Author: Casey Houser
Posted on July 28, 2020 by Casey Houser
One of the most important aspects of the VirtualPBX Phone System is its extensibility through business apps – what we refer to as integrations in our website.
Business integrations are ways our Phone Plans interact with other enterprise applications you may be familiar with. Our integrations pair with with Salesforce for CRM management, Amazon AWS for file storage, and Zapier for data sharing and task automation.
Salesforce CRM Integration
The VirtualPBX Desktop Softphone can link directly to a customer’s Salesforce account and make it easy for them to contact their own customers and leads.
Contacts held within a Salesforce account can be clicked to automatically dial their phone number through the VirtualPBX Softphone. The click-to-call feature lets sales persons stay on task and concentrate on nurturing leads, not worrying about transferring from one business app to another.
Inbound calls to a VirtualPBX account can also be managed through the VirtualPBX Softphone as it interacts with Salesforce. If a caller isn’t already in the customers’ Salesforce database, that call can be saved as a lead; and if the lead already exists, the caller’s saved information will display on screen so the business has a head start on the conversation.
Amazon AWS Integration
Integration with other business apps wouldn’t be complete without a link to Amazon AWS.
Our phone system can sync with Amazon in a number of ways. The VirtualPBX Amazon AWS Integration is able to store call recordings, faxes, and voicemails in place of that data being stored on VirtualPBX servers.
Although we provide data storage for all these types of files, it can be advantageous for customers to use their AWS accounts instead because it may give them more control over their data. Our customers can choose to store all their call recordings, faxes, and voicemails in AWS or pick and choose which types of data to send to AWS.
Once an AWS account has been linked, all of those types of files will be sent to Amazon and never stored at VirtualPBX. We further explain how this works and how it brings us closer to HIPAA compliance in a previous blog post. Our Advanced and Enterprise phone plans have access to AWS Integration at no additional charge within the phone plan.
Zapier offers a free plan for anyone to get started. With that and other paid plans, customers can link their VirtualPBX accounts to automate tasks like creating Slack notifications or logging calls in a Google Sheet.
Zapier links web apps together. We have created the VirtualPBX App that recognizes when calls are created and voicemails are saved, and when its linked inside a customer account, those actions can trigger events in other apps. As just one example, a Slack notification could alert a Sales team that a voicemail has been left on a specific user’s voicemail box.
The VirtualPBX team uses Zapier every day to automate tasks that affect its Sales and Marketing teams. We know the platform well, and we’re happy to have a business app of our own inside that service to better assist our own customers.
Use Business App Integrations to Your Advantage
Our Product Roadmap offers a look at what the future of the VirtualPBX Phone System will resemble. At one time, integration with business apps from Salesforce, Amazon, and Zapier were on that list. They became a reality because our Dash phone platform is so flexible.
We’re able to make advances with these and other companies by building out our phone system to purposefully interact with other services. Your business uses a range of web apps to manage all your data; we hope our efforts to keep your data streamlined make your work easier and your calls more powerful.
Posted on July 23, 2020 by Casey Houser
Many IP desk phones come with a feature called busy lamp field, or BLF for short. This feature allows for easy spotting of free and busy phone lines within an organization.
BLF can be extremely useful for receptionists and individuals who complete a lot of call transfers. It can also be helpful at businesses that see a large volume of internal calls between employees.
How to Set Up a BLF Extension
For any phone that supports busy lamp field, a bit of configuration is necessary. You can see in our T48G support guide linked above that the desk phone makes room on its home screen to display BLF data.
This is straightforward. You just enter the configuration menu, tell the phone that BLF is the type of configuration you want to complete, and enter the extension number of a user on your phone plan.
All VirtualPBX Phone Plans allow for a number of users to have extensions on the system (Unlimited Users Plans don’t cap the number of users per account). Each user on your plan will have a unique extension number, like 1234, that another user can dial to complete an internal call. This is the extension that goes into the BLF field during configuration.
After entering a user’s extension in the BLF menu, you will be able to see the status of the phones associated with that extension. A receptionist, for instance, could see the status of their supervisor’s phone in a back office and the status of a sales desk down the hall. Both cases give the receptionist a quick glimpse into the state of the device and the availability of the person who primarily uses the device.
Status Icons Show Availability
Busy lamp field shows the status of an extension through indicator icons and text. The exact status information shown on the screen of your desk phone will vary from model to model.
What we see in the T48G is that five icons are available to show system status. These include one green-colored icon that indicates the extension is idle (not occupied with a call) and four red-colored icons that show the extension is currently placing, receiving, or engaged with a call or that the user’s call is parked.
From the colors alone, the user can see at a glance whether or not the extension can be reached or may need to wait for a new call. The specific status of a “busy” extension can help users consider how best to reach the individual at that phone.
Using Busy Lamp Field Daily
This indication of status can help individuals in your company make quick decisions about what to do when they need to reach your extension.
Unprompted Internal Calls
Say you want to ask your supervisor a question about your current assignment. Without BLF, you may have just dialed their extension and hoped they were available. With a status that shows the supervisor is engaged with a call, it’s probable that this question can wait a few minutes until they are off the line.
A receptionist will have many occasions to transfer calls to various individuals during the work day. For transfers to those people associated with BLF extensions shown on their desk phone, the receptionist can make informed decisions about how to best interact with inbound callers.
When the extension is marked with a green icon, it’s appropriate for the receptionist to tell the caller that they will be immediately transferred. However, when a line is shown in red as “busy,” it could be best to tell the caller that, if they are transferred, they will reach a voicemail box. Quick interactions like this can save everyone frustration and help callers understand how their calls will be directed.
Calls Parked For Extended Periods
You may also find more esoteric uses for the busy lamp field feature. As just one example, consider the icon that shows a call has been parked for an extension.
If you notice that a call has been parked for several minutes, it could mean something has gone wrong with that call. Maybe the individual got held up in a separate conversation and has been unable to return to the call that was parked.
In any case, the caller who is waiting on the line could benefit from your attention to that conversation’s status. You may take liberty to address your co-worker and remind them that their call is still parked. Or you might pick up the call to speak to the caller to assure them that the original conversation will continue as soon as possible.
Use BLF Extensions at Your Office
Whether your employees meet at a brick-and-mortar shop or take advantage of remote work, using BLF extensions can become a valuable part of how you handle interactions between employees and conversations with customers.
Start a chat with us today to get BLF setup properly on your own desk phones. We’ll walk you through the process of adding extensions, or speak to you further about getting started with one of our VirtualPBX Plans so you can bring BLF and many other powerful phone system features to your office.
Posted on July 21, 2020 by Casey Houser
Since the launch of our Unlimited Users Plans in 2019, we’ve had a number of customers test the mettle of those 300-, 500-, and 1000-minute phone plans that were made for the needs of entrepreneurs, small businesses, and companies that don’t typically handle large call volumes.
Each of those plans offers access to important business features like Call Forwarding and helps customers save money by allowing Unlimited Minutes Plans to focus on enterprise options like Call Reporting and ACD Queues.
TSELLC Uses VirtualPBX 300 to Its Advantage
Long-time customer TSELLC uses the VirtualPBX 300 plan to give itself a presence larger than its employee count may suggest.
At just five employees, including president and owner Art Wilkes, TSELLC has made a name for itself as a prominent software developer. It’s currently working on a line of coding wizards and an interface library, and completing all its work with a team that’s spread across the globe.
“We are an entirely virtual company,” Wilkes told VirtualPBX during its case study interview. He noted that his company uses its VirtualPBX Phone Plan as a supplement for its other electronic means of contact.
“Our customers mainly contact us through email and our website.” He was candid about the phone system’s position in the hierarchy of company contact. The phone plan plays a secondary role, but it does so with distinction by allowing TSELLC to have immediate use of an Automated Attendant and Voicemail for directing calls to the proper contacts at the company.
Adopting VirtualPBX, Upgrading to Dash
“We switched from another phone vendor when we moved to VirtualPBX,” Wilkes continued in his interview responses. VirtualPBX was able to provide TSELLC with a low cost and high quality of service in a plan that was developed back in 2015.
Since that time, VirtualPBX has grown in the number of core features it offers and the platform on which it runs its phone plans. All customers on the legacy system, vConsole, are now being upgraded to the new Dash platform.
TSELLC is one of those customers who recently made the upgrade. Wilkes’ costs for phone service in the past half decade have remained nearly the same, but there are dozens of features now available to all customers on any Dash plan they choose.
Dash is flexible in ways that the previous phone system wasn’t. It’s extensible and can easily offer customers upgrades to more powerful features, should they need them.
Read the TSELLC Case Study
For TSELLC, the status quo is working well. “We have done well with VirtualPBX, Wilkes remarked. And the members of the VirtualPBX team who have worked directly with TSELLC have described Wilkes and company as a pleasure to work with.
Writing the TSELLC case study has certainly moved smoothly. We’re excited to have the opportunity to work with companies that have a unique take on what phone system use can be. Wilkes and his compliment of remote employees show that even an introductory phone plan can be powerful enough to work on an international level. That’s the type of mettle we hope to always show.
Posted on July 16, 2020 by Casey Houser
Our strategy in developing the VirtualPBX Video Calling feature is to support as many devices as possible. This includes our VirtualPBX Mobile Softphone that allows you to hold web conferences while on the go.
Our softphone works with all our VoIP phone plans and has access to their many included features like Ring Groups and Voicemail. Our Video Calling feature is still in beta testing, and we’re happy to report that the VirtualPBX Softphone is able to create video conferences between two and more callers.
This means that, no matter where you choose to use your softphone, you can keep in touch with your team. Whether you’re working from a home office or keeping your distance at a co-working space, the VirtualPBX Softphone will keep you connected through web conferences.
Two Types of Conferencing
Within a few minutes, you can set up a conference room for any user on your plan. Then that user can invite as many people to their personal conference room as they want. Both employees and customers can join a call.
Now our Video Calling feature will take that capability a bit further. Web conferences can be completed with or without video for all participants in a meeting.
For instance, you and two co-workers can all join a video call with your respective VirtualPBX Softphones. You can all enable or disable video for yourselves throughout the call. The call will continue for all participants with video turned on or off for any individual in the group.
Calls with customers can also take advantage of this ability by catering to their use of video. You can easily complete conferences through a video-enabled chat with any group of individuals, regardless of the type of phone they’re calling from and whether or not they can use video during a call.
WiFi and LTE Bandwidth
Not all VirtualPBX customers will have the same bandwidth capabilities with the network connections they use.
Larger companies may have access to enterprise-class internet packages with gigabit speeds. Entrepreneurs may try to keep costs low with an introductory plan. How can they make the most of the bandwidth they have to spare?
The VirtualPBX Softphone gives users the option of changing their bandwidth settings for video-based conversations on both WiFi and LTE data connections. They can select a Low, Medium, and High level of video quality for both types of connections to preempt the type of service they receive through those mediums.
Customers with enterprise-class internet may have the option of turning their WiFi settings up to High to transmit 720p video. Access to 3G internet speed, however, could limit any user to a Medium or Low quality that they can accommodate within their softphone settings to the betterment of their web conferences.
When in an office, use of high-bandwidth WiFi could be appropriate and would have the potential to deliver HD video quality to call participants. When you’re commuting or even out of an office setting for a walk, mobile data might be more accessible, and you can let the softphone adapt to those conditions as necessary.
Web Conferences With VirtualPBX
Regardless of how you choose to use the VirtualPBX Softphone, there are options within the device that make it a powerful tool. Customers can keep entire departments in touch with web conferences that rely on video as their primary means of communication; this is also a great way for distributed teams to stay connected.
The VirtualPBX Softphone runs on Android and iOS devices and is being updated regularly as we work through our Video Calling feature. We’re happy to have you now as a beta test participant, or when Video Calling makes its way out of beta, we’ll be excited to see you begin using that feature regularly with any one of our phone options.
Posted on July 14, 2020 by Casey Houser
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was created to protect the online information of California residents and the broader internet community.
Many businesses are finding out that it impacts their own operations, whether or not their headquarters are in California. In fact, VirtualPBX has its headquarters in San Jose, so we’ve had an up-front look at the CCPA requirements, which in part require the use of a toll-free number for customer contact.
Of course we know all about providing toll-free phone numbers. Now beyond their normal use, we’ll explain here why a phone number is now necessary for any business doing significant business with California locals.
Applicability of the CCPA
The CCPA requires that any business which does business with California residents – and meets at least one of the three conditions here – complies with regulations laid out in the CCPA text:
- Has an annual gross revenue of $25 million or more
- Obtains the personal information of 50,000 or more California residents, households, or devices every year
- Has 50% of its revenue come from the sale of California residents’ personal information
There are exclusions to this list and other extenuating circumstances that can be found in a comprehensive article at SixFifty that talks about the requirements businesses must meet for their websites and contact capabilities under the new law.
Website and Toll-Free Phone Number
Businesses that meet those conditions must provide a number of protections for the consumers who interact with them.
First, the CCPA requires that businesses provide a link on their websites that says “Do Not Sell My Personal Information”. The link must take website visitors to a separate page that lets them opt out of the sale of their personal information.
This function lies at the heart of what the CCPA tries to achieve. Its goal is to protect consumers from the unwanted processing of their personal information. It tries to turn a largely invisible market (the sale of personal information) into a visible one where individuals have control over their personal lives.
Also in line with that goal is the CCPA requirement that businesses must also provide two methods of contact for submitting personal information requests. Consumers will have the option to visit a business’s website or reach a mailing address to obtain information that the business has collected about them. They will also have a toll-free number to call to find such information.
Within these links, businesses must provide consumers with information that California residents are allowed to refuse the sale of their personal information. Consumers have the right, at any time, to opt out or opt in, and businesses will be unable to sell an individual’s personal information if that person has opted out of the process.
Managing Your Own Toll-Free Number
How are businesses best able to manage their toll-free numbers in compliance with the law? At least one phone number comes with every VirtualPBX Phone Plan, and there are a number of ways, once a toll-free number is set up, that it can be tracked and utilized within a business’s phone system.
Smart Call Routing
Perhaps the most important part of handling inbound calls related to a specific issue is routing them appropriately.
You can dedicate a single receptionist or an entire department to answering calls related to CCPA concerns. A message of “Dial 3 for CCPA Information” can be easily added to your Auto Attendant, and that option can send the caller to any individual or group that’s best able to answer the call.
Calls directed to a specific phone number can be tracked with Advanced Call Reports.
Reports can be generated to list information about a caller’s area code, call duration, and agent statistics like time-to-answer. Filters make it easy to sort by a single phone number – the number associated with the CCPA guidelines – and Schedules let reports be sent to a recipient’s email inbox daily, weekly, or monthly.
Regarding CCPA requests, you can use Advanced Call Reports to track how many inbound calls have been made to your company about that issue. You can also track whether or not these particular calls were answered or if they went to voicemail. These types of calls are unique, so you may find that it’s necessary to increase your agent count or adjust your calling hours to meet the call demands that Advanced Call Reports reveals.
Phone Number Prepend
Another more basic method of tracking inbound calls is through phone number prepends.
In short, phone number prepends work by allowing you to attach a phrase to the beginning of a caller ID. If a caller’s ID is the phone number 1-800-123-4567, your prepend of “CCPA” would allow that identification to become “CCPA 1-800-123-4567”.
Your employees will be able to see the caller ID as it appears with the prepend attached. Therefore, they can anticipate what CCPA-related calls will be like when this information shows up on their screens. The accurate prepend, for CCPA and many other issues, helps agents not be caught by surprise, which can make for much smoother conversations with customers.
Although simpler than what’s achieved with Advanced Reporting, this method of tracking calls can also be helpful when sorting through call logs. Your call log data can be easily annotated with “CCPA” to show when calls to your toll-free number have occurred and the volume in which you see these types of requests.
Phone System Integrations
Integrations with third-party software such as Zapier additionally offer a great way of alerting your team to inbound CCPA-related calls.
We offer a number of Zapier templates that are easily attached to your phone plan. One such template connects inbound calls to Slack where you’re able to create notifications that tell you an inbound call has occurred.
You can have Zapier analyze the phone number of all inbound calls. If there’s a match for your toll-free number, it can send a message to your Slack channels that a customer has reached out.
In the same Zapier automation, you can also save those inbound calls to a spreadsheet, such as in Google Docs, to provide an automatically generated log of all CCPA calls. In this way, you can create your own reports without having to establish any prepends or get involved with Advanced Call Reporting.
How Will You Manage CCPA?
No matter the manner in which you decide to handle the CCPA regulations, its requirements could affect your business in meaningful ways. Be sure to check out the SixFifty article linked above, and refer to the CCPA Compliance Checklist to see how your business is impacted by the law.
VirtualPBX offers a number of phone plans that cater to the needs of any size organization. Contact us today to start a conversation about which plan fits you best and how we can easily offer you a toll-free phone number for the purpose of handling CCPA requests. We’re happy to hear from you.