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Toll Free Phone Number & Voice Mail - GotVMail Review

How many times have you thought your home business would benefit from having a toll-free phone number or that you need a business phone line but can’t afford one and you don’t want to publish your home or cell number on your marketing collateral or your Web site?

Well, one possible solution to the problems that home business owners face with phone systems may be a virtual phone system. I had the opportunity to test drive GotVMail and I wanted to share my findings with other home business owners who might be able to benefit from a toll free number and voice mail using this reasonably priced, full-featured tool.

Nationwide Toll-Free Phone Number

GotVMail makes toll-free number setup easy and affordable and virtual toll-free phone systems are the core of their business.

New accounts are assigned a generic toll free number - mine used an 877 prefix, which most people have come to recognize as a toll-free exchange. You can also request an 888 or 800 prefix through GotVMail for an additional one-time fee and you can instantly search for a vanity number (e.g. 1-800-FLOWERS, 1-888-AUTOMOBILE) during sign up (you pay a one-time fee to do so). If the vanity number you want is available, vanity number activation takes about 5 days.

Like a cell phone, you pay for minutes for both incoming and outgoing calls (yes, you can make outgoing calls using your toll-free number). Depending on the call volume you expect you can select from among several calling plans. In my case, the Standard plan, which offers no discounts, still cost less per minute than using my phone. Toll-free minutes start at just over 7 cents per minute and go down depending on which plan you select.

For outgoing calls, you can set up a pre-paid calling card for use with GotVMail. This can be convenient if you’re on the road a lot. Instead of having to dial in your calling card number each time you want to make a long distance call, you can dial your own toll-free number and the system will use your credit card to place your call. However, you’ll need to pay your toll-free minute rate on top of your calling card minutes.

Standard plans start at $9.95 per month plus calling time. There is a $25 one-time set up fee for all plans.

What’s Included in the Standard Plan

5 Free Extensions - With the basic GotVMail account, you get 5 extensions (mailboxes) you can use for whatever meets your needs. You can set up a mailbox for each person, department, or offer. Each mailbox has its own virtual office features, including password protection, voicemail, live call forwarding, message notification, etc. You can add as many extensions as you like (for a price, of course), but GotVMail recommends no more than 100. If you have a remote assistant for your home business, you can set up an extension for your assistant or any employees you might have now or in the future and calls can be routed directly to them. While I don’t need 5 extensions right now, it’s nice to know that they’ll be available at no extra cost in case I add a few virtual assistants or launch a special marketing campaign in the future.

Each voicemail box on your toll-free number can hold an unlimited number of voicemail messages. Messages can be accessed by calling into the toll free number or via the online dashboard and can be forwarded as audio attachments to any e-mail address.

Live Call Forwarding - When you’re open for business you can have your incoming calls forwarded to your home, office or mobile phone. You specify the days of the week and the hours of the day the system will try to reach you or will roll over directly into voicemail. You can specify multiple numbers and the order in which they’re tried before the system puts the call into voice mail. You can even have your calls routed internationally, provided you have submitted a credit card authorization form on file.

More Standard Features

Music on Hold - Your callers hear music while their call is being routed to you. There are several types of music included, or you can customize your music-on-hold by uploading your own tunes.

Call Announce/Screening - You can screen your incoming calls or have them transferred to you without screening. With screening, the caller provides their name to the system and when the system reaches you it plays back their name so you can decide to take the call or send it back into voicemail.

Telephone/Pager Message Notification - After a message has been left in your voicemail, the system can be set to call you immediately or page you to let you know you received a call. That way you don’t have to check your messages every time you step away from the phone and you can avoid ever missing an important call.

Browser-Based System Administration - You get a full-featured dashboard that allows you to view and change settings, check for and re-route messages, check your billing charges and check your call history by creating one of several available call reports, manage your extensions and set up international dialing options, all through your Web browser.

Popular Add-On Options for the Standard Plan

If it’s related to a phone or fax, you can get just about any features you need through GotVMail. While options abound, I’m only going to mention a few here that might be of interest to the majority of home businesses. A full list of options, plans and pricing is available at:http://gotvmail.com/solutions/

Web and Email Delivery - With this additional $10 per month option, you can be notified via email when a caller leaves a message. Phone messages can be stored as audio files and attached to your email message notification.

Virtual Faxing - A $5 monthly add-on option that allows you to send and receive faxes through your toll-free number, saving you the cost of an additional fax line. You can have the faxes forwarded to a fax machine or you can access them through the dashboard. If you have the Web and Email option, the fax will be emailed to you as a PDF attachment.

Text Messaging Notification - With this option your mailbox can send a text message to your mobile phone to alert you about a message or fax. GotVMail’s text messaging currently works with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Nextel and Sprint PCS networks. Text messaging notification is included with the Web and Email Delivery option, or available as a stand-alone option.

Local U.S. Number - Just as GotVMail allows you to have a virtual toll-free number, you can also have a virtual local phone number that includes all of the features of the toll-free system. Many local US area codes are available. You get 1,000 minutes of talk time included per month.

The Benefits of Virtual Phone Systems and GotVMail

The Benefits of a Virtual Phone System

Having a virtual toll free and/or local business number can mean not needing a separate phone line for your business and/or fax, not using your cell phone for your business and not missing any calls. Not only can you save money, your callers never get a busy signal.

Having a toll-free number for your home business is a conversion optimization tip - prospects may be more willing to call you and a toll-free number can add credibility to your business.

If your home business is out in the boondocks you can give it a big city presence by selecting a local number with that city’s area code. If you choose both a local and a toll-free number, callers can reach you at either number. Your toll-free minutes apply when the toll-free number is used and your local number is charged according to the fee structure for your virtual local number. Your callers never get a busy signal.

Your phone system travels with you - wherever you may go just by updating a few settings in the control panel or over the phone. You can even have your calls routed internationally, provided you have submitted a credit card authorization form.

Specific GotVMail Observations

  • Low cost, potential savings.
  • Fairly easy to use once you get the hang of it, with a good help system and manual.
  • The system seemed reliable and worked very well. Calls were routed instantly.
  • The system can easily be expanded as your home business grows. Most upgrades can be handled right through the online dashboard.
  • Professional voice scripting is available.

The Disadvantages of Virtual Phone Systems and GotVMail

Disadvantages of a Virtual Phone System

I can’t think of any disadvantages to a virtual phone system for home business. The potential benefits for a home business would seem to far outweigh any minor inconveniences.

Specific GotVMail Observations

I observed only a few drawbacks with GotVMail, but they were minor and most are due to the fact that there are just so many things you can do that accesssing and configuring all of the features and options can seem a bit overwhelming at first.

  • I started getting a bit frustrated recording my outgoing messages, but in time I got the hang of it.
  • I had one bad connection when I called in for messages, but I can’t be certain if the problem was with the GotVMail system or if I just had a bad connection.
  • In general, I found calling the system to change settings or get messages to be inconvenient and clumsy with all of the codes that have to be entered. I think that’s probably because you have so many options when you call in - maybe too many. I recommend using the online dashboard whenever possible.
  • I didn’t realize at first that a caller must select an extension when they call your toll-free number - even if it’s just 0. If they don’t make a selection after a certain amount of time the call will be disconnected.
  • I thought setting up the business hours was a bit more effort than it needed to be. Instead of making a separate selection for open and close times for each day of the week, I would have liked to see a Monday through Friday option that would default the open and close settings to be the same for each day of the work week.

Toll Free Phone Number and Voice Mail with GotVMail - Conclusion

Virtual phone systems can be a great tool for a home business. Not only can they give your business professional credibility, they can allow you to get your calls wherever you might happen to be so that you’ll never miss a call and your callers won’t get a busy signal when they call you. Not having to publish your home telephone number is an important consideration, plus you may even be able to save money by not having to install additional phone and/or fax lines or use expensive cell phone minutes.

The GotVMail system was a bit awkward to set up at first, largely due to its robust feature set. The fact that you can have both a virtual toll-free phone number and a virtual local business telephone number could be important, especially for home businesses that have both long distance and local clientele.

As your business grows, so can your phone system, including features like Dial by Name Directory, Virtual Marketing Extensions, PBX Connect and more. You can even add Fax on Demand and customers can call in and have stored documents faxed to them.

If you try the system and find you don’t like it within 30 days, you’ll get your money back, except for any minutes charges you’ve incurred. There are no contracts to sign and no long-term agreements - you can cancel at any time. Upgrades are plentiful and easy to add. And, with the ability to follow you around the globe, you’ll never be out of touch with your business.

My experience with the GotVMail system was very positive - that’s why I give it 4 1/2 stars. The system is reliable, convenient, and reasonably priced.