Janice Guttmann, a financial services provider with ten years of independent practice, is on the leading edge of her profession. Outsourcing office services was only recently highlighted by a national magazine as a best practice for financial professionals with high-margin businesses. But Janice has been outsourcing for six years already. When asked why, Janice was quick to point out the benefits. “There were two reasons,” she said. “First, I am a working mother and need to make every minute count to balance work and family. Second, it was hard to meet with other professionals during the day. I started offering evening appointments one night a week, and the response was overwhelming. Now, I schedule afterhours meetings three nights a week.” However, the first few weeks of evening appointments didn’t go so well. In the evening Janice was without the help of her usual office staff. “It wasn’t professional to let the phone ring while I had clients in my office. And when the answering machine picked up, everyone could hear the callers’ messages. That gave me concerns over confidentiality.” To solve this she hired a virtual receptionist to answer all her evening calls. It’s a specialized offering from her answering service designed to handle this exact situation. “I loved the virtual receptionist service,” said Janice. “It solved the ringing phone issue and my confidentiality concerns. Plus I got fewer hang-ups and more appointments. But I also appreciated getting a transcription of my messages emailed to me—actually to my administrative assistant. She just imported it into our office software. That’s how we started on the path to a virtual office.” High-margin financial service practices, according to a recent study, share four important characteristics. They are virtually paperless, with information being inputted directly into a software system that is instantly accessible. Second, they rely on outsourcing of many office services, from accounting to telephone reception. Third, they employ mobile technologies, allowing them to work at the clients’ convenience rather than tying them to their own offices. Finally, high-margin practices use web-enabled services to provide a single point-of-entry for information and data retrieval about client services. “I don’t feel like a pioneer,” said Janice. “Outsourcing those evening phone calls to a virtual receptionist is what started it all. I began with a practical problem and the solution changed the way I do business.” In addition to having professional receptionists handle every one of Janice’s calls afterhours, she also had her outsourced IT team setup secure remote access to her office database. Now her virtual receptionist can enter information directly into her office software. Plus this allows them access to her appointment calendar, which they can use to set and change appointments. “Today, we serve busy professionals three evenings per week. I can access anything I need to know or input anything from my office, a busy restaurant, or even a client’s home, all from my laptop. No matter where I am, I have exactly the tools I need to provide the high-quality service my clients expect,” said Janice. “And it all started when I hired a telephone answering service to be my virtual receptionist.” Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.