The Startup's Guide To Virtual Phone Systems
Learn the ins and outs of a virtual phone system
Starting up a new company carries many expenses, some of which won’t show a significant return for years. Phone systems have traditionally been one of these unavoidable costs, but with the advent of virtual phone systems, startups have a new, cheaper way to get a great phone service.
What Are Virtual Phone Systems?
Virtual phone systems are essentially remote servers for your incoming calls, hosted by a service company much like your web site is hosted. Callers into your system will walk through a phone tree that includes messages you record and send to the service provider. The simplest systems will forward a professional-sounding toll free number to your personal cell phone while giving you the option to set up multiple extensions for employees and departments.
What Service Levels Exist?
As with other phone service models, you can start small and work your way up. Unlike “traditional” phone services, virtual providers rarely require you to sign up for a multiple year contract and most plans are based on the number of minutes used. Although you can customize service to your needs, there are three broad categories of service:
- Call forwarding takes a phone number and forwards the call to your phone. Small business owners find this useful because forwarding to a cell phone keeps them mobile, and a virtual 800 number can make them appear like a large organization.
- Call scheduling works in two different ways. With this service, you program the forwarding to reach different numbers at different times of day, or to forward through a series of numbers until somebody answers. Both are good for businesses with multiple employees, especially if they spend a lot of time off-site.
- Caller menus or custom greetings sound just like an advanced phone tree. The caller first reaches a message that gives him options depending on his specific needs. Even if all the options lead to the same phone number, this can start every caller’s experience with your business off on a professional footing.
The Bottom Line
Not every new company needs an advanced phone system from day one. A virtual phone system is a scalable, low-cost solution that can give your company the professional communications infrastructure it needs while you’re still starting up.