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WNC Business

Virtual staff help close workforce gap

Jan 20, 2024 11:30AM ● By Randee Brown

A smaller workforce is leading to a larger number of businesses taking advantage of virtual staff, according to CEO of Brightbell Virtual Receptionists Jami Daniels.

Outsourcing certain tasks and roles to virtual employees allows business owners to fill gaps caused by the slim available workforce. Positions like receptionists, assistants, project managers,and a variety of other professional service positions can be virtual. In some cases, services can be offered 24 hours a day, allowing businesses to get complete coverage without having to hire the staff. The ability to work remotely in these fields is also beneficial for many workers, as working from home eliminates a variety of costs for these individuals.

“People want to work remotely, and with many frontline workers, daycare is a huge challenge,” Daniels said. “Working remotely is one less huge family expense, and less stress and aggravation than commuting to an office. Working remotely lets them enjoy benefits that haven’t always been available.”

Virtual receptionists and assistants can allow solopreneurs and micro-businesses to seem larger than they are, according to Daniels. For example, owners of trade businesses may be able to manage their sales pipeline while they are out in the field instead of adding those tasks to their end-of-day list, also demonstrating a constant staff presence to their customers.

With fewer people visiting offices since COVID shutdowns, there is less of a need for many support staff to have a physical presence. By hiring remote workers to do virtual tasks, businesses may be able to fill more roles than hiring for each set of tasks. Having the constant ability to communicate with clients and customers also positions a business in the best light possible, adding an additional aspect of professionalism to the business.

A wide variety of administrative tasks can be handled remotely for a wide variety of businesses. Taking messages, answering questions, dispatching techs for repairs, sending appointment and event reminders, responding to emails, and more can elevate a business’s customer engagement. Some virtual assistants also offer personal concierge services, from scheduling flights to party planning.

Interacting with a person via virtual services allow businesses to feel very high-touch, according to Daniels. Customers get to interact with a human, and while not physically in-person, they can help fulfill the need for humanity in business.

“Technology has made us so far apart,” Daniels said. “Bots and FAQ web pages cannot realistically handle customers’ needs. Callers have also become more sophisticated. By the time someone is ready to make a call, they’ve already done their research and need to talk to an actual person. They don’t want to continue being blocked by walls of gatekeeping, and receptionists and assistants are helping bring connections back to businesses.”

As the third-generation owner of Brightbell, which started in 1955, Daniels has seen periods of growth and shifts of receptionist needs in the region. Currently employing 30 individuals, most of whom live in WNC, they are seeing a greater interest in high-value outbound reach. 

“This is not telemarketing; this is white-glove service,” Daniels said. “There’s been lots of growth in that arena. Another interesting thing is how voicemail slaughtered the answering service business years ago, but that’s now come full circle and no one wants to deal with voicemail anymore. People would rather just talk to someone and know their issue is being handled, and receptionists are filling that need.”

Remote services are supporting the needs of all industries, according to Daniels. Industries like manufacturing are already struggling to hire workers, so the fewer on-site individuals they have to search for means less for them to worry about. People in remote positions are able to support a multitude of businesses and can scale to meet a variety of needs. The hiring challenge is nationwide and across all industries, and remote workers offering professional services can expand how much can be accomplished.

“More businesses can hire and fill their needs with fewer people,” Daniels said. “The gap in hiring is helped by being filled with remote positions. These people don’t have to commute, and there’s no sitting around in an office waiting for things to happen. It’s a much more efficient model to fill real-life business needs with real-life human interaction.”