How to Get Your Business on a Virtual Phone System
For many customers, their first interaction with a business isn’t defined by email or in-person interactions. That all-important first impression is often based on one thing: what happens when they call you.
The problem? Business is more remote than ever. 4.7 million people were already working remotely before the pandemic. Afterward, 88% of businesses encouraged workers to work from home -- or made it mandatory.
Now, almost every business needs a virtual phone service to connect its workers to the outside world. Adding virtual VoIP software to your phone systems will help you access all sorts of benefits: convenience, automation, and time-saving.
There’s only one question: How do you do it?
Overview: What is a virtual business phone system?
Let’s start with a simple definition: A virtual business phone system is a tool that lets you handle phone calls via the internet. This system makes it possible to:
- Create a number directory
- Install number-forwarding to send clients to the appropriate cell number
- Separate your business number from your personal number
- Take and direct calls even while you’re not answering
In short, a virtual phone system creates the appearance of a huge company. The fun part is, you don’t have to be a huge company. You only need the system itself.
How do virtual phone systems work?
Unlike traditional phone systems (which run via phone wires), virtual phone systems work over the internet. Just as an internet connection transmits data to open a webpage, a virtual phone system uses data to transfer voice audio. VoIP simply refers to “Voice over Internet Protocol.”
A virtual phone system means you can manage your communication online. Customer care isn’t just about your attitude; it’s about the systems you keep in place to stay in active communication with them. The good news is that a virtual phone system might even include an app on your phone that allows for easy calling and settings updates.
Setup is one of the chief advantages of a virtual system. There’s no installing new cables or complicated office machinery. The virtual system is cloud-based, so you can handle your customer communication from anywhere. And when you set up your dial-in menu, you can forward calls to a cell phone. All you’ll need then is a smartphone with reception.
3 benefits of using a virtual phone system for your business
According to FlexJobs, there has been a 159% growth in remote work over the past ten years. The COVID pandemic has only accelerated this trend. But aside from enhancing remote work, how might a virtual phone system help your business? Here are the top benefits:
Moving to a cloud-based system means you don’t have to dig up wires or hire an installation crew. You can simply sign up with a virtual phone provider, download the app, and get started. As you might imagine, the ease translates to the bottom line.
This all sounds great. But what if the virtual phone system is so difficult to set up or so cumbersome to use that it becomes pointless? Fortunately, that’s not the case. A virtual phone system can be as convenient as using a personal smartphone the right way.
3. Separate personal and business calls
What if you could use the same phone for personal and business calls, without ever blending the two? It sounds like a riddle. However, it’s exactly what virtual phone systems do: They let you separate your personal phone number from your business number. You can freely dole out your professional number while a virtual system forwards to your personal cell phone -- but you’ll never have to share your personal number.
What to consider when picking the right virtual phone system for your business
You might be sold on a virtual phone system. But you’ll still encounter a critical question: Which one is best for your business? Here are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind.
1. Expenses and pricing tiers
Simply put, how much is it going to cost you? There are a few characteristics to look out for:
- User count: When you evaluate pricing tiers, you’ll often encounter “per-user” prices. You might also encounter different “business” tiers with limits on the number of phone extensions you can connect. Bottom line: When factoring in cost, you first need to know how many people are going to use your phone systems.
- Tier-against-tier comparisons: If you need five extensions, don’t compare the price of a three-extension option against the 10-extension option on another virtual phone system. Compare your provider options as closely as possible.
2. Extension count
Do you have an ever-expanding list of remote workers at your business? Then you’ll need to seek out pricing options that allow for unlimited extensions for your “main” business phone number. In some cases, adding even a few extensions will change your pricing tier.
3. Employee behavior
A virtual business phone system is, after all, about what your employees are already doing. It doesn’t make sense to add one to your company if it will uproot many of your employees’ sales habits.
If your employees use disparate phone systems, virtual business extensions are easy to manage. All you have to do is connect them to a business phone system that will work with the application.
4. Virtual phone numbers
Having an online phone number for your business accomplishes a few things. First, it creates a buffer between you and your clients, giving you added privacy. Second, it helps illustrate that you’re a legitimate business.
If you can procure multiple virtual phone numbers, you can even demonstrate to clients that you’re a multinational company. This has the added prestige of enhancing your presence while serving more practical purposes for people who need to dial into specific places of business.
If a phone system includes all of the above, that’s great. But a poor installation process will wipe away any good feelings you have about switching to a virtual system.
Before you get started, do a final review of the implementation process for the final two providers you’re considering. Do they show you how easy it is to set up their systems? Can they demonstrate it in a video on YouTube? Do they include documentation for the installation process to answer any questions your IT people might have? If not, it might be a red flag that installation won’t be the convenience it should be.
Installing a virtual phone system for the first time
Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Once you’ve chosen the system you want, here’s the fastest way to get it up and running:
- Step 1: Choose your plan: If you’ve done direct price comparisons as mentioned in the previous section, you’ll not only know which provider is right for you, but which tier makes the most sense. Unless the budget is a major issue, choose a lower-cost option that still provides plenty of options.
- Step 2: Assign your phone extensions: This is part of the installation process, but make sure you know who gets which extension. Also, factor in what you want your caller ID to look like and how you want your voicemail to sound.
- Step 3: Follow instructions and test: We can’t tell you precisely what each phone system will require of you. But if you follow the setup instructions (as we noted above, there should be instructions, after all), it’s time to test it out. Have someone dial in the system from an outside line and gauge the experience. Voila! You’re ready to get to work.
- Step 4: Practice: Now that you look and sound like a big-time business, it’s not a bad time to brush up on your phone etiquette, or master the specifics of using your phone system so there is no confusion when a client is on the line.
Making a virtual business phone system work
The good news about setting up a virtual phone system is that it’s easy. There’s a reason so many companies are working remotely these days: Solutions like virtual phone systems have made it possible to look like a brick-and-mortar business on the outside while functioning as a remote business on the inside.
Will the effort be worth it? Using the tips above, you should have no problem identifying the right system for you, setting it up with your company, and implementing a new system as early as today.
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