Michael Soliatis
Michael Soliatis has written several articles about the advantages of using a virtual switchboard and is the proprietor of a UK virtual switchboard service.
Michael Soliatis has written 1 articles for SB Informer.
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Save Money By Using A Virtual Switchboard And Never Miss Another Call

Michael Soliatis

September 21, 2006

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For a small business the cost of a phone system can seem disproportionate to its advantages. But not having one can make a business seem less professional and, worse still, can lead to lost business from inefficient handling of calls.

The same dilemma faces a small business start-up, which these days can often mean working from home. One of the first considerations is what phone number to use in order to effectively handle phone calls. Four options immediately become apparent: Use a mobile cell phone for business but risk not seeming professional. Immediately stand the cost of an extra business phone line. Use a home phone and again run the risk of seeming unprofessional when one of the kids picks it up. Or use a human answering service, which adds unnecessary cost to a start up business.

However, now, thanks to modern phone switch technology, small businesses whether established or just starting, have a fifth option called a virtual switchboard. And for those based in the United Kingdom, it is often free.

A virtual switchboard enables any business to enjoy all the features of a business phone system without any capital expenditure or other costs such as installation, rentals, maintenance etc. In fact all you need is a land line phone number on which to receive calls.

Switchboard Features For Little Or No Cost

This is how it works. Most virtual switchboard operators in the UK provide a free non-geographic phone number with a 08 prefix. When someone calls your 08 number, the call will route through the phone company's switch and it this that does all the clever work.

The caller hears an announcement that says something like "Please hold whilst we connect your call". Simultaneously your home phone will ring. When you pick it up you'll hear an announcement such as "You have a call for the sales department. Please press any key to accept". This is how you know it is a business call. If one of the kids has picked up the phone, this is their signal to pass the phone to you to accept the call. This same feature can be used to enable you to don an appropriate hat for sales, support, accounts etc.

If you are particularly busy, most virtual switchboards will advise the caller of their queue position and play music on hold. And if you are engaged, the call can be routed to a colleague at a different number. If the phone isn’t answered, the caller will be sent to voicemail where they can leave a message.

Voicemail Is Standard

Virtual Switchboards all have voicemail and most will also send voicemail messages to your email inbox as voice file attachments that you can listen to on your computer.

Receive Notification Of Failed Calls

Some virtual switchboards also have a very useful feature whereby, if a caller hangs up without leaving a message, you'll receive an email with the caller's phone number so you can call back. In fact, with a virtual switchboard you need never miss another call.

Track Advertising Response

It isn't just business start ups that can benefit from a virtual switchboard. It never ceases to amaze how many established businesses pay for expensive advertising then fail to answer every call. Just call a few tradesmen out of Yellow Pages and notice how many don’t answer. In fact a recent survey by TagMe found that a sample of their customers was losing hundreds of thousands of pounds in missed calls.

This is a situation where a virtual switchboard can easily track advertising response. By placing a different 08 phone number into each advert, calls can be tracked in two ways. First, when answering a call it can be announced, as described above, by the name of the source that generated the enquiry. Second, by referring to the call statistics made available by most virtual switchboard operators. This means you can easily verify which adverts produce an acceptable level of response and which do not.

Record Conversations

There are many situations when a recording of a phone conversation can be of immense value either as a training aid or to resolve disputes about precisely what was said. Some credit card companies now require merchants to record all credit card transactions that are made by phone. But to record conversations requires a capital expenditure on specialised recording equipment. However, many virtual switchboard operators offer a call recording facility as well.

Call Handling Versatility

A virtual switchboard can be used for your main business phone number or as a way to easily obtain additional phone numbers for other purposes such as marketing, customer services or support. Because your 08 switchboard number can easily be rerouted, it's also useful when certain services, such as product support, have been out sourced. If you change to a different outsource company, it is a matter of moments to reroute calls to a new one.

All in all a virtual switchboard can be of enormous value to businesses of all sizes in all sorts of situations that require calls to be handled effectively. And when many are available at no cost it behooves any business, large or small to take advantage of their flexibility to improve their call handling.


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