The History of Virtual Receptionists

The History of Virtual Receptionists
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The History of Virtual Receptionists

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Over the years, the job of a receptionist has had many names (i.e., administrative assistant, executive assistant, secretary, office clerk, and the list goes on.) Whatever you call it, though, the job of a receptionist has always been to connect with customers and represent the business as the “face” of the company.

With the rise of the Internet and computer technology, receptionists can now work remotely and never need to step foot inside the office – while still doing most of the important administrative tasks required by the job (thus, the “virtual receptionist”).

While modern technology has indeed impacted the role of the receptionist, finding out how the position has evolved over the years can help you understand more about the work they do. Therefore, with that in mind, let us look at the history of virtual receptionists and how their role has changed and evolved over time.

The Ancient Origins of the “Receptionist”

Receptionists have been around about as long as people have been writing. The first receptionists wrote and saved records of transactions and interactions. In ancient times, receptionists were often slaves (or those otherwise considered as belonging to lower classes) who were skilled in handwriting, spelling, and organization.

During the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution, demand for construction, industrial, and mining labor exploded, which meant front-office workers were also in great demand. Most of these “front-office” workers were what we now consider “receptionists” and were almost exclusively women.

Old School Switchboard Operator

The Telephone Changed Everything

Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call in 1876 with the help of his assistant (or should we say receptionist) Thomas Watson. This, of course, changed forever the way businesses communicated with customers, and answering the phone became the primary duty of most “receptionists.”

Call Forwarding Made Receptionists Essential to Business

You’ve probably never heard of him, but Walter T. Shaw revolutionized the way people used the phone during the early 20th century. Walter T. Shaw invented much of the technology that made the phone the communication staple it is today. For instance, he invented touch-tone dialing, conference calling, the answering machine, and the famous White House “red phone.” However, perhaps his most beneficial invention was call forwarding.

Thanks to Walter T. Shaw and call forwarding, the receptionist no longer needed to be tied to a single location and could answer calls from just about anywhere – and this was a long time before the Internet was ever even imagined.

Call forwarding and some of Shaw’s other inventions helped businesses (and their receptionists) be more flexible. However, because these technologies provided more access for customers to businesses, this also created an enormous demand for receptionists (mostly female) that could use the new telephony systems.

While some business owners kept their own records and communicated with customers directly, many others realized the advantages of hiring dedicated assistants or receptionists who often provided friendlier and better customer service. Besides answering phones and providing customer service, receptionists of the early and mid-20th century performed many other tasks and were often the busiest (and most overworked) employees of any business.

Roles of the 20th Century Receptionist

As newer communication and telephony technologies emerged, receptionists took on even more responsibilities. So much so, in fact, that many today would say that receptionists had the job of performing tasks associated with three to five separate positions. Simply put, receptionists essentially performed all tasks not specifically assigned to a specific person.

During the explosion of communication technology in the mid-20th century, the title of “receptionist” expanded to reflect many of the additional duties and tasks often assigned to the people (again, almost all women) in these positions. Here are some of the job titles that resulted from this:

  • Administrative assistant
  • Business service specialist
  • Customer service agent
  • Front desk specialist
  • Office manager
  • Operations agent
  • Operations coordinator

Modern Insta Answer Virtual Receptionist

21st Century Insta Answer Virtual Receptionists

Nowadays, there is an ever-growing demand for highly trained and specialized “virtual” receptionists. What is the responsibility of these new types of receptionists? In short, their job is to provide high levels of personal attention to customers for the businesses they represent. And that’s where Insta Answer can help – by providing professional, friendly virtual receptionists who are equipped with the training and technology needed to help your business provide the best customer service possible.

Throughout the history of virtual receptionists, the technology they have used has transformed greatly over the years. Nevertheless, the job of modern virtual receptionists remains the same – to deliver great customer service. In doing so, virtual receptionists can help your business stand out against your competitors and boost your bottom line.

Insta Answer virtual receptionists do this by creating effective, sincere connections with your customers and by giving them great support experiences. By providing stellar customer service to your customers, Insta Answer virtual receptionists help increase customer loyalty and retention.

Insta Answer – Your Partner for Great Virtual Receptionists

At Insta Answer, we have been helping businesses (just like yours) provide exceptional customer service for over 50 years. Our global network of virtual receptionists provides superior service and support to your customers that improves customer loyalty and happiness, increases sales, and delivers more word-of-mouth referrals for your business.

When you select Insta Answer as your virtual receptionist provider, you not only gain access to our talented team of virtual receptionists, you also get a partner who will work just as hard as you do to ensure that your business continues to grow and thrive.

If you would like to find out how partnering with Insta Answer can help grow your business with exceptional customer service, please click here to request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Alternatively, you can reach us at (877) 631 – 9711 or by email at [email protected].

Picture of Steve Samuels

Steve Samuels

A respected contact-service executive and thought-leader, Insta Answer CEO Steve Samuels has over 30 years experience in the industry. Steve posts his insights here on our blog weekly (and sometimes more.)

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