The Startup's Guide To Virtual Phone Systems
Learn the ins and outs of a virtual phone system
Phone systems have traditionally been an unavoidable (and annoying) business cost, but with the advent of virtual phone systems, startups have a new, cheaper way to get a great phone service.
Instead of investing in a bunch of hardware, why not do business on your existing cell phone or landline? With a virtual phone system, you can get up and running with a professional phone system in less than a day.
What Are Virtual Phone Systems?
You can think of a virtual phone system much like a hosted website. The site is hosted by a third party, making life easy for you. Instead of setting up a complicated phone system, calls from a virtual phone system will be forwarded directly to the phone line of your choice. For example, many startups opt to route calls directly to their smartphones. This is a great option for those who are on the go or who do not have traditional office space.
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.
When You Should Consider a Virtual Phone System
Virtual phone systems are the perfect solution for new and growing companies.These systems are built for startups and small businesses, prioritizing ease of use and low costs.
You should consider a virtual phone system:
If you work on the go
Entrepreneurship offers a lot more freedom than the 9-5, but that means you might not be in an office chair all day. If you find yourself on the go, you’re the perfect candidate for a virtual phone system. Because calls can easily be forwarded to a cell phone, you can answer calls from your car, your home, your office, or even while you’re on a water slide at the local amusement park.
If you’re a member of a coworking space
Coworking spaces are a popular option for budding entrepreneurs. They provide resources and office space, but they don’t provide phone systems. If you work in a coworking space, a virtual phone system that forwards calls to your cell phone is a great option. You’ll be able to answer calls when you’re at the coworking space, and also when you’re at home.
If you don’t have separate business and personal lines
A lot of entrepreneurs resign themselves to using their personal number for business, or worse, an additional cell phone. It’s easy to separate business from personal with a virtual phone system. You can use one device to manage personal and professional calls.
If Google Voice is not enough
Google Voice offers simple call forwarding, but it’s not robust enough for a growing company. Virtual phone systems allow you to add multiple departments, unlimited extensions, voicemail transcription, and other features that can help a growing company scale.
If you have a remote team that is spread out
If everyone is in one office, a traditional phone system is sufficient, but as soon as employees are spread across a city, country, or state, a virtual phone system becomes an invaluable tool. Each employee can have their own extension that forwards to their personal line. All employees can be united under one phone number, but answer calls on their cell phones. This saves costs and makes it easy for both customers and employees.
Many virtual phone systems come with many features. These include:
- Call Forwarding
- Local and Toll Free Numbers
- Unlimited Extensions
- Read Your Voicemail
- Voice Studio for professional greetings
- Call Screening
- Conference Calling
- Name Directory
- Music On Hold
- Fax on Demand
- Mobile App
A Scalable, Low Cost Solution
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.