- Virtual phone numbers use the internet to receive and divert calls to any device you want, all via the same phone number.
- The cost of a virtual phone number varies depending on a variety of factors such as the volume of calls received, location, plan length and type, but tend to be more affordable for businesses than traditional landlines.
- These are extremely beneficial for companies who have remote employees or those who are working out in the field.
Virtual phone numbers do not rely on traditional phone lines and are not tied to a single device. These numbers can be used to receive calls anywhere, using any device that’s equipped with the necessary software. This could be a cell phone, traditional phone line, or a VoIP-based system (Voice over Internet Protocol).
Virtual phone numbers are most often used to divert calls from one number to another number, IP address or device. This allows people to accept work-related calls on a personal device, while still using their business number and without being tied to a location. The person making the call will not be aware that they’re using a virtual phone line.
How does a virtual phone number work?
While landline phones and cellphones rely on physical infrastructure, virtual phone numbers operate via the internet. Users can elect one or more alternative numbers or devices, to which phone calls will be forwarded to. This makes it possible to pick and choose where you receive calls and at what time, without callers needing to try calling different numbers.
Businesses of all sizes may benefit from using a virtual phone system. Here are some of the main advantages them:
1. Never miss a call
Setting calls to divert to your cellphone or laptop means you’ll never miss a business call and can ensure that clients or coworkers can always get ahold of you. Since multiple numbers can be added to the system, you can also set up calls to divert to a different employee if somebody is out sick or on holiday.
2. Save money
Depending on the size of your business, virtual phone lines are often far more affordable than traditional phone networks. Significant phone bill savings can be had by switching to a virtual system. Pricing is extremely competitive, as the market is crowded with virtual phone line providers to choose from.
3. Work anywhere
Virtual phone numbers allow you to take business calls anywhere with a reliable internet connection. This means you can work at home, in a café, library, at a client’s office, or anywhere off site, while still accepting business calls via the same number. Given how prevalent remote working has become, this is an enormous advantage.
Virtual phone lines can help businesses create or maintain a professional image, as all incoming calls can be managed via a single company number associated. This makes things easier for clients, customers, suppliers, vendors, and anybody else making contact via the line, as they won’t need to remember multiple numbers. It also means your customer calls will never be left unanswered, and you won’t end up with half a dozen phone messages every time you step away from your desk.
5. Multiple numbers with a single connection
Depending on your budget and requirements, you have the option to add multiple phone numbers to your virtual phone system. This can be useful for SMEs and larger businesses with multiple departments, sites or service offerings, who do not want all phone inquiries coming through to the same device.
6. Customizable plans
Virtual phone systems are highly customizable. You’ll be able to choose from a range of options, features and services that can be personalized to suit your business needs. Many of the following features are offered as standard with VoIP systems:
- Video conference calling
- Interactive voice response (IVR)
- Auto callbacks
- Call queuing
- Business SMS
- Call recording
- Business phone analytics
- Visual voicemail
- Call management features (blocking, do not disturb, call transfer, custom greetings and hold music)
Are there any disadvantages to virtual phone numbers?
The advantages of having a virtual phone number considerably outweigh the disadvantages, though there are several potential downsides to be aware of. One of the biggest concerns, which can apply to any business, is the degradation of boundaries between work and personal life. This is perhaps more of an issue for very small businesses, or those run by one person. Being able to take a call at any time outside business hours or while out of the office can affect work-life balance and eventually lead to burnout. However, this can be mitigated by disabling call forwarding outside work hours or on your day off.
Another possible downside is inconsistent call quality. As virtual phone lines are internet-based, they require a strong internet connection. This could become a problem if you or your employees need to take calls in remote, low signal areas. To avoid any unwelcome disruption to call reliability or quality, it’s advisable to choose a provider with an efficient and readily available customer service department.
Who should have a virtual phone number?
Though there is still a place for traditional on-site landlines, most businesses can improve operations and reduce costs by switching to a virtual phone system. However, businesses in the following industries may find virtual phone lines especially advantageous:
How much does it cost to get a virtual phone line?
The cost of getting a virtual phone line varies significantly based on which provider, plan and features you choose. The size of your operation will also have an impact. Here are some of the variables that can affect cost:
- The volume of calls you receive
- The caller’s location
- Add on features
- The type of virtual number
- The length of your plan (rolling monthly contracts are likely to be more expensive than 12 or 24-month contracts)
Types of virtual phone numbers
There are two main types of virtual phone number:
Local virtual numbers
These are also known as Direct Inward Dialing (DID) numbers. They can be used to re-direct calls to any location around the world. However, the number itself is linked to a specific location (I.e., it follows the same format as other local numbers). Local virtual numbers work well for businesses who wish to be associated with a specific area, no matter where the call is being taken.
Toll-free virtual numbers
In the United States, toll-free virtual numbers let callers connect with a business without being charged. North American toll-free numbers start with 833, 844, 855, 966, 877, or 888. You may also be able to pay extra for an original 800 number, if your provider offers this service. Toll-free virtual numbers work well for large corporations with busy customer service departments, as they can increase customer satisfaction by making incoming calls free.
How to get a virtual phone number
If you’re looking to make the switch to a virtual phone line, there are dozens of reputable providers to choose from. One review of top VoIP companies names the following providers as the best of the bunch:
- VirtualPhone.com – voted the best for global companies
- Grasshopper – voted the best for small teams and solo businesspeople
- Google Voice – voted best for integration with Google Workspace
- GoToConnect – voted best for automotive companies
- Nextiva – voted the best all-round provider
As with any new business service, shopping around and comparing quotes from multiple companies is the key to getting the best deal.