Posted on August 13, 2019 by Casey Houser
With the update of our Web Phone this month, we wanted to give you some more background on the features of WebRTC, the project that lays the groundwork through which our browser-based phone completes voice calls.
WebRTC, the well-known project managed by Google, makes it easy to transmit audio, video, and data through a web browser. Our developers at VirtualPBX have used its APIs – application programming interfaces – to create a phone that runs in desktop and mobile browsers. And you can use it to create your own business applications that manage audiovisual information and transmit data.
getUserMedia to Access Hardware
The first part of establishing any type of browser-to-browser connection is understanding what devices are involved. Therefore, the first WebRTC feature we’ll look at is the getUserMedia API.
Take a look at this HTML5 Rocks article that shows how getUserMedia can identify and request to access an individual’s camera and microphone before starting a call.
As a developer, you’ll only need to pass parameters to getUserMedia like these:
The first request would have getUserMedia ask to use a microphone, and the second would ask to use the camera and microphone. For the developer, WebRTC hides a lot of code behind the scenes so requests like this are easy to initiate.
If you’ve ever seen your browser ask for permission to use your camera, the action behind that request could be initiated by getUserMedia.
RTCPeerConnection to Establish a Connection
What comes next is establishing a connection between two (or more) peers so information can be shared between them. This second primary WebRTC feature is the RTCPeerConnection API.
The most basic RTCPeerConnection code looks like this:
var connection = RTCPeerConnection(config);
The config part of that example requires more detail like the servers you want to use to help establish a connection. Ultimately, you will create the connection with that request and then handle audio and video streams with code that resembles this example:
The screenshot here shows a code snippet presented in the Mozilla Developer Network article that expands upon the syntax for the addTrack function, which is part of RTCPeerConnection.
In short, you will use RTCPeerConnection to establish a connection between users and then refer to the getUserMedia audio and video devices; then you’ll add those devices to media tracks that keep audio and video connections active between your users.
RTCDataChannel for Arbitrary Data
When building a WebRTC application, you might also want to let your users share text or files. To do this, you’ll need to use the RTCDataChannel API.
This final feature of WebRTC we’ll cover in this article is presented in detail again at the Mozilla Developer Network.
Once you establish a connection with RTCPeerConnection, as is shown above, the next step is to create a data channel within that connection:
sendChannel = connection.createDataChannel("sendChannel");
What has happened here is that a channel called sendChannel has been created within the connection configuration (referenced previously, inside this article’s section RTCPeerConnection to Establish a Connection). sendChannel can now be monitored so the application knows when the data channel is open or closed:
sendChannel.onopen = handleSendChannelStatusChange;
sendChannel.onclose = handleSendChannelStatusChange;
Features of WebRTC You Will Use
While this article barely scratches the surface of what you can accomplish with the WebRTC project, we hope that it gives you a glimpse into the ease of creating applications with it.
Keep in mind that there are many layers beneath getUserMedia, RTCPeerConnection, and RTCDataChannel. These three APIs only ask developers to input a handful of options to create a connection between users. What happens in the background involves interfacing with web browsers, connecting to servers, handling codecs, and managing the flow of data between peers. Developers don’t have to manually do any of the heavy lifting.
What’s most impressive is the disparity between the underlying complexity of WebRTC’s back-end and the user interface in applications like our Web Phone. If you’re in the market for a new phone system and want to see what our Web Phone can offer, take it for a spin in a 14-Day Free Trial.
Posted on July 18, 2019 by Casey Houser
We recently conducted a nationwide survey of businesses to find out how office phone system use varies across markets.
Our respondents provided us with valuable insight about how businesses of varying sizes use their phones to prop up sales and customer service.
None of these responses come from VirtualPBX customers. Yet we admired their ideas and strive, in our own Business Phone System, to offer the types of features these business officials look for. Today’s blog will highlight some of the responses we received about office phone system use and provide commentary on the ideas each community member offered us.
Ciara Hautau – Fueled
- “We try to have as many people reach out to us via our contact form. Our phone system is then used to follow up with the lead and chat through our experience and answer any questions they may have. We try to set a goal to close as many deals as we can via our phone system. We also receive lots of phone calls from people who don’t want to fill out the contact form asking about our services and how we can help them. It’s safe to say without our phone line we would have lost a ton of business.”
Sean Pour – SellMax
- “As a company we aim to purchase used vehicles throughout the entire United States, so customers call into our phone number looking to obtain a quote for selling their used car. Our goal is to be able to handle as many inbound calls as possible, so having a system that can scale and distribute calls evenly across workers is essential to our company growth. We want as little hold time as possible, and to get to a live staff member as soon as possible.”
Ryder Meehan – Upgrow
- “We use our company phone system almost entirely for inbound sales calls. When leads call in it’s important that we have 100% coverage so the call is always answered quickly by our team. Our goal is to accept all inbound call in under 15 seconds, so we have a round-robin system that transfer to sales reps.”
Lisamarie Monaco – PinnacleQuote
- “As a company, my goal is to make all the calls. My goal daily is simply to get at least two sales each day. Each client is different. In the life insurance industry there is not a ‘one size fits all.’ Every client has different health issues, different medications, age, etc., so it is not a 10-minute phone call in most cases. It could be 1 hour or more.”
Ian Wright – BusinessFibre.co.uk
- “The main goal (KPI) we have around inbound sales is that all calls must be answered in less than 2 minutes (and usually much faster, often on the second ring). Anything longer than that and we’ll likely lose the sale. We’ve found that people who call are almost always the best customers in terms of account size and readiness to buy. However, they are also really impatient, so if you don’t answer your phone promptly you won’t get the sale.”
Tony Arevalo – CarSurance
- “Sales would mostly call out and had no limitations in terms of time spent on the phone. They would call mostly existing clients for new orders and receive calls filtered by customer support. This allowed the Sales team to focus on the most profitable clients and promising leads.”
Although Lisamarie Monaco spoke about the life insurance industry in their response, the remark that “there is not a ‘one size fits all’” in that industry rings true for the use of phones in sales departments as a whole.
Our respondents commented that speed in answering calls was important. That said, they also conceded that completing a large number of calls could sometimes take a back seat to the length of calls – if length meant securing a sale in a session.
If there’s one primary takeaway from those points, it’s that the customer has a lot of control over a business’s office phone system use. Like Ian Wright noted, there’s a balance between giving customers what they want and providing it in a timely manner.
VirtualPBX helps make it easy for sales departments to answer and route calls to the proper individuals with standard features like Automated Attendant and Ring Groups. These tools help your automated system filter calls so sales teams can answer them quickly. Furthermore, where outbound sales is concerned, cold calling can be bolstered by Voicemail to help sellers remain in touch with contacts who are eager to return your call but missed you when you were away.
Rodney Yo – Best Online Traffic School
- “Our goal is to provide the best customer support possible, even if that means spending longer than necessary on the phone. As a small online business, we rely on word of mouth and online reviews to get our business found. This strategy has paid off because people are always referencing our amazing customer service in their reviews, which also adds value to our offerings.”
Lisa Chu – Black n Bianco
- “Specializing in kids clothing, we receive lot of questions regarding fits and styles. Having a reliable telephone line is crucial to running our business. Our goal is to provide an answer to our customers as quick and efficient as possible. We try to keep the call under five minutes per customer. Our telephone line also needs to be clear and reliable because if we constantly have to repeat ourselves due to poor connection or sound it lowers our productivity and we are not able to meet the five minute per customer goal. Every business is different but having a great telephone service is one of the key components to the our success.”
Jared Weitz – United Capital Source
- “Phone usage is high within our organization, with considerable focus on communication with clients. Our goal is to always have someone available to speak with a client or lead at any time. We go beyond phone calls and are able to easily and quickly communicate via text message with clients after hours and whenever needed. Being readily available when working with businesses finances helps to greatly put people at ease and rest assured they can receive the support needed at any moment.”
What we saw here that stood out most is our respondents’ emphasis on reliability and accessibility in office phone system use. With our own 24/7 customer service, we relate strongly to Jared Weitz’s comment that “being readily available… at any moment” gives customers a sense of ease. They know that, when something goes wrong, the lines of communication will always be open.
Similarly, like Rodney Yo pointed out, customer service can often mean “spending longer than necessary on the phone.” What’s necessary to solve a problem is not always what’s necessary to assist customer with everything they need, including giving them peace of mind. Yo’s and Weitz’s comments here go hand in hand because they realize that as-quick-as-possible calls aren’t always the answer.
The VirtualPBX Phone System takes note of that reality by having the aforementioned Ring Groups keep track of busy lines and route incoming calls accordingly to available individuals. Furthermore, our system Dashboard includes the Live Call Monitoring feature that allows administrators to keep informed about busy and available users. Admins can address callers during peak hours and when customer service is using extra time to assist customers.
Yet, we also resonate with Lisa Chu’s sentiment that keeping calls under five minutes can be essential when working with a high volume of calls. We help businesses keep connected to customers with secure servers and 99.999% Uptime so their phone lines will be clear and reliable.
A Quick Thank You
We wanted to thank all the respondents to our survey. It’s not just the ideas from within the VirtualPBX team that helps create the system we have today and the features coming forth as shown on our Product Roadmap; it’s the preferences of our customers and community that drive the communications market.
Clearly, we and other providers play a key role in the daily operations of many companies. We’re happy to offer a product that can address those needs and let businesses offer great products and service to their own customers.
Posted on June 20, 2019 by Casey Houser
At VirtualPBX, we try to learn everything we can about our customers, including their business-sustaining activities like lead generation.
This is important because we offer more than just a Business Phone System. We offer customers a way to contact and keep in touch with their own customers. And getting into the mindset of staff members involved in, for instance, lead generation, helps us create a better product for those individuals.
That said, let’s take a minute to look at the functions and development of lead generation at a typical business.
Methods of Lead Generation
There are a number of methods in which companies can develop and nurture leads. Whether they sell business-facing goods or consumer services, the channels of voice, social media, and lead generation partnerships are a few of the primary ways business can find prospects who want to purchase what they offer.
Closest to home, of course, is the voice channel. It’s our specialization. We offer a Business Phone System to entrepreneurs, midsize outfits, and enterprises so they can speak directly to leads.
Phone calls border the line between a primary and secondary method of lead generation.
Why? Individuals might make “cold calls” to a list of businesses listed in a phone number directory. In days past, you could look through a printed phone book’s yellow pages to get names and numbers. Today, the initial (primary) step of number gathering might take place through a web search for “[your market here]”.
One might say that, strictly speaking, calls themselves don’t generate the lead. That’s done within the number-lookup process. However, phone calls to these “cold” leads can turn them into “warm” leads when a follow-up call is scheduled or when the contact refers the caller to an additional person.
Scheduling a follow-up call warms up the lead to engage further with the business. Likewise, gaining a referral creates a warm lead from where one didn’t exist. These examples suggest that the phone call might have started the true process of making a sale – being the primary driver of finding the lead.
In any case, making voice calls becomes an important part of the sales process for many companies.
A quick mention of social media in this article feels obligatory.
Social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn dominate the business world in the news and on their websites. The phrase “find us on social” is impossible to miss.
Social sites work well for finding leads because businesses can meet individuals where they already congregate. If you’re a B2B company, you might find LinkedIn an appropriate avenue for reaching CEOs of enterprises. Or if you’re a small seller of jewelry, perhaps a product page on Facebook can work better.
In all cases, links from social media posts require additional information to identify leads. For example:
A VirtualPBX post about our SIP Trunking Whitepaper might lead a user to our download page, which asks them for a name, email, and interest in the company or service. Our Sales team can then reach out to that person if their interests match what we have to offer.
The lead has warmed at this point, but it will require a follow-up. A phone call or email from Sales would be able to create a longer discussion with the potential customer.
Lead Generation Partnerships
Instead of doing all the work themselves, Sales or Marketing associates can seek the help of companies dedicated to lead generation.
A company like TechnologyAdvice filters its lists of individuals and businesses to create accurate leads that its clients can contact directly.
For many midsize business and enterprise clients, these leads lists can be an invaluable part of lead nurturing because they save a lot of time.
Lead lists cut out the beginning steps of cold calling (or gathering numbers haphazardly and then calling cold), cold emailing, or creating social media posts and waiting for visitors to share information. They create an assurance that the clients’ time isn’t wasted in taking second steps because the leads were validated to begin with.
TechnologyAdvice even provides the guarantee that the leads it delivers have opted in to hearing from clients and have expressed interest in hearing about specific products and services.
Function and Result
If you haven’t gathered the point already: Lead generation is about creating a base of contacts on which your company can act.
You want to develop relationships with individuals and businesses in order to sell your goods. This has to begin somewhere – a “somewhere” which is definitively the first contact through phone, email, social, or any other type of communication you prefer.
Some of these channels help you pull double duty by developing good leads and securing commitments like second phone calls or requests for more information. Others may fit better after leads lists are found from partnerships.
There’s no single correct way to have your business to make contact with potential customers — whether you prefer to use multiple phone numbers or stick to social as your go-to. Far from complete, the options mentioned in this article only scratch the surface.
We didn’t mention email in depth, texting, video chat, video marketing, radio ads, or newsletters as part of the advertising/lead generation mix. We’re at 900 words already, so we’ll let you get back to work.
Just remember that lead generation is a must for your company to find success. It’s up to you to find out how you want to proceed with it. Good luck.
Posted on May 2, 2019 by Casey Houser
If your business has expanded across national borders, you’ll want to begin using phone numbers local to those countries. In tandem, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the international number formats each new number will copy.
Not every country uses the same type of spacing and digit count found in the U.S. (XXX-XXX-XXXX). Your knowledge of phone number formats outside the States can help your professionalism as a business owner, and it can help your business’s expansion move smoothly with a VirtualPBX Business Phone Plans in the future.
Here’s a starter list you can use to begin your education.
The U.K. presents a challenge: Depending on the location they address, its phone number area codes can have lengths of 4 (the most common), 3, 2, and 5 (the least common).
The 4-digit codes precede a subscriber number (the equivalent to the final XXX-XXXX in U.S. numbers) length of 5 or 6. The 3-digit codes precede number lengths of 7. The 2-digit codes precede numbers of length 8. And 5-digit codes precede numbers with lengths of either 4 or 5.
London phone number format, therefore, is (020)XXXX-XXXX. The leading 0 here is the national trunk code, so it doesn’t count toward the aforementioned digit tallies.
Less well-known Brampton presents a number of (0169 77)XXXX.
VirtualPBX can use any of those international phone numbers, whether you’ve moved office to the capital or rural town.
Germany’s phone number format regulations are a bit tighter.
You’ll still find area codes that range in length from 2 to 5 digits – not including the trunk code, of course. Its standard subscriber number length, however, is now set to 11 digits, including the area code.
Prior to 2010, Germany used to allow phone numbers at variable lengths. You might have found phone numbers as short as two digits.
Today, though, you can expect to get a local number that’s 11 digits, or 10 if it’s local to a major metropolitan area like Berlin.
India uses what are known as Subscriber Trunk Dialing (STD) codes for its phone number format. Similar to area codes, they precede a subscriber’s phone number and can range from 2 to 8 digits.
Shorter STD codes apply to larger cities. New Delhi uses 11 as its STD. Jaipur uses 141.
Phone numbers always combine with the STD to reach a total of 10 digits. Therefore, a New Delhi number would look like 11-XXXXXXXX, and a Jaipur number would look like 141-XXXXXXX.
Phone Number Format Primer
While we can’t cover all the phone number formats in this article, this is a good place to get started.
Know, at least, that not all countries subscribe to the same format the U.S. uses. Make yourself familiar with the types of conventions out there. Most of all, don’t expect that a standard set of digits or conventions will always apply in every situation.
VirtualPBX can make use of local numbers in any country where we offer service. In addition to our phone number coverage in the U.S., we can help you reach across the globe but remain a local presence in your countries of choice.
Good luck in your expansion efforts.
Posted on April 30, 2019 by Casey Houser
You’ve already done the hard work of expanding across the U.S. Now it’s time to think about using a vanity toll-free number with your VirtualPBX Phone Plan.
More than just a communication lifeline, a toll-free number can be a representative for your business. The use of a vanity number in this context lets your personality and intention slip into customers’ memories – all with a few letters/digits.
Let’s discuss, for a few minutes, the influence you can gain by adopting a number that speaks for you.
Grab Customers’ Attention
Which one stands out more? The regular toll-free number, or the vanity toll-free number?
Unless you have a penchant for digits, the option above that spells out “cycling” is much more attention-grabbing than its counterpart.
The digits in the first option above spell out “cycling” – you just can’t see it at first glance.
If you owned a bicycle or motorcycle shop, you could use 1-800-CYCLING in print and digital ads to immediately grab customers’ attention. Customers could then more easily remember your phone number since the word “cycling” is familiar, whereas 292-5464 is not.
Solidify Brand Identity
You can take this one step further by giving your phone number a feeling.
If you were a vacation company, 1-800-CHILLIN could evoke an emotional response in customers before they even call.
Using the word “chillin” is memorable. Its use as slang (the abbreviation of “chilling” or “chilling out”) also gives the number a casual air about it.
Customers would see 1-800-CHILLIN as a representation of the vacation company’s brand style: Casual and playful, and responsible enough to create a phone number easy to remember, which adds professionalism to the image.
Be on the Lookout
Not every vanity toll-free number will be available for you to use. In fact, 1-800-CYCLING and 1-800-CHILLIN are already taken.
You can improve your chances of getting a relevant number by using different prefixes (like 866 instead of 800) and being creative with your slogan.
A few minutes of brainstorming should be enough to get started.
Find Your Own Vanity Toll-Free Number
Check our partner TollFreeNumbers.com to see what’s available. You can use any of the numbers available there with any VirtualPBX Phone Plan.
Remember that your number doesn’t need to match your business name exactly. Once you have a few options, type them into TollFreeNumbers to get a list of numbers and suggestions for alternatives.
Before you know it, you’ll be impressing customers with your creativity and hopefully seeing a boost in call traffic for your efforts.