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Archives: November 2012

Preparing your phone system for a storm
November 1st, 2012

As an assist to clients affected by hurricane Sandy this week, we posted information about how to prepare for a big storm and keep communication flowing during the storm.  We’re posting it here for reference, since winter is nearly upon us.  We hope it will be helpful to any of you that may experience storms in the coming months.

There are some important things you can do to make sure your Virtual PBX phone system keeps your business connected during a storm. Virtual PBX systems are in a hardened co-location facility that is part of the national infrastructure. It has multiple sources of power and connection, coming in through different feeds, and is unlikely to be affected by any storm, no matter how severe. We’ll take your calls as long as the phone companies are still delivering them. The issue is making sure you have some place for us to send them.Whether you’re using our standard Virtual PBX Service or our disaster recovery product, PBX Parachute, we recommend that you do the following:

  1. Figure out which extensions in your system are the most important for uninterrupted phone calls. This may be all of your extensions.
  2. Talk with the extension owners for those extensions and get alternative phone numbers where they can be reached during the storm. Suggestions include cellular phones (many cell phones will work even if power is down), home phones if they are staying in town, or phone numbers of relatives they will visit if they are leaving the storm area.
  3. Change the Call Routing for each of these extensions to include the alternate phone numbers. If there is a specific number they want to be tried first, make that the “Default” number. You can exclude office phone numbers if you are sure the employees won’t be at their office phones.
  4. Be sure that employees know how to update their Call Routing list as things change. This can be done through any browser or from your smartphone via one of our free apps. Just download the Virtual PBX app from the iPhone App Store or Google Play. If your employees need to learn how to do this, they should run our short Extension Owner QuickStart training.
  5. Let all of your employees make sure they know how to reach someone in charge if things go wrong, whether it’s related to the phone system, or not. Most companies could benefit from an emergency contact list, that can be used to let people know what’s going on, status of the office, and information about other workers. The best way to do this is to decide which Virtual PBX extensions people should call.

Most important of all, please be safe. We sincerely hope that all goes well with your people, as well as your business. Our thoughts are with you.

The VirtualPBX Team

FREE iPhone and Android App from Virtual PBX
September 28th, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who doesn’t love free apps? If you have a smart phone, you love apps and there are a ton of them out there providing quick, easy and convenient ways to access nearly everything. And thanks to Virtual PBX, there is now a new free app for you to love.

Virtual PBX has released a helpful new application which breaks the mold in the Hosted PBX Market. Virtual PBX Extension Manager, the new free application for Apple iOS and android devices, makes it easy for Virtual PBX customers to have access to all of the most-used functions of their phone system, directly from their iPhones.

“We’re excited to introduce the first business extension management app with this advanced level of functionality for iPhone users,” said Paul Hammond, CEO of Virtual PBX. “As an iPhone user myself, I love to have the Virtual PBX features I use the most right at my fingertips, and I am certain our customers will appreciate it, too.”

Using a simple, intuitive interface users can manage extensions on multiple Virtual PBX accounts, mark their extensions as unavailable, and even redirect incoming business calls to any of up to four different phones. Virtual PBX’s free application also includes iPhone-based presence management, a feature exclusive to Virtual PBX.

The Virtual PBX Extension Manager App makes presence management available through the user’s phone, allowing them to log in and out of queues as needed. With the use of exclusive intelligent queue algorithms, Virtual PBX reduces caller hold times by not forcing calls to extensions where no one will answer. This means better efficiency for the customer and happier callers. And who doesn’t want happier callers? Have happier callers with the new free app from Virtual PBX.

Hosted VoIP PBX Gives You Competitive Enterprise Features
May 17th, 2012

In today’s business world, staying competitive is imperative to running a strong, successful business. To gain a competitive edge, it is important to continuously incorporate new technologies customized to meet customer or client needs while managing costs to stay in budget.

Many businesses today are turning to VoIP to stay competitive. According to recent studies, 50 percent of medium businesses (100-999 employees) claim VoIP will become critical to their business. In-Stat forecasts that active VoIP subscriber rates will triple in 2012, growing from 9 million in 2011 to 29 million. 

Virtual PBX offers a business VoIP system that will give you the competitive edge with enterprise features. Here are a few of the key features and advantages of switching to hosted VoIP that will keep your business on the cutting edge…

Enhanced Productivity – Many productivity-enhancing features previously available only through expensive add-ons to traditional PBXs come standard with VoIP from Virtual PBX. These features include advanced call routing, auto attendant, “find me/follow me”, day and night modes, ACD Queues, custom greetings, and caller ID.

Advanced ACD Queues – Virtual PBX offers the most sophisticated ACD capability of any hosted system, through our TrueACD™ technology, an advanced technology that prioritizes, ranks, and manages both the incoming callers and the people waiting to take the calls. ACD queuing is a critical business function, especially for call centers, and needs to be as robust and feature-rich as possible to allow the maximum flexibility for your company.

Work from Anywhere – With a hosted VoIP PBX from Virtual PBX, you can easily work from any location using a VoIP phone, a cellular phone or even a home phone. And you can quickly and easily access the advanced features of your phone system from any location. Simply connect to the Internet and log into your VoIP phone to have access to all the information available in your office system 24/7.

Low total cost of ownership – Analysis show that Virtual PBX VoIP can reduce an organization’s monthly phone costs by 40-80%. Virtual PBX Plans start at just $9.99 per month, or you can get unlimited minutes for as little as $19.99 per user.

Virtual PBX works seamlessly with your existing business environment, helping employees use their phones as efficiently as possible. Virtual PBX’s VoIP Business system has proven beneficial again and again in boosting productivity, increasing customer service and cutting costs.

Save Money with GeoRoute®
March 21st, 2012

Many companies are not taking full advantage of the advanced technology available in telecom today. When used, this technology can greatly improve operations, and help you to provide better customer service.

Virtual PBX® offers the most complete and sophisticated hosted solution available today. One great example of this is our unique GeoRoute® feature, which can forward calls automatically to the right employee, ACD queue, or business location before you even answer the phone – based on the location of the originating number.

Here is an example: Let’s say you want to have calls from the western United States go to one sales agent, and those from the eastern part of the country go to someone else. With GeoRoute from Virtual PBX, we’ll monitor the caller ID of incoming calls and automatically route the calls based on area code.

Want another example? Imagine a franchise operation that wants to publish one national toll-free number but wants calls automatically routed to the franchise closest to the caller. GeoRoute will direct incoming customer calls to the appropriate franchise based on the geographic boundaries you create. This way, you can make sure the right franchise gets the call with no human intervention. In addition, as the calls complete at the franchise locations, the franchise headquarters don’t incur any expense from these calls.

Furthermore, with GeoRoute, there is no need for a central receptionist, and call charges don’t start until you answer the call, so expenses stay low.

There are a number of ways to implement GeoRoute. You can route calls based on just the area code, the area code and exchange, or the entire number. In addition, you may route calls the following ways:

  • Inside the answering system, transferring the call to an employee extension or ACD queue.
  • To a completely different phone system, such as a remote branch office or a different business.

Our telecom expertise, combined with unmatched flexibility and excellent customer service, allow us to solve your call routing challenges to help you build business and save money.

Save Money and Increase Productivity with SelectRoute™
March 2nd, 2012

Virtual PBX® pioneered ACD queuing for virtual phone systems, and is still way ahead of the competition. ACD queues are used when the caller wants to reach a business function, such as sales or customer service, instead of an individual. Usually, these callers won’t have a name, they just have a need.

However, some businesses want to route calls to an extension or ACD queue that is not a standard business function. This is where SelectRoute™ comes in.

SelectRoute offers call routing capabilities beyond the standard routing features offered by ACD queues. Instead of simply routing the call to the next available agent or a generic queue, SelectRoute routes the call based on direct user input that specifies how the call is to be handled so the call is routed to the correct agent.

Our SelectRoute option lets you route calls automatically based on a wide set of user inputs up to nine digits in length. Ask the user to spell out a product name, a company name, or an account number. The possibilities are limitless with Virtual PBX.

Below are common types of instructions that SelectRoute can support:

  • Route calls by geography: Area code & zip code– Route calls by NPA (Area Code), NPA-NXX (Area and Exchange Codes), Zip Code.Have multiple store locations or franchises seamlessly route calls to a single phone number by area code or zip code to the nearest location.
  • Menu Routing – Route calls by menu selection
  • Custom Routing – Route calls according to your own defined needs.  We’ve had clients route to different queues or extension based on the caller entering a model number or a product name.

You can even combine these call routing types to form customized routing to provide the best customer service and to enable your business to operate at optimum efficiency. They can also improve your businesses cost performance by increasing agent utilization and productivity.

A typical business often handles a variety of call types, each requiring a specific skill. The traditional method of reassigning agents with multiple skills to different queues at different times of the day in order make best use of their skills is inefficient.

Virtual PBX and SelectRoute alleviate this problem and enables your business to automatically route calls to the right agents, at the right time regardless of where the agents are located.

With SelectRoute you can even have custom greetings such as “To find the store nearest you, please enter your 5 digit zip code now”. Your caller enters their zip code, and your Virtual PBX system will route them to the appropriate extension or queue. It’s that easy.

But what if the caller enters the wrong information? Don’t worry. We have that covered. In this case, SelectRoute will route the call anywhere you choose, so your caller still gets help even on a bad data entry.

SelectRoute by Virtual PBX will help you create the best custom call routing system designed to fit your needs and send your callers to the right people quickly and easily every time. For more information, please contact our Support team, or call us at 888-825-0800.

Virtual PBX Adds Call Recording – For Free!
September 24th, 2010

We are excited to announce every VirtualPBX system now includes call recording in all standard plans at no added cost for customers.

“This is the latest in a series of enhancements that VirtualPBX has rolled out this year,” said Greg Brashier, COO of Virtual PBX. “We’ve had requests for call recording from our client base and felt it was something a majority of our SMB clients could use. Since we innovated the entire hosted PBX space, we feel it is necessary to lead by example and continue to enhance the service.”

With the newest Virtual PBX call recording feature, any or all calls can be recorded, saved, and played back later. There are infinite ways companies of all sizes can utilize this tool to enhance their business such as capturing calls for later review, assisting in employee training, monitoring customer service agents, as well as meeting legal requirements.  Greg adds, “we’ve found that many call centers love this feature since it’s a free and effective tool that allows them to improve company performance.”

In addition, the call recording feature is greatly customizable and easy to use. Every user with a Virtual PBX extension can record all calls automatically or select calls to record manually by simply pushing #9 during a call.  Furthermore, the built-in selective recording architecture allows calls to be recorded for pre-selected extensions and/or departments.

The recordings can be sorted by date/time, length, caller ID, user name, or extension number so they are easy to locate when needed. Recordings can be played back or deleted at the convenience of the extension owner, or downloaded them to a computer for future playback.

Administrators can also decide to control call recording for all users or give each user the ability to manage his or her recordings.

“With the addition of call recording, VirtualPBX extends our leadership in providing clients with the most diverse set of features at the lowest cost,” continues Brashier.  “This announcement gives users the ability to improve their own customer satisfaction and ensure that high priority calls are properly managed.”

This announcement adds to a long list of service enhancements that have been provided by Virtual PBX during 2010. Previous upgrades have included unlimited extensions and more free usage, open VoIP peering, free conferencing, and international numbers. The company promises more to come.

Show Your Company Phone Number from Any Phone!
August 18th, 2010

If you’ve called a customer using your home phone or cell phone, then you’ve probably had them call you back on that same phone number — they just redial the caller ID left on their phone.  Suddenly your personal phone is your new “business” number.  It’s like having people visit your home when they should be going to your office or store.  What a pain.  But all is not lost.  By using Virtual PBX, you have a way to show your company phone number on outbound calls without having to reveal the number from which you’re calling.  Convenience and privacy all in the same call!

This feature is called “Virtual Calling Card”.  It’s perfect for calling from a cell phone, a friend’s house, a hotel, or even a pay phone…if you can still find one that works!  And you don’t need to keep track of special code numbers and dialing strings – you just dial yourself.  This feature is accessed by logging into the phone system over the phone.  Some of our customers are unfamiliar with this feature or think it’s harder to use than it really is. Truthfully, it does take a few steps — call into your Virtual PBX phone number, press #, enter your extension number followed by #, then enter your phone password follow by #.  Realistically, all of that can be accomplished via a speed dial on your phone.  There is an alternate way to log into your phone system by pressing the CallBack button on the Call Routing tab.

Once you are logged into the system over the phone, you press 3 to make an outbound call.  The system will ask you to enter the phone number you wish to dial.  That’s all there is to it.  Once you enter the phone number, the system will dial, showing your Virtual PBX phone number as the caller ID to your call recipient. So not only is this convenient, but it’s also secure as you’re not showing your personal phone number when you call your customers, vendors, or contacts.

You do need to make sure that your system is set to show your Virtual PBX phone number on outbound calls.  This is the default setting, so unless you changed it, it should be fine.  That setting is edited under the Advanced Configuration settings of the Auto-Attendant.

Also, if you have multiple Virtual PBX phone numbers, you can show any one of those on your outbound calls.  A beautiful thing!  Just make sure to dial into the system using the number that you want to show on your caller ID.  So this feature is not just convenient and secure, but also flexible!

So now you and your personnel use your Virtual PBX to make a bunch of outbound calls.  How do you know who called whom?  You can track all of your outbound calls using the Extension Outbound Call Report.  This report shows the date, time, extension numbers, extension owner caller ID, duration of the call, and the phone number of the party dialed.  This is a great report if extension owners use the Virtual Calling Card feature to make customer call backs to customers or vendors.  It’s great detail, but it’s also great for accountability.

With the Virtual Calling Card feature from Virtual PBX, not only can you show whichever Virtual PBX company phone number you wish in the caller ID when you make your outbound calls, but you also get the satisfaction of NOT having your personal contact phone number show up on caller ID displays of your customers, vendors, and business contacts.  It’s convenience, flexibility, and personal protection at the same time.

Get Your 855 Numbers Here!
August 6th, 2010

If you haven’t already heard about it, the FCC is releasing the 855 prefix for toll-free numbers on October 2, 2010.  Since none of those numbers are currently taken, numbers like 855-Call-Now or 855-855-8558 should be available.  All of the 855 numbers — all 7+ million of them — will be available for reservation on October 2nd, all at once. When that happens, every company that has access to the nationwide toll-free number database will reserve as many numbers as they can, as fast as they can.

Since Virtual PBX has direct access to the nationwide toll-free database, you can get in line to have us make a grab for your numbers of choice on your behalf. And unlike many other toll-free number ordering services, we charge nothing to place orders for up to 25 numbers, and only $25/each for the numbers successfully reserved for you. Now’s the time to try for a special toll-free number that’s always been unavailable in the past. An opportunity like this doesn’t come around very often.

To place an order, click here and enter your request. Again, the first 25 attempts are free, just $2 each after that, and only $25 for each number successfully reserved. Other companies are marking up these numbers to make a huge profit.  VirtualPBX is just trying to give our customers what they want.

For more information about why you might need a toll-free number, please continue reading…

Why Use Toll-Free Numbers

There could be a very long list of reasons why a business or person would use a toll-free number.  However, one could narrow it down three general reasons::

Visibility: If you want to show a local presence, then market your local number so your callers know that you’re local to them.  Small to medium sized businesses typically fall into this category.  However, if you are marketing your services to customers that are not within your local area, then a toll-free number is the best way to go.

Protect Your Branding:  get your company name or the toll-free version of your local number.  In the case of this post, get the 855- version of your current toll-free numbers

Polite to Consumer:  it essentially rolls out the red carpet to the caller, letting them know that they can call you from where ever they are for no cost to them.

Convenience: With no cost to the caller, it’s very convenient for the caller to dial a toll-free number.  Sometimes people with kids in college or family members living outside the immediate area will get a low-cost toll-free number strictly for the convenience of communication.  With toll-free, it reduces the excuses for not calling!

With that information in mind, now’s the time to get your 855 number.  Remember, in order to place an order, click here and enter your request.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to let us know at 888-825-0800, option 1 for Sales.

5 Things to Look for in a Telecom Disaster Recovery Provider
June 24th, 2010

A 2009 study from the Business Research Institute revealed that of all the recovery points necessary in the event of a disaster (data loss, employee management, notifications, etc.), 65 percent of businesses surveyed said telecommunications was the weakest link. Given the importance of phones to a business, this is a surprising statistic. In the event of catastrophic system failure, or because a fire alarm went off and your employees have to exit the building, you’re going to need a backup plan for handling phone calls. This is not a hard process, but it is an important one. For that reason, you need to make sure that the company you’re working with to handle your telecommunications failover can connect all your employees and all your callers as effectively as possible.

In the event of a disaster, a company’s local and toll-free provider can re-route, or forward, the inbound calls to a different location. But where? To another phone system at some dark site? That is an immense amount of capital being spent on something that may never be used. The better way is to have the calls forwarded to a virtual phone system – a phone system in the cloud, if you will. A virtual phone system can have the Fortune 500 sound, features and reliability without any hardware on site. But while there are many virtual phone system providers in the market, not all of them make good telecom disaster recovery providers. Here are four things to look for in a telecom disaster recovery provider:

1.  Highly Reliable

There are a lot of virtual phone system providers that have built their networks on open source software running on standard computers. This is fine for simple call control, but when it comes down to it, having specialized, reliable hardware built specifically for high call traffic is key to reliability. Also, the vendor should be located in a data center that is on the national backbone so it stays up and running even in the event of a natural or national disaster. Also, competent support staff with strong technical expertise is crucial. This cannot be accomplished with an outsourced support center but rather with their own employees who have an in-depth knowledge of their network and capabilities.

2.  Highly Redundant

As a telecom disaster recovery provider faces the same problems as you – fire, hacking, power loss, etc. – they need to have a disaster recovery plan of their own, with redundancies and failovers in place for electrical, inbound, and outbound local and toll-free carriers, as well as network and hardware component redundancies. A reputable telecom DR provider has no planned downtime of their own. They should be able to switch between multiple carriers for your call (in case entire networks of phones go down) and repair and replace components without you ever knowing or needing to know.

3. Full Customization

Whether you want to appear as though nothing’s interrupted your business, or if you need emergency messages and directions only, or just an employee emergency hotline, a reputable telecom disaster recovery provider’s virtual phone system should have the features and customization capabilities as well as the support staff willing to work with you to put a system in place that meets your telecom DR needs. As an example, the service should allow you to create a bank of recorded messages that can be fluidly managed, as well as multiple fallback contact numbers for each of your employees based on what kind of communication is still available to you at the time of the disaster.

4.  Full Control

When disaster strikes, it’s going to be unexpected, it’s going to be complicated, and you’re going to need to respond directly to the type of problem that has occurred. A single generic response or scripted recovery plan may not account for the number of variables in a disaster situation. At times you may not have access to computers. At other times you may not have access to phones. You’ll need a telecom DR system that can be accessed and managed several different ways, such as through a self-managed Web port as well as through the phone. But beyond that, you’ll need to have a system that can provide several options for routing calls to employees, depending on what resources are available to them during the disaster. Ideally, each employee has a phone and Web login to the telecom DR system, with access dependent on the rights given to them by the system administrator.

5. Always On

A common process in the disaster recovery world is when a disaster occurs you need to “declare a disaster” with your DR vendors so they can start working with you during that disaster. However, in the telecom world, there’s no time for that. Calls are going to keep coming in and you need a place to send them. A telecom DR provider should always be on, in hot standby, waiting for calls to come to it. You may need to declare a disaster with your local and toll-free providers so they know to reroute calls to your telecom DR provider. But you can work with them ahead of time to make sure those routes are saved in their switches, ready for when needed.

Virtual PBX is one of the only telecom disaster recovery and business continuity service providers with our PBX Parachute service.  This customizable service can completely mirror your phone system, only cover your inbound call center, act as your employee emergency hotline, and provide a conference bridge for your disaster recovery team — all in the same system, all at the same time.  Give us a call at 888-825-0800, option 1, and ask any of our Sales personnel about this very important service.

Don’t be a part of the 65 percent of companies whose disaster recovery plan does not include your phones. Phone calls mean money, and finding a reputable telecom disaster recovery service provider that uses a hosted phone service is key to making sure you continue to make money with those inbound phone calls, even in the event of a disaster.

Follow Me Calling with Virtual PBX
June 11th, 2010

Desk phone. Home phone. SIP phone. Personal cell phone. Company cell phone. In today’s world, we have a lot of options on how and where we take our calls — and when running a business, phone calls are money. If you can’t get the call, no matter where you are, you lose business, which means you lose money! Therefore, it was a BIG surprise to learn that one of the major players in the virtual phone system market no longer offers “Follow Me Calling”. Isn’t “Follow Me Calling” one of the main reasons people choose a virtual phone system?

Not only is “Follow Me Calling” extremely important to your business, it’s extremely easy to setup and manage with Virtual PBX. With “Follow Me Calling”, your virtual phone system will find you at whatever phone numbers you have selected. It’s like “telestalking”, but different. For example, you can configure your extension to try your desk phone for 20 seconds, then if no answer, try your cell phone for 20 seconds. This appears seamless to your callers. All they need to do is dial your extension — let Virtual PBX handle the rest. Don’t worry, we’ll find you.

With Virtual PBX, there are no complex “call rules”. Setting up “Follow Me Calling” is as easy as 1-2-3. Just login to your system and click on the Call Routing tab:

1. Enter your contact numbers in the Contact Phone Numbers section.
2. Click the checkbox next to Use Follow-Me Calling in the lower right section.
3. Click the UPDATE button to save your changes.

That’s all there is to it. However, we don’t stop there — we also allow you to set the Ring Duration for each contact phone number, so you can control just how long your Virtual PBX will try each number. This setting is found on the Advanced Configuration page of the CALL ROUTING tab.

If you don’t see what is shown in the graphic above, please talk to your Virtual PBX System Administrator and have them allow extension owners to override the system Ring Duration setting.

So the lesson here is that not only is “Follow Me Calling” extremely important to your business, but with Virtual PBX its as easy as 1-2-3 to setup and manage. With Virtual PBX handling your calls properly, you get to spend more time on what matters — your business!

*NOTE: Approximately 98% of this post, including images, was written on an Apple iPad using the WordPress and Photogene apps.