Virtual Receptionist has been a feature with traditional EPABX for long time now. But it had a limited intelligence and utility. This feature works as receptionist in front office in any organisation which attends incoming calls, transfers the call to required extension or take a message. This feature of PBX is also known as “auto attendant”. This feature can be implemented using simple IVR with voice mail system and now known as Virtual Receptionist.
With introduction of IVR Hosting services, hosted Virtual Receptionist service has also become popular. While it is quite easy to implement virtual receptionist on-premise using a simple 4 port analog card and very basic analog PBX with one or two PSTN lines.
Previously I posted about implementing a simple virtual receptionist using a low cost 4 port analog card along with a low cost analog PBX for a small office. While there are advantages of having on-premise virtual receptionist, in some situations it may not be advantageous to have on-premise virtual receptionist specially for small offices.
Here are few points one should consider before deciding what virtual receptionist solution for one’s business:-
1. Initial Investment
A small start-up or a small office with two rooms may not have a PBX as it does not actually require it. But they surely need a virtual receptionist system for its obvious advantages. While on-premise solution will have almost no recurring cost, but have higher initial investment. Hosted Virtual Receptionist has almost no initial investment and can be activated instantly.
2. Cost of maintenance
On-premise virtual receptionist has regular maintenance cost, power back up system, involved while hosted has no maintenance. If some one is shifting office premise, the shifting is instant for hosted virtual receptionist.
3. Easy upgrade, hardware/software independence
in Hosted Virtual Receptionist, service provider always uses state-of-art latest hardware and software, latest technology. But in case of On-Premise VR ( Virtual Receptionist), one the hardware is bought and IVR application developed, it requires almost similar or more investment for hardware as well as software.
4. Scale up
Scaling up is easy for hosted VR while it may be costly affair for on-premise VR as the exisiting hardware may go complete obsolete and unusable. FOr example, if one upgrades from analog 4 port VR system to digital 30 port VR system, the analog lines go completely obsolete.
5. Online reporting system
More features are normally available in hosted IVR like detailed reporting online which can be accessed from anywhere, even mobile devices on the go. Similar features in on premise may cost much higher and require much better infrastructure.
6. Call transfer departments/agents
Hosted will transfer the call to mobile number or direct number for the employee, so easy to track every call as per mobile number. If on premise IVR tries to same, it would incur cost of outbound call which will be an recurring expense as call to any PSTN or mobile number would be chargeable.
So, both on-premise and hosted virtual receptionist have their share of advantages and disadvantages. BY thumb rule, smaller companies may go for hosted Virtual Receptionist while bigger enterprises should opt for on-premise solutions which may be cheaper in the long run.