Maintain Your Business (Not Your PBX) with Quality Virtual Phone Systems

Maintain Your Business (Not Your PBX) with Quality Virtual Phone Systems
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Maintain Your Business (Not Your PBX) with Quality Virtual Phone Systems

In every business, there is the potential for new technology to usurp the old in terms of cost, functionality, and efficiency. It’s important to keep a close eye on the trends so that you might discern which are worth investing in compared to those which need to further mature. Phone systems have long been a staple of office-based business, but they can be costly to install, maintain and upgrade without necessarily generating a worthwhile ROI. Technology, in this instance, has surpassed the need for a hardware-based system altogether by way of a Virtual Phone System. The benefits are clear.

In years past, Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems, the private telephone networks used within the companies, were cost prohibitive to any but the largest of businesses. As the cost of implementation has become cheaper, smaller businesses have started to use them as well, but they are still hardly cheap. When you factor in the cost of the hardware, features and installation, the average PBX system can cost $1,000 dollars per employee. As the cost is affected by the quantity of devices, a smaller business with less than 100 employees would likely pay even more.

What’s in a Virtual Phone System?

A Virtual Phone System includes a wide array of features, lines, and extensions at a fraction of the cost. Such services operate within an existing infrastructure that essentially gives you numbers specific to your business that can be linked to any existing phone system within your business, including cell phones, by way of call forwarding. A company wide system can save you tens of thousands in overhead cost, just from the initial installation alone. This doesn’t even take into account the total cost of ownership which includes the added cost of upgrading or the hidden cost of downgrading.

Changes to the size of your system, including both quantity and quality, as well as the doubling of your installation costs during a relocation or expansion to a new building, can set you back thousands of dollars, and that only with respect to your phone system.

In every business, there is the potential for new technology to usurp the old in terms of cost, functionality, and efficiency. It’s important to keep a close eye on the trends so that you might discern which are worth investing in compared to those which need to further mature. Phone systems have long been a staple of office-based business, but they can be costly to install, maintain and upgrade without necessarily generating a worthwhile ROI. Technology, in this instance, has surpassed the need for a hardware-based system altogether by way of a Virtual Phone System. The benefits are clear.  In years past, Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems, the private telephone networks used within the companies, were cost prohibitive to any but the largest of businesses. As the cost of implementation has become cheaper, smaller businesses have started to use them as well, but they are still hardly cheap. When you factor in the cost of the hardware, features and installation, the average PBX system can cost $1,000 dollars per employee. As the cost is affected by the quantity of devices, a smaller business with less than 100 employees would likely pay even more.  What’s in a Virtual Phone System?  A Virtual Phone System includes a wide array of features, lines, and extensions at a fraction of the cost. Such services operate within an existing infrastructure that essentially gives you numbers specific to your business that can be linked to any existing phone system within your business, including cell phones, by way of call forwarding. A company wide system can save you tens of thousands in overhead cost, just from the initial installation alone. This doesn’t even take into account the total cost of ownership which includes the added cost of upgrading or the hidden cost of downgrading.  Changes to the size of your system, including both quantity and quality, as well as the doubling of your installation costs during a relocation or expansion to a new building, can set you back thousands of dollars, and that only with respect to your phone system.  Inherent to a virtual system is the lack of upgrade/downgrade costs or hassle. As the entire hardware side of the system is handled by your provider, it’s not something that even has to factor into your budget. If you expand and require additional lines, it may not cost you anything if you’re still within the hundreds of lines often included in a normal virtual phone package. If you need to purchase more, it’s still a drop in the bucket of your telecommunications budget when you compare it to the traditional cost of upgrading a PBX system.  PBX systems usually require a specific type of compatible phone hardware, which can be expensive when considering each employee requires the same hardware setup. Virtual Phone Systems are compatible with any SIP phones, in addition to the call forwarding feature.  Good for Business  The byproduct of a reduced cost to expansion is an increase to scalability. A reduction in expenses allows not only for a wider profit margin, but the also the ability to readily expand without affecting the existing bottom line. Consider the minimal cost required to upgrade and expand a virtual phone system versus the prohibitive cost of a PBX system, add to that the increased customer volume possible with a larger system and you can easily see how quickly your scalable margin would increase. Your fixed costs will shrink dramatically while your growth will open up exponentially.

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Inherent to a virtual system is the lack of upgrade/downgrade costs or hassle. As the entire hardware side of the system is handled by your provider, it’s not something that even has to factor into your budget. If you expand and require additional lines, it may not cost you anything if you’re still within the hundreds of lines often included in a normal virtual phone package. If you need to purchase more, it’s still a drop in the bucket of your telecommunications budget when you compare it to the traditional cost of upgrading a PBX system.

PBX systems usually require a specific type of compatible phone hardware, which can be expensive when considering each employee requires the same hardware setup. Virtual Phone Systems are compatible with any SIP phones, in addition to the call forwarding feature.

Good for Business

The byproduct of a reduced cost to expansion is an increase to scalability. A reduction in expenses allows not only for a wider profit margin, but the also the ability to readily expand without affecting the existing bottom line. Consider the minimal cost required to upgrade and expand a virtual phone system versus the prohibitive cost of a PBX system, add to that the increased customer volume possible with a larger system and you can easily see how quickly your scalable margin would increase. Your fixed costs will shrink dramatically while your growth will open up exponentially.

4 Big Ways a Virtual Phone Service for Small Businesses Can Boost Overall Success

4 Big Ways a Virtual Phone Service for Small Businesses Can Boost Overall Success
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Saving money wherever possible and squeezing every drop of efficiency out of every dollar spent is the perpetual charge of the small-business owner. Telephone networks provide an excellent opportunity to do just that. A virtual phone service can not only save money, but can improve efficiency and dramatically reduce the need for staff, which would otherwise be required to answer and route incoming calls.

Virtual Phone Service

There are an endless stream of providers that offer virtual phone service with a range of different price structures, features and options — and they will all be happy to tell you why their service is the the best. The general function of them all, however, is the same. Virtual phone numbers — also known as direct inward dialing, or DID — automatically route incoming calls to a predetermined number or numbers. The service works with fixed landlines, Internet-based VoIP networks and mobile phones.

Go Toll Free

Virtual numbers give small businesses the chance to puff out their chests and appear larger and more sophisticated than they really are. By linking the virtual phone service to a toll-free number, businesses can achieve the polished credibility that comes with an 800 number. Taking it a step further, a toll-free vanity number is not only easy to remember and more likely to be dialed, but helps with branding and marketing.

Save on Hardware, Software and Staffing

Not only is the service software-based and remotely hosted, but businesses that subscribe to virtual phone numbers can link the service to their existing phones. This means there is no investment in either hardware or software. The subscription fee is the only fee. Once you get a virtual phone number, any calls placed to that number are automatically routed to the number or numbers chosen by the subscribing business. This central feature — routing calls to avoid having customers reach a busy signal or a recorded message — saves money on something that has long been prohibitive to small businesses: Building and staffing call centers.

Give Your Business Mobility and Flexibility

A virtual phone number is like a virtual receptionist that can answer and route calls — even to your mobile phone. If your business has closed for the evening, or if you’re a sole proprietor who works in the field, any call to your business will come to the phone you carry in your pocket. If you’re in a meeting, the service can forward your calls to a capable subordinate. If you close for the evening, calls can be routed to the landline at your house. A virtual number allows customer calls to go wherever you go.

Micro-Schedule with Time-of-Day Routing

Time-of-Day routing is an advanced feature that adds even more flexibility to a virtual phone service. Essential to companies that do business across time zones, time-of-day routing allows even more precision in scheduling. Calls can be routed to different numbers at specific times of day, or specific days of the week. If your office is on 4 Big Ways a Virtual Phone Service for Small Businesses Can Boost Overall Successthe East coast, and your business closes at 5pm, calls can be routed to a reception center in California until 8. If you’re closed on Sundays, calls can be routed to your mobile on that day, and that day only.

Virtual phone numbers give even the smallest businesses access to comprehensive communications networks that were — until recently — reserved for only the biggest and most sophisticated companies. Virtual numbers can be linked to both local numbers and toll-free numbers, and are routed without the customer knowing their call is being bounced to a different location. Small businesses must always search for ways to reduce cost and streamline operations. One of the first and best places to do both is with a virtual number.

Free Phone Call Routing for iPhone and Android

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Free phone call routing to iPhone and Android smartphones can be a handy tool for on-the-go workers, forwarding incoming business calls straight to any designated mobile device and keeping customer service optimal at all times. To activate call routing on your iPhone or Android, just use the following instructions:

How to Activate Call Forwarding

How you set up your call forwarding will vary depending upon your telecom provider. If your business has an advanced call forwarding or virtual PBX service, you can program call forwarding to designated phones through your online control center. To get started, just log on to your call forwarding control center, navigate to your phone line management section, and add the mobile line that you want to forward calls to. With advanced call forwarding, you can even schedule time/date forwarding activation and forward internationally at no extra cost. Advanced call forwarding users can also enjoy the benefits of failover routing, which forwards incoming calls to external lines in the event that primary lines are busy or disabled.

To forward calls to your iPhone or Android through your regular telecom provider, dial *73 on your business phone, wait until you hear the dial tone, and then enter the number that you want your calls to be forwarded to. Press the pound key (#) after entering your number, and forwarding will be activated. To deactivate, dial *73. Forwarding can be activated and deactivated as needed.

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iPhone Versus Android for Business

If you are a business owner whose services frequently require employee travel or fieldwork, providing employees with mobile business phones through call forwarding can help to dramatically improve customer service and business relations. iPhone and Android phones are both top choices for small-midsize businesses, but which one is right for your business?

  • iPhones for Business: iPhones and Androids are fairly close in their capabilities, with most reviewers concluding that the two providers offer equally effective devices. For business purposes, there are some small advantages to each. Some employers prefer Apple to Android devices because of the iPhone’s security advantages. iPhones have long been famous for their impenetrability, a major advantage for businesses with privacy concerns. iPhones can also claim a lower malfunction rate than Androids, and Apple offers incomparable user support

  • Androids for Business: Androids edge iPhones out in both screen size and battery life, factors to consider for businesses with remote employees or international business relations. VoIP video calling is preferable free phone call routingon Android devices because of the increased screen size, and a long battery life is particularly indispensable for on-the-road users.

Forwarding from iPhone and Android Devices

In addition to having the ability to receive forwarded calls, both Apple and Android phones can forward incoming calls. Incoming call forwarding can be activated directly through the “settings” menu on both devices. Many on-the-go workers utilize the ability shared by Android and Apple smartphones to forward calls only if the phone in question is busy or turned off–enabling clients who are trying to contact a specific employee to redirect concerns if necessary. There are even some handy apps available for smartphone users that offer SMS, email and external forwarding.

 

The Dos and Don’ts of Virtual Phone Forwarding

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A virtual or hosted PBX has some pretty unique features, which is why they have become the ideal telecom solution for a wide variety of business recently. In addition to a number of robust enhancements of call forwarding, however, there are some things not to do.

The term “Call forwarding” tends to conjure a plain, bland meaning to most that have been using it for years. For decades this meant simply dialing *72 and the forwarding number before leaving for the day, and that was considered “advanced.” At one time, cave drawings were also “advanced.”

Ok, so it’s not that archaic, but there’s significantly more capability with a virtual phone number.

  • Follow-Me will allow your desk phone (or whichever phone you designate) to ring first; if not answered after a pre-determined amount of rings, it will transfer to a second number. Still no answer, then a third number, and so forth. There are two things to keep in mind, however. Most people will hang up after about the sixth ring, so don’t get too carried away here. Moreover, there’s a maximum amount of numbers in this chain.
  • Simultaneous ring may save a sale or two for you as well. This allows a phone number to ring your desk and up to two more numbers (cell phone and a warehouse phone, for instance) simultaneously. This is especially great for those who travel frequently, or who are in and out of the office.

  • Hunt Groups alone justify the switch to a virtual phone service. Hunt groups allow a user to configure incoming calls to a wide variety of sequences. Businesses can make all of the phones ring at once, or ring in a particular order if not answered (e.g. secretary first, then assistant, HR manager, and finally, the owner). Phones can ring in numerical order (1-800-555-0001, -0002, and 0003) or on the line that’s been the least used (longest idle).

  • International lines lend certain legitimacy to a business. While it’s impressive on a letterhead, it’s also incredibly pragmatic if a business makes calls overseas, or offers a product sold internationally. While the number might originate in your Chicago or L.A. office, those receiving the call in Australia or London see a local number. Reciprocally, they can call a local number in Beijing which makes your Salt Lake City office ring.

  • National numbers are equally powerful. A New Jersey resident probably can’t tell you the area code of Idaho – making them unlikely to pick the phone up, if that’s where the call originates. A company based in Birmingham, AL, however, can adopt an area code for Seattle. This is not possible with PSTN numbers.

  • VoIP by itself adds a host of benefits. Scalability, affordability, higher call quality, and security all make VoIP a beneficial product for any business. It also increases network efficiency as well as a host of other benefits.

The Do’s and Don’t of Virtual Phone Forwarding

While this isn’t a fully comprehensive list, it is fairly encompassing. So, what not to do…

  • Create an absurdly complicated call path. There are great forwarding tools to use; however, creating a figure 8 call path when a metaphorical oval would suffice creates unnecessary problems.

  • Spoof – misleading/manipulative use of a number that isn’t assigned to you. Spoofing is highly illegal. This really doesn’t need further explanation.

  • Use it as a complete replacement for all phone numbers. Virtual numbers will not satisfy every possible necessity for phone needs. Alarm systems, elevator emergency phones and older credit card machines often require a physical POTS line (or analog line). Some fax machines require POTS as well, although increasingly, fax machines are being built with VoIP integration.

All things considered, virtual phone numbers and virtual forwarding have had a major impact on the telephony industry. It allows businesses flexibility and offers a solution to very common problems that many businesses face. While it doesn’t work in every possible solution, the vast majority of companies have switched to virtual forwarding due to its versatility to meet so many demands.

What has your experience been? Comment below and let us know what your favorite feature is.

 

Resources for Launching A Business: VoIP Phone Service Reviews

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As the first quarter of 2014 nears an end, one clear pattern is emerging among the leading business VoIP providers: They are all hosted services. With the irresistible lure of infrastructure-free telephony, the cloud-computing revolution has engulfed the upper echelons of business VoIP.

Voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, began gobbling up huge portions of the business-calling market as soon as bandwidth speeds grew enough for service to be reliable and for calls to be clear. Now, integrated media and a laundry list of free features are expected as standard — even at entry level. Businesses looking to cut the cord and establish integrated, digital communications at a fraction of the cost have plenty of options — and providers are scrambling to be innovative enough to stand out. Here is a glimpse at the leading business VoIP providers — and what is being said about them.

Nextiva

Nextiva was rated the top 2014 business VoIP service by Software Advice managing editor Craig Borrowski, who compiled a list of nine the most elite. Nextiva is designed for mid-size businesses, and boasts a “Product of the Year” award by Internet Telephony magazine for four of the last four years.

Nextiva was also recommended by The Digest as a top mobile VoIP solution for businesses with roaming employees because of its “great virtual PBX system”. Nextiva’s cloud phone system starts at $19.95 per seat, and they can arrange a hosted call center, as well provide expandable PBX trunks.

Their unified communications package is all inclusive, and requires just one line. There is no upgrade fee, and they provide business continuity in the case of disaster recovery. Among their 80,000 customers are corporate behemoths such as Burger King, IBM, Allstate, Target and Delta.

RingCentral

Although it often provides VoIP telephony for smaller businesses, RingCentral recently released a case study chronicling its relationship with Jackson Hewitt, the second-largest tax preparer in the world. Jackson Hewitt provides local, state and federal tax services for millions of people in a very short window of time during the brief, but frantic, tax season.

This process required Jackson Hewitt to establish a telephone structure that was only intended for temporary use. Their offices were often vacant for the rest of the year or only existed temporarily in fixed retailers such as Sears and WalMart. They were attracted by RingCentral’s cloud-based VoIP, which requires no PBX infrastructure at individual branches.

RingCentral’s monthly plans start at $24.99 a month (1,000 minutes) and increase depending on how many toll-free minutes the business requires. Although a company’s market rating isn’t necessarily an indicator of customer satisfaction, it is worth noting that a group of analysts tracking the company recently gave RingCentral’s stock a “buy” rating to investors.

ViaTalk

Giving the company four stars out of five, Consumer Rankings rated ViaTalk as the second-best business VoIP provider overall, and ranked it number one for small-to-midsize businesses. ViaTalk has a two-line feature that allows two phone calls to be executed at the same time with only one number.

Aside from an all-inclusive features package, ViaTalk can record all conversations, even on the go. ViaTalk has three business calling plans. The first one comes with 1,500 monthly minutes for $34.95. The other two plans both cost $42.95, with little difference other than hardware. One plan provides a device, and the other is BYOD.

Consumer Rankings tested ViaTalk on cell phones, landlines and other VoIP phones, and reported that “the call quality proved to be excellent” in all three. Although most business VoIP providers now offer an array of features at no extra cost, Consumer Rankings considered ViaTalk’s impressive features menu as among the most comprehensive.

Jive

Jive’s small-business plan works on an escalating tier system that ranges from $19.95 per device to $29.95, depending on how many users your business will need (1-49). This 5-level pricing plan is perhaps the most versatile of the big providers. It also boasts a simple set up — all Jive phones are shipped “ready for plug and play”.

Its enterprise platform has US-based, English-speaking reps, and focuses on large, conceptual telephony features, such as conference bridging, time-based routing and business intelligence. One reviewer called Jive an “excellent choice for any company with high-volume domestic calling needs, especially for those who do not care to sign an annual contract.”

PC Mag recently touted Jive as giving small businesses “a flexible, cloud-based VoIP system with a mix of basic and advanced calling features.” Beware of one complaint that is regularly levied against Jive: External storage is required to warehouse recorded calls.

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Because most top business VoIP providers now offer a full menu of free features, there is no reason to get lured by an endless scroll of add-ons. That is why this review avoided listing features offered by each provider. Instead, providers now must be much more nuanced in their strategy, focusing instead on incentives like unique pricing plans, stellar customer service and fluidity in unified communications. Instead of shopping by features, match your business’s unique needs up with the provider that fits your size, timetable and budget.

 

Integrating Your Cisco VoiP Features with Other Service Providers

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Cisco Systems is one of the largest and best-known providers of voice-over Internet protocol — or VoIP — service and technology on the planet. Cisco either provides VoIP service or components of VoIP service to many of the world’s largest corporations, banks and governments. With recent high-profile reports exposing major flaws that left Cisco users vulnerable to eavesdropping and other security weaknesses, however, many — from households to huge corporations — are seeking an alternative to the global juggernaut. In order to compete with an international behemoth such as Cisco, however, rival VoIP providers must offer a complete menu of features.

Call Forwarding

Any competing business must provide features that replace Cisco’s routing services. Call forwarding — specifically international call forwarding — is expected to be a centerpiece of any Cisco VoIP alternative. Whether built on a private branch exchange (PBX) or session initiation protocol (SIP) framework, the ability to route and direct incoming calls can’t just be competent. It must be able to compete with Cisco’s comprehensive Unified CallManager Express. When switching from Cisco — or considering an alternative — businesses and individuals alike will have different requirements and different needs. There are, however, a few universal features related to call forwarding that should be offered by any provider you choose.

Sequential and Simultaneous Ringing

Any competitor should provide simultaneous ringing, sequential ringing or both. This sends incoming calls to a several backup numbers if the primary number is occupied or otherwise unreachable. Sequential ringing routes calls to backup lines individually, in a predetermined sequence. Simultaneous ringing sends incoming calls to all the different numbers at once, and when one line is answered, the call is no longer piped through to the others. These services are essential in reducing hold times, eliminating the possibility of a customer being forced to leave a voicemail and — perhaps most importantly — ensuring that customers never reach a busy signal.

Time and Day Routing

Time- and day-focused routing services are essential to getting around regional time-zone issues that arise with doing business internationally. Having regional call centers scattered across the globe is an endeavor reserved only for the biggest and most well-resourced corporations. For companies with budgets that aren’t endless, time-or-day scheduling allows incoming calls to be routed to different places depending on the time of day or day of week. If one call center is closed for the night, the call can be forwarded to a time zone that is still open for business. If a business is closed on Sunday, calls placed on that day can be forwarded to a special voicemail.

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Other Features

Your provider should offer international ringback tones, which provide continuity and familiarity to people used to different ring sounds in different countries. You should be able to instantly change all settings related to call forwarding and routing, activation should be instant and you shouldn’t have to pay to cancel or enter into a longterm contract. Also, you should be able to pick your own phone number, and reserve the right to add a new number or change a number at any time.

Cisco is enormous, comprehensive, global — and not suited for every business. With Internet telephony systems and VoIP technology in a constant state of evolution, shrewd entrepreneurs are always looking for an edge. One of the ways they accomplish this is by abandoning large companies such as Cisco for competitors that provide similar features with a more competitive fee structure, better customer service, or both. Cheaper services are easy to find — the key is to benefit in price without sacrificing performance.

 

Infographic: Smartphone Revolution

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Smartphones are taking over. Today’s smartphones are designed to make our lives easier–there’s an app for everything, so it’s no surprise that consumers are using their phones for just about everything, from managing finances to digesting the latest viral video. For this reason smartphone ownership has skyrocketed in recent years, to the point that iPhone sales are not outpacing human births!

One of the greatest aspects of smartphones is how they have completely transformed the way we connect and interact. With the touch of a finger you can access information on almost anything, connect with people across the globe–and make purchases instantly.

Is your business utilizing the power that smartphones have over the public? If you haven’t already, you need to be thinking about how you can include mobile into your marketing strategy. If you haven’t already, you’re already behind the times. This infographic will tell you just how much smartphones have integrated into the way we shop–and why there’s no turning back.

SmartphoneRevolution

Clear Out the Clutter: Building a Virtual Workspace with Internet Telephony

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Recent advances in communication technologies are helping to create paperless work environments in businesses across the country. Virtual management tools such as cloud storage, file sharing, and hosted telecommunications systems can be used by management consultants to great effect, creating cleaner and more efficient workspaces.

Businesses making the switch to virtual workspaces often use some or all of the following technologies to help reduce clutter and streamline company management:

  • Management software: Developments in business management software have enabled business operations specialists to complete almost all management functions paperlessly. Programs like Microsoft Dynamics offer marketing innovation analytics tools, accounting and tax preparation functions, and automated project management. When combined with virtualization and cloud technology, permanent, disaster-safe storage of all the data associated with these management processes can be achieved.

  • Virtualization: Virtualization is a method of small-large scale hardware reduction, wherein one host server can be used to run multiple operating systems. Virtualization is the technology behind cloud computing, but is also a separate entity. Virtualization reduces management, maintenance and hardware obligations, lowering IT costs by up to 50%. Whether virtualization is right for your business depends upon  IT server and processing speed demands, and business size. For businesses that require multiple operating systems, virtualization is ideal. For companies with relatively low IT requirements, cloud storage is generally a cheaper option.

  • Cloud Storage: Cloud storage is essentially the virtual storage of data. Usually enabled by third-party, web-based host sites, cloud storage hosts can save large quantities of data on a permanent basis. Cloud storage can be used by businesses of any size, and is an ideal data back-up method. In the event of an IT or natural disaster, when computers, storage hardware and paperwork are destroyed, cloud data remains safe and untouched.

  • File Sharing: File sharing is a capability of most cloud storage systems that allows for quicker digital file sharing and distribution. Businesses can use file sharing to communicate data quickly and efficiently with coworkers and clients.

Virtual telecommunications

Virtual telecommunications are an important part of creating a paperless workspace. Telecommunications innovations such as Voice over Internet Protocol and Hosted PBX enable businesses to utilize virtual phone numbers to expand phone systems without equipment installation.

VoIP: Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is the transmission of digitized voice data via the internet. VoIP calling is used to enable low-cost, or free, long distance and international calling. VoIP is a useful technology for businesses interested in going paperless, as when calls are made using VoIP technology, all call data can be stored virtually using cloud computing. The storage of virtual telephony data is a useful customer service tool, as call records can be organized and reviewed via any computer at any time.

Hosted PBX: Hosted PBX is a large part of the growing trend toward virtual work environments. Hosted PBX is similar to traditional PBX in its capabilities, but has some added advantages. In hosted PBX, calls are routed via a third-party host site that fields incoming calls and forwards them to the correct in-company extension. Hosted PBX often uses multiple methods of call transmission, including VoIP, to ensure optimal call success rates. One of the biggest advantages of Hosted PBX is that it allows for unlimited lines and extensions, without necessitating expensive equipment installation.

The Advantages of a Virtual Workspace

  • Customer service: Virtual workspaces are associated with improved customer service, as they increase business management efficiency. Virtual telecommunications can help to identify customer calling patterns and optimally manage high call-traffic.

  • Environmentally friendly: With cloud storage and virtualization features significantly reducing business paper usage, virtual workspaces can be a great method of carbon-footprint reduction.

  • Safe data and file storage: Data and files stored in virtual workspaces are backed-up via multiple methods, providing insurance against file and data loss.

Business Networking Strategies: Virtual Numbers for Health Care

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Particularly in the light of recent changes within the healthcare industry, efficient communications management is a prevalent concern for all healthcare professionals. For physicians, easy accessibility is an essential part of patient care, while pharmaceutical manufacturers and insurance companies must maintain communications in order to optimize production efficiency and customer service.

Communications Needs within the Healthcare Field

  • Physicians: For medical professionals, being “off-the-clock” is a rarely accorded luxury. Physicians in particular must maintain constant accessibility–a dropped call or failed connection can have consequences as dire as the death of a patient.

  • Pharmacists: With telepharmacy gaining consumer popularity, a large portion of pharmaceutical operations are now conducted remotely. For pharmacists, this makes a reliable connection that is cost efficient for long distance calling important.

  • Hospitals and Clinics: For hospital and clinic phone operators, heavy call traffic is often a problem. If the wrong call is prioritized, patient care can be severely compromised. Efficient call routing is of particular importance to hospital and clinic operations, as an outdated or ineffective phone system can result in the ER receiving calls about medical bills. Hospitals and clinics must also be equipped to meet digital medical record transfer security restrictions.

  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturers: The prevalence of data theft in the pharmaceutical manufacturing field necessitates optimal call and data transfer security for pharmaceutical manufacturers. A reliable connection is also important, and international calling is often required during product marketing.

  • Insurance Companies: The Affordable Healthcare Act has led to scalability problems for insurance companies still utilizing outdated telecommunications systems. With heavy call traffic regarding new plan options and coverage, insurance companies must be able to operate multiple lines and extensions and route calls effectively.

Communications Solutions

For professionals working in all of these fields, new telecommunications technology can prove advantageous–reducing telecommunications costs while increasing reliability and scalability.

  • Virtual Numbers: Virtual numbers are phone numbers that forward incoming calls to pre-set destinations. Virtual numbers are particularly useful for professionals operating on the business end of healthcare. These numbers can be used to expand business borders, and work as great customer service optimization tools. For pharmaceutical manufacturers conducting international business, and pharmacists engaging in–or interested in expanding into–telepharmacy, virtual numbers are indispensable. A New York based pharmaceutical company, for example, can gain customers in Columbus, Ohio by setting up a virtual number local to Columbus. Virtual numbers maximize cost efficiency by operating primarily via VoIP signals, enabling low cost to free long distance and international calling.

  • Online PBX Systems: Online PBX systems are ideal for healthcare professionals who require speed, reliability, security and scalability from their telecommunications systems.  Online PBX systems are host-based, outsourcing system management and eliminating installation requirements. The following features of online PBX systems are particularly in-demand within the healthcare field.

1) Disaster Recovery: Because PBX phone systems are outsourced, they have proven more reliable than any other telecommunications system in situations such as inclement weather and natural disasters. During hurricane Sandy, for example, online PBX enabled emergency services operators to avoid downtime.

2) Scalability: Because online PBX systems are virtually-based, they require no installation. This means that an unlimited number of lines can be added without incurring installation costs. This scalability is a valuable tool for healthcare professionals struggling with an influx of call traffic in the light of recent reform initiatives.

3) Security and Reliability:  Because VoIP calls are not tied to a physical location in the same way that traditional calls are, tracking calls made via VoIP is more difficult, adding an extra level of security to online PBX systems. Computer security systems can additionally be expanded to protect VoIP calls and online PBX data, sheltering call privacy under tried and tested security methods. The reliability of PBX systems is also an important feature for medical professionals, thanks to failover routing. Since online PBX systems operate using more than one telecom provider, if call call via method (a) fails to connect, it is automatically rerouted by the next working line.

Business Scalability: Technological Change in Health Care Reform

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Recent healthcare reform initiatives have caused customer-service traffic jams for many hospitals, clinics and health insurance providers. Both new and old customers are flooding phone lines with questions regarding coverage, and customers who are insured for the first time are eager to set up appointments with primary care providers. This increase in call volume has lengthened call wait times, and slowed customer service almost to a halt for many healthcare providers.

Current and Projected Health Care Coverage

According to The Washington Post, enrollment in health care reform plans is fast approaching ten million. Under this reform, clinics and hospitals must accommodate three newly-covered patient populations:

  • Medicaid: Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Healthcare Act has raised the minimum eligibility level to 133% of the poverty level. Since coverage began on January 1st, approximately 4.4 million Americans have signed up for Medicaid coverage.

  • Private insurance: Obama’s expansion of dependent coverage up to age 26 has insured approximately 3.1 million young adults. Many Americans have also opted to sign up for private health care coverage, so as to avoid uninsurance fines.

  • Obamacare: 2.1 million Americans have signed up for varying levels of coverage directly via the Federal Insurance Marketplace.

These preliminary numbers may be just a sample of what is to come. With penalty-free enrollment open until March 31st, the biggest sign-up surge is likely still on the horizon. For healthcare providers, this makes preparing customer service operators for a vast increase in call traffic an essential step.

Customer Service Scalability and Virtual Numbers

 Virtual numbers are phone numbers that are not tied to an existing phone line, generally used as call-forwarding gateways. These numbers are popular amongst expanding businesses, as they allow for unlimited phone system expansion. For healthcare providers struggling with excess call traffic, the following features commonly associated with virtual numbers can help:

  • Smart call forwarding: Smart call forwarding is a useful feature that streamlines customer calls to the optimum destination. For healthcare providers, this can absolve the need for expensive phone system installation. Instead of all call traffic feeding at random to overworked, underinformed customer service operators, healthcare providers can combine virtual numbers and smart-call forwarding to set up a more efficient service system. For example, operators 1-3 can field calls related to new Medicaid patients, while operators 4-7 take only calls from established patients.

  • Unlimited lines and instant activation: Virtual numbers can generally be activated for free, and there is no limit to the number that you can set up. Since no installation is required, activation is quick and easy. For healthcare providers, this feature is invaluable. With any sudden influx of high-call traffic, patterns gradually emerge that can help service operators to better expedite customer service. For example, if operators observe that many obamacare consumers are calling to find out the cost of a physical assessment appointment, a phone line can be added for the sole purpose of answering that question. When that line rings, operators will have an answer pre-prepared and can quickly move onto the next call.

  • Online control center and call recording: Online control centers allow for quick and easy virtual number management. Lines can be added or deleted at any time, and call traffic statistics can be reviewed. Recorded calls can also be stored on this virtual database, and used to review customer service standards.