Automated Voice System versus Virtual Receptionist


Updated June 17, 2021

So, you’re looking for a way to capture all of your incoming calls. Your goal is to do this while conveying that you are a well established and growing company. Oh, and of course, it needs to be at the lowest cost. Sound about right?

These are not unrealistic expectations. And solutions exist to add value to your operations, so keep reading!.
When it comes to answering phone calls, businesses have different needs. You may be looking to increase sales or handle inquiries of customer support calls. Whatever the need, different services are available with prices starting at $10 going to hundreds of dollars per month for more premium services

In this article, we will review the following:

  • Primary phone solutions available, including pros and cons. Review is based on customer feedback, as well as our own experience with 1000s of customers’ calls everyday.
  • Virtual Office providers and their rates.

So let’s start turning your callers into customers and keep existing clients looking for help.

Be sure to read to the end for a special free trial offer to our own live human answering service!

Automated Voice System vs Humans vs Humans who really care

It used to be that you just needed to make sure you didn’t miss any calls. Customers expected automation and recordings. Therefore, the old solution was either an outsourced answering service or an automated phone system. But times have changed and customers today expect more. Both of these options fall short on delivering the superior customer service that people expect today.

What’s an Automated Voice System? 

Automated Voice Systems are recordings that direct a customer calling to another number, a website, or to call back during business hours, or to leave a message.  Today, it’s estimated that 80% of customers will not leave a voicemail if no one picks up their call.  Therefore, automated phone systems will ultimately not earn you high marks with customers nor help you win more deals.

Some companies like Google have recently attempted to  refresh the service by launching products like Google Voice.  But, rather than giving attention to your customers, this can have the opposite effect.  Using voice products can convey “I don’t want to bother myself answering client calls, so I paid $20/month to get rid of the issue”  Don’t fall into this pit!  Let’s address the existential matter that could make the difference with all your competitors.

What is an Outsourced Answering Operator?

The step up from robots or automated voice systems is of course, having a live human answering the phone.  An Outsourced Answering Operator is this next level up.  This option is better than nothing of course, however, it can have a negative impact on your business.  These phone operators are not familiar with your company. They are mostly located overseas and paid by the call so the quickest they can hang up and take another call, the more money they’ll make. We have all been answered by this annoying guy that can’t help you and just wastes your time. Imagine how your callers would feel about your brand.

Humans Who Care! What is a Virtual Receptionist?

Virtual Receptionists are also live humans but they are (most of the time) professionally trained.  They can read a script and follow specific written instructions for how to respond to customer inquiries.  Essentially, they are presenting your business to callers, taking messages and caller’s information, transfering calls or advising customers.  Live Virtual Receptionists are an extension to your team. They are the closest experience you will get to hiring someone full time to be the gate of your business. 

Any downside? Costs have been pretty insane.  Companies like Ruby (previously known as CallRuby) charge at least $300/month for a limited number of minutes. Other companies, like… Starthub, have decided to break down the costs and provide unlimited answering for less than $50/month. That’s why we are being so harsh on other systems, you will end up paying more for a lesser quality.

Businesses Need to Communicate Timely Information

2020 required all businesses to change how they do business and then change again, and change again.  All of the changes in services, offerings, and operations had to be communicated out to customers, employees, and partners.  With an automated system, it’s difficult to maintain the most up-to-date information.  However, with a Virtual Receptionist, updating scripts and responses to customer calls is as simple as sending an email!  Make sure that your business has the best communication practices in place.

Customer Expectations are Higher Than Ever

Customer service standards today are greater than ever.  Businesses like Apple or Amazon have set the standards for superior customer service and customer expectations are now high. Check these two scary metrics:

Businesses today must meet the needs of customers that just won’t wait around or settle for less-than customer service.  They can find information at their fingertips. There are 100s if not 1000s of options for any particular good or service.  No longer do people need to put up with long wait times or uninformed operators. Customers expect superior service. And if they don’t get it, they will leave (and possibly give you a nice 1 star rating on Google or Trustpilot).

You could automate your small business calls with a phone system.  But in today’s face-paced environment, a human touch when connecting with clients can make or break client relationships. When business growth through customer acquisition is your primary focus, any incoming calls are an opportunity for you. Studies show that people are more inclined to hang up when reaching an automated system. A virtual receptionist adds a sophisticated and professional vibe to your business, and assures your clients that they are in the best hands.

As they say, it takes a lot to win new clients, and it takes even more to retain them. That’s another key to a long term successful business !

The Cost of Automated Voice Systems vs. Virtual Receptionists

Let’s talk money here, because at the end of the day, that’s what matters the most when you are about to make a decision to signup with a new provider.

Automated Voicemails like Google Voice start at $10/m but their most popular plan is around $20-$30/month.

Live receptionist answering varies from $35/month to $699/month among the most popular providers such as Starthub (that’s us!),Ruby, Davinci Virtual and others.  You also need to look at additional costs such as ‘additional minutes’, ‘limitations of notifications’, ‘additional phone number’, ‘ personalized voicemails’. 

While some providers charge a substantial amount for these additional features, Starthub gives you unlimited everything (we still charge additional phone numbers for $10/number)!

Here are some of the top providers and rates for Virtual Receptionist Services.



  • Starting at $85/month + Non-Refundable Activation fee and 24-months agreement
  • (the lower the commitment, the higher the rates. A regular Miam-based, month-to-month, virtual office would cost you $145/m + Activation Fee.

Alliance Virtual Offices

Davinci Virtual

Answer Connect

Money Penny

Ruby (CallRuby)


Virtual Receptionists! Better for your Business than a Automated Phone System

Whereas a small business phone system or answering service simply answer the phone, redirect, or takes messages, a Virtual Receptionist acts as an extension of your business team.  A Virtual Receptionist can answer all calls with customized greetings. They can schedule meetings for you, forward calls to you, send you email notifications, and more.  

A virtual receptionist is a live person, not an automated recording.  They can answer your calls, transfer them to you, or take a message on your behalf. That way, you can fully focus on growing your business and leaving room for important tasks, instead of screening phone calls.  You can get Virtual Receptionist services as part of a virtual office plan or on its own.

Your small business gains the presence of a large business with a team of live receptionists to manage your calls, not only when you cannot, but as part of your efficiency’s strategy.

Get Your Calls Answered Now with Starthub

Also checkout these articles on improving your customer service and customer acquisition strategies!



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