What the heck is a virtual phone system? Well, you pick your main business phone number (or port an existing one) and then you can create extensions that forward the calls to your employee’s cell phones. There’s a lot more to it, and I’ll touch on that as you read on.
I’ve used these guys and been very impressed with both their service and with their customer service. A few months ago, I recommended them to a client who runs a decentralized, scientific consulting and engineering firm. He has an office in Tennessee and another in the Washington, D.C. area and has scientists spread around the country. I followed up with him about a month after he started using Grasshopper to make sure he was happy.
For his environment, Grasshopper works very well. Just one number to give to clients and the calls can route to any phone anywhere. He set up a local Washington, D.C. number and a toll-free number for everywhere else. He explained he used their “voice studio” to do the greeting and virtual operator recordings, and that his wife swears it’s the same voice actor used in an insurance commercial on television (unnamed because I don’t remember, and I don’t know their service so no plugs here).
So how could this help you? Well, if you’re a small business and you and your partners are working from your cellphones, this gives you one number to give to your clients. Like a conventional phone system, you can transfer calls to a coworker’s extension when needed. You also can have your “switchboard” route all calls to voicemail after 5pm if you want. There’s options to allow overrides for VIPs or emergencies if you want that flexibility. Have a sales team or a support department? Everyone can be treated fairly by having incoming calls rotate through the list so everyone gets a turn. Bringing on an intern for the semester? In just a few minutes you’ve added her to your directory and she has a voicemail box waiting for her to customize. Now if only the rest of your onboarding process could be so smooth.
Is it sneaky and deceptive to lead people to think your company is comfortably settled in one big office somewhere? No, I don’t think so. More and more, workers are becoming extremely mobile. No one blinks twice at the thought of a sales rep rarely being at his desk and using his mobile phone as his primary means of contact. Lots of huge companies have their PBX phone systems set up to forward employee calls directly to their cell phones. At the opposite end of the spectrum, small startups have been using virtual phone systems like this for years. Google Voice is a prime example. There’s a local bicycle cab company here that uses Google Voice as the sole way for customers to request a pickup. They text their address to the Google Voice number and it goes out to the drivers to let them know where to get their next fare.
Now that each end of the bell curve is using virtual phone systems, it’s finding its way into the mainstream business world. It used to be that flexibility like this needed a lot of hardware and a full-time trained technician to keep the system running. Grasshopper starts at $12 per month and all plans include unlimited extensions. Let me say that again – unlimited extensions. You’re paying for minutes used each month, not for the number of phones you forward to. They have lots of other features too – faxback document libraries so your clients can get order forms the “old fashioned” way. Voicemails that are sent to your email inbox. Smartphone apps that let your outgoing calls show your Grasshopper number. Yep, no more worrying about your family time being interrupted evenings and weekends because that “special” client got ahold of your cell number. And of course, since you can choose your Grasshopper number, you can get a ‘vanity” number – you know, like 1-800-555-TACO if you’re a Mexican restaurant. So give Grasshopper Virtual Phone System a try, you’ll like the freedom you get.