How Does a Virtual Phone Number Work?

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In a modern workplace, where home working and hybrid working are set to form the future 9-to-5, traditional on-premises telephone systems have quickly become outdated.

 Studies found that 5% of Americans were working from home before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, then in Spring 2020, that figure hit 60%. This mirrored a global trend of remote working as businesses worldwide shut up shop and made contingency plans for a future none of them had anticipated.  

 Now in a predominantly virtual workplace, legacy phone systems don’t cut it. Unable to keep up with the requirements of remote teams, traditional PBX systems and landlines are being replaced with the VoIP alternative, as digital transformation takes place at an accelerated rate for many.

 Virtual phone numbers are set to play a key role in the future of the workplace, but implementing these means embracing the new wave of efficient, flexible digital communications systems. With many businesses set to inhabit a hybrid future workplace, it’s important to consider a more agile phone system to support the new working lifestyles of your workforce.

 In this post, we explore the concept of the virtual phone number and what you need to know about how they might work for your business.  

What is a virtual phone number?

 A virtual phone number is a location-independent telephone number, meaning you can use it to make and receive calls from anywhere, provided you have the right software. Ideal for office-based workers and those that work from home, a library, café, or a beach shack in Bali, virtual business phone numbers allows users to take calls on a VoIP desk phone, a softphone or a mobile device.

 It’s no surprise that virtual phone numbers have gained traction in recent years. Business users who adopt virtual landline numbers can select which of their employees’ devices receive calls from that specific number. With a flexible, modern phone system, business users can also switch users and change the respective devices to receive and make calls, tailoring the communications better to address the needs of your employees and your customers.  

 Also referred to as ‘secondary numbers’, virtual phone numbers can also allow better anonymity over a landline number. For example, if a business didn’t want callers to know which region their business is based in, a virtual phone number could come in very handy.

 As well as these core benefits of flexibility and anonymity, virtual phone numbers have seen an increasing uptake because they allow businesses to deliver a smoother, more friction-free customer and user journey.

Online meeting vector illustration design. Woman with laptop at remote work conference. Virtual video study or education, business planning. Flat cartoon people discussion. Home office concept.-574

Limitations of traditional phone numbers

 While standard landline numbers have served businesses well for decades, they come with their limitations, particularly as modern business requirements evolve rapidly.

 Using a traditional business number means your users won’t be able to distinguish between work and personal calls using their mobile device. An office landline allows businesses to direct calls to several desk phones throughout the office, but this requires agents to be on-premises to answer or make calls.

 What’s more, with traditional phone lines, business owners generally won’t have the option to provide auto-attendant functionality to help guide their customers or route them to the appropriate endpoint.

 Another constraint of a traditional phone line is that it generally divulges your regional location, whether you want it to or not. For example, a marketing agency with a solely London-based client base might want to appear as if they are based in the capital as well. This is where virtual phone numbers come into play, allowing businesses much more flexibility and customizability for how their number is displayed.

How does a virtual phone number work for businesses?

 Virtual phone numbers use secure internet connectivity to place and receive phone calls in real-time using VoIP telephony. That means they don’t need to be attached to a physical location. For businesses with fully disparate teams, this comes in very useful as it means you won’t have to have a head office (or, in fact, any office building at all) to make and receive business calls.

 VoIP, or voice over internet protocol technology, allows businesses to deliver voice communications and other multimedia data via the internet. In virtual phone numbers, VoIP technology connects and receives calls on any device with the software and a secure internet connection. VoIP plays a key role in our everyday lives. It’s ultimately the same technology that enables us to send messages on WhatsApp or iMessage.

 In the case of phone calls, VoIP telephony means your calls will be transformed into digitised data packets before being transported over the internet to the call recipient. That also means users don’t need a physical WiFi connection at home or in an office; they can use 4G or 5G networks, allowing them to check in with colleagues and customers when they’re on the move too.

Why do you need a virtual phone number?

 There are many benefits of implementing a virtual phone system and a virtual phone number. While your business motives and requirements may vary, here are some of the key reasons you may want to consider a virtual phone number for your business.

  •  Accessibility improves your customer journey.

 Your brand reputation is important. In an increasingly accessible, ‘always-on’ digital environment, it’s crucial that your customers can contact you as easily as possible via their chosen channel.

 With traditional phone systems, customers, partners, or other stakeholders might struggle to reach the correct person if they aren’t physically at their desk. When home working and hybrid models are seeing a huge influx, your business continuity relies on your staff members being reachable regardless of whether they’re in the office or not.

 With a legacy system, customers contacting your business could come up against several challenges, including:

       Lines being engaged.

  •       An automated voicemail message kicking in immediately.
  •       Calls go unanswered with no option to leave a voicemail.
  •       Calls take a long time to be answered.

 At worst, any of the above eventualities could cause your customers to hang up and look elsewhere. In any case, they will become frustrated with the lack of accessibility. Consumers are increasingly time-poor, so businesses must address customer expectations following digital-age demands. Otherwise, your lack of accessibility could mean you lose out to your competitors.

  •  Expanding into new global markets

 If you have plans to grow your business and expand into different countries and markets, it’s a good move to consider implementing a virtual geographical number.

 With a reliable VoIP provider, you will implement new caller IDs with local geographic numbers and respective local area code. This allows you to create a sense of familiarity and trust among customers in your new target regions.

When it comes to inbound callers or customers receiving calls from your business, displaying a local number will alleviate the hassle around international calling fees. If customers see a number with a local call area code unfamiliar to them or clearly overseas, they may presume the call would be charged to them.

 For example, if your business wants to run an advertising campaign within national newspapers in Australia, having virtual numbers means you can use regional Australian area-code caller IDs even if your sales agents are answering calls on a UK landline.

  •  Time efficiency and productivity

 Put, implementing a virtual phone number will save you and your team’s time. Having a virtual system means that, rather than manually configuring complex call forwarding or call routing, you can direct calls to staff members’ desk phones, mobile phones or laptops, not only improving the chances of customer calls being answered but improving the efficiency of your teams.

 As the technology is predominantly software-based, you also make the phone system easier to customise. Advanced, cloud-based systems will allow your teams to answer calls and pick up voicemails and message colleagues and customers, share files, and delegate tasks, all while working remotely. Generally, admin users will also have access to call data and analytics and will have the ability to customise your business communications set-up according to your teams’ requirements. 

With a cloud service provider such as RingCentral, your virtual system will also come with features such as auto-attendants, meaning when customers call a virtual number, they can be greeted by an auto-attendant. Features such as auto attendants and IVR (interactive voice response) can help customers guide themselves through regular customer queries and challenges, essentially allowing them to self-serve and solve their problems without the need of a physical agent. Likewise, if they need to speak to a person, an auto-attendant function ensures they efficiently reach the right person. That means your team members don’t waste time addressing inbound calls that aren’t part of their remit.

  •  A better work/life balance for your team

 With a virtual phone number, your team members don’t have to give out their personal number. When home working means the boundaries between work and home life are increasingly becoming blurred, separating business affairs from leisure time is crucial in driving better employee wellbeing.

 Having a separate virtual phone number means your employees can connect that number onto their mobile phone device, which allows them to take or make business calls while they’re working from home or out on the move during working hours. Some VoIP providers allow you to customise your forwarding, meaning you can set business calls to only connect to a specific team member during their set working hours. That means if one team member works an early shift of 6 am until 1 pm, you can forward calls to them during those hours, then when they’re off duty, the calls either reach another agent or go to an automated voicemail.  

  •  Reducing your communications costs

 Switching to a virtual phone system not only allows you to benefit from a whole host of intuitive features, but it is also a very cost-effective way to manage your business communications.

 With a software-based phone system, maintenance duties fall to your service provider. Likewise, with a VoIP solution, you won’t have a hefty outlay on hardware requirements.

 Some VoIP phone systems, such as RingCentral’s, will offer instant messaging, SMS, and video conferencing as well as flexible, virtual phone features. That means you consolidate your communications pricing into one platform that allows for regular, manageable payments that help you to forecast more accurately. What’s more, the flexibility of a virtual system allows you to scale up or down according to demand, and with a VoIP provider, you won’t have to pay for endpoints that go unused.

How to get a virtual phone number?

 As a RingCentral business user, ordering an international, virtual number could not be simpler.

 Here’s a run-down for administrators on how you go about ordering your virtual number with RingCentral:

     Log into your RingCentral account. Go to ‘Phone System’ and select ‘Phone Numbers’ on the sidebar from the dashboard.

  1.     Under ‘Phone Number’, navigate to the ‘Assigned’ tab, select ‘Add Number’ and select the country.
  2.     Depending on your location, you may need to select ‘Local Number’, ‘Toll-Free’ or ‘Vanity Number’ depending on your core requirements.
  3.     Select a number from the list, select ‘Add Numbers’, then ‘Next’.
  4.     Assign your new number to one of the following:
  • Auto-receptionist
  • Extension
  • RingCentral Audio Conferencing
  • RingCentral Meetings

              Then click ‘Next.

  1.     Remember to tick the box to finalise and confirm your order, then hit ‘Next’.
  2.     Save your receipt to keep a record of your order, then click ‘Done’.

  For further information on ordering your international numbers, check out our RingCentral support pages.

 Get your RingCentral virtual phone number now.

 Whether you’re a large enterprise looking to expand into new territories or a small business wanting to display a phone number from a different region to help with customer perception, setting up a virtual business number is easy with your virtual RingCentral virtual phone service.

 Get in touch with our team today to activate your virtual phone number in over 100 countries:

  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Argentina*
  • Australia*
  • Austria*
  • Bahamas**
  • Bahrain**
  • Barbados
  • Belarus**
  • Belgium*
  • Benin
  • Bolivia**
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana**
  • Brazil*
  • Brunei Darussalam**
  • Bulgaria*
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cambodia*
  • Canada*
  • Cayman Islands
  • Chile*
  • China*
  • Colombia*
  • Costa Rica*
  • Croatia*
  • Cyprus*
  • Czech Republic*
  • Denmark*
  • Dominican Republic*
  • Ecuador**
  • Egypt**
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia*
  • Finland*
  • France*
  • French Guiana**
  • Georgia
  • Germany*
  • Ghana
  • Greece*
  • Grenada
  • Guadeloupe**
  • Guatemala
  • Hong Kong*
  • Hungary*
  • Iceland**
  • India*
  • Indonesia*
  • Ireland*
  • Israel*
  • Italy*
  • Jamaica
  • Japan*
  • Jordan**
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya*
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Latvia*
  • Lithuania*
  • Luxembourg*
  • Macau
  • Malaysia*
  • Malta*
  • Mexico*
  • Monaco**
  • Netherlands*
  • Netherlands Antilles
  • New Zealand*
  • Nigeria
  • Norway*
  • Pakistan
  • Panama*
  • Paraguay**
  • Peru*
  • Philippines*
  • Poland*
  • Portugal*
  • Puerto Rico*
  • Qatar**
  • Reunion**
  • Romania*
  • Russia**
  • Saint Pierre And Miquelon**
  • Saudi Arabia**
  • Serbia**
  • Singapore*
  • Slovakia*
  • Slovenia*
  • South Africa*
  • South Korea*
  • Spain*
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden*
  • Switzerland*
  • Taiwan*
  • Tajikistan
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Uganda**
  • Ukraine**
  • United Arab Emirates**
  • United Kingdom*
  • United States*
  • Uruguay**
  • Venezuela*
  • Vietnam*
  • Virgin Islands, US**


* Toll-free also available
** Toll-free only available
Marjorie Hajim

SEO Manager EMEA

Marjorie Hajim is the SEO Manager for EMEA at RingCentral, a leading cloud communications company that provides VoIP and video conferencing services. She develops and executes strategies for short-term and long-term SEO growth. In her spare time, she loves reading books at coffee shops and playing with her dogs.

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