Author: Casey Houser
Posted on October 22, 2020 by Casey Houser
Big news today! We have enabled the use of multiple Auto Attendants on all our Unlimited Minutes Plans.
Our Multiple Auto Attendants feature gives you the ability to provide a custom greeting and call routing options for all your inbound calls. Using more than one path for your call routing, you can customize this process for each unique phone number on your plan.
We’ll explain more below. Even if you’re familiar with basic usage of this feature, there’s something to learn through its expansion in our phone system.
How to Access Multiple Auto Attendants
You will notice in your VirtualPBX Dashboard that there is a new menu item titled Auto Attendants.
Clicking this item will open a screen that shows you all the Auto Attendants you have configured aside from your Main Number. Routing and call configuration for your primary business number will still take place in the Main Number menu where you can click Incoming Call Handling to manage those settings.
For all your additional numbers, the new Auto Attendants menu lets you get a quick overview of your previous setup and lets you add new Attendants for any numbers you choose.
Creating a New Attendant
At the top of your Auto Attendants screen, you will see the count of the Attendants you have already created. To configure a new one, click the Add Attendant button in that same location.
You will be prompted with field for the Name and Extension number, which must be unique from all other Users and Groups in your system. Saving those values will allow you to add phone numbers and alter settings.
Each of the columns shown for Name, Phone Numbers, Extension, and Settings are a button to configure that element of each Auto Attendant. Adding a phone number can be done by clicking the appropriate button and then choosing from your existing numbers or purchasing a new one. Remember that all our Unlimited Minutes Plans are allotted more than one phone number (five for Essentials, 10 for Advanced, and 15 for Enterprise).
Greetings for More Than One Number
You can assign more than one phone number per additional Auto Attendant. This is part of where you can be really creative with your assignment of greetings and routing to extensions.
For instance, you might include two phone numbers that are both part of the same marketing campaign that intends to reach your inbound sales team. Depending on your goals with these campaigns, the routing of both numbers to the same greeting and call routing options might prove convenient for both your customers and your staff.
Keep Your Hours in Order
You always have the option of setting your office hours in the Main Number menu of your dashboard. These hours are extremely useful when setting up your Multiple Auto Attendants.
As you can see here, buttons are available for Open Hours, Lunch Hours, After Hours, and Holiday – all of which you set ahead of time. Clicking any of those buttons in an Auto Attendant’s configuration lets you set unique greetings and routing options for when customers call your business.
Options for Individuals and Groups
You can also get creative with how you handle inbound calls for both individuals and groups at your company.
Whereas you once were limited to a single Auto Attendant for you main number, you can now apply Multiple Auto Attendants to whomever you wish. It’s not just the entire company that should be represented in your setups.
For example, you might have a Direct Inward Dial (DID) number be established for your Marketing team. Callers could be greeted with guidance to “Press 1 for Marketing or dial your extension at any time” during Open Hours. Then during After Hours, the message could change to guide callers to a general Marketing voicemail box or individual voicemail boxes for several team members.
Help With This New Feature
While you may already be familiar with use of the Auto Attendant in respect to your Main Number, we’re always here to help with establishing Multiple Auto Attendants for your company.
Get in touch with our team now to see how we can assist you in custom management of all your inbound calls.
Posted on October 20, 2020 by Casey Houser
For businesses with their own private branch exchanges (PBXs), it’s a common question: How many SIP trunks do I need if I want to send my call traffic through the internet?
The quick and simple answer is that most businesses will only need one SIP trunk. Further examination of this topic shows that one SIP trunk corresponds with one PBX. Since most companies only own one PBX, they only need one SIP trunk to handle their call traffic.
Stick with us for an explanation of how VirtualPBX SIP Trunking works and why an uncomplicated setup of a single trunk can give your business everything it needs to move to an IP-based call management platform.
What is a SIP Trunk?
SIP trunking services allow your business to fundamentally switch the way in which it connects your phone calls. Traditional, on-site PBX servers usually handle calls through a primary rate interface (PRI), which is a method of connecting your PBX to the public switched telephone network.
The inflexible – and often expensive – nature of PRI lines are typically what urge businesses to move to IP-based telephony. PRI lines can only handle 23 concurrent calls. Therefore, if your large business or call center wants to regularly complete (both inbound and outbound combined) more calls than that number, or if you have peaks in call volume during a particular season, you will need to purchase an additional PRI. This would be necessary whether your need one additional call slot or the full 23.
SIP trunks replace PRI lines, so it’s not uncommon for us to hear How many SIP trunks do I need? when speaking to customers. Yet despite one technology replacing the other, SIP and PRI have several fundamental differences.
Instead of sending your call traffic through the public telephone network, SIP trunks instead manage calls through a private IP-based system. VirtualPBX offers this service and makes it easy for you to manage the phone numbers that are available for reaching your business. We offer an online portal for management of your trunks and full visibility into the system you have purchased.
SIP trunks are also more flexible than PRI because of their ability to handle a theoretically limitless number of concurrent calls. While a PRI can only take groups of 23 calls, SIP Trunking plans from VirtualPBX allow you to add as many lines as you need. There is no limit to which you can add extra individual channels, and there’s never any need to purchase large groups of channels at a single time. You can also remove lines at any time, so you never pay for what you don’t need.
Our base package start with 10 channels (one call per channel) and five burstable channels to handle any overflow during peak hours. Burstable channels allow for overflow in call volume and are available at no extra charge. They help with unexpected call surges and provide a bit of padding to your expected call volume. We want you to be covered when you need to handle more call traffic than usual.
How Many SIP Trunks Do I Need?
While, as discussed previously, you probably only need one SIP trunk for your business, you should understand why that’s so before jumping into this IP-based system.
We say that most businesses only need one SIP trunk because most businesses only have one PBX. If you have multiple locations, each with their own PBX server, you may choose to link those locations with a single VirtualPBX SIP Trunking account. However, when that sort of process is completed, it would still be technically correct to say that you have 2, 3, 4, or more SIP trunks – one for each PBX that’s connected in this manner.
Advantages to a Single Trunk
SIP trunks make sense for businesses that want to reduce their calling rates when they have completed a contract for PRI lines. These lines can get expensive and, as we’ve mentioned, they are inflexible with their number of included lines, so you might be paying more than what you need. A single SIP trunk that attaches to a your single PBX server means you’re able to keep your existing hardware, save money on your ongoing expenses, and only have a minimal set of upkeep for the entire system.
Additionally, setup for VirtualPBX SIP Trunking is easy. You only need to order our service and then point your PBX to our service. Our online SIP Trunking dashboard lets you enter your static IP address or your SIP URI. The connection between our service and your PBX is then created, and you can begin making calls.
Disadvantages to More Than One Trunk
While it is possible to use more than one SIP trunk to connect your whole business, we typically mention that, in these situations, it makes more sense to switch your business to a VirtualPBX VoIP Plan. Why would you switch to VoIP?
When more than one PBX server is involved, you can double or triple (or more) the upkeep for your hardware because, of course, you will be maintaining more than one piece of server equipment.
Multiple locations can also benefit greatly from the features available in a VoIP Plan, including advanced call routing through Ring Groups or ACD Queues Pro and easy setup of new user extensions, Voicemail boxes, Audio Conferences, Call Recording, and many other features that your existing PBX setup may not contain. You might also be paying third parties an extra fee for those other services.
Talk to Us About SIP Trunking
While you probably only need one SIP trunk to connect your PBX server to the internet, it’s definitely worth a conversation with our team to discuss your situation and your needs.
We’re happy to get you established with VirtualPBX SIP Trunking. That said, we’re also excited to save you even more money by switching your office(s) to a VoIP plan that offers those enterprise features listed above. Start your conversation today.
Posted on October 15, 2020 by Casey Houser
Many of our larger customers want to know how they can perform advanced call tracking of the traffic that takes place within their VirtualPBX Phone Plan.
Both our Advanced and Enterprise Plans give businesses access to our ACD Queues Pro and Advanced Call Reports tools that allow tracking of calls in distinct ways. They can even work with each other as a tandem call tracking powerhouse.
ACD Queues Pro for Live Call Monitoring
Primarily, our business customers make use of the ACD Queues Pro feature to handle large call volumes and set up agents who can answer inbound calls in a programmatic fashion. Agents are able to accept inbound calls based on routing schemes like Round Robin and Most Idle.
Advanced call tracking happens within the ACD Queues Pro system. Administrators are able to see the live performance of any agent in a queue and also see how a queue is performing live overall regarding its handled and missed calls and its breakdown of total session activity.
When help is needed, such live monitoring can lead to actions such as Whisper (speaking to an agent only to assist with a call) and Barge (speaking to an agent and customer to address an issue). Call tracking metrics found within this system can lead to better performance from agents and better troubleshooting for customers.
Advanced Call Reports for Periodic Tracking
Of course, not all calls and queues can be monitored live at all times. There is a time and place for live monitoring, but schedule reports about that same calling information can be useful as well.
Advanced Call Reports makes this a reality by logging all call traffic that takes place in your VirtualPBX Plan. Whether or not you use queues, you can configure reports to filter calls by phone number, caller ID, answered/abandoned status, area code, and many more attributes. ACD Queues Pro can additionally lend information about agent performance so reports can track queue activity outside a live environment.
The ability to schedule reports here demonstrates that advanced call tracking can take place on your schedule. You can generate reports that are sent directly to your email inbox or just remain stored in the Advanced Call Reports dashboard.
Configuration only needs to happen once. Then you can see a daily report and monthly overview, each with different data, show up in your inbox. This periodic advanced call tracking is also available to multiple administrators at once; reports can be sent to a single admin’s inbox or to multiple department heads to keep them informed with call tracking metrics about how traffic is performing.
Combining Advanced Call Tracking Types
Part of the logic behind offering both ACD Queues Pro and Advanced Call Reports on the same plan is that they pair well together. Not only can advanced call tracking take place on both platforms, we’re aware that both live and periodic tracking can complement each other.
These systems are flexible and can fit your individual needs as a company. We’re happy to show you how they work in a Free Demo that addresses your specific situation. Get in touch with our team today to schedule your tour.
Posted on October 13, 2020 by Casey Houser
One of our biggest software releases of 2020 was ACD Queues Pro that gives businesses a range of options for custom call queue management, including matching their queues with webhooks to gather detailed information about the state of a call center.
Additionally, our customers can request custom phone system setups from us either in whole or in parts. We can build an entire phone system for them, or we can add a small component that goes beyond what our stock system does normally. It’s this latter type of help that we provided to our customer, Nationwide Senior Plans, that needed more insight about caller and agent status in their ACD Queues Pro setup.
The Issue at Hand
For Nationwide Senior Plans, which helps individuals choose Medicare insurance plans, their use of queues hit a struggle that many companies see when handling large volumes of calls: They would, at times, see more incoming calls than they had agents to cover those calls.
When this happens, typically callers are put on hold. This simple action gives businesses a chance to tell customers their calls will be handled soon, yet as anyone who has experienced being placed on hold, this action can also create friction between a business and its clients.
Friction occurs because customers expect to access business services in a timely manner. Being put on hold prevents that from happening, and because of the inflexibility and lack of transparency of many queuing systems, both businesses and customers can be left in the dark regarding the state of a queue. Nationwide Senior Plans wants its customers to have a smooth experience on their calls, so it reached out to VirtualPBX to see which custom call queue management options were available to handle these occurrences.
Visibility Through Notifications
Nationwide Senior Plans requested that it be sent notifications when any type of queue overload occurred. It wanted to know the second that the number of inbound calls in a queue exceeded the number of agents available to take those calls.
While ACD Queues Pro does not natively send notifications through mediums like SMS (text messages) and Slack, it does have built-in webhooks capability that can interact with other third-party services to send SMS and Slack notification.
This means that, in practice, ACD Queues Pro can be told to create a system message when a specific action occurs. Then a third party service can look for that message and take additional actions when the message is sent.
Nationwide Senior Plans uses this pattern to tell ACD Queues Pro to create a message every time a caller enters a call queue. It then links that message to the Zapier automation service to handle the sending of notifications to managers in charge of the call center.
Custom Call Queue Management Without Complex Code
Not all of our Custom Voice Solutions setups need to be complicated and require a lot of coding. They also don’t need to require multiple days of setup time.
Nationwide Senior Plans reached out to us with a simple request: We want to be notified when there is an overload in a queue.
We responded by telling them that we could build this service for them quickly, simply, and cheaply. Moreover, we told Nationwide Senior Plans that, after we were done with the initial setup, they could manage the notification service without knowing a bit of computer programming.
Zapier Steps Up
The key to this simplicity is the link between Call Queues Pro and Zapier, which uses a visual interface to automate interactions between web-based services.
Our development team first created a Webhook in the ACD Queues Pro platform that relies on a trigger event called “Qubicle Queue Join.” In using this event, all the system does it wait for an inbound call to enter a call queue; then it will log information about the call so it can be read by an external service.
Nationwide Senior Plans sends all its inbound callers into queues in the ACD Queues Pro system, so whenever a customer calls joins one of their queues, the “Qubicle Queue Join” event will activate and log information about those calls.
A webhook is a web address that accepts information that can be accessed by any service that knows the address. Zapier will create an address like “https://hooks.zapier.com/hooks/catch/123456/abcdefg/” to accept information generated from the “Qubicle Queue Join” event. Zapier is then able to visit that address and read the data inside, including information like the unique ID of the call queue, the call timestamp, and caller ID phone number.
Validation and Notification
Zapier works by waiting for a trigger event and then responding to that event when it occurs. This is similar to how our “Qubicle Queue Join” event works. Whenever Zapier sees an action occur, it will go through the rest of its steps that follow that action.
For Nationwide Senior Plans, we told Zapier to wait for its webhook step to trigger. Then we followed that action with a number of checks to see if a notification was necessary. This flow of events is the final product:
- Wait for webhook
- Check the queue ID to see if it matches the queues that want to be monitored
- If there’s a match, check the number of callers and agents in that queue
- If there are more callers than agents, send an SMS message and Slack message to the team
Call Queue Management in the Future
This process, although it took some creativity to establish, requires minimal computer programming experience and is entirely maintainable by Nationwide Senior Plans management.
Shown where the options exist, we can point Nationwide Senior Plans (or any similar business) where the options are to change the queues they want to monitor or the messages they want to send. Their own experience with the notifications will demonstrate how effective the notifications are for the team, and changes can be made according to future needs.
The process here should have positive implications for both the business and its customers. Nationwide Senior Plans will have an automated system tell it when there’s a heavy load on the call staff. It can make changes in staffing that moment or by scheduling more agents in following periods where volume is expected to be high. Customers may not know it, but they will then experience more responsive action on the part of the business they want to reach.
Custom call queue management doesn’t need to be complicated. It can occur in no-code environments that are simple to set up and easy to maintain. We’re happy to see our existing Custom Voice Solutions customers satisfied with what we’ve built for them and excited to tackle the next custom setup challenge, no matter its level of complexity.
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Posted on October 8, 2020 by Casey Houser
We recently completed a case study with a legal firm that has been a customer of ours since 2014. The Law Office of Stacy Jacob study shows how that particular firm is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and mirrors what’s happening in the law industry as a whole.
Our research finds that law offices are taking measures like adopting alternative methods of working with clients, reducing workload and staffing, and looking at past economic downturns to help tackle the current state of the world. Those insights are shared here, including an overview of how Stacy Jacob has adapted to her own situation.
Using VirtualPBX to Assist With Remote Work
More often than not, Stacy Jacob is making calls from her office from a desk phone. It’s her go-to device for reaching out to clients. However, she’s seen an increased need to complete remote work since COVID-19 began affecting the operations of businesses everywhere.
Jacob’s response has been to make more of a concerted effort to use multiple devices throughout the workday. The desk phone still takes center stage, but our Call Forwarding feature has helped Jacob use her mobile phone more to take calls away from the office. She has also begun using our mobile Softphone App to return calls to clients when she is working remotely.
These combined devices allow her to keep a consistent brand image no matter where her work takes place. They have been useful by adapting to her preferred business practices, which is a key element to what many other firms are trying to achieve.
Quick Adaptation to New Tech
ABA Journal notes that the legal industry has seemed to adapt more quickly than others in order to create an effective work-from-home environment that benefits both lawyers and their clients.
Jennifer Leonard, head of the Penn Law Future of the Profession Initiative, spoke to ABA Journal and noted that law firms were suddenly moved into an area of “forced experimentation” where audio- and videoconferencing were more the norm than the exception as they respond to COVID-19.
They now regularly use conferencing tools to complete staff meetings and hold litigation with various parties.
Workplace Activity and Personnel Changes
First Legal states that litigation will need to fundamentally change and that legal firms will need to examine closely how they do business.
In particular, First Legal suggests that many firms are making personnel cuts and that regional companies are the ones being affected most. National firms tend to have more monetary reserves and will be hit less forcefully by a sudden drop in new cases.
One part of litigation that can be reformed relatively easily, says First Legal, is mediation, which has become a more common sight since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“Mediation can be fully remote, which allows you to further your case while minimizing the strain on local court resources,” the article notes.
Global Legal Post points to a recent survey of the legal industry by Major Lindsey & Africa that says 39 percent of its respondents had already seen a drop in workload. Global Legal Post’s article was written in May 2020.
The study notes that the biggest areas of legal practice hit are real estate and intellectual property. Perhaps it is unsurprising that, in contrast, bankruptcy legal practices reported an increase in workload for the same time period. With many businesses in other industries filing for bankruptcy (including retailers, food chains, and entertainment companies), it makes sense that some legal firms would need to help process the paperwork for those proceedings.
In order to avoid the same fate themselves, some legal practices are turning to history as a source of hope and possible inspiration to weather this storm.
Looking to Downturns Past
As laid out in a recent McKinsey article, there are a number of lessons that law firms can learn from past changes in the economy.
McKinsey says that law firms tend to fare better than other industries when the economy slows down. It connects this idea both to the fact that many businesses – because of the downturn – will need to restructure how they work and that certainty in product costs have proven steady throughout slowdowns such as the recession between 2007 and 2012.
Additionally, law firms in specific practice areas may be able to predict where the most demand, per industry, will occur as all businesses respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, McKinsey points to the industries of healthcare and telecommunications as expected to face fewer ill effects from COVID-19 and will have their legal needs met in the coming months mostly through alliances, joint ventures, and regulatory reform.
The industries of energy, transportation, travel, and leisure may have a more difficult time weathering the pandemic, McKinsey suggests. Their legal needs will likely be met through shareholder litigation and supplier disputes.
It will be on the shoulders of law firms to look at such demand outlooks so they can take advantage of practice opportunities as they arise. Firms that already have exposure to those markets should be in a better position to take advantage of further demand as it arises.
Your Own Response to COVID-19
What we help provide for any legal firm’s needs is a chance to increase their consistency as they communicate with clients in a mix of in-office and remote work. Regardless of your areas of practice, there will be a greater demand from here forward to limit face-to-face contact with customers and firm partners as much as possible. You can see how we handle those communications needs in our Legal Services page dedicated to that profession.
Combining the use of tools such as desktop phones, our Web Phone, and the VirtualPBX Softphone for use on your desktop or mobile devices will let you complete calls from anywhere. The predictions echoed above expect this economic downturn to continue for many months. Your ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic well will depend on your willingness to adopt new tools and methods of work. We hope to join you as your business changes.