Dash Business Phone System Interface

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Our hosted phone system, hardware like headsets and smartphones, and services like SIP Trunking offer numerous features to small businesses and enterprises. Read more about those features here.

The Local Party Line – A Predecessor in Disguise

Balloons - The Local Party LineThe “local party line” and modern forms of voice communication are more alike than you might expect.

Party lines – where many people shared the same phone number and only one conversation was possible at a time – acted as the predecessor to Business Phone System features like audio conferencing and individual/group extensions. They each, in their own time periods, have responded to the human need for effective group interaction.

Although the party line mostly died out by the late 1900s, with the literal writing on the wall signaling its final hours as early as 1971, improvements and affordability in communications technologies have made it possible for all individuals to gain personal phone numbers and all businesses to offer extensions throughout their organizations.

Take a look at our blog’s previous discussion of the party line timeline, and stay tuned to this text for a comparison of the past to the present day.

Audio Conferencing / A Single Shared Line

One of the most exciting elements of a local party line (the traditional, early-1900s era version), is that it offered no privacy to its users. A group line was exactly what it sounds like: the whole group had access to the single line at all times.

The whole compliment of VirtualPBX employees, if using a party line, would have to wait in its own queue to dial a single customer. It would be first come, first served for our Sales team when making outbound calls. And only when one Sales representative finished their conversation would anyone else have the chance to begin a new one.

Moreover, anyone with access to that line could pick up their phone and listen to the present call. This would quickly become awkward and annoying for our employees. And imagine the privacy concerns for our customers.

It’s clearly not an ideal situation for any business.

Move Forward to Conferencing

VirtualPBX Phone Plans, of course, are part of a communications system that has moved far beyond that limited reality. The plans excel in their offering of Audio Conferencing to all users. Any two or more plan users can meet among themselves or with customers.

Local party lines looped callers together so those individuals could save money and make use of limited resources. They could have used their own group line to conference with one another. However, we expect that it would have proven an irritation more than a bonus.

VirtualPBX Conferencing doesn’t suffer from the limitations of high cost or limited availability. The digitization of communications has eased those burdens considerably. It builds on the limited function of traditional party lines by linking together multiple individuals in a way that’s both private and uninterruptible. Eavesdropping becomes a thing of the past because conferences can be made invite-only and may be protected with passwords.

Individual and Group Extensions

VirtualPBX plans also give users their own individual extensions and offer Ring Groups for simple call routing to departments.

Believe it or not, individual extensions became a part of the local party line too. In a limited fashion, extensions were created when service providers offered distinct ringing patterns for users of a line.

Our Sales team, now theoretically accepting inbound calls on an old-timey local party line, could have their own “extensions” as ring codes that would be completed in a fashion similar to 1 long, 2 short.

For example, Sales rep 1 could be signaled with 1 long ring followed by 2 short rings. Another rep could have 2 long, 2 short. And yet another could have 2 long, 1 short. It was undoubtedly confusing and limiting.

Modern Extensions

What you get with modern VoIP phone systems like VirtualPBX are extensions like x1234 or x5598. You can set them yourself and take advantage of the thousands of possible combinations with four digits.

Furthermore, those extensions can be used in a variety of ways, including as direct links to an Auto Attendant or within Ring Groups as group participants.

No More Local Party Lines

The local party line is gone. And frankly, good riddance.

Still, there’s a respect to be paid for what it accomplished in its heyday. And there’s a lot of functionality in modern phone systems that relate closely to the basic predecessors in the party line.

The next time you dial a colleague or hold a conference with customers, be thankful for its ease of use and for its privacy.

Find the Best Call Center Phone and Headset for Your Business

With thousands of options available, you may have a hard time finding the best call center phone and headset for your business. We’ll keep this post simple.

In the following sections, you’ll find three choices (and a bonus) for the best call center phones and headsets available in the VirtualPBX store. Individual links are also provided for each device.

Follow these links to get started:

  1. Best Call Center Phone on a Budget
  2. Best Headset on a Budget
  3. Best Phone for Management
  4. Free, Full-Featured VirtualPBX Web Phone

Top Call Center Phone on a Budget

Yealink SIP-T21P E2Our choice for the best call center phone on a budget is the Yealink SIP-T21P E2, which is available for only $44.99. That low price, however, doesn’t mean this call center phone leaves out important features.

Two of the most important aspects for any good call center phone is its codec support and headset attachment capability.

The T21P supports the Opus codec, which is a popular, open-source codec that supports narrowband and wideband frequencies – all while remaining low on bandwidth consumption. This makes it extremely versatile and great for use in crowded networks like call centers. In short, the T21P can provide clear audio without overloading your call center’s bandwidth availability.

Additionally, the T21P provides a headset port, so agents can attach their headphones/microphones to the base unit. They will retain the ability to use all the buttons on the phone but will otherwise keep their hands free when taking calls.


Best Call Center Headset on a Budget

Plantronics SupraPlus HW261NOur pick for the best call center headset on a budget is the Plantronics SupraPlus HW261N. It’s available for only $89.99 through our store.

Call center agents should be able to wear the HW261N without fatigue. It weighs only 86 grams, but still supports wideband audio formats and includes noise canceling through its microphone.

This noise canceling headset with microphone pairs with many styles of phones and computers, so call centers of all types can find something to like about this device.


Top Call Center Phone for Manager

Yealink SIP-W60PWhile call center agents usually stay at their desks when answering calls, managers may need to carry phones around the office floor. That’s why we want to highlight the Yealink SIP-W60P, at $149.99, as our choice for the best phone for a call center manager.

The W60P, like the T21P, supports the Opus codec. It can operate for as many as 30 hours of talk time. And a 10-minute charge can recharge the handset with two hours of talk time.

Managers can also take advantage of the W60P’s support for eight concurrent calls. Additionally, a single base station (the W60B) can provide service to eight handsets (the W56H). Our link presented here includes the base station and handset in a single package.


Free, Full-Featured VirtualPBX Web Phone

VirtualPBX Web PhoneOne alternative to hardware phones that many businesses are trying is the browser-based phone. All VirtualPBX Phone Plans come with our free Web Phone that works as a full replacement for a desk phone.

Web Phone works in the Chrome and Firefox web browsers, so it can run on any computer a call center agent has access to. It can receive inbound calls and complete outbound calls. It also has access to the full range of VirtualPBX system features – the most appealing for call centers being ACD Queues.


What’s the Best Phone for You?

There are a multitude of call center phone choices available for new and existing call centers. While this list isn’t long, it does provide some viable options for any business looking for reliable devices.

Our presented hardware above gives agents and managers the ability to process calls without breaking the bank. And if you choose VirtualPBX as your VoIP service provider, Web Phone is a great pick for easy setup and the tightest of budgets.

Zapier Conditional Logic Helps You Create Voicemail Reminders

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Divergent Paths Road SignAre your teams missing important voicemails? You can help remind them about customers’ messages by using some simple Zapier conditional logic and Trello event cards.

This simple tutorial will show you how to configure Zapier to follow one of two paths when a voicemail box on your VirtualPBX Phone Plan receives a message. This can be useful for when you want to notify distinct teams, like Sales or Services, about voicemails that need their attention.

This tutorial will specifically show you how to create a Trello notification for your Sales team’s board. It will use logic to send appropriate messages to Sales and all other messages to a separate Trello board. You can split your messages to whichever teams fits best.

Zapier uses an Action-Reaction format. In this Zap:

  1. Action: A customer leaves a voicemail on your VirtualPBX account
    Then, depending on the situation
  2. Reaction Option 1: Zapier creates a notification in Trello board #1
    OR
    Reaction Option 2: Zapier creates a notification in Trello board #2

You can follow this Zapier conditional logic tutorial by starting from the top or moving to the individual sections below:

  1. Common Use Cases
  2. Preparation of Materials
  3. Start a Zap (Configure VirtualPBX)
  4. Choose Zap Output (Configure Conditional Logic and Trello board #1)
  5. Choose Zap Output (Configure Conditional Logic and Trello board #2)

Common Use Cases

Separate Notifications to Sales and Services

Keep Informed About All Voicemails

Use Trello to Log Customer Calls

Split Callbacks Between Company Teams


Preparation

You only need a VirtualPBX account and a Trello account. Administrative access to those accounts will be necessary to work through these steps.


Action (Configure VirtualPBX App)

On your Zapier home screen, you will first need to select the Make a Zap button to create a new project.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Create a Zap

A new screen will load. This is where you begin working through the steps of your Zap.

You will need the VirtualPBX Zapier Integration to recognize when a customer has left you a voicemail. As your first Zapier step, you can select the VirtualPBX App. If given the choice, select the version VirtualPBX (1.0.6) as shown in the screenshot here.

Then you can choose the Trigger Event of New Voicemail, which will cause Zapier to take action when a voicemail is left to your account.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Choose VirtualPBX App

You will also need to choose your VirtualPBX account by signing in with your login credentials.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - VirtualPBX Account


Reaction (Configure Conditional Logic and Trello board #1)

After setting up the VirtualPBX trigger, you can begin configuring your Zapier conditional logic. Zapier will offer you a step to create a reaction to your VirtualPBX voicemail that looks like this screenshot. Type in “Paths by” in the search bar to find the Paths by Zapier app.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Paths by Zapier

After that’s selected, you will see two initial paths generated for you. Click Edit in the Path A row to determine what happens when your voicemail data conditions are met.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Zapier Paths A & B

You’re required to enter a name for this step. Because this tutorial will set its initial Zapier conditional logic to send a message to the Sales Trello board, we’ve called it Voicemail Box is Sales.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Name #1

Next, you can create your conditions. The drop-down menus here let you select Inbound Value, Condition, and Match Value in that order. It’s similar to “X”, Equals, and “Y”, which would result in a value of false.

Here, we’ll select Voicemail Box ID as our inbound value that we grabbed from the VirtualPBX App you configured in the first steps of this tutorial. This is the value you want to test against a condition.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Inbound Value

Then you can select the condition, which here is shown as (Text) Exactly matches because we only want to send messages to the Sales Trello board if the customer left a message on Sales’ box.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Condition

Finally, you can insert the Match Value in the final column of this step.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Match Value

In this case, we entered as our Match Value the exact value of the Trello board we want to match, so our test will return true.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Test Success

What a result of true means for the rest of your Zap is that this Path will continue through further steps. The voicemail box matched our criteria, so the Zap will proceed.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Path Next Step

This is where you can configure Trello to create a new notification. Type “Trello” in search bar to find the Trello App.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Trello App

Just like you did with the VirtualPBX App, select your Action Event. In this case, you want Trello to complete the Create Card action.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Trello Action Event

Then select the Trello account where you want to create a card. You will need administrative access to a Trello account to be able to create a message there.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Trello Account

You need to select several options for the Board that contains the List where you want to create a card. You will also need to create a Name of your new card. There are optional values like Description and Due Date you can set to make the cards more specific.

What we’ve done here is create a Name that includes a dynamic value. The From value was chosen by clicking the right-hand side button in the Name field.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Trello Card Details

After clicking Continue, you can see the options you selected as part of a test.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Trello Card Test

If you choose to send a test message, it will create a card in your Zapier account. The message created in this tutorial looks like the following screenshot. Yours may vary, depending on the options you configured.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Trello Test Card


Reaction (Configure Conditional Logic and Trello board #2)

The steps for configuring Step B are the same as Step A — just with different initial conditions.

All we’ve done here is tell Step B to look for a Voicemail Box ID that Does not exactly match the Sales voicemail box ID. With our test case, this option fails:

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Condition Step B

You can configure the following options for Step B in the same way you did with the previous step. You may want to create a Trello card in a different Trello board. This would allow you to address a separate department or just alert anyone not on the Sales team, who could be busy with their own messages.

In the end, we have two paths that meet opposing conditions. You can create more conditions by clicking the Add New Path button, which will allow you to create further initial conditions for processing your voicemails.

Zapier Conditional Logic Tutorial - Final Steps Overview

Manage Calls Efficiently With Zapier Slack Notifications

Zapier Tutorial - Zapier Slack Notification ExampleWant to make your call handling more efficient with real-time Zapier Slack notifications?

This tutorial will show you how to easily configure Zapier to recognize when you have an incoming call on your VirtualPBX Phone Plan. With only a few minutes of setup, you can create a custom message for a Slack channel or individual that shows them the name and number of the inbound caller.

Zapier uses an Action-Reaction format. In this Zap:

  1. Action: Your VirtualPBX account receives a call
  2. Reaction: Zapier immediately sends a notification to your Slack account

You can follow this Zapier Slack notification tutorial by starting from the top or moving to the individual sections below:

  1. Common Use Cases
  2. Preparation of Materials
  3. Start a Zap (Configure VirtualPBX)
  4. Choose Zap Output (Configure Slack)

Common Use Cases

Get Alerts When VIP Clients Call

Track Demand for Sales Campaigns

Build a Call Log in Shared Channels

Inform Team Leaders About Call Frequency


Preparation

The only requirements for completing this tutorial are that you have a VirtualPBX account and a Slack account. Administrative access to those accounts will be necessary to work through these steps.


Action (Configure VirtualPBX App)

On your Zapier home screen, you will first need to select the Make a Zap button to create a new project.

Zapier Tutorial - Slack Notifications - Start a Zap

A new screen will load. This is where you begin working through the steps of your Zap.

Your Slack notifications will depend on using the VirtualPBX Zapier Integration to recognize when you have an incoming call. As your first Zapier step, you can select the VirtualPBX App.

Zapier Tutorial - Slack Notifications - Select VirtualPBX Integration

Make sure you select the VirtualPBX 1.0.6 integration version. The Choose App & Event section of this step can always be changed.

Zapier Tutorial - Slack Notifications - Select VirtualPBX Version

To recognize an incoming call, you should select Call Started for your trigger event.

Zapier Tutorial - Slack Notifications - Select Call Started

Then enter your VirtualPBX Account credentials and hit Continue to proceed to the next step (configuring a Slack notification in your Zap).

Zapier Tutorial - Slack Notifications - Select VirtualPBX Account


Reaction (Configure Slack)

For the reaction in your Zapier Slack notification, you’ll need to select the Slack App. Click the plus sign on your Zap screen to add an extra step. Then search for “Slack” and select that app in the same way you found the VirtualPBX App.

Zapier Tutorial - Slack Notifications - Select Slack App

You can then click the Choose Action Event dropdown menu to find the Send Channel Message option.

Zapier Tutorial - Zapier Slack Notifications - Select Call Started

Also similar to the VirtualPBX App steps shown above, you’ll need to select your Slack account.

Zapier Tutorial - Zapier Slack Notifications - Slack Account

Now you can get into the heart of your message. You can customize the notification text and options by first choosing your Channel — in this case, it’s our Marketing channel — and writing some Message Text. You always have the option of sending your message from a bot or from the user associated with the Slack account. And you can choose your Bot Name if you wish.

In this same section of your Zap, you can also link other channels (like @marketing) or individuals (like @casey.houser), attach files, and attach images to all your automated messages.

Zapier Tutorial - Zapier Slack Notifications - Message Options

Customization of your message text can be improved by clicking the menu icon in the upper-right corner of the Message Text box. This is where you will find dynamic fields related to your VirtualPBX account, including Caller ID settings like name and phone number.

Zapier Tutorial - Zapier Slack Notifications - Dynamic Message Fields

Finally, you can preview the options you chose in the previous steps.

Zapier Tutorial - Zapier Slack Notifications - Preview Notification

If everything looks good, go ahead and test your message. Check your Slack channel to see your custom message appear.

Zapier Tutorial - Zapier Slack Notifications - Test Notification

Automate Weekly Email Reports With This Zapier Path Tutorial

Zapier PathsNot getting enough visibility into your business’s call activity? Take 10 minutes to create a weekly email report for yourself with this basic Zapier path that uses a timer and Google Sheets to send call data to your Gmail inbox.

Here, we’ll show you how to report the number of calls you received each week and customize your Gmail delivery to reflect that number. No more forgetting to check your call logs.

Other paths in Zapier you can take are shown in our additional tutorials — including Sending Voicemail Data to Google Sheets and Sending Call Data to Google Sheets, which link the VirtualPBX Zapier Integration with Google. This tutorial also directly references our instructions about Using Google Sheets Formulas to Count Calls.

Zapier uses an Action-Reaction format. In this Zap:

  1. Action: Zapier is scheduled to send an email report each week
  2. Reaction: Zapier retrieves data from a Google Sheet
  3. (2nd) Reaction: Zapier delivers the data through Gmail

You can follow along in this tutorial by starting from the top or moving to the individual sections below:

  1. Common Use Cases
  2. Preparation of Materials
  3. Start a Zap (Configure Zapier Timer)
  4. Update Google Sheet Data
  5. Send Email Through Gmail

Common Use Cases

Update VPs About Department Performance

Automate List of Morning Calls to Return

Keep an Email Record of Inbound Call Volume

Create Dynamic Team Briefing Notes


Preparation

In order to process information for your report, you will need to create a Google Sheet that accepts call data. You can make a copy of our Sheet template for this project before moving to the steps outlined below.

Sheet templates are also linked as starting points within our other tutorials.


Action

You will first need to select the Make a Zap button at the top of your Zapier home screen.

Zapier Tutorial - Voicemail Received to Google Sheets - Start a Zap

A new screen will load. This is where you begin working through the steps of your Zap. As your first step, you can select the Schedule by Zapier option.

Zapier Tutorial - Send Weekly Email Report - Zap Step 1

Your Trigger Event in this Zap will be the Every Week option. This selection will tell your Zap to take further actions every week.

Zapier Tutorial - Send Weekly Email Report - Select Every Week Option

You can set your preferences for day of the week and time of day when you want your Zap to work.

Zapier Tutorial - Send Weekly Email Report - Day and Time Preferences


Reaction 1: Update Google Sheet Data

As your second step – your first Zapier step taken and first Reaction to the Schedule trigger – click the plus sign on your screen and choose your App (Google Sheets) and Action Event (Update Spreadsheet Row).

Your selection of Update Spreadsheet Row here will inform Zapier about the contents of your Google Sheet.

Zapier Tutorial - Send Weekly Email Report - Choose Google Sheets App

Now choose the account where your calls are logged in a Sheet.

Zapier Tutorial - Send Weekly Email Report - Select Google Account

Select your Spreadsheet, Worksheet (the individual tab inside the chosen spreadsheet), and Row of data you want to retrieve.

Zapier Tutorial - Send Weekly Email Report - Select Spreadsheet, Worksheet, and Row

The Column headlines shown in the Google Sheet screenshot at the beginning of this tutorial match the options shown here in the second step of the Zap.

Zapier Tutorial - Send Weekly Email Report - Spreadsheet Columns in Zapier

Now we will update a field in our Sheet by rewriting the formula it already uses. In this case, the formula calculates the number of rows that meet a specific condition. You can learn more about this process by referring to our other tutorial about using Google Sheets to count the number of weekly calls a VirtualPBX account received.

Zapier Tutorial - Send Weekly Email Report - Update Formula in Google Sheet Cell

The result of this process is an up-to-date count of the number of calls received within the past week. Updating the Google Sheet cell here lets us reference that cell properly in the next step where Gmail will send an email that reflects the count.

Note that the changes you make to cell formulas in a Zap will affect what’s shown in Google Sheets. Make sure your formulas are the same.


Reaction 2: Send Email Through Gmail

Click the plus sign again in your Zap to add another Zapier step. Select your App (Gmail) and Action Event (Send Email), and select your Gmail Account from which you will send the email.

Zapier Tutorial - Send Weekly Email Report - Select Gmail App

Customize your email options by choosing recipients

Zapier Tutorial - Send Weekly Email Report - Choose Email Recipients

Enter the Title and Body of your email. Dynamic values are available for inclusion here by clicking on the right-hand side menu of each bar. In this case, you can see the dynamic value from our Google Sheet that shows how many calls were received this week.

Zapier Tutorial - Send Weekly Email Report - Enter Email Title and Body

Your report will change weekly as new data is sent from the VirtualPBX Zapier App into your Google Sheet. The second step of this Zap, where your Sheet cell is updated, ensures that the data Gmail grabs will reflect current statistics.

Finally, you can send test data to Gmail to make sure your Zap is working properly.

Zapier Tutorial - Send Weekly Email Report - Send Test Email