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What is an AI phone answering service?

The use of telephone answering services is on the rise. Due to working arrangements forced upon many by the pandemic, countless entrepreneurs are working remotely. As a result, many are now using phone answering services to ensure the same level of customer service is delivered, but for a fraction of the cost of a full-time in-house receptionist. Whether you’re a start-up or an established business, reducing operating costs is a big win.

With a phone answering service, calls can be dealt with professionally, and there’s no need for additional hardware or even an office. Phone answering services also help to reduce unnecessary distractions, such as unwanted sales calls – and with research showing that a single distraction interrupts your working day by around 25 minutes, the fewer interruptions the better!

Technology has so far given rise to well-known automated phone systems such as Interactive Voice Response systems or IVRs. Automated answering services have been around for decades, with banks and call centres have been using automated systems for years, usually in the format of a programmed switchboard or menu. These systems help to filter and funnel customers and allow them to make online payments without waiting for a call centre agent or receptionist. Whilst this can help reduce the need for a large number of call centre agents, it’s debatable as to whether or not automated phone systems provide a satisfactory customer experience – but artificial intelligence (AI) could be about to change all that.

What is an AI phone answering service?

Put simply, AI is the next big thing in technology. Whether it will save humanity or take over the world is still up for debate, but AI technology is currently being used in everything from robot doctors to smart headphones.

Artificial intelligence is developing rapidly, with big data and automation gaining ground every day. In relation to answering services – new refinements and developments in AI are making bot-receptionists sound more human like. The implications and applications of this ability to pass as human, could be widespread.

It seems unlikely that 2021 will see the complete end of COVID-19. With social distancing likely to be around for some time, many restaurant customers, for example, will want to book appointments on the phone rather than in person.

Artificial intelligence can now provide a complete virtual assistant service, including the ability to answer your phone calls, and make bookings and reservations according to availability dictated by the restaurant’s diary or appointment booking software. 

As the demand for phone answering services grows, AI phone answering services will likely develop and refine themselves quicker than before – with more customer interactions comes more data and more feedback to update the technology.

The question is: will AI eradicate the need for human call centre and phone answering agents all together?

AI vs. human powered telephone answering 

Whilst artificial intelligence can already hold conversations with people, many ethical questions have already been raised.

For example:

  • Should you disclose when your customers are speaking to a bot?
  • Will technology that sounds human begin to erode our trust?
  • What conversations are not suitable for human-bot conversations?

In many instances, a bot’s tone of voice is still readily distinguishable from a human’s – check out this YouTube video and see if you can tell the difference! The video shows Google’s Calljoy answering service which was shut down or “sunsetted” in 2020. With the ability to answer calls with a custom message, filter out unwanted calls and answer basic queries, perhaps technology isn’t quite ready to replace humans on the telephone after all.

Currently, humans still have better problem-solving skills than artificial intelligence and bots. At present, AI bots can only hold conversations in “closed domains”, meaning that there are still robust limits on what bots can and can’t discuss. AI bots can understand simple instructions related to appointment making – e.g. Want a table? On what date? What time? – but with no problem-solving or small talk capabilities in between.

AI bots are also limited in regards to how they handle misunderstandings. Bots tend to rephrase and repeat questions; they don’t understand the intricacies of a conversation, using “preprogrammed gambits”, not real intelligence, to resolve any confusion. For example, a bot can ask someone to “start over” or ask if the customer can hear what is being said.

One big caveat with an AI is that should it all go terribly wrong, a human will take over. So what could this mean for some call centres and receptionists? In ten years, will there be the same number of call centre agents, with much shorter queues for customers, or will the number of employees be cut right back to reduce overheads?

Moneypenny’s Telephone Answering Service

With Moneypenny, you get your very own (human) PA. As someone you get to know and trust, they’ll look after your calls just like an in-house receptionist would. We know that your business and customers are precious, so you won’t be handing over the proverbial keys to just anybody. We want you to think of Moneypenny as your business’s second home, which is why we hand-pick our PAs to each business that comes on board with us – ensuring a great relationship from the start.

During the initial Welcome Call, you can sit down and tell your new team member all about your business, so they’re able to represent you exactly as you wish. There’s plenty of ways to keep in touch with your virtual receptionist throughout your service; provide them with up to date information over the phone, by email or via the Moneypenny portal. You can even update them through the Moneypenny app – great for when you’re on the go.

With a free trial available and no long contracts, why not give our award-winning Telephone Answering Service a try? Call 0333 202 1005 now.

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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