You may have heard people talk about virtual phone numbers and wondered what they are, how they’re different from a standard phone number, and whether or not you need one.
Well, look no further – this blog post is dedicated to virtual phone numbers, and everything you wanted to know about them but didn’t know who to ask. Starting with the basics:
What is a virtual phone number, anyway?
A virtual phone number is a number that isn’t tied to a traditional copper phone line – so it can route to a device virtually, down the street or anywhere in the world. This means that you can get a virtual phone number for a specific location – say, Milwaukee, WI – but you don’t actually have to be in Milwaukee. Virtual numbers can be local US phone numbers or toll-free numbers, so you have flexibility in choosing the number that’s right for you.
If a virtual phone number isn’t tied to a traditional phone line, how does it work?
Typically, a virtual phone number is tied to a VoIP system, which routes calls to the dialed number over the Internet. You can install apps that support virtual numbers on your smartphone, so you can receive calls to your virtual number on your mobile device, using your data connection (i.e., 5G/4G) or WiFi.
The beauty of a virtual number is that it isn’t tied to a single, static copper wire, so you can take the phone number with you wherever you go, and even have it programmed on multiple devices. For example, perhaps you run a small shop on Main Street. You can have a phone app running on your computer at the cash desk, so you can easily answer incoming calls while you’re in the shop.
But what if you’re not in the shop, or are in the back stockroom? You don’t want to miss a customer call even though you’re away from the front desk. With a virtual phone number, you can simultaneously have that phone number connected via an app on your smartphone, so you can pick up customer calls wherever you might be.
How much do virtual phone numbers cost?
Because virtual phone numbers run on cloud-based platforms, the cost to get one is fairly reasonable – usually around $12/month for a single virtual phone line, with the ability to let other users access that number for nominal additional cost. Compare that to the cost of your standard wired telephone line, and the savings are quite evident.
What about voice quality with virtual numbers?
Voice quality is one of the top concerns voiced when it comes to virtual numbers. When it comes to voice quality, you can rest easy - virtual phone numbers offer the same high quality calling experience as any other number. For "on-net" calls you can enjoy HD voice. Plus, many apps allow you to route calls over your mobile providers' voice network when your data connection is unreliable.
Besides flexibility, what else do virtual phone numbers offer?
There are a wide range of virtual phone number services on the market, from bare-bones just-a-number offers, to more comprehensive, feature-rich solutions that deliver the capabilities of a complete business phone system and more.
Ultimately, it’s helpful to consider why you’re evaluating a virtual phone number in the first place. Chances are, you’re looking for a flexible, cost-effective way to run your small business.
The good news is, many of the virtual phone number solutions on the market deliver enhanced capabilities which make it easier to run your business and probably deliver more value than you’d expect.
Key features to look for include:
Dedicated business phone number: a dedicated phone number is table stakes for a virtual phone number solution. You should be able to pick a local US phone number or toll-free number, but you can also choose to port an existing number to a virtual phone number service if you’ve already established your business number.
User-friendly apps: Virtual phone numbers can be tied to desktop devices, but for optimal flexibility, you’re going to want to look for intuitive, easy-to-use mobile and desktop apps. If you absolutely NEED a physical phone device, Bluetooth options can seamlessly connect to the virtual phone service and are often more cost-effective than traditional VoIP phones.
Shared business phone numbers: if you have multiple team members, having the flexibility to share a number across your team means that they can answer client calls and textsso customers can hear back from your business as soon as someone becomes available.
Text-enabled business landline: it’s clear that customers love text – so make sure that your virtual phone service includes robust text support so you can communicate with customers however they prefer.
Business calling and texting: using your virtual phone number for texts also makes it easier to keep work texts on your work line – and off your personal device. This also follows for your team: if you give them a text-enabled number for work, it’s easier to keep track of customer text conversations, so you can maintain control of your customer list as team members change.
Unified conversation view:keeping track of client conversations can be simplifiedby grouping text messages and voice calls into one unified view accessible on your mobile or desktop device. Similar to a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) tool, you can refer to past messages or see when conversations took place.
Auto-Replies: some virtual phone solutions let you schedule automatic text replies when you and your team are too busy or unavailable, so you can always provide an answer to your customers, no matter when they reach out.