I'm not sure how personal www.alldaypa.com get but heard good things about them....they tailor services to your requirements etc. I've also used Elance for smaller jobs and managed to have a good relationship with my freelancer - definitely worth a look.
You don't even need to join, you can stalk research people without actually joining. Just type "VA" or "virtual assistant" or whatever in the search box and gazillions will reveal themselves to you. Some of them even have a grasp upon basic grammar which will save you lots of time.
PS Not on Twitter? Are you running your business from the 1960's?
Thanks- that's quite a bit of info there for me to research. The retainer idea is interesting- I'd never have thought it would be possible. I'm not on twitter so not familiar with it and recently read a novel/fact on 'how to leave twitter' by british comedian so maybe its time to take the plunge!
It sounds like you need a local VA? That way you can meet them and have the sort of relationship you want?
VAs I have used (not to answer phones I have to say) range from £15 - £25 an hour. You might be able to come to an arrangement which covers the time they use (most VA's are v good at keeping tabs of the time by the min) and a retainer for being available. Depends on when you need them I guess and how easy it will be for them to switch from another task to answering your phone.
Can you not try to direct some of the call traffic online for bookings?
Try peopleperhour.com too. I found elance.com isn't very UK focused, which might be something that is important to you.
Hopefully somebody who has used a call answering service will be along.
I've been researching these services for a while and am confused by the amount of info out there. I'm setting up a new consultancy for which I expect to get very little work initially but need a reception service to handle queries, take bookings etc. I called up a few bigger pa companies but wasn't very impressed. It wasn't personal enough. However, as initially its probably going to be no/minimal calls for a good amount of time, cost is an issue as I would need a minimum no of hours everyday for 5 days/week. Would also need to train as it would be a specialist subject. In an ideal world, I could meet the person and have a personal relationship. Miss moneypenny does most of it except booking appt- they can take messages but that's enough to make it not ideal- I was very impressed with them though. Any ideas on how to approach this problem? I like the thought of working with other mums- just seems win-win to me. Have also looked at elance after discovering it here but just want to put this question out there.