Posted on October 14, 2021 by Lon Baker
Change is one of the few constants for businesses, teams, and customers everywhere.
VirtualPBX has changed tremendously over our history, and the change has accelerated thanks to the demands of both our customers and team members.
The biggest challenges in this environment are maintaining focus and coordinating efforts to deliver on our mission — to deliver excellent service where and how people need to get things done.
How We Maintain Focus at VirtualPBX
The loss of focus creates stress, impacts morale, and can create a snowball effect that impacts the delivery of service, completion of projects, and most importantly costs your business time.
At VirtualPBX we strive to maintain focus for our team by reigning in meetings, carefully separating team communication into channels, leveraging our own platform, namely the VirtualPBX Softphone, to communicate the availability of team members, and automating certain tasks via Zapier. We have written about the use of Presence before, and it is critical to understand who is available when you want to speak with them – especially for remote teams.
For meetings we have a firm rule, any meeting lacking a published agenda is canceled, the default meeting length is 20 minutes, meetings start on time regardless of the presence of all attendees, and meeting recordings are used liberally so team members are on vacation or unavailable can catchup.
Coordinating Teams and Processes
We use Slack and our own platform for chat, and over the years have learned to use specific channels for specific topics, to minimize distracting team members.
Coordinating teams is an age-old management challenge, we find maintaining focus requires clearly defining how we manage processes — in our case the use of Notion, Monday.com, Pipedrive, Zapier, and our own Collaboration tools to keep everyone in sync, motivated, and able to perform at their best.
With constant change comes the need to consistently reassessing how your company and team execute. This can drive improvement in your business and your products, like it does for us every single day.
Posted on August 12, 2021 by Rachel Anderson
The latest and greatest is now available on the VirtualPBX Softphone for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac users. Already the VirtualPBX employee favorite device, we’ve made a series of improvements to improve user experience. For those with automatic updates enabled, the below changes are already available to you. Need to download the newest version manually? No problem. Our apps page contains download links and instructions for each platform.
So, What’s New in the VirtualPBX Softphone?
Desktop (Windows and Mac) 6.4.2
- You can now join someone’s conference from the dialer. Type the host’s name and you’ll see multiple options appear – choose their Meeting Room and you’ll enter their conference.
- Changes in the conference (collaboration) toolbar:
- Assign Yourself the Floor
- Mute the Meeting
- Conference Resolution
- Assign Yourself the Floor
- Ability to provision an additional certificate name for a SIP server.
- When auto-upgrading to a newer version, if only one account is found on your device, the account will automatically be selected and only asks your password. This improvement aims to streamline the auto upgrade process for end users.
- Previously a built-in microphone on some Windows laptops appeared in the drop down list, but did not recognize sound. This issue has been resolved for several devices including the HP EliteBook 840 G6, Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga, Lenovo X1 Carbon, and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen8.
- Ability to assign (and un-assign) the floor to another person in the Participants tab.
There have been improvements to the overall stability and performance, such as:
- A fix for a broken link in file transfer.
- A fix for the chatroom error “Room not available” after the XMPP account reconnected.
- In Preferences, the “Use Native Dialer” option has been removed under Telecom Framework native integration. SIP calls will be made using the VirtualPBX Softphone rather than native dialer.
- A fix for an issue where contact suggestions are not visible on the dialpad while typing. This issue is observed when moving back to the dialer tab from other tabs on version 6.5.1.
- A fix for the voicemail count icon disappearing after declining an incoming call.
- Adjusted the size of the green call button on the dialpad.
Posted on August 10, 2021 by Casey Houser
The two concepts of Domain Number Identification Service (DNIS) and Automatic Number Identification (ANI) are often lumped together, and often confused. Today we’ll outline the similarities and differences between DNIS and ANI so you can better understand each of them.
Both DNIS and ANI are built into the makeup of telephony and VoIP systems. You can learn about the underpinnings of your phone service by reading our What is VoIP? guide. For now, today’s blog will make a good introduction to the aforementioned concepts and can help you understand more about how your calls work.
What is DNIS?
DNIS lets businesses see the phone number that was dialed to reach their offices. This can be useful because of the range of ways that businesses offer callers to reach the same locations.
For example, consider a business that uses several local phone numbers and toll-free numbers which all reach a single office location. It presents these numbers across multiple web-based advertisements, billboards, and flyers. One local number is used for flyers, but several toll-free numbers are used in the ads and billboards, so how does the business know which number the caller has dialed? How can the company examine its marketing efforts to see what has been effective?
DNIS shows the phone number this business’s customer has dialed. Therefore, although all of its phone numbers can point to the same Auto Attendant, and each caller may think they have reached a unique part of the business, analysis of the inbound calls can reveal which part of its marketing efforts have led callers to its central office.
The importance of DNIS cannot be understated because it clears up any confusion about a customer’s intention to dial a specific number associated with a business.
We have a services page on the VirtualPBX website that can help you learn more about using DNIS to track and monitor your inbound calls. And you can read more about our customer, MESA Supplies uses our Advanced Call Reports tool to filter for DNIS values to track its own marketing campaigns.
What is ANI?
Although DNIS and ANI may seem similar – because they both focus on phone number identification – they actually don’t have more than that basic property in common.
ANI identifies the phone number associated with the caller. While DNIS may be useful for your business and its marketing efforts, ANI is more useful for billing purposes and is often used by carriers to determine who made a call, when it was made, and for how long.
- DNIS shows the number that was dialed
- ANI shows the number of the dialer
ANI tends to exist in the background. It’s not something that would ordinarily be useful to your business in any way beyond your phone bill. However, there are several layers to billing, including the amount you as a customer are charged and the amount your VoIP provider (like VirtualPBX) owes to its carriers (like Bandwidth). Costs are passed along the chain, so to keep track of it all, systems like ANI are used.
If you want to dig further into your call data, you can simulate what an ANI report would show by creating an Advanced Call Reports filter based on the Outside Number of your caller. The screenshot above provides an example of what that would look like for your own business.
Keep in Mind DNIS and ANI
We get the question “What is DNIS and ANI?” all the time from customers. We hope that this short primer helps you get a better understanding of these concepts.
If you want assistance working with DNIS at your own business, we’re happy to help. Start a chat with us today.
Posted on August 3, 2021 by Casey Houser
We have made some big changes to our Business Phone Plans lately. What’s the biggest? Our introduction of the new VirtualPBX Spark Plan.
Spark fills a need for businesses that have a low call volume for inbound and outbound calls with customers but still want to keep their team members connected through audio and video conferences. It lets you add as many users as you like to your plan, gives you 1000 minutes of call volume to customers, and lets you have unlimited minutes of calling between system users.
If that sounds good, keep reading for a few more details about the latest addition to our plans lineup.
Getting Started With Spark Plan Features
We made the VirtualPBX Spark Plan for smaller businesses that don’t have a lot of call volume. However, we’re well aware that having a low amount of customer contact in your phone system doesn’t mean you want to be limited in your feature set.
Spark starts with three phone numbers and 1000 minutes of calling. You can mix local phone numbers and toll-free numbers as you see fit, and you can use your allotment of minutes to complete calls to customers (outbound) and take calls from customers (inbound).
Your inbound calls can make their way through the Auto Attendant on your main business number, and you can route calls to individuals and to Ring Groups depending on how you structure your office. We also include Zapier Integration to help you notify your team when a call or voicemail has been received by linking those events, for instance, to a Trello board or Slack channel where your team can see the events recorded.
Connection to Your Team
You can always use your Audio Conferencing and Video Conferencing features to complete calls with customers, but what the VirtualPBX Spark Plan prioritizes is the use of conferencing to keep your team in touch with one another.
There’s a difference between your allotment of external and internal minutes.
Your included 1000 minutes for calling customers is meant for you to reach customers; those are external calls. In contrast, your internal minutes are unlimited and are the times when you complete calls to another team member from a device on your account.
If you use your VirtualPBX Softphone to call another user on their VirtualPBX Softphone, you will have completed an internal call and used none of your 1000 minutes. This call would be unlimited and you can talk and talk…
You can extend this type of calling to as many users as you need, which is why we call this an unlimited users plan.
Examples of Businesses That Fit Spark
How do you know if you’re a good fit for Spark? First, you should fit at least one primary criteria:
- You have relatively low call volume to or from customers.
If you will keep below 1000 minutes of calling per month, that’s a good starting point. If you need many more minutes, check out our Unlimited Minutes Plans.
A few examples of business types might also help you decide if Spark is right for you.
You’re the smallest of small businesses as a sole proprietor of a budding business. While you definitely want to grow, you’re still in the early stages of getting your product or service put together.
At this point, you only have a few investors to call, and maybe a handful of friends and family who are helping you brainstorm ideas or source products. Those limited number of calls put you well below the included minutes for Spark, so picking this plan could work well as you gain some steam.
You’re an online entity with a robust chat platform that handles the bulk of your customer contact. Maybe you’re looking for a little more flexibility with how you handle complex customer issues and communicate with your team.
For now, the online chat can keep your customers happy, and you can use Flex to call customers who are in tough situations. Your remote team can also get its video meetings away from time-limited calls and embrace unlimited, high-definition video conferencing with VirtualPBX.
Non-profits aren’t always multinational operations. Many of them complete most of their outreach through in-person events and emails, and their number of staff members can be counted on one hand.
You’re one of those, and all you need is a phone plan to hold a few meetings a week with your team. You can talk about upcoming events, evaluate ongoing marketing tasks, and know that all your meetings can take place with a team that’s spread across the country.
Try the VirtualPBX Spark Plan
We hope this quick introduction to Spark has been helpful. If these sound like the phone plan features you need, have a quick chat today with our team or begin the signup process yourself to get started.
Posted on July 29, 2021 by Casey Houser
We are happy to announce this month that we have made some important changes to our VoIP plans. Our 2021 Business Phone Plans lineup now includes a new plan called Spark, and we have made more high-level features available to all our customers.
This review will show you an overview of the updates we have made. We would be happy to speak to you live to answer more detailed questions about how we can help your business.
Spark Plan for Unlimited Users
The way we will offer an unlimited users plan will now be through Spark, which was created to give smaller businesses an affordable opportunity to gain important team features like Audio Conferencing and Video Conferencing.
When choosing Spark, we start your business with three phone numbers that you can use for any combination of local and toll-free inbound and outbound calling. Regional outfits may want to keep their numbers local while nationally expanding companies can choose to add toll-free numbers to their lineup.
Your 1000 calling minutes with this plan give your customers room to reach you and give your team enough space to keep in touch with one another. You can route calls through your Auto Attendant, split up your departments with Ring Groups, and automate your calling processes with our Zapier Integration, which can help you log inbound calls or track your voicemails in
a Trello board or Slack channel.
Know also that Spark allows you to complete unlimited calling between system users. Your minutes are tracked when speaking to customers outside your organization, but you have no limit when using video conferences between your teams. This lets Spark keep your team connected throughout the workday without having to worry about overages.
This plan works well for companies that have a lot of users but which have a low call volume. Small businesses, entrepreneurs, online shops with a robust chat platform, and non-profits that complete outreach primarily through email are a few examples of spaces where Spark will make a good fit.
Changes to Unlimited Minutes Plans
The titles of our Unlimited Minutes Plans – Flex, Essentials, Advanced, and Enterprise – all remain the same in this 2021 business phone plans lineup.
Their feature sets, however, have been upgraded. Each plan includes all the features shown above in Spark, expands that feature set to cater to larger businesses, and allows for unlimited inbound and outbound calling.
Our Flex Plan now starts with three phone numbers that you can use for both local and toll-free. This will help smaller and remote businesses (which are the key demographic for Flex) better organize their use of numbers around the existing structure of their businesses.
Digital Faxing now comes with Flex so you can send and receive faxes through your email inbox. Moreover, we now allow Flex users to add ACD Queues agents for improved management of large volumes of inbound calls.
Call Recording now comes standard with our Essentials Plan. We start you with 125 GB of storage so you can keep track of important conversations that take place with customers.
Advanced and Enterprise
The biggest changes for our Advanced and Enterprise Plans are that they, along with all other Unlimited Minutes Plans, are categorized to better fit the size of your business.
Our pricing tiers are as follows for all Unlimited Minutes Plans:
- 1-10 Users
- 11-50 Users
- 51-100 Users
- 100+ Users
We took a look at our existing customer base to find out which sizes of businesses were using the various types of plans we offer. This grouping fits much better with the preferences of our customer base and with the features we offer at all levels of plans.
Keep in mind that all accounts starting with 10 or more users or devices receive full 30-Day Rollout Support from our onboarding team to make sure your users and devices work well across one or multiple sites.
Learn More About Our 2021 Business Phone Plans
Our 2021 Business Phone Plans offer something for businesses of all sizes at a price they can appreciate. We back up every plan with 24/7 customer support, and you can see how helpful it is by getting in touch with our team to inquire about a new plan today.
We are excited to begin Spark and to make these important updates to the rest of our plan lineup. We hope to speak to you soon.