Posted on September 17, 2020 by Casey Houser
In a previous blog post, we talked about how Busy Lamp Field (BLF) on a hardware phone can be used to determine a user’s status on your phone system. Did you know that this status, also known as phone presence information, can be shown in other devices, including our desktop softphone?
Presence is a nuanced topic, so we’ll try make it as simple to understand as possible in the next few sections. Stick with us to see how hardware phones interact and how a mixture of hardware and software-based phones requires some creativity with how presence might be used at your own company.
Presence In Hardware Phones
The concept of presence is straightforward enough in that it shows you the status of an individual who is using a specific device. Mike in accounting might be marked as Away on his desk phone while Jane in marketing could be shown as Available on her desk phone.
If both Mike and Jane are using the same type of hardware phone, say a Yealink T48G, they would see the respective status for each others’ displays in the BLF as Active and Away. These Yealink models essentially speak the same language, so they’re able to communicate specific phone presence information about the users.
Multiple Phone Models
This exchange of information could change substantially if those users had different models of desk phones at their workstations – including two models from the same brand.
If Jane is using a Yealink T58A, her specific status could be listed as Be Right Back because she marked it as such. At that time, Mike could see Jane’s BLF status, but his Yealink T48G would have to interpret that code and could apply it to any of its BLF types.
While we don’t necessarily want to endorse loyalty to a single phone brand or model within a company – there are a lot of great options from multiple brands in our Hardware Store – we can’t deny that there are some advantages to having a collection of phones that speak the same language.
You should be aware that not all phone presence information is created equally and that choosing a new phone for your office may involve considerations about how presence will function on your phone plan.
How VirtualPBX Softphones Interact
The same type of system presence information that’s found in hardware phones is also found in the VirtualPBX Desktop Softphone. It can display status information like Available, Away, Do Not Disturb (DND), and On the Phone, among others.
As an astute reader, we bet you’re already thinking: How do all those status types interact with the Yealinks from the previous section, which show a range of presence types and messages?
That’s a great question. Two or more desktop softphones on your VirtualPBX account can notify each other about their exact statuses. You can, for example, see on your own desktop softphone that another user’s desktop softphone lists its phone presence information as Available.
Yet when our desktop softphone sends a status message to a hardware phone, that hardware will interpret data in the same manner that it does from a fellow desk phone. Some nuance can be lost in the translation as a result.
VirtualPBX Softphone to Yealink T58A
Our tests between the VirtualPBX Desktop Softphone and the Yealink T58A reveal an interesting set of status interpretations.
The On the Phone status from the softphone properly translates that status to the T58A, which shows a BLF for the softphone user as Busy.
The DND status on the softphone works only halfway. The T58A lists the softphone user as Available, but when that DND status was active, calls from the T58A to the softphone properly transferred immediately to the softphone user’s voicemail.
All other status options from the softphone had no effect on the phone presence information interpreted by the T58A. The softphone user continued to be represented by a green icon, and calls would still ring to the softphone as if that person was available.
Proceeding With Phone Presence Information
You would be correct in thinking that this set of circumstances isn’t perfect. What we can tell you, however, is that interpretation of presence types is consistent between matching phone models. We can speak best about the VirtualPBX Desktop Softphone and its impact on your business.
Presence can be a useful tool for remote teams. Team members can identify their fellow employees with a quick glance at the softphone’s status marker. All contacts in a user’s directory are listed with a status icon next to their names.
Workers who have difficult circumstances may also find benefit in the granularity of status types that our softphone offers. A working-from-home parent may wish to indicate they are Away to signify that they’re helping manage a child’s online learning. With COVID-19 moving both parents and children into the home, a workplace status can say much more than “I’m on the phone.”
For a deeper discussion about phone presence information and use of our softphone or available hardware phones, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team to see how we can help you.
Posted on September 15, 2020 by Casey Houser
At VirtualPBX, we offer two sets of unlimited VoIP service options for your business. You can choose between plans that prioritize unlimited minutes and plans that allow unlimited users.
This setup stands in contrast to many of our competitors, which do not offer the choice for an unlimited number of users in their phone plans. Moreover, we don’t scale back our included features in any of our plan styles, so you can expect consistent, professional phone service no matter which option you try.
A complete picture of all our available plans can be found here in our Plan Comparison webpage. The following sections in today’s article will break down those unlimited VoIP service options and explain why your business would choose one set or the other for your business phone system.
Standard Features in All Phone Plans
While there is a distinct divide in our separation of phone plan types, we don’t skimp on the features available to all our plans.
We make sure all customers can begin making phone calls immediately with at least one included phone number and use of our full-featured Web Phone. Their calls can be routed through the Automated Attendant to reach individual user extensions or Ring Groups.
Send faxes digitally with Email to Fax. Hold Audio Conferences with your colleagues and customers. Automate your business tasks with our Zapier Integration. There are many more features to examine at our Features page. Our unlimited VoIP service, no matter which plan you choose, is underlined by important features that will help all businesses act professionally in all their company calls.
Unlimited Minutes Plans
Our Unlimited Minutes Plans may be considered our most traditional set of business phone plans. They match our competitor’s plan styles by allowing your business complete freedom in completing local calls (those within the 48 contiguous U.S. states). You can initiate and receive as many calls as you need every month.
Yet as these plans stand next to our competitors, it’s easy to see where the similarities end and the differentiation that sets VirtualPBX apart from the pack begins.
single user per month
with annual payment
single user per month
with annual payment
user/mo for 2-99 users
with annual payment
Where These Plans Fit Best
This makes these plans great for businesses that have a large call volume each month. Whether you mostly engage in outbound marketing or instead see most of your customer traffic through inbound sales and support calls, these plans make sense.
Even the lowest-tier plan, Essentials, includes access to ACD Queues and Webhooks as additions to the base feature set. For many businesses, Essentials is enough to get them started with complex inbound call handling that routes their own customers to multiple departments or call center agents.
You can see in this plan table that we differentiate ourselves from the industry standard by not skimping on features or by hiding extra fees. You get 5 included phone numbers with Essentials because businesses need that many to support their marketing and sales efforts. You have immediate use of our Auto Attendant because all companies receive inbound calls they need to handle efficiently. You gain access to 24/7 Support because we know that troubleshooting takes place at all hours.
Our Advanced and Enterprise Plans step up the game even further. Their part in unlimited VoIP service comes by adding Call Recording, External Storage for recordings and voicemails, CRM integration, and API access as those tiers are used. These plans have been constructed for the largest and most demanding of customers – many of which are large enough to want to build their own voice applications and have hundreds of employees answering their phones.
Unlimited Users Plans
Our Unlimited Users Plans dial back this level of intensity somewhat. They instead cater to smaller businesses that don’t experience large call volumes.
These plans let your business add as many users as it needs. They have individual caps on their included local and toll-free calling minutes, combined at 300, 500, and 1000 minutes depending on the plan. They’re also created to be more affordable, and therefore more accessible, to businesses that are starting up.
How These Plans Hold Their Own
But don’t expect that these plans lessen the number of important business features they make available to your users. These minutes totals are more than enough for many small and midsize operations; every plan in this group still benefits from our extensive set of included features; and they make starting flexible operations like a courier service a much less difficult prospect because you add users easily when it’s time to scale up operations.
When you’re ready to add more users and also grow your business reach, look to the VirtualPBX 500 and 1000 plans to increase your included calling minutes and add features like ACD Queues and Call Recording. These extra features are here to help smaller businesses grow their base and become more robust when handling additional call traffic. With VirtualPBX 300, you won’t pay for what you don’t need, but your business phone plan will be as stout as any small business can expect.
Pick Your Unlimited VoIP Service
Each of these unlimited VoIP service options make a great starting place for businesses. You can begin with one plan that fits your needs now, and as you grow, you can always switch to a different plan with more features. Starting is easy; upgrading is fast.
Start a chat today to discuss your needs and get signed up.
Posted on September 9, 2020 by Casey Houser
To keep our products and services as user-friendly as possible, we’re always making updates to our Business Phone Plans such as the ability to upload your contact list from your phone system dashboard into our desktop softphone.
The latest update to the VirtualPBX Desktop Softphone addresses a need for many of our customers who have a large collection of phone system users. Uploading a list of dozens or hundreds of contacts can be completed in a matter of minutes.
In addition to saving time, you will also benefit from making your entire company directory searchable within the softphone and able to display the system status (like Available, Away, or in Do Not Disturb mode) of anyone you want to call. Take a quick look at the upload process and the accessibility of system presence in today’s blog.
The Upload Process
After you log in to your dashboard, you will be presented with several menu options and information boxes, including your phone numbers listed in the right-hand side of your screen.
Look for the gray box that lists your Main Number and Conference Number. Then follow that box down the screen until you see the Softphone Directory listing and a link to download your contact list.
Clicking that link offers you a direct download to your contact information. This CSV file is a comma-separated list of the names and phone numbers of the users in your phone plan.
You can then import the file into your softphone by clicking its Contacts menu and selecting Import Contacts. The collection of contacts will be imported as a separate group in your virtual phone. You can rename the list and begin using the contacts immediately.
VirtualPBX System Status and BLF
You can update the status of your own user through the softphone interface. This is accessible at the top of the softphone’s screen in a drop-down menu listed Presence Status.
In that menu, you can select from Available, Busy, Away, On the Phone, Not Available for Calls, Do Not Disturb, or Appear Offline as your status. Each selection is accompanied by a unique graphic, like the green checkmark and red phone to show you as Available or On the Phone.
These same status markers are available for others to see on their phones. In the VirtualPBX Desktop Softphone, a user’s status is shown in the contact list. This makes it easy for other company employees to see whether or not you should be reachable for a quick call.
Other phones that take advantage of the Busy Lamp Field (BLF) are also able to see your system status. Desk phones can have their own indicators for the availability of an extension, which we explain in more depth in the blog at the link above. Your status created in the VirtualPBX Desktop Softphone should reflect your (un)availability and mark that context through green and red icons in most other hardware phones.
The use of simple symbols in BLF and throughout the VirtualPBX system lets you quickly see who on your team is reachable and who needs time to complete a call or other task. It removes the guesswork so you never need to ask, “Are you free?”
Upload Your Contact List Today
For any help with uploading your contact list, our helpful Support team can get you started or give you more information about starting with a new VirtualPBX Phone Plan. We’d also be excited to tell you more about our Video Calling feature that will soon be in production and available in our Desktop Softphone for video calls between your entire team.
Posted on September 3, 2020 by Casey Houser
Our full-featured Web Phone gives all VirtualPBX customers the ability to make calls from their mobile and desktop web browsers. That’s why we’re giving it our undivided attention to enable Web Phone video support as the our Video Calling beta test paves the way for a public feature release.
We have made a lot of progress in bringing video capability to the Web Phone. In the past couple months, our team has rewritten much of its code base to make the entire application faster while also enabling direct and group video calling. More details of our testing procedures and feature progress are discussed in this blog.
Customers interested in being early adopters for Video Calling can contact us here to speak to our team. Our development is on track to bring the next version of Web Phone into the browsers of all customers within the next couple months.
Increased Speed From a Single-Page Application
A complete rewrite of our web-based phone’s code was necessary to enable Web Phone video support and improve the speed with which it operates.
We have condensed the Web Phone so it loads fewer lines of code and reduces the bandwidth required to run the application. What we have working now is a single-page application that’s faster in every respect. The video functions are snappier; jumps between screens – like from the dialpad to the company directory – are quicker than ever; the reaction of buttons is even noticeably quicker than in previous versions.
Multiple Types of Calling
Web Phone video support has reached the point where both direct calls and group calling is reliable.
Inbound and outbound calls from one Web Phone to another work without error. You can also bring in multiple participants into a single video call to complete a 3-way discussion.
Full video conferencing support, where multiple callers dial into a conference room extension, is nearing completion. This will ultimately allow users of our Business Phone Plans to assign conference room numbers to individual users in the same way they can already do with Audio Conferencing.
Group calling with colleagues and customers is therefore made easier because users can schedule calls in their own conference rooms.
Multiple Phone Styles
We let our Web Phone lead the way because it brings calling support to all our customers. Web Phone video support extends what we already offer, and it’s worth noting that this application is a phone more than it is a website like the Google Hangouts or Zoom you may be used to.
Our Web Phone presently has the ability to complete calls to any other phone. Customers can reach your Web Phone from their smartphone or landline. Company calls can be completed between multiple Web Phones and mix with colleague’s personal phones or company desk phones.
Video Calling can also work between multiple types of phones. Your Web Phone will have the ability to handle a video call with a VirtualPBX Softphone or with hardware phones like the Yealink SIP-T58V and Yealink VP59. Any phone that has the ability to complete a VoIP call and can use video will have the opportunity to communicate with the VirtualPBX Web Phone.
Visual Interface Changes
The internal code redesign for Web Phone video support has also been reflected in a number of ongoing user interface changes.
Customers will see an updated dialpad that includes a button for easy on/off toggle of video. This way, any call that is video-capable can turn on and off video with a single button press.
Our mobile interface also takes advantage of a sidebar menu that collapses to a smaller size. The desktop view can also shrink the larger menu to better fit multiple video displays from other users, like in a group call.
The single-page nature of the new Web Phone also shows an updated loading animation at the top of the screen so users will see when actions are taking place. Notably, users now have the option to switch between screens inside the Web Phone (like between a video call and the company directory) without the call dropping. It simply runs in the background and lets the conversation continue to take place.
Get Web Phone Video Calling
If you’re interested in joining our Video Calling beta test, we’d love to speak to you about early access to the program. Our beta testers are essential. They help us develop the various features of Video Calling by reporting their experiences with our platform and giving us valuable feedback.
Reach out today to speak to our team.
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.