Author: Casey Houser
Posted on August 10, 2021 by Casey Houser
The two concepts of Domain Number Identification Service (DNIS) and Automatic Number Identification (ANI) are often lumped together, and often confused. Today we’ll outline the similarities and differences between DNIS and ANI so you can better understand each of them.
Both DNIS and ANI are built into the makeup of telephony and VoIP systems. You can learn about the underpinnings of your phone service by reading our What is VoIP? guide. For now, today’s blog will make a good introduction to the aforementioned concepts and can help you understand more about how your calls work.
What is DNIS?
DNIS lets businesses see the phone number that was dialed to reach their offices. This can be useful because of the range of ways that businesses offer callers to reach the same locations.
For example, consider a business that uses several local phone numbers and toll-free numbers which all reach a single office location. It presents these numbers across multiple web-based advertisements, billboards, and flyers. One local number is used for flyers, but several toll-free numbers are used in the ads and billboards, so how does the business know which number the caller has dialed? How can the company examine its marketing efforts to see what has been effective?
DNIS shows the phone number this business’s customer has dialed. Therefore, although all of its phone numbers can point to the same Auto Attendant, and each caller may think they have reached a unique part of the business, analysis of the inbound calls can reveal which part of its marketing efforts have led callers to its central office.
The importance of DNIS cannot be understated because it clears up any confusion about a customer’s intention to dial a specific number associated with a business.
We have a services page on the VirtualPBX website that can help you learn more about using DNIS to track and monitor your inbound calls. And you can read more about our customer, MESA Supplies uses our Advanced Call Reports tool to filter for DNIS values to track its own marketing campaigns.
What is ANI?
Although DNIS and ANI may seem similar – because they both focus on phone number identification – they actually don’t have more than that basic property in common.
ANI identifies the phone number associated with the caller. While DNIS may be useful for your business and its marketing efforts, ANI is more useful for billing purposes and is often used by carriers to determine who made a call, when it was made, and for how long.
- DNIS shows the number that was dialed
- ANI shows the number of the dialer
ANI tends to exist in the background. It’s not something that would ordinarily be useful to your business in any way beyond your phone bill. However, there are several layers to billing, including the amount you as a customer are charged and the amount your VoIP provider (like VirtualPBX) owes to its carriers (like Bandwidth). Costs are passed along the chain, so to keep track of it all, systems like ANI are used.
If you want to dig further into your call data, you can simulate what an ANI report would show by creating an Advanced Call Reports filter based on the Outside Number of your caller. The screenshot above provides an example of what that would look like for your own business.
Keep in Mind DNIS and ANI
We get the question “What is DNIS and ANI?” all the time from customers. We hope that this short primer helps you get a better understanding of these concepts.
If you want assistance working with DNIS at your own business, we’re happy to help. Start a chat with us today.
Posted on August 3, 2021 by Casey Houser
We have made some big changes to our Business Phone Plans lately. What’s the biggest? Our introduction of the new VirtualPBX Spark Plan.
Spark fills a need for businesses that have a low call volume for inbound and outbound calls with customers but still want to keep their team members connected through audio and video conferences. It lets you add as many users as you like to your plan, gives you 1000 minutes of call volume to customers, and lets you have unlimited minutes of calling between system users.
If that sounds good, keep reading for a few more details about the latest addition to our plans lineup.
Getting Started With Spark Plan Features
We made the VirtualPBX Spark Plan for smaller businesses that don’t have a lot of call volume. However, we’re well aware that having a low amount of customer contact in your phone system doesn’t mean you want to be limited in your feature set.
Spark starts with three phone numbers and 1000 minutes of calling. You can mix local phone numbers and toll-free numbers as you see fit, and you can use your allotment of minutes to complete calls to customers (outbound) and take calls from customers (inbound).
Your inbound calls can make their way through the Auto Attendant on your main business number, and you can route calls to individuals and to Ring Groups depending on how you structure your office. We also include Zapier Integration to help you notify your team when a call or voicemail has been received by linking those events, for instance, to a Trello board or Slack channel where your team can see the events recorded.
Connection to Your Team
You can always use your Audio Conferencing and Video Conferencing features to complete calls with customers, but what the VirtualPBX Spark Plan prioritizes is the use of conferencing to keep your team in touch with one another.
There’s a difference between your allotment of external and internal minutes.
Your included 1000 minutes for calling customers is meant for you to reach customers; those are external calls. In contrast, your internal minutes are unlimited and are the times when you complete calls to another team member from a device on your account.
If you use your VirtualPBX Softphone to call another user on their VirtualPBX Softphone, you will have completed an internal call and used none of your 1000 minutes. This call would be unlimited and you can talk and talk…
You can extend this type of calling to as many users as you need, which is why we call this an unlimited users plan.
Examples of Businesses That Fit Spark
How do you know if you’re a good fit for Spark? First, you should fit at least one primary criteria:
- You have relatively low call volume to or from customers.
If you will keep below 1000 minutes of calling per month, that’s a good starting point. If you need many more minutes, check out our Unlimited Minutes Plans.
A few examples of business types might also help you decide if Spark is right for you.
You’re the smallest of small businesses as a sole proprietor of a budding business. While you definitely want to grow, you’re still in the early stages of getting your product or service put together.
At this point, you only have a few investors to call, and maybe a handful of friends and family who are helping you brainstorm ideas or source products. Those limited number of calls put you well below the included minutes for Spark, so picking this plan could work well as you gain some steam.
You’re an online entity with a robust chat platform that handles the bulk of your customer contact. Maybe you’re looking for a little more flexibility with how you handle complex customer issues and communicate with your team.
For now, the online chat can keep your customers happy, and you can use Flex to call customers who are in tough situations. Your remote team can also get its video meetings away from time-limited calls and embrace unlimited, high-definition video conferencing with VirtualPBX.
Non-profits aren’t always multinational operations. Many of them complete most of their outreach through in-person events and emails, and their number of staff members can be counted on one hand.
You’re one of those, and all you need is a phone plan to hold a few meetings a week with your team. You can talk about upcoming events, evaluate ongoing marketing tasks, and know that all your meetings can take place with a team that’s spread across the country.
Try the VirtualPBX Spark Plan
We hope this quick introduction to Spark has been helpful. If these sound like the phone plan features you need, have a quick chat today with our team or begin the signup process yourself to get started.
Posted on July 29, 2021 by Casey Houser
We are happy to announce this month that we have made some important changes to our VoIP plans. Our 2021 Business Phone Plans lineup now includes a new plan called Spark, and we have made more high-level features available to all our customers.
This review will show you an overview of the updates we have made. We would be happy to speak to you live to answer more detailed questions about how we can help your business.
Spark Plan for Unlimited Users
The way we will offer an unlimited users plan will now be through Spark, which was created to give smaller businesses an affordable opportunity to gain important team features like Audio Conferencing and Video Conferencing.
When choosing Spark, we start your business with three phone numbers that you can use for any combination of local and toll-free inbound and outbound calling. Regional outfits may want to keep their numbers local while nationally expanding companies can choose to add toll-free numbers to their lineup.
Your 1000 calling minutes with this plan give your customers room to reach you and give your team enough space to keep in touch with one another. You can route calls through your Auto Attendant, split up your departments with Ring Groups, and automate your calling processes with our Zapier Integration, which can help you log inbound calls or track your voicemails in
a Trello board or Slack channel.
Know also that Spark allows you to complete unlimited calling between system users. Your minutes are tracked when speaking to customers outside your organization, but you have no limit when using video conferences between your teams. This lets Spark keep your team connected throughout the workday without having to worry about overages.
This plan works well for companies that have a lot of users but which have a low call volume. Small businesses, entrepreneurs, online shops with a robust chat platform, and non-profits that complete outreach primarily through email are a few examples of spaces where Spark will make a good fit.
Changes to Unlimited Minutes Plans
The titles of our Unlimited Minutes Plans – Flex, Essentials, Advanced, and Enterprise – all remain the same in this 2021 business phone plans lineup.
Their feature sets, however, have been upgraded. Each plan includes all the features shown above in Spark, expands that feature set to cater to larger businesses, and allows for unlimited inbound and outbound calling.
Our Flex Plan now starts with three phone numbers that you can use for both local and toll-free. This will help smaller and remote businesses (which are the key demographic for Flex) better organize their use of numbers around the existing structure of their businesses.
Digital Faxing now comes with Flex so you can send and receive faxes through your email inbox. Moreover, we now allow Flex users to add ACD Queues agents for improved management of large volumes of inbound calls.
Call Recording now comes standard with our Essentials Plan. We start you with 125 GB of storage so you can keep track of important conversations that take place with customers.
Advanced and Enterprise
The biggest changes for our Advanced and Enterprise Plans are that they, along with all other Unlimited Minutes Plans, are categorized to better fit the size of your business.
Our pricing tiers are as follows for all Unlimited Minutes Plans:
- 1-10 Users
- 11-50 Users
- 51-100 Users
- 100+ Users
We took a look at our existing customer base to find out which sizes of businesses were using the various types of plans we offer. This grouping fits much better with the preferences of our customer base and with the features we offer at all levels of plans.
Keep in mind that all accounts starting with 10 or more users or devices receive full 30-Day Rollout Support from our onboarding team to make sure your users and devices work well across one or multiple sites.
Learn More About Our 2021 Business Phone Plans
Our 2021 Business Phone Plans offer something for businesses of all sizes at a price they can appreciate. We back up every plan with 24/7 customer support, and you can see how helpful it is by getting in touch with our team to inquire about a new plan today.
We are excited to begin Spark and to make these important updates to the rest of our plan lineup. We hope to speak to you soon.
Posted on July 22, 2021 by Casey Houser
The latest update to our VirtualPBX Zapier Integration allows you to send a VirtualPBX SMS from Zapier. You can send texts to your customers to keep connected with them through a medium they’re comfortable with, and you can send notification texts to your colleagues to update them with important events happening with your business.
We’ll show you a detailed example today of how you can use Zapier in tandem with your CRM. First, we’ll link an event in the Pipedrive CRM (the creation of a customer account) to the sending of a text message through the VirtualPBX Send SMS action. We’ll also customize that message to the customer’s account.
Finally, we will describe how to reach your own team with the good news that a new customer account was created. You can congratulate your salesperson for their success and keep your team notified about the event.
1. Set Up Your CRM
This step will vary depending on the brand of CRM you use, but the steps here should be generalized enough to give you an idea of how to proceed. At VirtualPBX we use Pipedrive, so we’ll set up a filter here to collect all our business customers into a single list.
Our list is called Current Customers and looks for all the businesses in our CRM that have the “Customer” label attached to them.
This gives us the necessary information to proceed with creating a new zap. Our Pipedrive filter will send an update to our zap every time a new customer is added to that list, so our zap can respond with a text message to the customer when they are entered into our database.
This method also ignores leads, partners, and other types of businesses that enter our CRM. By being exact with our setup criteria, we can perform more meaningful actions inside our zap.
Other CRM Options
With the Salesforce Zapier app, choosing the Updated Field on Record trigger could be a good choice here so you can trigger your zap when a lead is marked in your CRM as becoming a customer.
Similarly in Hubspot, you could use the New Company Property Changed or the Company Recently Created or Updated triggers for the first part of your zap.
In any case where the inbound information is ambiguous, you can use a Filter by Zapier step to look for specific data in the payload. The screenshot here shows that you can look for a “Customer” label before the rest of your zap will proceed.
2. Set Up Your Zap
Now that we have created our filter in Pipedrive, we can establish the Pipedrive app in Zapier as our zap trigger.
The trigger looks for our filter called Current Customers and will fire whenever that filter is updated within our Pipedrive account. Then that trigger will activate any actions we place after it within the zap. In our case, the next step is to send an SMS to the customer that recently started their service with our company.
As you can see in the screenshot above, you can get creative with your messages by adding in their customer names and other information stored in your CRM. Think about how you could mention their company name, number of users, plan type, or your account manager. You can also include different phone numbers for your staff members such as a direct line to the manager of a customer’s account.
3. Notify Your Team
While everything so far is straightforward – we’re reacting to a single CRM event with a single text message to a customer – you can get more creative if you desire. You can send a VirtualPBX SMS from Zapier to your team to keep them abreast of progress on accounts.
Remote teams don’t have the opportunity for workplace chatter outside of message boards like Trello and chat software like Slack. You might want to consider sending brief SMS messages to your distributed team informing them of the successes their coworkers have made during the day.
A quick text will do the trick:
Update Teams in Your Message Boards
Of course, sending an SMS with every account win isn’t the best move for all teams. You can just as easily add a step in your zap to reach your team in Slack.
The Send Channel Message action in the Slack app in Zapier can inform all the members of a channel about the recent wins your team members have made.
Send a VirtualPBX SMS From Zapier Today
Getting started with Zapier is quick and can benefit your business immediately. If you’re looking for an easy way to keep in touch with your customers and automate some of your business processes, give Zapier a try and see how it links with your CRM.
We know of course that we can’t cover all the possible paths you can take when building a zap. You can use the tutorial here for ideas and follow our Zapier Integration page to get started with several zap templates and advanced tutorials. Or reach out to our team to ask a specific question about how to implement a particular part of your zap.
Posted on July 20, 2021 by Casey Houser
Since we released our Business SMS feature, our Zapier Integration has allowed to you to receive SMS messages and act on them, such as by saving your messages in a spreadsheet or database. Our latest update lets you send Zapier SMS messages as an action.
If you have our Business SMS feature active on your account, you can now respond automatically to other inbound triggers within your Zapier account. You could reply instantly to individuals who left a voicemail on your VirtualPBX account. Or you could wait for when a contact is added to your Salesforce CRM and send the recipient a thank-you message through text for being your newest customer.
Text messages are an easy and convenient way to keep in touch with your customers. Today we’ll take a brief look at how you can access the Send SMS action in your VirtualPBX Zapier Integration, and we’ll show how the above examples can be completed easily in your Zapier account.
Using Zapier and VirtualPBX Send SMS
Zapier works by a system of triggers and actions. You create zaps that listen for events (triggers) and then respond to those events with a specific task (action). Each zap can respond to one trigger with multiple actions.
Among the triggers available in the VirtualPBX Zapier Integration are Call Answered, New Voicemail, and Receive SMS Message. You can see in this screenshot how a trigger is selected when you first create a zap and select the VirtualPBX app.
Our Send SMS action is the first one we have introduced. Similar to the trigger, you select the VirtualPBX app and then choose the action you want to use.
There are a number of fields you must fill out in order to make the action work properly, including the recipient’s phone number and the message you want to send. All in all, it’s a straightforward process that can have you dreaming up new connections with your existing web apps so your customers are better informed about your business.
A Few Quick Examples
Since you can connect any trigger with any other action, there are many possibilities for how you build your zaps. This blog will keep things simple and show you a few helpful connections to get you started.
Linking VirtualPBX Trigger to VirtualPBX Action
You might want to keep your Zapier SMS messages contained to customers’ dealings with your phone system. For instance, you can use the Voicemail Received trigger in your VirtualPBX app to listen for any voicemails a caller has left on your account. Then you can send a reply assuring them that you will respond to their message right away.
The first step, of course, is setting the trigger for Voicemail Received.
Then you can use the information from that trigger to send an immediate reply to your customer.
Salesforce CRM – Thanking Your Newest Customer
You can also use your Salesforce CRM (or any other CRM available in Zapier) to great effect when pairing it with the VirtualPBX Send SMS action
First, have your zap wait for a contact to be added to your Salesforce database.
Then reply with a nice message to your newest customer, thanking them for becoming part of the team.
Get Started With Zapier
Our Zapier Integration is available on all our Business Phone Plans. Check out our plans and prices at this link to see all the features available to your business when you get started.
Sending a Zapier SMS, and using this automation tool, has improved the way that VirtualPBX and many of its customers do business. Start a plan with us today to streamline how your business completes its daily tasks and keeps in touch with its customers.