during the welcome call. Your PA will get to know you and your business so that they can handle calls exactly like an in-house receptionist. The welcome call is a little bit like a receptionist’s first day at work. You won’t need to tell your receptionist every detail about your business; it’s more about developing a rapport and getting to know and trust your PA.

Keep in touch using the Moneypenny virtual receptionist app and the Moneypenny online portal.

Your Moneypenny PA can also make the odd outbound call for you and pay your congestion or toll-road charges. Moneypenny can also be used to buy toll-free or additional phone numbers. 

Moneypenny Technology

The Moneypenny app can be used to send and receive messages to your Moneypenny PA. You can also use it to update your status, and it has GPS technology that can show your PA where you are and when you are on the road. This can be useful when you only want calls transferred to you when you are in your office. 

Using the online portal, you can see all of your caller history and reports, including graphs that show your call stats by day of the week and time of day.

24/7 Virtual Receptionist

Like an automated receptionist, your Moneypenny virtual receptionist service can answer calls around the clock. Whilst you will have a dedicated receptionist answering your calls during regular office hours, if you opt for our 24/7 service, you can nurture leads and generate sales whilst you sleep! Our small team of highly specialised and trained receptionists will answer your calls in the evenings and early mornings.

With a 24/7 service, you can provide a personal and human touch to your phone answering, something that an automated receptionist cannot. 

Not only that, you can literally switch off at the end of the working day without having to listen out for your mobile phone constantly. Instead, you can relax or enjoy what you are doing 100% and forget about work for a while. 

Enjoy a Free Trial

With Moneypenny’s virtual receptionist service, you can experience the benefits for yourself with a seven-day free trial. After the seven days, there is no obligation to sign up, and there are no lengthy contracts. With “excellent” reviews on Trustpilot and Google, why not give us a try?


For more information about our virtual receptionist & telephone answering service, please visit this page.


We give you amazing people and technology:


Your own Moneypenny PA to answer calls exactly as if based in your office.

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Live Chat

Amazing people, briefed by you to manage chats whenever you can't.

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Pocket Phone System

All the functions and support of an office phone system, minus the hardware.

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