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A virtual phone service is a new way to organize and handle high volume calling for businesses. It is an alternative to the traditional secretary handling and disbursing calls all day. This frees up precious time and resources for a business by having their phone system streamlined by a third party with better organization and call handling. There are a few areas of interest in a virtual phone system that a business manager should look at before purchasing a plan.
How Does the Virtual Service Handle Calls?
There are many features available for call handling. Most of the basic plans allow the business to set up certain departments with different touch tone numbers. For example a customer will call and be greeted by a prerecorded message that instructs them to press one for sales, two for service, and so on. Call forwarding is offered and normally handled through the use of a mobile app with smart phones. All there is to do is set up each persons smart phone with the app and when they want to receive calls out of the office it is as easy as activating the application. Extensions are normally offered with unlimited access and all will have their own call forwarding and voice mail features. These extensions can be connected virtually, through a regular analog phone, through a cell phone, and through computer software.
What Type of Numbers are Offered?
There a normally a few different options when it comes to which numbers you can use. You can keep your existing local numbers, use toll free numbers such as 800, 888, 877, and so on. Select providers also allow the use of global telephone numbers and will change depending on which country you want the number from. This is sometimes a premium feature, but not always. There are also some providers that will offer vanity numbers and global numbers that are not tied to a specific area. They almost always come as an additional cost but can be useful depending on what the business needs.
This is where the virtual phone service starts to get creative and complicated at the same time. There are a plethora of features available dependent on the provider. Some of the more common features included in basic plans are:
- Toll Free Numbers
- Local Numbers
- Global Numbers
- Custom Greetings
- Hold Music
- IP Phones/Devices
- Call Forwarding
- Call Blocking
- Call Screening
This is only a sample of what is normally included in the basic subscription for a virtual phone service. They also include premium features for an additional cost which vary in price and availability depending on the provider chosen. These features may include:
- Text messaging
- Manual transcription
- Video conferencing
- Vanity phone numbers
- Call recording
- Premium hold music
Again there are many other features available for different prices for different providers. These are just a sample of the premium features available and it is up to the business to decide which features are right for them.
Support is vital for any virtual phone system and every provider takes their support system very seriously. You will probably want to opt for a company that offers 24/7 phone and email support along with having an extensive online knowledge base and forums for customers to post questions. This is something to keep in mind when deciding on your purchase as with technology there can be problems that are not fixable at the office level. There is nothing worse than working late and running into a technical difficulty only to find out that your support is available only during business hours. Spend the money that gets you the best support.
Pricing for all of the phone services is fairly similar but depends on the size of your operation. Some services do not cater to very large businesses so it is something to keep in mind. Most, if not all, of the virtual services offer some sort of free trial which is normally for 30 days. For a small business requiring only one or two phone lines you will be looking to spend anywhere between $19.99 and $39.99 per line per month for a basic service. For larger businesses you can save a bit as you are buying in bulk and can expect to pay anywhere from $12.99 to $21.99 per line per month for basic service. This is normally for a plan with ten or more lines needed.
When it comes to minutes and premium features every service provider is different. You can expect each line to start with 400-600 minutes per month on the starter plans and you can add more by purchasing more expensive plans. Premium features can greatly increase your monthly bill so it is a good idea to research exactly what you will need and cross out features that may not be used as often.
Overall a virtual phone service can certainly be worth the money for any business large or small. There is a healthy amount of competition available so you will not be overpaying for the services. They all offer relatively similar services with minor differences in pricing, basic, and premium features. If you are looking to upgrade your office phone system any time in the near future it would make sense to add a virtual phone system into the discussion. Just keep in mind to go over all the details and features to get a system that offers you exactly what you need but will stay within your monthly budget. There are many benefits to using these systems over a traditional phone system but you do pay for the enhanced service.