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, a virtual phone service is used to send the calls to each employee’s computer or phone so they can answer calls as needed.

With a virtual phone system, you get all the features (and more) of traditional landlines at a much more affordable cost. It makes sense why corporations with thousands of employees and offices around the world need landlines, but your smaller business benefits more from virtual phone numbers.

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 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, a 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.

Many small businesses and startups also work from coworking locations like WeWork and they can’t set up their own landlines in those buildings.

Shared phone numbers

This is a useful feature for customer support 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.

Integrations with your apps

Virtual phone services have the benefit of integrating with apps like Slack, email, 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 numbers

With a virtual phone system, you can get phone numbers for specific areas. For example, if your business operates out of San Francisco, but has many customers in New York, you can get local New York numbers. You can also get toll-free numbers that can be used to give customers a central phone number to call (and make your business look bigger). 

Scales with your business

You’ll need more phone numbers as your business grows. Your sales team needs phone numbers 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 Number Services

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 IVR to route incoming calls. While you could list multiple numbers on your website for general inquiries, customer service, sales, and other departments, IVRs can simplify the process by letting customers pick the option they want with a simple selection. Your employees will likely have their own virtual phone number and they can have extensions set up.

SMS and MMS support

Many businesses and customers are beginning to use SMS as a support 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. SMS 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 a virtual phone service, you can have your voicemails automatically transcribed and sent to you via text, email, or through Slack. 

Voicemail to text feature available in OpenPhone

Private and shared 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 own individual phone 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 work through mobile devices and web browsers. 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

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 for iOS, Android, and web.

OpenPhone is available on iOS, Android and the web

OpenPhone has many required features for business phone systems including:

  • Dedicated customer support
  • Toll-free numbers
  • Number porting
  • Automatic call recording
  • Works in the US 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.


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

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