A phone call is often the first interaction a customer will have with your business. If you’re still using your personal phone number to run your business, you’re running the risks of bad first impressions and missed opportunities. To project the image of a professional, well-run company, you need a scalable business phone system that keeps you and your employees connected wherever you are, and delivers powerful features like auto attendant, call routing, and call analytics.
Today’s business phone system providers offer a broad range of features and functionality that are accessible to everyone from solo entrepreneurs to companies that employ workers across multiple locations. We’ve created this guide to help you understand the various types of solutions and find the best business phone provider for your needs.
Broadly speaking, most business telephone service providers fit in one of two groups: traditional providers and virtual providers. We’ve highlighted some of the pros and cons of each type to help you decide which one is the right choice for your business.
Regarding traditional phone, there are many regional and local traditional phone service providers that can meet the needs of small and mid-sized businesses, with options that range from a single phone line with voicemail and caller ID to advanced systems offering features like multiple extensions, conference calling, call forwarding, and more.
Traditional phone service providers offer familiar handsets and reliable connections; however, these systems use dedicated hardware and are expensive to set up and maintain. Additionally, in today’s fast paced, hyperconnected workforce, traditional phone providers just don’t offer the portability and flexibility that modern businesses need.
Intro to Virtual Phone Systems
Virtual phone systems, also referred to as cloud phone systems or cloud-based phone systems, enable you to make and receive business calls on your smartphone with a virtual phone number. Because a virtual phone number is not attached to a piece of hardware, this solution offers unmatched mobility and flexibility at a price that can’t be beat.
Virtual phone systems are a great way to separate business calls from personal calls, and come loaded with professional features like auto attendant and virtual voicemail. With more and more companies relying on remote workers, virtual phone systems are a great way to keep teams connected, whether they’re in the same city or across the country.
What is a Virtual Phone Number?
A virtual phone number is essentially an extra phone line that’s added to an existing phone that you already have. You can access a second number and all the features that come with that — including voicemail and more — from your current phone without having to buy another one. This saves you a second payment plan and keeps you from scrambling to make sure you have not one but two sets of equipment on you at all times.
Virtual business numbers allow you to take and make calls with a separate phone number, keeping your personal phone number private. Virtual phone systems like Tresta will also give you additional features, like the ability to text and record calls. It really is as if someone is calling a completely different phone, but it’s much more affordable and convenient for the business owner.
Benefits of a Virtual Phone System
With a virtual phone number, you can ensure that somebody on your team is always available to pick up when a customer or client calls, no matter where your team is – working remotely, on the road for business, or in the office. You’ll also find that virtual phone systems offer advanced organizational features like the ability to create groups that can call and accept calls, text and receive texts that all come in on the same business phone line – plus extensions, shared voicemail boxes, and more. Here are some of the other benefits of virtual phone:
Boost Your Businesses Credibility
If you’re using your personal phone number for all incoming calls, how will you answer the phone? Will you automatically say “Hey, it’s Joe,” or are you going to answer every call with “Sanford Law & Legal, this is Joseph” instead?
Even for a team of one, having a dedicated personal phone number and a dedicated business phone number allows you to always make a great impression on potential customers the second you answer the call.
Having a phone number specifically for your business will help you seem more credible and established, and it’s essential to remember that customer perception is so crucial in acquiring and retaining clients.
Having a separate phone number for your business shows that you’re taking it seriously and that you’re treating it like an actual business. Clients respect this, as they’re naturally more hesitant to work with small businesses who don’t quite seem to have their act together.
Call Forwarding & Advanced Routing Capabilities Included
Many traditional phone service providers will charge you for advanced features, but with a virtual phone system for your business, you can ensure that your customer’s needs are met sooner and more efficiently, which is a win-win for everyone.
With a virtual phone system like Tresta, you can also set up auto-attendants, call recording, extensions, and even texting. These features are exceptionally useful for businesses of all sizes – and as you scale, these features will be even more useful.
Set Up Custom Greetings and Business Voicemails
Again, you don’t want someone to call a virtual number for your business and get your personal voicemail. Take things a step further and help your business make a powerful first impression with small details like custom greetings. It will make it easier for new customers to trust your business as one they can count on. With Tresta, we offer *free* professional voice talent to help you set up your custom greetings – or you can upload greetings yourself into the Tresta web app.
With More Flexibility, You Can More Easily Scale Your Business
Some businesses start out as a one-man show, or pretty close to it. You might only need one phone number, which can then be re-routed to other team members as needed.
When you start to scale, however, it can be an enormous pain if you didn’t build the right foundation for your business phone with a separate business number. It won’t just be you taking calls, after all, and you may need to have a main phone number that people call for the business itself instead of reaching you directly.
You want to start off on the right foot now, giving everyone the right number upfront so they’re calling it from the beginning. As your business grows, you can add in more advanced business call routing and auto-attendants. It can be exhausting trying to convert a long list of clients from one phone number to another, so if you have any plans to scale your business down the road, you want to set up a separate number now.
Your Business Phone Number Can Be a Branding Opportunity
Branding your business phone will ensure that customers have a completely cohesive experience from the second they dial you to the moment they hang up – and beyond. With a virtual phone system like Tresta, you can easily set up toll-free or vanity numbers.
You can also weave your business’ branding into custom greetings, thanking customers for calling your business and using your company’s tagline in voicemail greetings. These types of tactics will help your company reinforce a clear tone and voice to help customers remember you, way past the initial phone interaction.
This is another step in helping your business look established, and since the details matter, you don’t want to neglect them.
Virtual Business Phone is Safer & More Secure
Giving out your personal phone number can actually be a security risk. It’s not as bad as someone having your physical address, but do you want irate, irrational customers to be able to reach your personal number whenever they want?
It’s significantly more secure for you personally (and for your staff) if you’re using business numbers instead of handing out personal phone numbers. Think about how often you may hand out business cards; do you really want to be giving all those people your personal number?
There’s always a chance that someone could end up harassing you or another member of your staff, so it’s best to have those healthy boundaries in place. While it’s unlikely, you want everyone to stay safe.
In addition to safety concerns, you’ll benefit from secure connections and encrypted call recording. For your company and for your callers, data security is a major plus when it comes to virtual phone systems.
There’s No Equipment Cost, and No Contract
With a virtual phone system, you’re basically just adding a line to the smartphone you already carry for personal use. This gives you the ability to simply equip your team with an app that’s easy to install and set up, rather than purchasing pricey desk phones and dealing with physical installation and networking.
Plus, with a tool like Tresta, you’re able to start with no contract or commitment. Start with a 30 day free trial. Billing is month to month, you can cancel any time. Tresta isn’t a conventional phone line, so we won’t hold you to any expensive, hard-to-get-out-of contracts.
How Do Virtual Phone Systems Work?
If this all sounds a little complicated, don’t worry — it’s easier than you’d think!
Start by downloading Tresta’s mobile app, which is available for iPhone and Android devices. All you need to do is keep this app on your phone, and through it you can make and accept unlimited calls and text messages.
You can check your voicemails here, view call history and details, and access call recordings at any time. You’ll also always know which number someone is calling, so you won’t pick up the phone at 1AM worried it’s a family emergency only to have an angry customer on the line. Since you can set schedules for the virtual phone number, this could be prevented entirely, keeping that call from reaching you directly.
When you set up your virtual business number with Tresta, you have the option to choose from a local number that matches the location of your business or a toll-free number, giving you full control over the impression you want to make.
Is Your Business Ready for a Cloud-Based Phone System?
Of the 27.9 million small businesses in the United States, just over three-fourths of them have zero employees. That may sound weird – but that means nearly 21 million people owning and operating a business on their own.
For someone running a business on their own, it makes perfect sense to use your mobile phone as your business phone. There’s no need to add devices or pay another provider for service if your smartphone already meets the needs for your business.
However, using your own device has drawbacks. Namely, the privacy issues associated with putting your personal phone number out there when advertising your business. Not to mention, using a personal number for your business may come off as unprofessional to potential clients.
For businesses comprised of small teams, a virtual phone system is the perfect solution. Here’s why:
- Cloud phones are extremely affordable – perfect for the business with a tight budget;
- They provide the freedom to work on your existing devices and require no additional hardware;
- The included features make communication and collaboration within a team a breeze.
The question inevitably presents itself: Is my business too small for a virtual phone system? If you’re the only member of your business, the answer will essentially boil down to the image you want your business to carry. Though not strictly essential, a virtual phone system makes your business look more professional and includes tools that help you grow.
If either of those things sound like they could benefit your business, it isn’t too small.
How to Choose a Business Phone Provider
With so many providers and solutions on the market, which should you choose? Let’s look at some of the key considerations.
Every business phone service comes with a variety of features. Before signing up for any solution, it’s important to know what you’re getting. Most traditional phone providers offer tiered feature packages or bundles with different combinations of features to meet the needs of small, mid-sized, and large companies. If you outgrow your plan, you need to upgrade to the next, more expensive package to accommodate your larger workforce. Virtual phone system providers usually charge a flat monthly fee that provides you with all of the features you need to run your business.
You’ll want to look for key features like auto attendant, which ensures your inbound calls are always received, even if your staff is busy or the call comes in during off hours. Custom messaging and call menus keep callers engaged and prevent hangups. And because you may not always be in the office, call forwarding sends calls to another phone number so you won’t have to worry about missed calls while you’re away.
Pick Whether You Want A Toll-Free or Local Number
There are pros and cons of both toll-free and local numbers, so think about what works for you.
Toll-free numbers can help you look established, giving you a nice boost of credibility, and are a great choice for businesses who are expanding beyond a small geographic region.
Local numbers, on the other hand, are strong choices for small, local businesses who have strong connections to their communities and plan to stay there.
This decision will be a predominantly visual one, and you should choose the option that works best to solidify how you want potential customers to see your brand. Once you know what you want, you can choose a provider who offers that specific type of number.
Fun fact: Here at Tresta, we offer both!
Choose If You Want to Go for Vanity Numbers
Some carriers will let you choose the number that you want, as long as it’s available. (And if you already have a number that you want to stay with, they’ll let you port it to their service). This includes vanity numbers, like “1-800-YES-HONDA” and “1-800-WATCH-TV.”
These are carefully chosen by brands who want customers to remember their numbers without a hitch. In many cases, of course, people may still forget the exact combination, but it’s a big bonus towards branding and it can help the number be more memorable. It will also help you to stand out in a search engine or directory.
Not all brands want vanity numbers, however, and it’s good to remember that you don’t need a clever slogan for your digits to be memorable. And with the advancement of technology, most people will save your number in their phones if they need it regularly, and single-click-to-call mobile optimization options can make it easy work for customers to call you in an instant.
Your phone system must be able to accommodate your budget along with the demands of your business. Traditional phone service providers don’t typically make their pricing accessible. You may need to contact them directly for a price quote and speak with a sales representative who will often try to sell you an expensive business phone system. These vendors may also require you to sign a contract and pay installation costs, and could charge early termination fees if you later decide to change providers.
By contrast, virtual phone system providers are usually transparent about their pricing, with costs clearly stated on their websites so you know exactly what you’ll be paying. Prices of virtual systems can vary by provider, the number of users, and how many features you want to access, but they are significantly cheaper than traditional solutions. Since a virtual solution is cloud-based, you avoid large installation or set-up costs, and you can usually change providers without a penalty.
Now that you have a good idea of the types of features you want from your phone system, and how much you’re willing to budget, there are just a few more factors to consider. Here are a couple more considerations to think about before you make your decision.
- Number of lines/extensions available/cost—Does the solution make it easy and cost effective to add lines and extensions as your business grows?
- Ease of use—Is the system user-friendly enough to set up and customize without an IT team?
- Customer service—Does the provider offer 24/7 support through chat, phone, or email so you can get help whenever you need it, even outside traditional business hours?
Find a Provider That Can Give You What You Need
At this point, you’ve got a list of the services and features that you know you need so that you can best serve your customers as you scale your business. It’s important to find a provider who can give you everything that you need, because while you can convert to another carrier later, it’s easier to find the right one up front.
Compare providers based on the features they offer and their pricing. It’s also a good idea to check for customer reviews for each provider to ensure that you’ll truly be in good hands.
Choosing a business phone provider can be one of the most effective ways to build a professional image for your small business. If you’re thinking about switching vendors, you need to carefully evaluate each providers’ features and pricing.
If you’re still undecided, sign up for a 30-day risk-free trial with Tresta and see for yourself how the right virtual phone system can transform your business.