Posted on September 1, 2020 by Casey Houser
We want to provide you with an overview today about the function of an Automated Attendant in your VirtualPBX phone system. But before we get underway with that task, let’s clarify that we’re all talking about the same basic piece of telecommunication tech when we mention any of the following names: virtual switchboard, auto attendant, virtual receptionist, and automated teller.
These terms are thrown around the communications market freely, but customers don’t often understand that phone system providers are typically referring to the same thing – regardless of the term. That said, it’s important to know what our Automated Attendant (or virtual switchboard, receptionist, or teller) does and how it helps your business process inbound calls.
The Basics of User Extensions
In a VoIP phone system like any of the VirtualPBX Phone Plans we offer, users of those plans are given extensions. These are short numeric codes that designate who an individual or group is within the overall system.
A midsize firm could, for instance, assigned the extension of 100 to its CEO, 101 to its CFO, and 102 to its COO. A Ring Group could then be created with the extension 900, and that specific group could refer to the 100-102 extensions as individuals to reach when the 900 is dialed.
Routing of Inbound Calls
Notably, that midsize firm’s virtual switchboard (I mean Auto Attendant… sorry about that) is what will reach those extensions most of the time. To continue the example, this business could organize its Auto Attendant menu to reach the “Management” Ring Group, extension 900, when an inbound caller presses 1 on their phone’s keypad.
Any caller of the business’s main number who is then greeted by the Auto Attendant could have their call reach a Management member simply by pressing 1. The C-suite members of that group would see their devices ring when the inbound caller chose to reach them.
Routing According to Office Hours
The virtual receptionist (again, my apologies) is the first step in most callers’ journeys to reach a business. Yet there is some wiggle room regarding your office hours with how you might want callers to reach your business.
One important step to VirtualPBX Phone Plan configuration is the creation of Office Hours. All our Business Phone Plans let you define the hours when your business is open, at lunch, closed, and on holiday. You can then have inbound calls follow pre-determined routes according to those set hours.
Hours when you’re open will likely need to have access to all your departments. A standard path of callers automatically reaching the Auto Attendant would be appropriate here.
When you’re at lunch, however, it could be more useful to set all calls to ring an individual user – say, a live receptionist – before reaching the automated receptionist. Furthermore, your closed hours may demand more direct path to a company-wide voicemail box that doesn’t enter the Auto Attendant greeting and routing at all.
IVR Differences and Similarities
At this point, you should know about pretty much everything that an auto attendant, virtual switchboard, virtual receptionist, and automated teller have to offer. They are straightforward and essential parts of a professional business phone system that route calls according to your preferences.
There is one distinction we can make beyond all those points though. The term “interactive voice response” system, or IVR, does typically refer to something different than the other terms we’ve clumped together in this article.
You may hear IVR as a generic term that means to stand in for auto attendant and the like. Although they are similar, an IVR is often build to reach much further by using live calculations to determine where a caller should be placed.
IVRs usually have voice recognition and are able to respond to verbal commands. If you were to speak “one” to an IVR with a similar menu to the Management example above, you could have been routed to a management group without having to dial the 1 on your keypad. The IVR may even be able to recognize words and associate them with pre-defined groups – like the phrases “management,” “CEO,” “c-suite,” or “president” could all be mapped to reach that same Management group.
While this all sounds impressive, poor layout with IVRs is often cause for frustration in callers. We’ve discussed on our blog previously about how simple Auto Attendant scripts can keep your callers engaged and give them a great experience with your company.
Let Your Virtual Switchboard Engage Your Callers
Most businesses do not need the expansive reach of an IVR. You can achieve all you need for your small, midsize, or enterprise business with a few lines of dialogue in your greeting and a proper routing setup.
Make sure to set your Business Hours and create a short greeting that tells callers exactly how reach you. Don’t overcomplicate the caller’s journey by giving them a hundred choices at once.
You’re now primed with the knowledge of how a virtual switchboard functions and what it can do for your business. You can get started with new VirtualPBX Phone Plan today and speak to our Sales team about all the features we can offer your business. We’re happy to help you get started, switch from your current provider, or show you in a live Free Demo how the Auto Attendant functions.
Posted on August 27, 2020 by Casey Houser
When potential customers ask us if we can build them a customized telephone system, of course we first respond with “Yes!”
Then we think of the two ways in which we can offer a phone plan that fits their business like a glove. We can outright offer or alter the plans we have established, including our Unlimited Minutes Plans for larger businesses and Unlimited Users Plans for businesses without high call volumes. Or we can develop a plan from scratch as one of our Custom Voice Solutions.
The use of each depends on the customers’ needs, which should include a conversation with our Sales team to see how we can best offer our help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch, but for some quick reading about our customized telephone system options, review this blog for more info on our customizable Business Phone Plans.
Modified Standard Plans
You can see the features available in all our phone plans at the Plans Comparison page. This is a great starting place to see if we already have a phone plan that fits your needs.
Our plans were created to cater to the needs of all businesses based on cost and available advanced features. Most features as a whole, therefore, can’t be added à la carte. However there is some wiggle room where we can create a customized telephone system by modifying the included features already present in our standard packages.
One of the more obvious ways in which businesses customize their phone plans is through ACD Queues. All our Unlimited Minutes plans, and two of our three Unlimited Users plans, allow customers to enable the use of queues.
You can add as many queues as you need to your plan. Then you can be choosy about which system users are assigned to queues. In standard ACD Queues, there’s no additional fee to add users to a queue, but with ACD Queues Pro, there is an additional charge because of its extra enterprise features like Whisper/Barge and Dynamic Live Monitoring.
It’s perfectly fine to have some users on your plan that aren’t assigned to queues. A simple example may be that your inbound call representatives and their manager will want Pro queue access. Otherwise, you can have your receptionist, marketing team, development team, and other managers continue their statuses as normal system users with access to all the features their plan offers.
We can help set up all of this for you. Our experienced staff can make sure your initial configuration of queues works to your liking and that you’re trained to manage it from here forward.
Bundle Toll-Free Minutes
Another way to create a customized telephone system is by allocating blocks of toll-free calling minutes to your plan.
One or many toll-free numbers are available for use on all our plans. Each plan also comes with a pre-determined number of minutes, reaching up to 2,500 minutes on Enterprise.
If you expect to use more minutes than that, you can easily purchase blocks of minutes ahead of time. An expected large calling volume for several months or years in a row could also benefit from a quick chat with our Sales team to see how we can cater our rates to your circumstances.
In addition, we can also help you establish connections to the Zapier automation service so your phone system interacts well with all your existing web apps.
Many of our customers use other applications to communicate before starting a VirtualPBX Plan. They may use Slack, for example, as their primary method of communication. And with the proper addition of Zapier automations, their favor for Slack can continue but with voice calls added into the mix.
Have an app that you use all the time? Take a quick look to see if it works with Zapier. Our VirtualPBX intergration works with all available Zapier apps. You can send data directly from to another, such as sending inbound call notifications to a Slack channel. We’ll walk you through the quick setup process.
Fully Customized Telephone System
Some businesses manage to reach beyond our standard plans by quite a bit. See these examples:
Multi-tier Phone Trees: We’ve helped customers create customized Auto Attendants that span multiple languages and reach to multiple business locations. The complex routing needed to send callers through multiple phone trees can be built by our engineers.
Short-term Political Headquarters: Time-sensitive, temporary operations such as a political headquarters can be created to serve your organization for as long or as short a time as it needs. Although we like to have our customers stay with us for years, we recognize the impermanence of some situations and times of year – like an election – and we’re happy to establish a custom plan quickly as you request.
Speak to Our Team
It can’t be stressed enough that, to create a customized telephone system that meets your exacting needs, a conversation with Sales is an essential first step. Keep in mind that there’s never any pressure to buy. We want to hear how we can best serve your business, and we look forward to speaking with you.
Posted on August 25, 2020 by Casey Houser
Most businesses eventually make the jump from using personal phone plans to using work phone numbers. They use VoIP Phone Plans to gain business-level features like intelligent call routing that can help separate their personal and professional lives.
This easily achievable with any VirtualPBX Plan, which can be set up in minutes and configured exactly to your needs as a business. But before you order, take a quick look at how a business phone plan can accept and route calls in a manner that’s easier for both your company and your customers.
How a Business Phone Plan Manages Calls
There are a number of ways in which business features can improve the way in which your business handles calls. When we say you can “properly” manage calls with a work phone number, we mean that the following staples included in all our phone plans are what help you reach beyond what a personal mobile plan could ever achieve.
The first tool that most businesses seek in a company phone system is an Auto Attendant. This powerful feature routes your inbound calls to specific extensions on your phone system. You can route to individuals and groups, and you can present custom greetings to callers to make their interactions with your brand simple.
Auto Attendant works well for businesses of all sizes. An entrepreneur who wants to accept all calls directly can have their VirtualPBX Phone Plan send calls immediately to their phone with no recorded greeting in between.
A company that’s expanding and needs to split calls between several team members (like a CFO or COO) can use its virtual receptionist to greet callers with a custom message like this:
“Thanks for calling XYZ Corp. We’re open weekdays from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. To reach our management team, press 1. For general inquiries, press 2.”
Do Not Disturb
For any users in your system, the Do Not Disturb feature can be used to halt inbound calls temporarily.
Whether you’re in a meeting or working on an important task that shouldn’t be interrupted, Do Not Disturb can keep your device from ringing with the single push of a button. Many desktop VoIP phones have a DND button that, when pushed, will allow your calls to proceed directly to Voicemail. Then when you’re task is complete, you can push the button once more to have your device ready to answer calls again.
Ring Groups are the logical extension that allows Auto Attendant to reach groups (instead of just individuals). This feature is particularly useful when your team has begun growing enough to create multiple departments with several individuals in each.
Every user on a VirtualPBX Plan can be assigned an extension, like x123. Customers routed through the Auto Attendant to x123 would be connected to that individuals’ phone. A Ring Group extension of x789, on the other hand, can list multiple users on your plan.
For example, it could list both x123 and x456 extensions for individual users. Users connected to the group extension x789 could then have the opportunity to reach either individual extension in the group. Calls sent to groups can ring all the users simultaneously, in sequence, or a combination of ringing patterns. The first person to answer the call stops the ringing sequence for everyone in the group.
One user can also be part of several Ring Groups. A COO could be listed as the first recipient of calls in a “Management” group, for example, and placed last in the ringing sequence for “Development.”
Follow Me Calling
Follow Me Calling lets any user on your plan use multiple devices. Inbound calls to your work phone number can “follow” you from one device to another so you never miss a call.
As another example, think about how you might use our Web Phone when taking calls on your laptop and the VirtualPBX Softphone for taking calls on your smartphone. Follow Me Calling lets you configure your system user to have calls ring both of those devices when your extension is dialed.
The ringing order works similarly to Ring Groups. You could prioritize your Web Phone by having it ring first for 10 seconds and then have your softphone ring next for another 10 seconds. Or you can have their ringing overlap partially or completely, alerting both your devices at the same time.
Create Work-Life Balance
The most important effect these features have on your business is a better connection to customers; you can accept their calls to your work phone number from anywhere and personalize their experience through custom messages and intelligent routing.
The most important side effect of these features is the creation of work-life balance. VirtualPBX Phone Plans let you keep your business separate from your personal life. Sure, you’re always free to use Call Forwarding to take inbound calls on your personal phone, but your options for Web Phone, VirtualPBX Softphone, and all manner of desk phones are available at your convenience.
With minimal configuration of your VirtualPBX Plan, you can create a user that will accept calls on any device you choose. It will be granted its own Voicemail box. You can establish a caller ID that shows the name of your business and not your personal number. You can set office hours to keep your life clear from inbound calls when the work day is done.
All of this helps you keep a clearer mind about where business ends and private life begins. This has shown to be essential to effective remote work and can be a breath of fresh air to businesses that have never had a clean break between the two entities.
Get a Work Phone Number Today
It’s really easy to get started with a new work phone number on a VirtualPBX Phone Plan. Our plans start at less than $10 a month, and every plan includes at least one phone number for you to begin using immediately. Every plan also includes all the features discussed above and many more.
Start a chat with us today. Whether you’re just getting started as an entrepreneur or are in a period of growth and need a more robust phone system, we have something for you.
Posted on August 20, 2020 by Casey Houser
Customers want choices for the ways they can reach your company. For sales and troubleshooting requests, you can easily offer them web chat, and you probably already do. Now consider the boost that adding a voice service to your online chat or automated chatbot can provide to the services you provide and the experience your customers enjoy.
Expect a jump in personalization and a readiness for customers to reach you in the manner they prefer. Then as a result of those improvements, your sales and customer service will become more streamlined and easier to manage.
Add to Chatbots, Build Personalization
A recent guest post on our blog points out the benefits of using a chatbot for your customer support. It reflects on their speed at answering customers’ questions and their low price as primary benefits.
While chat systems certainly get high marks speed and cost effectiveness, however, they lack the personal touch that direct human interaction – even through voice services – can offer. Customers often know they are speaking to a computer, and they can find an automated system inadequate for certain requests.
You might be entirely comfortable with a chatbot helping you determine a business’s open hours. You might also find it helpful when searching for a specific support article. Yet you may need more depth when asking how parts replacement works or how to use a specific API request in a product.
Voice services don’t have to be expensive to give your customers an outlet for those types of concerns. Starting small with just 300 calling minutes and a low price tag, you can use one of our Unlimited Users Plans and still gain call filtering with an Auto Attendant and missed call followup with Voicemail at no extra charge.
Let your customers choose to reach you by phone when the need to. Gain the ability to respond to their requests with a live call that has enough depth to adequately meet their concerns.
Grow From Entrepreneur to Enterprise
You don’t need to be a large business to merit using a full-featured voice service. VirtualPBX packs a number of included features into all its VoIP plans. Our Online Retail industry page shows how VirtualPBX can fit into a retail platform, and if you want to explore further, you can compare all VirtualPBX Plans here.
As alluded to earlier, it’s possible to start small with an Unlimited Users plan that’s built for business that don’t have a large call volume. Your expansion as a business can always be matched with a phone plan that scales with your growth.
Say you want to begin a more detailed marketing campaign: our Advanced Call Reports is included in our Advanced Plan. Or maybe you need Call Recording to aid expansion of your employee training efforts: we offer that feature in our 1000, Advanced, and Enterprise plans.
Your rate of growth should not determine your capability for using an effective voice service. We rank highly as a multi-line phone system for small businesses and an extensible voice package for global enterprises.
Get Your Own Phone System for Your Internet Business
Keep in mind that this ability to begin with an affordable, small business-focused phone system – and then expand as necessary – works to your customers’ advantage at all times.
When your business is just starting out, your Auto Attendant gives customers an instant outlet to reach your employees (or perhaps just you, the entrepreneur) should they need something more than a basic chatbot response or website search. Then when your business expands its product line or help services, it can funnel those calls through an ACD Queue for fine-grained call routing to the proper employees.
Finally, as you grow toward where you’re building your own communications applications, our API Access will let you customize your calling experience into whatever form you desire. You will know at that point how your customers prefer to interact with your brand, so the applications you build can help them reach you in ways only a custom service can.
For any stage your business is in now, see what your Online Retail shop can achieve with VirtualPBX; we’re excited to help you get started with voice.
Posted on August 18, 2020 by Casey Houser
Most VoIP phone systems today come equipped with a virtual receptionist. That said, not all are endowed with the same powerful features that can help you properly address customer needs. The best virtual receptionists on the market make efforts to go above and beyond the competition.
Our virtual receptionist, the VirtualPBX Auto Attendant, is included standard with all our business phone plans. It stands out from competitors by being configurable within minutes yet intelligent enough to route calls to individuals and groups based on caller selection and office hours. It also accepts custom user greetings that are simple to upload and manage.
When seeking the best virtual receptionist, you should find that it’s easy to manage no matter the number of features it offers.
‘Ease of use’ stands out as an element of our Auto Attendant from the first step of setup, which is choosing a time of day for responding to calls. You can set your Office Hours in your dashboard and set the Auto Attendant to respond differently when your business is open, at lunch, closed, or on holiday.
Simplicity in configuration here continues with the setting of the virtual receptionist menu. A main menu of options can be presented to the caller to “Dial 1 for Sales, 2 for Support” and so on. These options are set within a drop-down menu that can be changed at any time to accommodate your business’s needs.
Your greetings to address callers match the dialing settings established in your initial configuration. You can record a message through your phone, upload an audio file, use our text-to-speech feature, or work with our partner Snap Recordings to create a custom, professional message.
The best virtual receptionists on the market don’t look past this feature. It isn’t difficult to create your own custom messages, following a helpful script if necessary. Taking just a few minutes to personally address your customers can make their conversations with your business helpful from the outset.
Whether your stick to text-to-speech or hire professional help, the power of a custom message cannot be understated. We build custom recording options into our Auto Attendant because we know how helpful these messages can be.
Intelligent Call Routing
A choice for best virtual receptionist can also be argued as top tier by its ability to route callers to different styles of phone system extensions.
The call routing options chosen in your “Dial 1 for Sales, 2 for Support”-style menu in our Auto Attendant can allow your callers to reach individual and group extensions and voicemail boxes.
Individuals will see their device(s) ring when an inbound call is routed to them. Calls pointed to groups through our Ring Groups can ring multiple individuals phones simultaneously or sequentially.
Voicemail boxes can be presented to callers without ringing a user’s device. This type of routing can be useful during times when your business is closed.
What’s the Best Virtual Receptionist?
Of course we would grant the title of Best Virtual Receptionist to our own Auto Attendant. Still, we hope you take a considered look for yourself by comparing the features of our Business Phone Plans and signing up for a Free Demo to experience our system first hand.
Your custom greetings may be the first interaction a customer has with your brand; our plans let you put forward your best image. Now come see for yourself what we have to offer.