A major advantage of hosted VoIP services is that of low-cost flexibility and function. Compared with copper-based PSTN telephony, the use of IP as a communications base allows the savvy user to capitalise on new technologies at very little additional cost, if indeed there is any additional cost at all.
Often implementation of a VoIP system in an organisation focuses on replacing the existing PSTN systems, and other useful features and functions can be overlooked or deferred till later. As we all know, sometimes later never comes.
One easily implemented function that can be overlooked is that of Virtual Numbers.
Simply put, a virtual number is a phone number not directly associated with a telephone line or device. They can be used with any device. A device can be a physical handset, a mobile smartphone, or a mobile or desktop software application. In this way, an organisation can have many phone numbers associated with a single phone line.
As an example, a virtual number could be assigned to “Accounts” and the hosted VoIP Service would simultaneously ring several physical phones in the accounts area, in much the same way as a hunting group would do in series.
Business benefits include:
- Cost efficiency.
Regional and international calls to virtual numbers within the organisation can be automatically routed via toll-free Internet links. In that way, internal or incoming customer calls may seem to be calling a local number, but the call is answered on the other side of the world at no additional cost to the organisation. Individuals can be reached anywhere, anytime, on a variety of devices at little or no additional cost.
Virtual numbers are compatible with desktop handsets, mobile phones and smartphones. This allows you to implement new features and services without having to buy new telephone systems and handsets.
- Business Presence.
Most existing and potential customers prefer dealing with a local service provider. Using virtual numbers allows your business to establish a local presence, even though you may not be physically present. Use of a local virtual number gives you the ability to add a personalised feel to customer contact. Callers also appreciate calling a local number rather than a more expensive long distance one. If the implementation includes caller-id, it makes it much easier to see who is calling from where and tailor responses appropriately.
- Business Image.
Particularly with small businesses, virtual numbers can significantly enhance business profile. Having separate virtual numbers for different departments or functions, even though they end up at the same place will make the organisation seem larger than it actually is and thereby give a boost to the organisation’s image.
Because virtual numbers are not tied to a specific device, departments, teams and individuals can be reached by always dialling the same number, irrespective of where they are working from and who is to answer. Similarly, individuals are automatically reached in the office or elsewhere.
- Advanced Features and Services
Virtual numbers allow the full range of hosted VoIP services to be used. Call forwarding, call attendants, integration with SMS and email, even call conferencing and video conferencing can be implemented. If the hosted solution is implemented in the cloud, then it is possible to have an organisation’s phone system with seemingly internal extension numbers for employees anywhere in the world.
Using virtual numbers in conjunction with call logging enables close control of call costs. An organisation can easily see who called where and when, and at what cost. Setting call limits for numbers can enhance security and again reduce costs. Having a security profile associated with a virtual number rather than a physical device prevents users making unauthorised calls, particularly to expensive regional and international PSTN numbers.
It is also possible to separate business and personal calls on the same smartphone. Business calls are forwarded to the device from the Virtual Number. If caller-id is implemented, the phone can then discriminate between business and personal calls. Some VoIP Solutions and smartphone apps allow contacts and other information to be separated by business and personal classification.
The benefits of a Hosted VoIP Service for small businesses are well known and undeniable. Users should consider the benefits of using virtual numbers to improve their business performance while driving down costs.