Telephone systems are vital in business, but often involve a significant financial investment that smaller companies simply can’t afford.
As the retirement of traditional landlines in the UK draws closer, many businesses are opting to make the switch to digital telecoms. By 2025, a digital network will have replaced the traditional landline, underlining the importance of finding new telephony solutions.
For many, the future of telecoms will involve a Voice over Internet Protocol - Or VoIP - solution. Providing you have a mobile data or internet connection, VoIP phones will allow you to make and receive calls from anywhere in the world.
As the switch approaches, businesses must prioritise their preparations to migrate to digital phone technology. Those that plan early will benefit the most by keeping the move as seamless as possible.
When it makes sense to invest in a virtual phone number
Virtual phone numbers are not only desirable because of the removal of traditional landlines - they offer a lot of benefits to businesses that landline phone numbers just can’t compete with.
Small businesses don’t have infinite resources, so the cost of configuring and maintaining legacy phone systems is not always economically viable. Securing a cheap VoIP system removes that dilemma.
Businesses often switch to a virtual phone service out of a necessity to open more lines. If a phone call goes unanswered, 85 per cent of callers don’t call back. Those customers are then likely to tell their friends and family too. Therefore, the importance of scaling your telecoms capacity as your business grows cannot be understated.
Configuring new lines with a traditional phone system involves physical work with cables and other infrastructure. VoIP providers make adding new lines or users an effortless task that can usually be completed digitally in a matter of minutes.
What is a virtual phone number?
A virtual phone number isn’t tied to a fixed landline in the UK, so you can use one virtual phone number across multiple devices, such as mobile phones, laptops and desktop computers. This makes staying connected at all times a reality.
Additionally, they offer a chance for smaller businesses to bolster their communications through a range of inbound call features that aren’t available on a traditional phone system.
Furthermore, if you operate remotely, whether this is from a co-working space or you’re simply on the move a lot, having calls forwarded to your VoIP device supports business growth by providing access to communications at all times.
How do you set up a virtual phone number?
Extending a virtual phone system beyond your computer requires getting a telephone number. Most providers offer a subscription service, varying on the specific needs of your business.
Obtaining a virtual phone number is straightforward. Most vendors will supply you with a virtual number, either as part of their free or paid subscriptions. Refer to your provider’s guide, which usually can be found on their website.
Your provider should provide onboarding, but a general setup process will include:
- Porting your existing numbers
- Assigning phone numbers and user extensions
- Recording greetings
- Call routing and call flow paths
- Configuring voicemail
When do you need a virtual business phone number?
One of the main benefits of VoIP is that it facilitates businesses where multiple employees work away from the main office, supporting your team to be connected at all times.
As your business grows, you can constantly scale up your virtual phone service with little time and effort required. Therefore, the opportunity to consistently have the best plan for your business is always available.
With a virtual phone number, you also gain a variety of features that will elevate your customer support. These include call menus, forwarding, recording, virtual receptionist, auto attendant and even custom greetings.
Moreover, the ability to configure your VoIP service with several types of virtual phone numbers allows for multiple benefits, bolstering your reputation and presence. These include local, international and toll-free numbers. Some businesses even opt to have a virtual mobile number. Companies use each type to increase their presence, highlight credibility and avoid paying high fees for outbound international calls.
What makes virtual phone numbers a cheaper option for businesses?
One of the most attractive aspects of VoIP is the price. For new or smaller businesses, configuring telecoms can be extremely expensive and complicated. VoIP alleviates the burden of the cost and hassle, allowing businesses to benefit from effective communications immediately.
What are the costs involved in getting a virtual phone number?
A VoIP system generally costs between £15 to £20 per user, per month. Basic packages can be as low as £6 per user, per month, whilst some of the most expensive systems on the market come in at approximately £135 per user, per month.
Entry-level packages are often pay-as-you-go and will come with fewer key features. For example, you probably won’t be able to record calls or host audio conferences, while CRM integration may require additional fees. These plans often have lower security and customer support capabilities.
It’s important to compare the prices and services offered by different VoIP providers to find a service that accommodates your specific needs.
What are the long-term costs of virtual phone numbers versus landlines?
The majority of the costs involved with virtual phone numbers are associated with the hardware involved. VoIP phones can cost between £50 to £100 per unit and a higher fee for devices with video conferencing enabled.
However, the long-term costs for a VoIP system are significantly lower. Most services cost between £15 to £20 per user, per month, with bOnline’s most popular package coming in at £13.95 (plus VAT) per user, per month.
Alternatively, for a traditional landline system, you will need either a private branch exchange (PBX) or a key phone. A PBX digitally sends callers to the correct phone, using an auto-attendant. Key phones will display a light when a line is busy, prompting the right person to answer.
To show a rough idea of the costs involved, a PBX with two lines and six handsets would cost approximately £160, whilst 16 lines and up to 64 handsets would cost more than £900.
A key phone supporting 16 handsets can range from £125 to £250 but won’t offer much in terms of scalability.
Can a traditional phone number become your virtual phone number?
Understandably, a business would wish to port an old landline phone number over to a virtual phone number. Changing your number can be costly, as you’ll then have to inform customers and pay for redirect services.
You can transfer your landline phone number over to VoIP - this process is known as porting. Just speak with your VoIP provider to understand their method and follow their guidance throughout the process. Make sure you don’t cancel your current service before subscribing to a VoIP service, or you will lose your number.
What are the benefits of virtual phone numbers over fixed line numbers?
The VoIP market has become extremely competitive over recent years. The demand for digital phone systems is constantly increasing and there are multiple reasons behind it. Cost, flexibility and scalability are all factors as to why virtual phone numbers are offering more benefits than fixed line numbers.
How do virtual phone numbers differ from landline phone numbers?
The primary difference between a virtual number and a landline number is that you can use a virtual number from any device or location, just as long as you have a data or internet connection.
Traditional landlines, however, are limited to a single number and line per physical address. Moreover, a company that uses landline phone numbers must purchase separate numbers for each location at which they do business.
Another key difference between virtual and traditional phone numbers is that a virtual phone number allows you to access services through any compatible device, such as a physical phone, mobile phone, laptop or tablet. Conversely, a traditional phone number requires the user to remain on one device.
Additionally, VoIP systems are easier to scale alongside your business. Adding new lines or extensions to a virtual phone number is quick and easy. Your administrator can do this in minutes by simply purchasing them directly from your provider’s website and then assigning them.
How does a virtual phone number help your business?
A virtual business phone number allows you to establish a presence in any area. With a traditional phone number, you will be assigned a local phone number, whereas VoIP allows you to purchase a phone number from any area code.
Purchasing virtual numbers in different areas means that people can call a number that is local to them, thus reducing the cost of incoming calls. This also builds a relationship with customers, who are four times more likely to answer an incoming call from a local number, as opposed to a toll-free number. Furthermore, clients can avoid paying location fees by calling your local business number, consequently improving your company’s reputation and reliability.
In addition, your outbound calls will show with a local call ID, supporting your business to reach customers that are geographically far from your location. When receiving inbound calls, you can easily route them to employees regardless of whether they are in other areas, working remotely or just a few desks away.
Businesses can purchase multiple virtual phone numbers to take advantage of the flexibility VoIP services offer. These might be a mix of local, international, toll-free and mobile numbers.
What types of virtual phone numbers are there?
There are three main types of virtual phone numbers:
- Local numbers
- International numbers
- Toll-free numbers
Local numbers refer to specific geographic locations. For example, if you want to develop a reputation with customers in a particular city, you can purchase a local number with their specific area code.
The main benefit of having a local number is that customers who are calling from that physical location will avoid paying long-distance fees, therefore making them more likely to call your business in the first place.
An international number will provide your business with a local presence within a particular country. These are useful to generate interest with a specific audience or market and alleviate any international calling fees for customers. A business based in Madrid could purchase London numbers, making their caller ID more appealing to potential customers in London, for example.
Toll-free numbers charge the receiver instead of the caller, which is a useful way for a business to demonstrate credibility. These are usually 0800 UK phone numbers. The advantage for consumers is, of course, that they won’t be charged to call you from anywhere in the world. However, your business also benefits by avoiding expensive long-distance call fees on outgoing calls, as your telecoms are hosted over the internet.
Find the right phone system for your business
Business VoIP technology is a highly competitive market, with an abundance of exceptional services. If you have just started exploring the idea of VoIP services for your business, it can be a daunting task to compare the offers of each company.
Whether you are a business of ten or a large operation of 100 employees, a VoIP phone system provides all the features and flexibility you need to communicate successfully, both internally and externally.
What are the advantages of virtual phone services for small businesses?
Virtual phone numbers are ideal for small businesses, especially if they want to avoid using a personal phone number or information. VoIP technology ensures that companies don’t have to pay for any features they don’t need while retaining the opportunity to scale up when necessary.
Security is a priority for any business and, compared to traditional landlines, VoIP is significantly safer. Services come with standardised encryption and there’s no infrastructure for you to build and maintain - all you need is a stable internet connection.
Virtual phone numbers level the playing field by allowing smaller businesses to compete with larger companies. As a cost-effective communications solution, a VoIP service allows you to speak to partners, customers and potential clients from anywhere in the world.
What makes bOnline the best choice for businesses?
The products bOnline offers are specifically designed with small businesses in mind. As the only micro-business-focused telecoms company rated ‘Excellent’ by Trustpilot, we are fully committed to providing personalised services at an unbeatable price.
For many small businesses, the most important thing is cash flow. Time is money, and bOnline will save you both, with plans starting from £6 for VoIP phone systems. We offer a £13.95 plan (plus VAT) that comes with a bundle of features, including unlimited UK calls, mobile app support, high definition video conferencing, audio conferencing bridges and much more.
We understand small businesses and endeavour to provide a tailored service to every client, with exceptional customer support services. Whether you are a new business VoIP customer or switching from another provider, our onboarding team will be right with you through every step of the setup to make the process seamless.
Post-sales customer service is important to us. We offer a 90-day love-it guarantee because we know how much our clients value our products. But, if you don’t, it’s no problem - the cancellations will be stress-free. We are a small business too, with the same pain points as many of our customers. That’s why we carefully design all of our plans to support the needs of small businesses and value relationships highly.