Recent Salesforce research shows that although over 90% of consumers rely on telephone calls with live agents for customer support, only 20% of businesses use virtual phone service features like voice-activated assistants.

This leads to longer hold times, miscommunications, and repetitive conversations with multiple representatives.

But virtual phone systems improve much more than just customer service.

Today’s VoIP phone systems offer greater flexibility, lower operating costs, and insight into productivity levels.

 

What is a Virtual Phone System?

A virtual phone system is a cloud-based business phone service that routes incoming calls to desktop apps, softphones, mobile devices, and even landline phones, allowing users to both make and receive calls over an Internet connection.

Virtual telephony requires much less hardware than a traditional business phone number and can be quickly set up online. Team members receive both personal and business calls on their cell phones, eliminating the need to purchase a separate “work phone.”

Companies select their own toll-free or local virtual phone numbers, and may elect to have specific numbers for different departments. In most cases, each department or an individual employee can be reached via a specific extension code.

Users can keep any existing local numbers by porting them into their virtual telephone system.

 

Hosted Virtual PBX vs SIP Trunking

SIP vs PBX

Hosted PBX SIP Trunking
Third-party offsite PBX Onsite PBX
IT managed by third-party IT managed by your company’s IT staff
Billed per phone line Billed per user
Best for new or small businesses Best for corporations and multi-location businesses
Connects to PSTN Connects to ITSP
Lower startup cost High startup cost

Once a company decides to use a virtual office phone, they’ll need to choose between Hosted PBX and SIP trunking.

Hosted private branch exchange means that the virtual phone system is operated by a third-party vendor with offsite equipment.

This means that there’s no need for companies using hosted cloud PBX to own any software or equipment, nor do they need to worry about running updates or fixing major IT issues on their own.

SIP trunking, by contrast, is ideal for businesses that have their own IT staff and on-premise PBX equipment or VoIP gateway. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) virtually connects PBX hardware and VoIP phone lines.

Larger companies or small business owners with high call volumes that already own private branch exchange equipment should select SIP trunking. Hosted PBX is best for smaller businesses that don’t want to handle their own IT issues and are looking for more affordable virtual phone solutions.

 

Key Features of a Virtual Phone System

Business numbers on a cloud phone system allow employees to receive calls on their preferred devices from anywhere with Internet access.

Standard features service providers offer include:

  • Call Routing
  • Caller ID
  • Unlimited calling to US/Canada
  • Personal number
  • Vanity numbers
  • International phone numbers
  • Push-to-talk
  • Custom greetings
  • Audio conferencing

Let’s take a look at some of the more advanced features below.

 

Call Routing

When someone calls the business number, a virtual receptionist or pre-recorded greeting provides call menu options to connect the customer with their desired department or individual.

This prevents callers from being transferred to an agent who doesn’t have the skillset to assist them.

Simultaneous call routing contacts every agent within a specific department until the call is answered or is sent to voicemail. Round robin call routes contact agents in a specific order to evenly distribute sales opportunities and workload.

 

Call Forwarding

Call forwarding sequentially transfers calls across preferred devices.

If an agent doesn’t answer their desk phone, the inbound call is forwarded to their mobile phone.

If unanswered, the call may be sent to their home telephone, the business landline, or another representative. The similar find me/follow me feature initiates the routing sequence immediately or after a certain number of rings.

Remote call forwarding provides greater employee flexibility, meets business needs, and ensures callers can speak to a live agent.

 

Call Screening Features

Since business and personal calls are sent to the same device, call screening features make it easy to know who is calling.

Screens also show the option a business caller selected from the call menu, so the agent knows exactly what they need help with.

Agents can then choose to accept, decline, escalate, or forward calls to voicemail.

 

Business SMS Text Messaging

SMS messaging lets agents send texts to coworkers or clients over the Internet.

This is ideal for sending quick updates and communicating with remote teams instantly.

In addition to SMS text messages, some business phone systems come with live internal chat messaging tools or AI chatbots.

 

Calling Analytics

Business phones provide invaluable employee and client data regarding:

  • The average duration of calls by agent
  • Number of phone calls made
  • Caller location
  • Time of call
  • Call center abandonment rate
  • Call volume by department
  • Speech analytics
  • Conversion rate
  • Customer satisfaction

 

Hot Desking

Hot desking allows any employee to log onto any device and immediately access their profile.

Team members can continue to make/receive calls even if they’re not at their specific desk. This is ideal for mobile workforces or small businesses looking to cut costs and save space.

 

Voicemail to Text Transcription

This feature transcribes voice messages and emails them to an agent’s preferred email address or via SMS texting.

Transcription ensures phone numbers and other important details are understood correctly and streamlines voice messages organization.

 

Video Conferencing

Web conferencing improves remote team collaboration by allowing for face-to-face real-time communication.

As with standard audio calls, employees can make/receive video calls from tablets, desktop computers, or smartphones. Some desk phone hardware also has a built-in video screen.

Users can connect with customers via an HD video call and remotely control a client’s computer to assist with a technical issue.

 

Call Monitoring

Whether training new employees or addressing a sales slump, call monitoring provides valuable insight into how team members interact with customers.

Managers can use the barge feature to listen in on live customer service calls, while the whisper feature lets managers coach employees through important calls without the customer’s knowledge.

 

Pros and Cons of Virtual Telephony

 

Customer support

Before making the switch to a virtual system, familiarize yourself with its top pros and cons, compiled from user feedback.

 

Pros

  • Lower cost
  • Ease of setup
  • Mobile compatibility
  • Less equipment required
  • High call quality
  • Increased business hours
  • More features than traditional business phone
  • Increased employee flexibility
  • Connects remote workforce

 

Cons

  • Based on WiFi availability and connectivity
  • Potential VoIP security vulnerabilities
  • Lengthy vendor contracts
  • Occasional dropped calls
  • Occasional call lag

 

Which Company Provides the Best Virtual Systems?

 

Features Nextiva RingCentral GoToConnect Dialpad 8×8
Price $19.95-$27.95/user per month $19.99-$49.99/user per month Starting at $19.95/month for 50 users $15.00-$25.00+/user per month $12.00-$45.00/user per month
Unlimited US/CA calls
Local/Toll-Free Numbers
Toll-free minutes 10,000/month 10,000/month Charged per minute Charged per minute Charged per minute
Business SMS US/Canada only
Audio and Video Conferencing
Team Chat Messaging
Auto Attendant
Call Recording
Voicemail to Text and Email
Salesforce Integration
Number Porting
Enhanced Call Logs
Call Routing and Forwarding
Android and iOS mobile app
Call Analytics
Call Monitoring
24/7 Customer Support Team

Studies show that virtual phone systems save the average company 30-50% of the cost of business communications and saves individual team members over 30 minutes of call time every day.

We’ve researched the top business VoIP providers and compiled the above interactive table below to compare pricing and plans, available features, and overall user satisfaction.