Posted on August 6, 2020 by Casey Houser
Each of our Business Phone Plans comes with at least two included phone numbers you can use to reach customers and support your marketing efforts. Each user on your system is then, by default, allowed to have two concurrent calls assigned to them at any one time.
The idea of concurrent calls is based around a user having access to multiple phone calls at a single point in time. Typically, we see our customers use multiple simultaneous calls by having an active call paired with a call on hold. This works out well for most businesses.
For businesses with special use cases, however, a concurrency limit of two might not be enough. Keep reading to see how phone lines and simultaneous calling interact as part of typical and non-typical business setups.
Your Assignment of Phone Numbers
The phone numbers, or phone lines, that come standard with these plans give you the option of picking between local numbers and toll-free numbers. In either case, customers can reach your business and have their calls sent through an Automated Attendant to be routed to the proper individuals set as users in your phone plan.
You can always change your phone numbers as you see fit, and add new numbers to your account if necessary. Phone numbers can be used with multiple marketing campaigns, supplemented with information like prepends, and tracked for usage within our Advanced Call Reports tool.
You can create extensions for every user of your phone system. Those individuals, through their extensions, can all answer inbound calls and complete outbound calls from your main company phone number. You can also order additional DID numbers to supplement your main business number. Those DIDs can be assigned to any individual user so calls will go straight to their devices.
How Concurrent Calls Work
Users who receive calls from any one of your phone numbers can answer those calls with a variety of devices, including desk phones, our VirtualPBX Softphone, and the VirtualPBX Web Phone. When the call is answered, it is assigned to that user and counts as one of their available call slots. Remember how they’re assigned two slots by default?
Since users won’t speak to two callers at once through separate calls, their second available call slot is typically reserved for a call on hold. Any user who is currently participating in a call could see an additional call ring their device. If they choose to put the current call on hold and answer the second call, two concurrent calls with customers will be taking place – even if the user is only speaking to one of them.
Expanding Available Concurrent Calls
For most businesses, the allowance of two calls per user is enough for normal phone system usage. Some situations, however, require that more concurrent call spaces be available for one or more users on their phone systems.
More concurrent calls per user can always be arranged for businesses that see a need to assign more than one call to users on a regular basis.
A receptionist may have the need to answer and put on hold more than two calls at a time. This type of situation is related to the use of the Busy Lamp Field feature discussed recently on our blog.
Imagine a scenario where a receptionist has answered a call, places it on hold to answer a second incoming call, and then must place that call on hold to answer a third inbound caller. When the third call is answered, the receptionist’s user in the phone system would have been assigned three simultaneous calls and therefore would exceed the default limit (two calls).
This is not a hard limit; meaning, the phone system would continue to function normally if three calls were somehow attributed to a user. Note though that continuing steps over the limit would breach our policy of fair use of the phone system.
One simple method our receptionist could use to mitigate the above situation is to park a call instead of putting it on hold. In VirtualPBX Phone Plans, calls can be parked with Feature Codes. Parked calls act like calls on hold, except the call is not assigned to any system user. This means that the caller would experience the same waiting as if they were on hold, but any user in the VirtualPBX Plan could pick up the call.
One other atypical use of concurrent calling is related to agents within a call center. Agents may have to take more than one call at a time due to high inbound call volumes.
The way this usually occurs is familiar to both agents and customers: waiting on hold. An agent will answer a call, and our ACD Queues Pro system would assign that person another call when it comes in. It is expected, for some businesses, that calls will stack to three, four, five, or more calls per agent, given variations in load and agents available.
As with the receptionist, the VirtualPBX Phone Plan won’t cease to function if these limits are exceeded, but continued use will need to be addressed with an additional allowance for concurrent calls.
Accommodating Your Concurrent Call Needs
We hope that this short explainer helps you understand the relationship between phone numbers, inbound calls, and concurrent calls for phone system users.
There isn’t often a need for our customers to ask about how they’re affected by the two-call limit. If your business has a unique case, though, we’ll be happy to speak to you further about how we can accommodate your needs. There’s no pressure to buy when asking questions about our phone system; we’ll address any concerns you have before signing up to make sure it fits you well.
Posted on August 4, 2020 by Casey Houser
We’re getting close to the national election date of November 3rd, 2020. Are you ready to hold your voter registration drive?
It only takes a few minutes to set up a temporary VirtualPBX Phone Plan for your cause, and we’d be happy to help you get running right away. Our plans don’t cost a lot, yet they’re flexible enough to begin service immediately and powerful enough to include features like Call Forwarding and softphone use so you can use the personal phones you already own.
Most states have a registration deadline that sits between 15 and 30 days before election day. Let’s get you ready to help voters before the pressure of your state’s deadline sets in.
Temporary Use of Our Phone System
At VirtualPBX, we don’t require an annual commitment to use our phone plans. You can begin service at any time and sign up for only a month’s worth of service, extending your plan each month for only as long as necessary.
Speak to Our Sales Team Today
Our Sales team is able to help you through setup immediately. We know that grassroots organizations can be pressured for time and don’t always have a lot of resources, so we want to make the signup process as quick and easy as possible.
A quick conversation with Sales can help you pick the right plan for your situation, which if you expect to see a high call volume, will lean you toward our Unlimited Minutes Plans. These plans give you unlimited calling minutes, begin with an included five phone numbers (for local and toll-free options), and allow your organization to make calls from their personal devices.
Turn It Off When You’re Done
Regardless of when your voter registration drive begins, our plans will adopt to the duration of your efforts.
You can begin today and stay active for the next three months. Or create a lightning-quick campaign in October and stay with us for only the next month. Either way, you will have access to all the features our plans have to offer your organization.
Phone Numbers on Your Plan
Over the phone, you may perform many distinct tasks during your voter registration drive. This could include providing the public with basic information like registration dates, checking their voting status, or creating appointments to update their information in person.
All our plans grant your organization several features that will help with these types of situations.
Local and Toll-Free Numbers
Every VirtualPBX Phone Plan comes with at least one included phone number. Our Unlimited Minutes Plans start with five phone numbers, and you can choose between local and toll-free numbers when getting started.
The use of local numbers might be useful to your voter registration drive to create a local presence in your community. If your organization is small, it may only seek to help voters in a specific district of town. Your advertising might not reach beyond the boundaries of that district, so your phone number(s) can stay local to show your connection to the community.
Alternatively, you can offer voters toll-free numbers to give them easy access to your group regardless of their style of phone plan. Some voters who only have access to landline service might not be able to call long distance; a toll-free number lets those individuals make contact with your people without the worry of additional calling costs.
Toll-free numbers can also be established as vanity numbers. As an example, the vanity number 1-800-YOU-VOTE could help your campaign be easier to reach by being more recognizable.
You can check the availability of toll-free numbers in the link above. Our helpful search tool lets you see whether or not you can use a specific number with your phone plan.
Use Your Own Phone
It’s not always feasible for small organizations to supply their own desk phones. Luckily, we don’t require desk phones for use with VirtualPBX Plans, and we offer several other options that let you keep your own phone. All the options here also work with basic call routing through Ring Groups so you can distribute inbound calls evenly to your entire group.
VirtualPBX Mobile Softphone
Our VirtualPBX Softphone runs on Android and iOS devices and works with all our phone plans. It can use WiFi or mobile data to handle calls from the local and toll-free numbers associated with your account.
VirtualPBX Web Phone
Our Web Phone runs in modern web browsers like Chrome and Firefox. You can use it within your phone’s mobile browser and within laptop computers, making this a great choice for groups that already make heavy use of computers for their campaigns. It also uses WiFi or mobile data for calling.
You can also forward all inbound calls to your personal phones. Regardless of the type of phone, our Call Forwarding feature can send all calls directed to your VirtualPBX account to your phone of choice. For voter registration drives that don’t intent to make outbound calls, this option is an effective way to connect voters with drive organizers without having to download an app or log in to an account.
Get Started Today
There aren’t many days left before voter registration closes. You can get running with a powerful phone system today.
You can create your account immediately by signing up online. We’re also always available through web chat, phone, and email and happy to help you choose the plan that best fits the needs of your voter registration drive.
Posted on July 31, 2020 by Charlie Galaviz
Millions of consumers use Google My Business (GMB) every day to find products or services like yours. GMB is a valuable resource for communicating with current customers and turning prospects into new customers.
You’re probably here because you want to grow your business using GMB. I worked on the Google+ Help Team years ago, so I can assure you that you’re in good hands.
Without further ado, here are 5 ways to keep your customers informed using Google My Business.
5 Ways to Keep Customers Informed
1. Business Description
Channel your inner salesman and copywriter to distinguish your business from its competitors. In your business summary, you want to emphasize what makes your business unique. It’s important to use keywords that your customers would use when searching for your offering. If a disruption in business occurs, we recommend informing your customers about any new business procedures in this section.
How to Create a Business Description: Login to your GMB profile, click “Info” in the left menu, and scroll down until you see “Add business description”. Click the pencil icon to get started writing a brief description of your business.
2. Featured Post
Make your business more discoverable on Google Maps and Search by creating Featured Posts. Share up to date news, offers, events, and products of your business. Also, you can pair all of your announcements with photos or videos and a compelling call-to-action. To see the results, we recommend posting weekly on a recurring schedule.
How to Create a Featured Post: Login to your GMB profile and click “Posts” in the left menu. Click the create icon in the bottom right corner to get started creating your post.
3. Hours of Operation
Consumers rely on Google to tell them when a business is open or closed. Having a sign posted on your storefront isn’t enough anymore. You can create more happy customers and increase your sales volume by setting your normal business hours and special business hours. Without exception, our recommendation is to always keep your business hours up to date.
How to Edit Business Hours: Login to your GMB profile and click “Info” on the left menu. Click the pencil icon near the clock icon to set your business hours. In this section, you can also set “more hours” for additional service hours and “special hours” for an irregular schedule.
How to Mark as Temporarily Closed: Login to your GMB profile and click “Info” on the left menu. Scroll half-way down the page to the “Close this business on Google” section. Select “Mark as temporarily closed”.
4. Telephone Number
Google does not require businesses to have telephone numbers, but that doesn’t mean they’re not vitally important. Toll-free or local telephone numbers show customers your professionalism and willingness to be contacted. Our recommendation is to get your free local telephone number, so that you can warmly answer your customers calls and route them to any department at your business.
How to Add a Telephone Number: Login to your GMB profile and click “Info” on the left menu. Scroll down until you see the telephone icon. Click the pencil icon to add your business telephone number. Google provides additional fields for multiple telephone numbers.
Get discovered by customers by the products and services your business offers. Google provides the most relevant results based on location, rating, cuisine, etc. Furthermore, a restaurant could add the attributes “Takeout” and “Delivery” to attract customers that are not looking for dine-in options. We recommend taking the time to add products, services, and attributes to your listing – it will give you a clear competitive advantage over your competitors.
How to Add Products: Login to your GMB profile and click “Products” on the left menu. Click “Add product” to create a product photo, name, price, and description.
How to Add Services: Login to your GMB profile and click “Services” on the left menu. You may add any services and custom services you offer.
How to Add Attributes: Login to your GMB profile and click “Info” on the left menu. Scroll to the bottom of the page to the “Highlights” section. Click the pencil icon to add attributes about your business.
Note: Only businesses under the Primary Category “Restaurant” can add “Takeout” and “Delivery” attributes.
Stay Connected to Your Customers
These days, having a Google My Business profile is not enough – especially with mounting competition from online businesses. Now more than ever, local businesses are operating short-staffed and need to keep efficiency high. With the help of a business telephone system, businesses of all types and sizes can compete at a higher level even while staff count is low.
Now, don’t forget to repeat all those great features from GMB into your phone system! VirtualPBX makes it simple to keep your phone system tethered to your current events and promotions. As seasons change, your professional greetings and call routing tree can change to reflect your business/holiday hours.
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.