What is a Virtual Phone Number?

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic forcing many employees to work from home and being unable to use their landline desk phones, businesses are quickly switching to virtual phone services to keep their businesses running. For example, many customer service teams are now working from home instead of one central location. In order to keep processing calls, virtual phone service is used to send business calls to each employee’s computer or phone.

With a virtual phone system, you get all the features of traditional landlines at a much more affordable cost, and without the need for additional equipment. How great is that?

In this post, we’ll go over how virtual phone systems work, how to set up a virtual phone system, and why your business benefits from virtual numbers.

P.S. Need to transfer your desk phone or landline number to a virtual business phone service? At OpenPhone, we’re giving businesses affected by COVID-19 3 months of free service if you port a number to OpenPhone. Learn more about the offer here.

Benefits of a Virtual Phone Number

Virtual phone numbers deliver many benefits to the businesses using them. Cheaper costs, ease of use, and innovative features help businesses using virtual phone numbers scale. These benefits include:

No additional hardware

Virtual phones use your existing mobile devices and computers. To access your phone service, all you need to do is have an internet connection along with an app for mobile devices, or a web/desktop app for computers. Some virtual phone providers have additional hardware you can buy, but these are often proprietary and more of an upsell for the provider.

More affordable than landlines

Unless you’re a large corporation with hundreds of employees and offices around the world, a landline phone system is going to be prohibitively expensive. With many small businesses and startups embracing working from home, virtual phone service can help you save money while giving you the features you need to manage your business. Smaller businesses can save as much as 45 percent each month over traditional phone services.

Shared phone numbers

This is a useful feature for customer support and inbound sales teams. Everyone on your team can call and text from the same number. This allows you to centralize communication through one number and helps prevent miscommunication with your customers and internal teams. Anyone on the team can answer incoming calls and messages.

Integrations with your apps

Virtual phone services have the benefit of integrating with apps like Slackemail, and CRMs. Integrations help businesses save time, money, and reduce manual work. By integrating your phone service with your apps, you can automatically log calls and get transcribed recordings sent to you.

Connect OpenPhone to Slack
Connect your phone to Slack to get notified about any activity directly in Slack

Set your business hours

You can use a virtual phone service to set the hours for each phone number. Virtual numbers assigned to individuals can have business hours from 8 am – 5 pm, but a customer support number could have 24/7 availability. By using business hours, you can prevent calls from coming in and disturbing you in the middle of the night.

Get local and toll-free phone numbers

With a virtual phone system, you can get local numbers in any area code. For example, if your business operates out of San Francisco, but has many clients in New York, you can get a local area code in San Francisco (415) as well as a 917 phone number. This will help you establish a local presence in any market you serve. If you’re making cold calls, you’ll have a much higher success rate if your prospect sees a local number on caller ID when you call.

You can also get toll-free or vanity numbers. With toll-free numbers, callers from across the United States or Canada will be able to reach out without paying long-distance fees.

Vanity numbers are great if you’re looking for a memorable number for your clients to remember. For example, 1-800-FLOWERS.

Scales to fit your growing business needs

You’ll need more phone numbers as your business grows. Your sales team to contact their prospects. Customer support agents have to work through a unified phone number to take support calls as they come in. Managing all these numbers through a virtual phone system is a pretty easy process.

Need to add more users? Just go into your settings and add new users as needed. It’s that easy to scale as your business grows.

Admin and security features

Virtual phone numbers should be easy to manage. You’ll want powerful analytics that shows the number of calls being made, who isn’t using their phone numbers, call times, and more. You also need audit logs that show where calls are being made and for general record-keeping purposes.

Support for your business

Your virtual phone system provider needs to offer support options including email, text, and phone support so they can help you when issues arrive. You’d be surprised how many virtual phone system providers don’t offer customer support. Some companies even go the extra mile and give you a dedicated account manager who can help you set up your account and provide best practices for managing your phone system.

Virtual Phone Systems

There are many virtual phone number services available today. Free services like Google Voice and paid options like OpenPhone help businesses get the phone services they needed. When researching virtual phone services, make sure they have the following features:

Support for IVR and individual extensions

Depending on the size of your business, you’ll likely need an auto-attendant for call routing. While you could list multiple phone numbers on your website, an auto-attendant can make your life easier. This way, you can share a single, main phone number, that can be dialed to reach any employee in your organization. Your employees will be able to have their own business phone numbers that can be accessed via an extension.

Texting (SMS and MMS)

Many businesses use SMS as a customer communication channel. While it hasn’t replaced email and phone calls as the go-to support channel, it is worth noting the small increases in SMS support every year. With a virtual phone number, you can text your customers and clients to support them however they need it. Text messaging can also be used internally if your employees need to communicate.

SMS and MMS in OpenPhone

Voicemail to text

Many people don’t have time to check their voicemails. With virtual phone services, you can have your voicemails automatically transcribed and sent to you via text, email, or through Slack.

Voicemail to text feature available in OpenPhone

Individual and shared business phone numbers

As mentioned earlier, shared phone numbers are great for customer support teams. You can also use shared phone numbers if an employee is unavailable and someone else needs to reply on their behalf. 

Each employee will also need their individual business number too. With a virtual phone system, you can set specific numbers to be private or shared depending on the use case.

Call recording

Call recording is a useful feature because some calls need to be recorded phone calls. With a virtual phone number, you can record customer calls, sales calls, and more with just one click. Some phone systems even allow for recording all calls automatically. The benefits of call recording include:

  • Training sales reps or customer support agents
  • Recording customer discovery calls to improve your products, apps or services
  • Keeping records of client meetings to give updates and address any concerns if there’s miscommunication 

Call recording is important for the overall health of your business because you can use the recordings to find out what’s working and what can be improved. Make sure you’re legally recording phone calls!

Call recording in OpenPhone

iOS, Android and web apps

Virtual phone numbers can work on mobile devices, web browsers, and be installed on your computer. For mobile users, iOS and Android apps are much easier to use than mobile browsers, so make sure your virtual phone service has iOS and Android apps. For your users on desktops and computers, a browser-based app will serve their needs.

OpenPhone has all these features and more.

Virtual Phone Number FAQs

How do I get a free virtual phone number for my business? 

Businesses like to use Google Voice as a free virtual phone service, but it has limitations. Some of the limitations include zero customer support, no toll-free numbers, not being available in Canada, and not being able to set business hours. Google Voice is meant more for personal usage. There are Google Voice alternatives that give you all the features you need.

Can I port my existing phone number?

Yes! Most virtual phone service providers let you port your existing number. 

What devices can I use a virtual phone number on?

Virtual phone numbers work with mobile devices like tablets and smartphones as well as laptops and desktop computers. As long as you have an internet connection, you should be able to use a virtual phone number. You don’t need extra hardware for VoIP-enabled phones to use a virtual phone number.

Can I keep my business contacts separate from my personal contacts?

Yes, but it depends on the virtual phone service you use. For example, OpenPhone allows you to create an address book of your business contacts to help keep everything neatly organized.

virtual phone business contacts
Manage business contacts in OpenPhone

Can I get a US phone number from abroad?

Yes. Plenty of services offer US virtual telephone numbers that you can get online. You can get local phone numbers for any city and state in the US on top of your existing personal number. It works via a mobile app on your cell phone and/or your computer. You’ll be able to use your Internet connection for calls and text messages. 

Are free trials available?

Most virtual phone system services provide a free trial that gives you access to their features so you can test out if the system is right for you. 

OpenPhone – the Virtual Phone Service for Modern Businesses

Thousands of businesses rely on OpenPhone’s virtual phone service. With OpenPhone, you can make unlimited calls throughout the world to help support your customers, team members, and clients. OpenPhone is available on your mobile phone (iOS and Android apps) and your computer (web and desktop apps).

OpenPhone is available on iOS, Android and the web

OpenPhone has many required features for business phone systems including:

  • Local and toll-free numbers
  • Number porting
  • Custom greetings (for voicemail and phone menu)
  • Automatic call recording
  • Call forwarding
  • Works in the United States and internationally
  • Crystal-clear audio quality
  • Can set business hours
  • Multiple phone numbers tied to one account

Get started with a free trial of OpenPhone today.

Author

Taran Soodan is a Content Specialist based in Texas and an avid basketball fan. Go Rockets!

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