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What Is an Automated Secretary?

M. McGee
Updated May 16, 2024
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An automated secretary is a device that routes calls in an office. These devices are often used by small businesses as a way of providing a basic filter between the office and undesired phone calls, such as telemarketers or wrong numbers. Larger businesses will often have a real-life secretary to perform this function, making the automated secretary redundant. This term is often used synonymously with virtual secretary, but the two are actually very different. A virtual secretary is an actual person, just not one that is present within the business itself.

In most cases, an automated secretary is a small box that plugs into the phone line between the phone and the wall. When a known and approved number calls the line, the secretary will allow the call to go directly to the phone. If an unapproved, unknown or restricted number calls, the automated secretary will intercept it.

Generally, an interception of this type means that an automated system answers the call and requests basic information from the caller. After getting answers to its questions, the device will call the connected phone and relay that information to the receiver — who then has the option to take the call. If the number is known as bad, or the receiver denies the call, the call will instead be routed to voicemail or simply disconnected.

A common mistake is to assume that a virtual and an automated secretary are the same thing. A virtual secretary is an independent contractor that operates as a secretary from a remote location. Typically, these workers will have a home office and perform common secretarial work, often for several different companies. Common tasks include answering the telephone, transcribing recorded letters or speeches and making travel arrangements.

Even though the two types of secretaries are very different, they have a similar overall methodology. By removing both the space and cost of a traditional secretary, a business is able to run with a much lower overhead. This allows a business to function at a level where it may have gone bankrupt under the traditional system. In addition, using the automated phone features of a virtual secretary will often allow a business to appear larger and better organized.

In the case of the virtual secretary, the outsourcing of work provides additional benefits. A single worker can work for a number of companies simultaneously, rather than being forced into a single part-time job. In addition, working from home allows people with young children, disabilities or unpredictable schedules to continue operating in the workforce.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
M. McGee
By M. McGee
Mark McGee is a skilled writer and communicator who excels in crafting content that resonates with diverse audiences. With a background in communication-related fields, he brings strong organizational and interpersonal skills to his writing, ensuring that his work is both informative and engaging.
Discussion Comments
By fify — On Aug 03, 2014

My sister is a virtual secretary. People hire her when they don't want a full time secretary or when they're going out of town or out of the country. My sister will take phone calls for them, answer emails and forward anything urgent. She works from home and she loves that.

By fBoyle — On Aug 02, 2014

@SteamLouis-- Be careful with the automated secretary system. Although the system does resolve the issue of unwanted phone calls, it may also upset potential clients and prevent them from reaching you. It can be all too easy with this system to avoid phone calls from unrecognized numbers. Some people will choose the answer the phone if the number is not recognized, but is not rejected either. That's definitely the way to go, especially if phone is the primary way that your potential customers get in touch with you.

If you can afford to hire a secretary that can actually pick up the phone and decide what to forward to you, that is best. I realize that not everyone can afford that though.

By SteamLouis — On Aug 02, 2014

I am hearing about both of these terms -- automated secretary and virtual secretary -- for the first time. I think an automated secretary sounds like a great idea. We waste a lot of time in the office just answering phone calls that aren't from customers or clients. It's a waste of time and everyone knows that times means money.

I'm going to seriously consider setting up an automated secretary system for our office. I think we may become more productive at work this way. Does anyone here use an automated secretary currently? Are you happy with it?

M. McGee
M. McGee
Mark McGee is a skilled writer and communicator who excels in crafting content that resonates with diverse audiences....
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