Back in the day when I was looking for a receptionist to answer my phone and manage Appointment scheduling there was no virtual office or call handling available in the UK.
There is now a plethora of providers of answering services, and choosing one is the difficulty.
I’m often asked about Automated call handling or Automated receptionist systems which are not the same as a virtual receptionist.
An Automatic phone answering system (sometimes called interactive voice response or IVR) uses preset numbers to direct calls to where they need to go. So the caller might hear “press 1 for accounts, press 2 for sales”etc… This is useful if you have a lot of different people to direct the calls to, or if you want make it seem as if you have a lot of employees. Importantly though there is no human being involved other than the caller.
Virtual Receptionists on the other hand are actual real people. A better term might be remote receptionists, ie not in your office or surgery. They may take a message for you and email it on to you, or they may do a more complex job, e.g. Diary management, collecting information or payments.
You could have both! An IVR which directs calls to a virtual receptionist as one of the options.
But the real plus of a remote or virtual receptionist is that it reduces overheads. You are effectively sharing the receptionist with other companies and this means that you have a full time receptionist at a fraction of the cost.