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Utah Business

Virtual receptionists are a thing of the present with this new innovation from the team at Lovage Labs.

Your next receptionist might be a robot

When I was working my way through college, I was that gal—the receptionist. The one who picked up the phone to say, “Thank you for calling RealtyPro. How may I direct your call?” I was the one who logged the realtors’ latest listings and the one who organized their paperwork for processing. And the one who sorted the mail. And the one who made sure there was a tidy breakroom, and…

From a realty company to a marketing agency to even a whole high-rise floor of executive suites, I wore the many hats of a receptionist. There was a lot to be done, and it was easy for them to lean on one person to do it all. But what if I could have just focused on the administrative tasks and the walk-ins? Could I have done even more for them and been more efficient? 

Free up your staff 

Lovage Labs has an answer to these questions: Get a virtual receptionist and let your front-end staff focus on the more important stuff. And the Lehi-based startup is amassing clients who agree—hair salons, barbershops, restaurants, caterers, property management companies, and more are finding the value in handing off tasks like answering phones, scheduling appointments, and creating support tickets to an automated virtual receptionist. 

“Employees do best when employees are doing something with core business functions. At a barbershop, they’re actually cutting hair. At a doctor’s office, they’re helping patients,” says Austin Petersen, Lovage Labs co-founder and CEO. “Our goal is to mitigate the stress on the employees, help employers manage the labor shortage, and help companies deliver better service.”

A lot of Lovage’s current users employ receptionists who have a lot of other tasks, says Boyd Christiansen, Lovage Labs co-founder and COO. “They’re checking people in and out, preparing hot towels, helping clean up. The people who take the backseat are always the people calling in. We’re removing the [receptionist’s] difficult decision of, ‘Do I help the people in the shop or the people calling on the phone?’ The virtual receptionist can handle simultaneous calls all at once; no one’s ever on hold.”

Conversational AI to the rescue

So how does Lovage Labs’ virtual receptionist differ from other automated answering platforms? With traditional platforms, callers typically hear a computer-generated voice—or a recording of a cheery human—instruct them to press a number from 1 to 9 and choose from a pre-designated menu. If the need isn’t listed in that (sometimes very complicated) list of options, the caller is left to guess which is most likely to get them the answer they need—and may the universe grant them good fortune on their journey.

Instead, Lovage Labs’ AI-powered custom-trained conversational receptionist works with customers via voice interaction. There are no confusing pre-designated menus to choose from—callers can simply ask for what they need. The voice is computer-generated but pleasant (think Siri’s latest iteration), and the exchange is designed to feel natural in 19 languages.

If callers want to schedule an appointment for a haircut, for example, the virtual receptionist asks if they would like to receive a text to book the appointment. If callers have a concern with a recent order, the virtual receptionist will open a support ticket. “Say you ordered a chair that arrived with a tear in it,” Christiansen says. “That can take time to resolve, with a lot of time being spent on the phone writing down the issue and starting a ticket that then goes on to the customer care department. 

“That whole transcription process—our virtual receptionist can handle that for you and send it off to your customer care department, who can then figure it out. We go through that initial interaction so your customer gets served immediately. The customer gets an email or text confirming the ticket has been submitted and that they’ll receive follow-up notification.”

If callers want to talk to a human, all they have to do is ask. The system rings through to the physical front-desk phone, where staff can pick up and handle the caller’s needs. “With a virtual receptionist, you get served faster—and most of the time, better—than a human,” Petersen says. “Our end-users are getting what they need within 30 seconds on a phone call.”

Streamlining the experience

As for its clients, Lovage Labs has worked to make onboarding easy. “For most of our users, onboarding takes just 10 minutes,” Petersen says. “When customers say they want all their calls answered by Lovage, we send them a phone. They can use our phone if they need to make outbound calls or talk to a caller. We have the capability to cut the cord and replace their current phone provider—it’s covered in their Lovage monthly cost.”

For more complicated needs, such as customers who want to integrate Lovage with their customer support ticket software or medium-sized businesses, onboarding can take up to two weeks. 

Lovage touts its greatest advantage beyond staffing efficiency: optimizing the customer experience. Because the AI-powered system works 24/7 and can answer multiple calls simultaneously, customers are never told it’s too late for help or get placed on hold. And with automated systems in place for everything from scheduling appointments to making payments, customers’ needs are answered quickly. 

What’s more, Lovage’s in-depth call analytics can help companies understand their customers better with statistical reports on the questions customers ask—allowing businesses to track trends in customer needs and adjust services accordingly.

The big kids are paying attention

Both Lovage co-founders are still undergraduate students at Brigham Young University, and the team received $15,000 from the Miller New Venture Challenge to help with its beta rollout in May 2021. The team was also admitted to Harvard Innovation Labs in fall of 2021. And since Lovage’s official launch in September 2021, the company has grown to work with clients in 11 states and counting. Lovage Labs was also accepted to the Winter 2022 Y Combinator batch, a leading startup accelerator program that has helped more than 3,000 companies like Airbnb, Reddit, Twitch, DoorDash, Coinbase, and Utah’s own Weave and Podium. 

At a time when labor is in short supply and small businesses are looking to optimize recruiting, training, and retaining employees, adding a virtual receptionist to the team may just be the answer. Looking back at my own days as a receptionist, I wouldn’t have minded getting a little help from a virtual friend.