Posted on January 26, 2021 by Casey Houser
In response to the growing need for telecommuting tools, we have created the new VirtualPBX Flex Plan. It’s the perfect plan for today’s remote workers.
VirtualPBX COO Lon Baker provides a rundown of Flex’s features and benefits in this short video:
Including Video Conferencing, Business SMS
We created Flex to provide a more accessible way for businesses of all sizes to access our Video Conferencing and Business SMS features – both of which are key in establishing and maintaining an effective remote workplace.
Those enterprise features are normally offered in our Advanced and Enterprise Plans that were created to fit larger businesses. Those plans also come with features for large teams that aren’t always essential for smaller companies that, when considering remote work, primarily want to remain connected with each other rather than, say, operate a call center.
With Flex, we have prioritized Video and SMS while removing other features like ACD Queues and AWS Integration. This has helped us lower the price to one of the most affordable in the industry but still allows us to keep our focus on remote work.
Staying Connected With Unlimited Minutes
Whether you run a small office with a handful of employees or a larger outfit with a team of several hundred, the use of Video Conferencing and Business SMS in Flex will help you stay connected through our remote office phone system.
Flex comes with unlimited local minutes for your voice calls throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. That unlimited allowance extends to video calls and text messages too.
You can complete as many video calls with your team members as you need. Hold your daily meetings using the VirtualPBX Softphone on your desktop or smartphone — which you can download for free — and feel free to bring as many participants as necessary. Video conferences support two to 200 users in a single call.
SMS text messages are also unlimited. These are great for sending quick messages to team members about your status – such as saying “I’m out to lunch!” or “Meeting ran long…” – and can help you connect with customers as you confirm appointments or alert them to a sale on your newest products.
Rely on VirtualPBX Remote Office Phone System
Of course, Video Conferencing and Business SMS are just the highlights of the new Flex Plan. Our remote office phone system also grants you important features like Auto Attendant, Ring Groups, and Zapier Integration for automation of your company data. You can explore all these features in our main Features page.
Let us introduce you to Flex with a Free Demo so you can see everything we have to offer. Register for a Free Demo today; we’ll reach out quickly to set up an appointment time that works for you.
Posted on January 20, 2021 by Casey Houser
Having always accepted information about audio calls and voicemails, the integration now lets you choose the “Receive Text Message” option to have Zapier respond to SMS messages sent to your team members.
Our Zapier SMS integration update allows you to perform automated tasks like notifying team members of inbound texts through a separate chat platform (such as Slack), logging your inbound messages (such as in a Trello board), or syncing your texts to data recorded in an analytics platform (such as Google Analytics).
Zapier SMS Integration Example
A quick example use case can be explained in a few steps. Let’s see what it looks like to set up Zapier to wait for a text message and send notification of its receipt to the team’s Slack channel.
1. Select “Receive Text Message” Event
First, select the trigger that Zapier will use to initiate other actions. You pick the VirtualPBX app and choose its new “Receive Text Message” trigger.
2. Consider the Data You Want to Send
Sending an SMS text message to your VirtualPBX phone number from any other phone will allow the Zapier SMS integration to grab some sample data. The Test trigger step will show you the data collected that can be used in your Slack message.
Shown here, you can see that Zapier collects important information like the from and to phone numbers involved in the SMS and the body of the text message.
3. Select the Slack Integration
The next step in the process is to choose the Slack integration so you can send your team a notification about your inbound texts. Here we have selected the Slack app and the Send Channel Message event.
4. Create Your Channel Message
The example here shows that we have selected our Marketing channel and sent a message to our team using the From and Body dynamic fields that will change according to the senders and messages you have received.
Other Changes to Our Zapier SMS Integration
While the biggest news today is about our Zapier SMS integration, we have also updated our entire app inside Zapier to give you access to more phone call data.
Both the Call Answered and Call Ended events now provide more information in their output. Each event, respectively, lets Zapier listen for calls your team has answered or any call a team member has completed, and just like with the SMS trigger described above, you can have Zapier respond to those events with actions of your choosing.
Call Answered now includes information about the following data:
- callee_id_name: The name of the person on your team who has been called
- callee_id_number: The phone number of your team member who was called
- local_resource_used: Whether or not the phone carrier is defined by the customer (this will read False for most customers because typically VirtualPBX automatically chooses the phone carrier)
- owner_id: The user ID of the person who accepted an inbound call
- reseller_id: The ID of the VirtualPBX account (unique from the system ID)
In addition to those new options in Call Answered, Call Ended also contains these new data points:
- authorizing_id: The ID of the device that first handled the call
- emergency_resource_used: Whether or not the call was an emergency (E-911) dial
- is_internal_leg: Returns “true” if two system users spoke to each other during the call
- other_leg_call_id: If there was a second leg on the call, this is that caller’s user ID
- hangup_code: The reason the call was ended, such as a normal voluntary device hangup
- ringing_seconds: The time a user’s phone rang before it was answered
Using Additional Data, and Testing
These additional data points can play an important role in how you analyze your inbound calls. These pieces of information can be moved through Zapier to many other web-based services so you can keep track of how, why, and when your calls were received and handled. This can make an excellent addition to data captured from system call logs and from our Advanced Call Reports tool.
The updates of our Zapier app also underscore the need for testing and examination of inbound call metrics. Specifically concerning user and device IDs (long strings of numbers and letters), it can be helpful to identify which users and devices correspond to those identifications.
Figuring It Out
Zapier can seem complicated at first, but we have several tutorials on our blog like How Zapier Works: Sending Voicemail Data to Google Sheets to make you familiar with the process. We’re also available through web chat 24/7 to work with you through any issues you may have.
Posted on January 14, 2021 by Casey Houser
One of the most important aspects of VirtualPBX Business Phone Plans is what features come included with a customer’s purchase. Free audio conferencing is a feature we’re happy to bundle with every Unlimited Minutes and Unlimited Users plan we offer.
The Features Our Plans Include
You can click the link above to view our plan features in a side-by-side grid format and view our Features page for a comprehensive listing sorted by business function.
That said, here’s a quick look at the most prominent features we include in every VirtualPBX Plan:
- Audio Conferencing
- Auto Attendant
- Ring Groups
- Zapier Integration
- Included Phone Numbers (ranging from two to 15)
- Feature Codes
- Call Forwarding / Transferring
What This Means for Your Business
We include these features in our plans so you can be confident your business won’t run into a common situation you can’t handle.
Our inclusion free Audio Conferencing has helped thousands of businesses stay connected during the pandemic. We have long understood that it’s necessary for businesses to speak to one another from any location, and Audio Conferencing is part of what makes that possible.
Additionally, consider how Auto Attendant appropriately handles all your inbound traffic with custom greetings and instant call routing. That something important to nearly every call you receive at a main business phone number.
Then think about how your included phone numbers let you expand your business through multiple marketing campaigns or through DID numbers – which is another feature included with your plan. Voicemail lets you capture important messages after your business hours have closed for the day. Call Forwarding helps you accept calls on any device you prefer to use.
We cover all the bases.
Free Audio Conferencing in Remote Work
Now more than ever, we hear about how businesses want to work remotely. Many people want to stay safe during the pandemic, and that group and others simply like the flexibility that working from home allows.
A free Audio Conferencing feature in your plan is one of the core pieces to effective remote work. Businesses can’t function well if their employees aren’t able to reach each other.
Although there are many methods of outreach, a quick conference call is among the simplest. Audio Conferencing offers high-definition audio and can accept hundreds of participants in a single call.
You can assign conference rooms to team leads so they can host daily or weekly group meetings. We also accept instant three-way group calls with a quick press of the button on your VoIP desk phone. Conferences work on any phone registered in your account, including the VirtualPBX Softphone that has helped businesses like 1st Classic Transportation keep their operations running during the most intense parts of the economic volatility we’ve all experienced in the past year.
Make Our Features Your Own
Signing up for one of our phone plans doesn’t mean just placing an order; it means that you can make the system fit your needs as a business.
Start a quick web chat with our team to discuss your options, or schedule a Free Demo so we can show you in a live demonstration how features like Audio Conferencing work and how easy they are to set up.
Posted on January 12, 2021 by Casey Houser
The previous year was a struggle for many businesses because of the need to switch to work-from-home policies. Even many businesses deemed “essential” considered their options to allow employees to work remotely. What this showed phone system providers like ours is that VoIP calling features for 2021 need to revolve around a remote-first attitude.
In short, we want to help businesses work from any location – whether all their employees work in the pajamas (from home, of course) or in more formal wear (at an office) or change their workspace from day to day.
What are the top VoIP features for 2021 that help make work more effective? Voice, video, and texting all have a role to play.
Top 2021 VoIP Voice Feature
We feel like Multiple Auto Attendants should take the top spot in this category. What makes Multiple Auto Attendants special is that every phone number on your plan can have its own call routing scheme.
Our regular Auto Attendant comes with every VirtualPBX Plan and can route calls to individuals and groups on their desk phones and personal smartphones. You can think of Multiple Auto Attendants as a duplication of the base-level attendant: any phone number can accepts calls through its own phone tree, and you can nest attendants, for instance, to handle multiple languages or distinct departments.
Multiple Auto Attendants in Remote Work
One use case for Multiple Auto Attendants in a remote work setting is to give all your sales persons their own direct (DID) phone numbers. Each person can record their own personal greeting, state their own working hours, and make it clear how to reach them either through continuing the phone call, perhaps stating their email address, or routing callers to their voicemail box.
Multiple Auto Attendants can also be used to bolster customer support, especially if part of your 2021 roadmap is to expand or better manage multi-lingual support tiers. With this feature you can have your primary phone number route normally to your main auto attendant and have its greeting simply ask callers to pick an option based on their language preference – maybe one option for English and a second for Spanish.
The choice here would route callers smoothly to a secondary attendant with its own greeting spoken in the customer’s chosen language. Furthermore, the routing scheme of each secondary attendant could be programmed to reach your employees’ phones at an office or at home so no employee will have trouble receiving the calls they mean to field.
Top 2021 Video Feature
Though we don’t want to be redundant with our names and titles here, the winner of the VoIP calling feature for video is Video Conferencing. You can complete video calls between multiple users exactly like you would with audio-only calls.
Our Softphone App for mobile and desktop handles one-to-one video calls, conferences, and calls between video and non-video participants. You can also use select desk phones for this purpose.
Video Conferencing in Remote Work
Where Video Conferencing shines most is with internal collaboration. Your team members, no matter where they’re located, can conduct all their meetings in ways you may be used to with Zoom, Google Meet, Jitsi, and other video meeting tools.
The rise of these competitor tools and others, and the creation of our own Video Conferencing feature, shows that there is a high demand for visual calls in this growth of remote work. It also puts into perspective, however, the reality that working remotely can present challenges to individual employees regarding the lack of camaraderie found in traditional offices. Video helps to bring people closer together.
We support conferences with groups as large as 100 members. Both the audio and video in your streams will be high-definition, and because Video Conferencing is offered in select Unlimited Minutes Plan, there’s no cap for how many minutes you can spend each month in your calls.
Top 2021 Texting Feature
We were so excited this past year to have released our Business SMS feature. It has been widely accepted and celebrated by many of our customers.
Business SMS gives you the ability to send and receive messages with customers and co-workers from your desk phones and from the VirtualPBX Softphone.
Business SMS in Remote Work
Business SMS makes a home for itself in both internal and external communications. You can use it to communicate with team members and just as easily reach out to customers.
Remote teams may find it useful for sending short status messages to team leads and other associates. A quick “heading to lunch” is often all that’s necessary to alert a team to your status. Let Video Conferencing work for longer meetings, and have Business SMS fill the gaps in between.
Meanwhile, communication with customers can take place through SMS for similar purposes. We like this VoIP feature for 2021 because it fits well with the culture. Many business leaders are open to communicating through short messages to arrange appointments and check product statuses. Your remote employees, whether they’re in a sales or customer service department, will have an easy time addressing these situations from their devices in an office or at home.
Getting Started With Your 2021 VoIP Features
We’ve built our Business Phone Plans to include features that cater to the needs of businesses of all sizes. Check out our Plan Comparison to see what features are offered alongside the audio, video, and texting options listed above. You’re bound to find something that fits your remote organization well.
Posted on January 7, 2021 by Casey Houser
Throughout much of 2020 and into the early days of 2021, teachers have relied on remote learning to connect with their students, and they’re consistently looking for new resources for remote learning to make this process easier within a society still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.
At VirtualPBX, our role in this process has been to assist educational facilities by providing them with the tools necessary to keep their school systems running. This can result in educational advisory groups like Collaborative Learning Solutions (CLS) using our phone system to keep their staff connected while they work remotely and while that staff works remotely and on-site with schools and educational departments.
We’re happy to continue to provide groups like CLS with effective communications tools that keep their operations running smoothly through changes in the workplace. As the state of education further takes shape across the U.S. and globally, we’re refining our services to match the needs of all businesses in this group.
Remote Learning, or Reentering the Classroom?
School closures, and initialization of remote learning, began in earnest in the U.S. in March and April 2020 when COVID-19 exposure started to spread worldwide. Since that time, many schools have remained fully closed or have moved to partial online learning for students.
The beginning of the spring semester in 2021 shows much of that same picture – states and counties divided on how to proceed but hopeful that traditional classroom learning will return before the end of the school year.
- KDVR in Colorado reports that some districts in the state have already brought students back to the classroom. Many districts support hybrid models that either stagger in-person student attendance (for instance, Monday/Wednesday for half of students and Tuesday/Thursday for the remaining half) or bring students back to classrooms in phases (such as elementary students returning one week and high school the following week). Some districts combine staggering and phases, and most appear to plan for a combination of virtual and on-site instruction for the foreseeable future.
- Proposals in California, reports Calmatters, suggest that some students may return to schools in late January and early February. It prioritizes the youngest and most vulnerable children as those who would return first; then other populations are expected to follow in subsequent weeks.
- Fox19 explains that Ohio governor Mike DeWine hopes all children in the state can return to full in-person learning by March 1. Meanwhile, KYMA reports that school districts in Arizona are proceeding with distance learning for the first couple weeks of January and will reassess that strategy in county school board meetings throughout the month.
Mixed Approaches to Education, and VirtualPBX’s Response
What’s clear from the approaches of all school districts is that they value the health and safety of students and teachers above all else. Teachers are also clear about their need for resources for remote learning as they show hesitation to begin in-person learning, in full, while COVID-19 cases have hit their highest daily totals since the pandemic began.
VirtualPBX’s work with CLS shows a similar pattern at the level of education administration. CLS works with school boards throughout California and the U.S. to coach teachers and develop curricula, and it has been that organization’s plan to listen to the needs of individual school boards as they work with those educators. This includes concerns about COVID-19.
Nearly all the staff members at CLS work from a different location because they visit a range of school districts. VirtualPBX allows callers to reach those individual staff members as they work from any location, and it helps CLS remain flexible as the needs of its own staff and its clients change. Employees have the option to use their extensions to accept inbound calls, and they can complete outbound calls just as easily to complete appointments and match the schedules of school boards in their areas.
New VirtualPBX Features for Remote Work
We accomplished a lot in 2020. It was a big year for new features and product releases, including:
- Video Conferencing
- Business SMS
- Multiple Auto Attendants
- Zapier Integration
Both Video Conferencing and Business SMS, in particular, were given priority not just because of wide-ranging appeal, but because they make great additions to the communications capabilities of any company that has remote workers.
Our Video Conferencing feature works as a direct replacement for established competition like Google Meet and Zoom, and our Business SMS feature gives employees the opportunity to keep in touch with brief messages, which are often all that’s needed to report a status or get a co-worker’s attention.
Not all companies will have a need for all our new features, but those that do, especially those that are working remotely, will find a lot of utility in these capabilities.
Flexible Work in a Changing World
It makes sense that a world experiencing considerable, rapid change requires a communications system capable of supporting those changes. We do our best to assist educators by providing them and their supporting businesses with resources for remote learning and remote engagement.
Not all school district have the same plans in place for resuming traditional learning. Virtual classrooms will continue in most places at least into spring. This means that companies like CLS will have a lot on their plate for handling a variety of shifting education concerns and handling tasks as simple as in-person meetings with the sensitivity that those situations require.
Business phone plans help keep organizations connected so they can address these issues. We hope our assistance helps educators stay on track and school systems remain safe to keep children learning both inside and outside the classroom.