Like many other service businesses today, my company is completely virtual. We have no physical offices because all 10 of us work from home. We still need a phone system, though, so we use a system called VirtualPBX—a hosted phone system that we’ve used for more than a decade. It isn’t the only option though. RingCentral and Grasshopper also offer competing hosted phone systems. Our system costs about $15 per month per mailbox, and below are three ways I use it to help run my business.
We set it up professionally.
I wanted our phone system to look and feel like the system of a Fortune 500 company, so I coughed up the extra $99 for the people at VirtualPBX set it up for me through their “concierge” service. We were assigned a new toll free number (you can bring over your existing one if you have one), and now calls are answered after the second ring with a professional-sounding voice welcoming the caller to “The Marks Group.” Callers can select from options including sales, service or an operator, or they can use our dial-by-name-directory. It’s quick, sounds great, and we’ve had next to zero connectivity issues over the past decade. No one even knows that we’re virtual.
We rely heavily on routing.
When a caller chooses “sales” or “service” the call generally comes to me—unless I change the routing. Everyone who works for The Marks Group has their own extension. When a caller chooses their extension, the calls are usually routed to a specific person’s mobile phone. I say “generally” because each user can set up his or her own preferences through the service’s web portal, and some of our people send calls directly to voicemail. All voicemails are stored on the portal that forwards the voicemail messages with alerts delivered directly to the recipient. We frequently forward attached voicemail audio files to each other. I can manage everyone’s extensions and preference from an administrator’s portal, too.
We only use what we need.
Like so many other technologies, we find ourselves only using a few of the features available. For example, I could purchase voice-over-IP phones for everyone and route calls directly to them, but I don’t, mainly because my people are always on the go. We don’t have call queues set up because we’re not a tech support or call-center shop. We don’t use call conferencing because we already use freeconferencecall.com, which works fine. We don’t use the call-recording functions mostly because no one needs it and whenever I want to record a call (for example, an interview), I just use a free mobile app on my smartphone. I’ve never needed the reports and logs the service offers either. However, you may find many of the features offered with a hosted phone system are useful in your work, so be sure to explore all your options. But don’t feel compelled to use them all — just use the ones that make sense for your business.
Of all the technologies that my company uses, VirtualPBX has been around the longest. We use it every day. If you’re a virtual company with no offices, a hosted phone system may be the right choice.
Join writer and small business owner Gene Marks each Wednesday on the Small Biz Ahead podcast. You can also submit a question for Gene to answer on the podcast.