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Original Article

Can They Reach You Now?

Action Points
Still have a standard phone system? Need to add on because you’re growing? Think about going virtual, because:

Calls can be routed easily to any phone, wherever you or your team may be.
It gives caller automated answering, dial-by-name directories, and other high-end options.
You can get E-mail messages of incoming calls.
Save thousands of dollars over a PBX installation.

Just because you run a small business doesn’t mean it has to act like one. And one thing that can really make your company feel rinky-dink is your phone system. Trouble is, big-time telecommunications can set you back big-time too. But new virtual-phone options promise to give your business a professional veneer without breaking the bank.

When Sven Ljungholm started Virginia-based 888-MAC-DOCTOR in 2003, he forwarded calls from his toll-free number to his local phone line or mobile phone, but call forwarding didn’t always work. Ljungholm’s company provides IT outsourcing to companies with Apple-based systems nationwide. He currently has just one employee, but he uses subcontractors to do the actual work. So his virtual team is typically onsite and constantly changing, which makes routing calls to the right people a challenge.

When he tested various pricey PBX systems, Ljungholm never found anything that was easy to use or quick in getting the calls to the right people. A Google search turned up GotVmail Communications, which provides phone messaging and attendant services for companies with up to 10 users. The service includes a universal company greeting, dial-by name directory, on-hold music, call forwarding, and individual department extensions and mailboxes.

Ljungholm says that the GotVMail system has “really transformed customers’ impression of my business.” He’s especially keen on GotVMail’s mobile-notification features. He’s configured his setup so that when someone calls and leaves him a message, the system sends him an E-mail and a voice mail to his cell phone. “So I never have to worry about missing a call,” he says. What’s more, Ljungholm can screen incoming calls: callers are prompted to say their name, and the system announces the call’s name to Ljungholm as he receives the call. He can then choose whether to take the call or send it to his voicemail.

Kelly McGovern also uses GotVMail for Mortgage Madness, her Massachusetts-based mortgage-service business. McGovern works from home, as do her three employees. When she started her business five years ago, McGovern and her staff used their regular home phones and mobile phones to stay in touch. “But it wasn’t working out,” she says. “I’d have to tell people that my employees were on the phone, and I couldn’t easily transfer. [Customers] had to call a separate number to get them.”

Installing a standard PBX system was going to cost McGovern between $10,000 and $20,000. “But we don’t need all that high-tech machinery to do what we want to do,” she says. “And there really weren’t too many bells and whistles for that money: just the phone board, and the software, and a lot of work.”

McGovern says she was “thrilled” to discover GotVMail, particularly because of its routing capabilities. She can configure her company’s setup online to tell the system at any time what phone number she wants incoming calls to go to, including her cell phone. She can put callers on hold and transfer them to one of her employees, even though they’re all working from home. And if someone is away on vacation, McGovern can redirect calls to the appropriate stand-in. “We might as well be working in the same building,” she says. “No one would ever know that we’re not in the same office.”

The GotVMail service starts at $9.95 a month, but depending on call length and feature use, the typical GotVMail customer pays $40 to $50 monthly. The system only works for up to 10 users, but currently that doesn’t concern Ljungholm or McGovern, who aren’t planning on taking on more than 10 employees any time soon. “If I need to have more than 10 extensions,” he says, “I might just get another number.”