Author: Casey Houser
Posted on April 13, 2021 by Casey Houser
As we continue to expand our Business SMS feature, customers have asked more about how they can monitor their business text messaging usage.
We often respond to these questions by pointing them to Zapier – the data automation service we have built an application for and which you can get started using for free. Today’s blog will focus on the basics of how to use Zapier. It will show you how to build a simple workflow that captures an SMS message sent to your VirtualPBX Phone Plan and logs that information into a Google Sheet.
Before we get started, take a listen from our COO, Lon Baker, about how we use automations like this every day at VirtualPBX.
How Zapier Works
For business text messaging analysis and other types of call data, you can use the VirtualPBX Zapier Integration to listen to inbound information that’s sent to your account. You pair the VirtualPBX application with other apps in Zapier to create zaps, which are workflows that transfer information from one online service to another.
Triggers and Actions
Applications inside of Zapier can act as triggers and actions.
The VirtualPBX app acts as a trigger because it waits for inbound calls, voicemails, and SMS messages before telling the rest of a zap to proceed. It’s the first step; when it sees your account receive an SMS message, for example, it tells other steps to manage the SMS data it found.
Google Sheets can act as an action (a response to your trigger) because it can use your VirtualPBX data in a meaningful way. In today’s setup, you will see a Sheet capture SMS data that you can view at any time.
Listen for Business Text Messages
After you have signed up for a Zapier account, click the Make a Zap button at the top-left of your screen. This will open a new screen where you can add a title and choose the trigger you want to use. Typing in “VirtualPBX” will show our app.
Now you can choose your trigger event. You will want to select “Receive Text Message” to have this zap respond whenever your account receives a text message.
After that, you will choose your account (where you need to enter your VirtualPBX login information) and test your trigger to receive some sample data. You can send a colleague an SMS message from the VirtualPBX Softphone to give Zapier some data to grab. A resulting test should output something like this in your zap.
Log Messages in a Google Sheet
Now you can use that sample data to populate a Google Sheet. When you click the Continue button after setting up your trigger, you will be presented with another screen that allows you to select an action. Type in “Google Sheets” to follow along here, and select that app.
Select Your Event
Just like before, you will now have the option to select an event. This time you will want to select “Create Spreadsheet Row” so you can copy the SMS data into a row in your spreadsheet.
Choose Your Spreadsheet
Now you can choose your Google account and begin populating your sheet with the fields you want to record. The Google Sheet we have created for this example includes only three fields – From, To, and Message – that you can see in this screenshot.
In our zap, we chose our spreadsheet by first selecting “My Google Drive” from the Drive option and then choosing the name of our spreadsheet we had already created in our Google account.
If you create a Google Sheet from the same account you log into Zapier with, then your personal Google Drive will be the default location to find the sheet you created. Your Sheet will have saved automatically, and Zapier will be able to find your sheet by presenting you with a list of documents you own. The end result of our setup looks like this.
Fill in Your Fields
Now we want to fill in our From, To, and Message fields of our spreadsheet. You do this by clicking in one of those fields in your zap and selecting the type of information you want to be placed there.
In the From column of our spreadsheet, we want to see the number that sent us a text message, so we select “From” in the list of options presented here.
Similarly, the To column should show the phone number where a message was received, so we select the “To” option. Then we select “Body” to fill our Message column. The end result will show three placeholders that represent the type of data you will see populated in your Sheet when messages are sent to your account.
All future SMS messages sent to your VirtualPBX account will now have their associated phone numbers and message content logged in the Google Sheet you chose.
Look At An Example
Now you can test your setup. When you click the Continue button after filling in your fields, you will be presented with the option to “Test & Review” this stage of your zap. Click that button to see what happens in your Sheet.
If it was successful, the zap will notify you, and you will be able to turn on your zap. Turning it on will allow the zap to wait for all your SMS messages and automatically send them to your Sheet.
The screenshot here might not look like much yet, but when your business begins communicating with customers, this helpful log will allow you to keep track of all the SMS communications happening through your company.
Take This One Step Further – Use a Filter
Your zap will run fine with this setup. However, you might want to consider using a filter to keep unnecessary items out of your log.
The zap we have just created will log all the messages sent to your account. You can easily add a Filter action in your Zap — between the VirtualPBX and Google Sheets steps — to help you more accurately monitor your business text messages.
First click the plus sign between your VirtualPBX trigger and your Google Sheets action.
Then search for “Filter” to choose the Filter By Zapier action. This step requires that you specify the conditions you want to meet for the zap to proceed. In this case, you can choose your “From” field to be the element that is checked. We have then asked the Filter to see that From contains the exact phone number that’s in our example.
Hit continue to see if your zap would have proceeded. It’s no wonder that ours worked since we matched the From fields exactly.
You could change your Filter step to ask for any kind of information you want. Here are a few options to consider:
- Text Contains an area code you want to choose
- Text Does Not Contain phone numbers on a blacklist
- Text Does Not Contain phone numbers from your company, so you can filter out all internal conversations from your log
Here to Help You Further
There are a lot of other tasks you can complete with Zapier. We hope that this tutorial has provided you with a useful instruction for getting started with basic setup of a zap.
You can use this exact configuration to monitor your own business text messaging, and you can expand this zap or create further zaps by following similar tutorials on our Zapier Integration page. Our zap templates are useful for linking your call data to other services such as Slack and Trello.
We’re also available 24/7 through live web chat to further assist with your needs. Happy creating!
Posted on April 8, 2021 by Casey Houser
Our new e-book, Managing Remote Teams, is coming to a close. With the release of Chapter 6 that we’re announcing today, this marks the penultimate topic in our collection. In this next-to-last chapter, you can read all about remote team morale and how you can sustain a positive work atmosphere while employees are spread across the country.
Did you know that many studies show overall work performance and productivity being much higher when employees work remotely? And are you aware that morale can drop in that type of workplace atmosphere because of lack of personal interaction and feelings of loneliness?
You can make a difference for your team by implementing a few key tasks throughout the day that engage your team and keep life fresh and unpredictable between scheduled deadlines.
Lighten Existing Meetings
If you already meet with your remote staff in daily or weekly meetings, you might want to consider taking a few minutes in those meetings to include non-work topics.
To boost remote team morale, you could ask about what your colleagues’ have planned for the weekend. Tell them a story about an interaction you had recently when running an errand. Share a tidbit about your hobbies, and ask about theirs.
These types of conversations can lighten the mood and make work feel less about process and more about camaraderie. You’re in it together, so you should be able to share fun stories together.
Recognize Team Members’ Special Events
Take some time, also, to recognize the important events that happen in your colleagues’ lives.
Something as simple as saying “Happy Birthday!” in a group chat can make the workday better. You can also recognize anniversaries and novel family events like expecting a child.
Say congratulations or send a gift. Your entire department can help decide which gift(s) to purchase and increase your spending potential.
These types of interactions go a long way toward making people feel appreciated beyond the work they do as employees for your company.
Meet Outside The Workplace
Finally, our e-book chapter 6 notes that meeting outside the workplace can keep life interesting for everyone involved. Remote team morale can get a huge boost when employees know they will have a destination where work won’t be a priority.
You could initiate a bi-yearly get together for coffee at a downtown cafe. Or plan a larger journey that groups everyone together at a picnic site.
No matter the location you choose, workplace issues can be set aside so personal interaction can move to the forefront.
Check Out E-Book Chapter 6
If you want to read more about remote team morale, check out Managing Remote Teams E-Book Chapter 6. Then stay tuned to our blog for the announcement of Chapter 7, which will wrap up everything we want to address about remote team management and operation.
Sign up now to gain immediate access to all our printed chapter so far. You will read about topics like creating blueprints for business expansion, hiring new employees, and addressing internet security. Moreover, we talk about managing workplace expectations and keeping motivation and morale high while keeping the whole of your business organized. There’s something for every manager and employee to learn.
Posted on April 6, 2021 by Casey Houser
We want our partners to have the best. That’s why we’ve updated our Referral Partner Program to include a number of new features that help you better manage your account and show all the assets VirtualPBX Phone Plans offer.
The leading feature in this update is our Partner Portal that gives you immediate access to datasheets and whitepapers, training videos and guides, web banners, testimonials formatted for easy display, and much more. It also gives you a quick link to your dedicated VirtualPBX sales representative who is available to help you get started and build your personal program workflow.
Your Partner Portal
The screenshot provided here gives you a quick look into what your Partner Portal offers.
We’ve broken down our assets into types, and then into descriptions, notes about each asset, and attachments that either are the asset or which may be helpful in your actions as a partner.
For example, a whitepaper that describes our Custom Voice Solutions is provided as an attached document you can use to display that product and give potential customers a look at what VirtualPBX offers in building custom phone plan setups.
Our external review sites are also shown here as a type of asset. We offer attached screenshots for your convenience, but the links provided to those sites such as Capterra are likely what you will want to share or use to get more information.
Track Your Leads Too
You can also track your leads within your Partner Portal.
Quick input of a lead’s information will log that user in your Portal so you can view your progress with your client. You can change the status of any client – Under Review, Order Processing, Deal Won, and Deal Lost – and so you never lose sight of a prospect.
Payouts for Every Customer You Refer
Our payouts in the Referral Partner Program are competitive in the communications industry. You can earn rewards for every customer that signs up with VirtualPBX.
As a partner, you received 100 percent of the first-month service fees of a customer you refer when they stay with VirtualPBX for at least three months. A customer with 50 users on a yearly Advanced Plan, for example, would earn you $999!
Your Dedicated Sales Representative
All members of our new Referral Partner Program are also assigned a dedicated sales representative from our staff.
As our partner, this new feature gives you access to this VirtualPBX contact for any concerns you have during the entirety of your stay as a part of our team. Your sales representative’s email address and phone number are displayed in your Partner Portal for quick access.
We will be happy to help you with everything from registering a new customer to gaining more information about a specific service or product we offer.
Sign Up Today
Getting started with our new Referral Partner Program is easy. You only need to fill out the form on our website, which will alert our staff to call or email you.
We may have a few more questions to ask at that point. Signup, however, can be extremely quick. We want to get you approved and offering your services as a partner as soon as possible.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. Our sales representatives hope to speak to you soon.
Posted on April 1, 2021 by Casey Houser
Try something new in your company meetings! Keep the production and efficiency high and your meetings short with our new Video Conference Survivor feature.
You can vote your colleagues out of a meeting for any reason you want:
- It’s nothing personal, but maybe that speech has lasted a little too long. Vote them off!
- We really need to get started, so that story about your bearded dragon has to end right now. Vote them off!
Or give a thumbs up to anyone who’s doing a great job:
- Your presentation was only five minutes long. Thumbs up!
- That’s a great bowtie you’re wearing; very professional. Thumbs up!
Video Conference Survivor is offered exclusively at VirtualPBX, so don’t waste time in another meeting without it.
How Video Conference Survivor Works
The concept is simple. During a video conference, you click or hover over the person you want to vote for. The Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down buttons will appear. Then you make your judgment.
Click or tap Thumbs Up to let them know they’re doing everything you expect of a model video conference participant.
Or repeatedly press Thumbs Down to kick them out of the meeting.
Behind the scenes, the Video Conference Survivor feature calculates how many votes a person received and how quickly they received them. Then the participant is either send a nice virtual “Congratulations for being a great employee” message or are booted from the meeting.
Settings You Can Adjust
We’re not partial to how you want to use Video Conference Survivor at your company. That’s why we’ve provided you with a number of settings you can adjust when using the feature.
- Vote Multiple Times: Upvote or downvote a colleage multiple times in a meeting
- Multiple Vote Reset: How quickly your upvotes or downvotes reset (e.g. you can vote twice a minute)
- Upvote/Downvote Threshold: The number of votes, or the number of participants necessary to send a nice message or kick your colleague from the meeting
- Downvote Strength: Choose whether a colleague kicked out of a meeting can return, and in which time period (e.g. they’re booted for five minutes or 24 hours)
Keep Track of High and Low Performers
Maybe the best part about Video Conferencing Survivor is that you can track the performance of your entire team through our Advanced Call Reports tool.
We’ve updated our Reports selection to give you immediate access to “Video Conferencing Survivor Reports” that provide you with options to see overall colleague performance, upvotes, downvotes, and engagement metrics to use during your next employee training or morale meeting.
Just don’t be too harsh about morale. You don’t want to end up booted from the conference.
Start Voting Today
Our new Video Conference Survivor feature is available today.
It works on our desktop and mobile softphones to let everyone participate. It’s great for remote teams and perfect for those meetings that drag on and on and on.
Give it a try during your next department wrap-up or company information session. We know you’ll be happy with the results.
*Video Conference Survivor not actually available on VirtualPBX Business Phone Plans. April Fools! If you’d like to try our Video Conferencing feature for real, you can get in touch with our team or get started with an Unlimited Minutes Plan.
Posted on March 30, 2021 by Casey Houser
This past weekend, our COO Lon Baker, had the distinct pleasure of being featured with show host Nathan Mumm on the weekly technology podcast TechTime Radio.
The show’s lighthearted banter brings in audiences looking for a refresher of all things tech. Mumm and friends spoke with Baker for a few minutes about recent updates in the VirtualPBX platform and our stellar customer service that has made us a leader in the communications market for more than 21 years.
“What is That? Like Virtual Peanut Butter and Jelly?”
Episode 41 of TechTime opened with a brief poke at our company’s name in its first round of advertisements:
“Have you heard of VirtualPBX?”
“No. What’s that? Like Virtual peanut butter and jelly?”
“VirtualPBX provides affordable business phone plans…”
Clearly we’re not a provider of virtual sandwiches. We are able to take a joke, though, and out of the gate, TechTime Radio established itself as not taking life too seriously with this short exchange.
The advertisement set the stage for what later would be a more down-to-earth conversation with Baker who spoke first about what makes
VirtualPB&J VirtualPBX the best among its broad range of competition.
Breadth of Experience
“We have a breadth of experience both from a customer perspective as well as from a technology perspective. And that’s allowed us to keep growing with customers,” Lon said when asked about VirtualPBX’s leadership in the market.
All the members of our staff definitely pride themselves on having a wide range of experience to draw from as they handle customer concerns. Beyond our individual know-how, we have instant access through our phone system and our other online communications systems to reach experts in their specific fields.
When we need information broad and specific about how customers will want to access our features, we can go to Lon Baker. Similarly, we can find information about the intricacies of phone servers and hardware from Len Cacioppo, our vice president of operations, and we can handle complex customer service issues with an individualized touch by seeking out Jeff Weinstein, our director of operations.
These are only a few highlights from our experienced staff.
“She Said, ‘I Remember You.’ It Was So Nice!”
Host Nathan Mumm addressed the customer service at VirtualPBX by recalling his onboarding experience with the VirtualPBX Softphone after having already used our phone service. TechTime Radio has used our product with success and recently began using our new softphone with its update that includes Business SMS and Video Conferencing.
He talked about how his customer support representative remembered him from a previous encounter and that it was “so nice!” to speak to someone who recalled his individual situation. He said it was phenomenal that the support staff was able to turn an ordinary onboarding experience into one that’s personalized for the customer.
Baker responded promptly, “That’s actually one of the keys. We bet on that. Everyone talks about technology, and what we bet on is customer service.”
Mentioning Our Latest Award Win
Finally, Mumm also mentioned our win of the 2021 Product of the Year award from TMC and Internet Telephony Magazine. This is our eighth straight year of winning this particular award, which is something that doesn’t come without effort, Baker pointed out.
“We work very, very hard for those awards, and we’re constantly trying to improve the overall user experience. The overall customer experience is what got us the edge in that award,” he said.
Listen to Our TechTime Radio Interview
You can hear more from Mumm and Baker by tuning into the full show that’s hosted on YouTube.
The week’s rundown includes discussion about the sticker price of popular gaming chat platform Discord, what it was like to play King’s Quest in the early days of home computing, and account ownership and rights on major social media platforms.
The episode overall ranges from the light (pb&j) to the heavy (account suspension), so there’s a little something for everyone if you’re interested in tech. Have a listen today on YouTube or find TechTime Radio on podcast stores at Apple, Google, Overcast, Pocket Casts, and Listen Notes.