How does a virtual phone number work?

Know more about the benefits of having a virtual phone number. Get yours today.

Unified business phone number
Remote work capabilities
Performance tracking with virtual phone numbers
A female employee using a virtual phone number from a mobile phone

The problem with traditional phone numbers

In the past, telephone numbers were tied to a specific phone or device. These phone numbers were designed to work with a single phone line connected from the telecom carriers to the phone unit via physical telephone cables. All business and personal calls made to that phone number can only be sent to a specific telephone. To add flexibility, on-premises PBX is tied to business phone numbers for routing calls. However, it is still limited to the premises of the business’s office.

These limitations are not present with virtual phone numbers and virtual phone services.

What is a virtual landline?

Unlike traditional phone numbers, virtual phone numbers are not exclusively tied to a specific phone or device. This provides businesses and their users more flexibility in how they make and receive calls.

In combination with VoIP, virtual phone numbers are able to provide organizations with telephony technology that can be accessed anywhere. This translates to no more restrictive telephone lines. You don’t even need an actual phone unit. You can use your laptop, desktop, or mobile device as long as it is connected to the internet.

How long are phone numbers?

Traditional and virtual phone numbers follow the same format. A standard US telephone landline number is made up of 10 digits. The first three digits represent the area code, which is assigned to a local part of the country.

Traditional landlines follow this strictly, but virtual phone services don’t. In fact, you can create a virtual presence in a certain locale by purchasing a virtual phone number with its local area code even if you do not have a physical address in the area.

The first three digits could also identify it as a toll-free number. The most popular toll-free prefix is 800, but there are other toll-free prefixes available like 888, 877, 866, 855, and 844. If you are looking to build a national presence, this option is better for your business.

In addition, virtual phone numbers are pretty easy to obtain. Unlike traditional phone numbers that need new telephone wires to be installed (and which could also take days or weeks), virtual phone numbers can be instantly purchased from virtual phone system providers.

From the online admin account, businesses can purchase new phone numbers and assign them as company phone numbers or assign them to individual users.

In the event that a business wants to keep their previous phone number—especially if it has been associated with their company for a long time—most virtual phone service providers allow new subscribers to port their old business phone numbers from their traditional providers.

How does a virtual phone number work for business?

 A virtual phone system is mobile and desktop

A virtual phone number is one of the components of a virtual phone service. With VoIP as the telephony component and cloud PBX as the call routing and management component, a virtual phone service works by leveraging the flexibility of virtual phone numbers in order to be accessible to users from anywhere.

With virtual phone numbers, a virtual phone service can do the following for businesses:

1. Unite your distributed workforce with a single business phone number

For businesses that operate in multiple locations, it is difficult to operate under the same traditional phone system. What usually happens is that each location has its own phone system from different providers, which are typically not compatible with each other. This results in a disconnect between the different workforces of each location.

A modern business phone service, however, is able to unite distributed staff from multiple locations under one business phone number. Using the cloud PBX component of your phone service, you can set it up so that calls reach the right destination regardless of location. Employees who are not even in the office can still be reached as long as they are connected to the business phone system via the internet.

Your business can also set up teams or departments under a single virtual phone number. By assigning a phone number to a department, you can set up a call queue where all incoming calls can be routed to all members of the department simultaneously or in chronological order. For instance, you can use the call queue feature if you want your entire support team to share every incoming call.

There are so many options available to virtual phone numbers for uniting your distributed workforce that are not available to traditional lines. Collaborative features like conference calling highlighted by consistent call quality make a virtual system an efficient business calling solution.

2. Provide your business remote work capabilities

Another benefit of using virtual phone numbers through a virtual phone service is that it allows organizations to offer their employees flexible and remote working options.

Since a virtual phone number can be accessed from anywhere, there will be employees who will be able to do their job from anywhere—including their home. What’s more, they’ll be able to use call management tools such as call forward, call transfer, call blocking, and custom call control, which can be set around your business hours.

This setup also allows your employees to explore opportunities for the business outside the office without worrying about missing a call or being unable to use the company phone number.

Moreover, it opens up the option of implementing BYOD (bring your own device). It can save your business money in terms of device provisioning while giving your employees the ability to use the company number to call, send and receive text and even a virtual fax from their personal phones. This removes the need for them to carry multiple mobile devices for communication.

3. Give your business access to the best talents all over the world

Since your business can now offer remote work options, you can expand your talent search exponentially. You can search for the best employees around the US, and even the world, for your business even if they cannot physically come to your office’s location.

You can simply have them work remotely, or from their home. They will still have access to official business phone numbers and the company phone system as long as they are connected to the Internet. Imagine how productive you could be if you’re headquartered in one state, with competent sales teams across the country.

4. Allow your business to measure performance using your virtual phone numbers

You can also use your virtual phone numbers to measure the success of your sales and marketing campaigns. You can associate phone numbers to a campaign instead of connecting it to your main business phone number. This way, you can measure how many calls, inquiries, and leads the campaign is generating. Companies like RingCentral offers unlimited extensions to support large-scale campaigns.

You can also use them to run market tests. You may see patterns that can be useful to your business. For example, if you ran an ad in multiple cities, you may discover that your business is getting more calls from a particular city like Los Angeles compared to another city like New York. From there, you can investigate further and make the necessary changes to improve performance.

These are just some of the things you can do with virtual phone numbers and are among the many reasons why virtual phone systems are considered the best business phone service for small businesses. By combining virtual phone numbers with other virtual communications tools like VoIP and cloud PBX, providers like RingCentral are able to deliver the advanced features of enterprise-level phone systems with the flexibility and mobility of web-based tools for affordable prices.

By signing up for a RingCentral account, you can also benefit from its partnerships like the one it has with Snap Recordings, which paved the way for an add-on that allows you to request  custom greetings that sound professional. Add a slick call menu system into the mix and you’ll make a killer first impression that results in happy customers.

Frequently Asked Questions

A phone number comes with the service you purchase. Think about it—don’t you typically get one with a landline phone, cell phone, or VoIP solution? There are, of course, apps that allow internet phone calls, which get you a phone number without shelling out anything.

TextNow, Textfree, and Google Voice are examples of virtual phone number providers that offer calling and texting. These apps assign you a number you can use to place free local phone calls and send texts to any number.

But if you need international calling (without the increased call rates), more advanced call routing, and other sophisticated features and services, your best bet is a powerful virtual business phone number from a reputable company like RingCentral. Ask about their unlimited calling plans so you can make the most out of their service.

If you receive a call from an unknown virtual number, you can trace its owner by using tools available online. Try reverse phone number lookup sites, which can either be free or paid. You can also set up your device to display CNAM (caller ID name) and IP address, since caller ID alone is easy to fake. If you have your own virtual number, you can do a CNAM lookup with your VoIP provider.

If you suspect that a caller is faking their outgoing caller ID, you can use a CNAM lookup tool to get the CNAM data you need. As a last resort, you can try an IP address lookup, which should tell you its location, internet provider, and domain name.

You can choose a local area code that doesn’t correspond to a place where you have an actual office but nevertheless offer products and services to. This way, you’ll establish credibility and even place a local call to that specific area. Take the customization further by requesting a vanity phone number. Companies usually get a vanity number to better represent their business and bolster their marketing efforts.

Globally-trusted virtual number providers like RingCentral offer local and toll-free virtual phone numbers in more than 100 countries, Canada included. Sign up now to get a Canadian business number from them so you can start building a local presence and earn the trust of local customers.

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