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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.