VoIP has gained a lot of popularity over the years and there are now millions of VoIP users around the world. If you, however, are hearing about VoIP for the first time or you’ve heard of it but you do not really know what it is, then here is what you need to know. What…
Online Phone Numbers: the Ins and Outs
In this article we cover:
- What are online phone numbers?
- How do online telephone numbers work?
- How can it help my small business? What are the benefits of using an online telephone number?
- What are the features most commonly associated with it?
Ever since Alexander Graham Bell changed history forever by registering his patent for the telephone in 1876 and speaking his famous first words (“Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you”), humanity has continually become further and further interconnected. Suddenly, small towns in Nebraska could connect to the White House in Washington, D.C. (according to the History Channel, the White House’s original telephone number was “1”).
Telephones soon spread faster than current through a telephone line. First spreading across various countries, they soon spread across the world. Massive undersea cables were laid across the Atlantic and the Pacific, literally connecting the continents. By the 1950s, post-war American offices were filled with phones. Payphones were everywhere in the cities. By the 1980s, the black, corded phone of Wall Street fame were everywhere.
Then came the internet. At first, the internet seemed almost problematic for telephones; everyone remembers the early days of the internet cutting out whenever someone in the household picked up a phone. But now, years later, the two have finally become one, with the online phone number. With an online phone number you can make calls online, both to other online phone numbers or landline/mobile numbers. You can even text with them!
Here we will be discussing these numbers in more detail- the ins, outs, ups, and downs of online phone numbers!
What are online phone numbers?
So, for starters, you will probably want to understand what an online telephone number even is. And…well, it is basically exactly what you think of – a telephone number that you can purchase and access online.
VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) companies, such as MightyCall, can sell potential customers online numbers.
Now, a lot of people get to this point and they worry that the number is not really “theirs”- that it is something like iTunes, where you purchase a song but you can only use it on the platform. With online telephone numbers though, you do not have to worry. Oftentimes, once you buy that number, it belongs to YOU, with some companies agreeing to “port” your number to their services if you decide to switch. So you do not have to worry about building a business around that number, only to see it all flushed away when you decide to go with a different telephony company in the future.
What this means is that, unlike landline/mobile phone numbers, an online telephone number is not attached to a single phone. Instead, it is attached to your telephony account, which, as mentioned above, can be ported to new telephony companies if you decide to jump ship (sometimes for free, sometimes for a one-time fee, depending on the telephony company). While you can port numbers when you switch from, say T-Mobile to Verizon, you port them to a particular phone, not to an account. With the online telephone number, it is all about the account, allowing you more flexibility and being far more useful.
Are they easy to use? Generally yes, though that depends on how intuitive the software you are interfacing with is. It is sort of like a cell phone in that way- the number does not necessarily matter, the interface does. So make sure, when you purchase an online telephone number, that you also go with a company with an intuitive, user friendly website.
How do online telephone numbers work?
As discussed above, most often you can purchase a telephone number through a VOIP and / or telephony company. Depending on plans and cost (MightyCall, for example, has three, ranging from twenty bucks a month to one hundred bucks a month).
They work by making calls via the internet instead of telephone lines/switchboards. So as long as you’re operating over a strong-ish Wi-Fi connection (or a plugged in LAN connection) you are good to go. You do not have to have any sort of special connections/modems to make calls.
To make calls using an online number, you have to use the interface with the telephony company you currently are a client of.
So for MightyCall for example, you could make calls online, via the web panel’s webphone, a digital softphone, or through the MightyCall app on/via your cell phone/mobile device. If you elect to go with the former, your computer will of course need some sort of microphone and some sort of speakers (though many computers nowadays have these things built in already, and even if you need to buy them you can get them on the cheap).
From there, it is easy. Again, if you have picked an intuitive software, it becomes no trouble to open the webphone, softphone, or your mobile app and start making calls. It becomes doubly easy to train your employees on how to use it- but we will be discussing that in the next section.
That all said, it is important to make a pause here and go over the difference between using a number online versus an online number. For example, popular messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram can make calls and send text messages, and they can do so over Wi-Fi/LAN connections. However, the key here is that these services use phone number which already exist; if you’re mobile number is +1-111-111-1111, you register with WhatsApp using that number. You can change phone numbers for the same WhatsApp account, but that is it. With an online number, the focus is on the number itself; as said above, you can port it to different telephony companies. With WhatsApp, the focus is on the product (WhatsApp itself); with online numbers, the focus is on the number itself.
The key here is due to the fact that, although we use the term “online number” to differentiate from landline/mobile numbers, an “online number” is just as real as any other telephone number! Plenty of people do not realize this and think they have to get some expensive landline plan in order to have a “real” number. Fiddlesticks. An online number is just as real as any telephone number you have ever used- except an online number is far more flexible and useful for your small business!
How can it help my small business? What are the benefits of using an online telephone number?
For starters, the key with online phone numbers is flexibility. With a standard landline phone, the only way you are going to be able to pick up a call with that phone is if you are physically in the room when it starts ringing. Ditto for making any calls. Plus, in many offices the black corded 1980s desk phone is still practically the de facto staple of communication, meaning that even if you are in the same room, you are not going to be able to walk away from your desk if you need to grab a cup of coffee or a stack of files! The most “advanced” thing they can often do is maybe, once you jump through a zillion hoops, connect it to your cell phone; though more often than not you will end up frustrated and still stuck with the cord. Even mobile numbers have this hiccup- sure, they can move with you, but if you do not have your hand on the specific phone they are registered to, you are not going to be picking up that call.
Online numbers, as mentioned in the introduction, are attached to an account. What that means is that anyone with your login can make calls on those numbers. So if you decide to have one company number, but your company is mobile and the only time you ever meet is at a coworking space, whoever is currently on shift can just log into the account and make/receive calls on that single number.
However, the beauty of online phone numbers is that you do not have to rely on one telephone number. Oftentimes adding new online numbers is nothing but a cinch; for small businesses (for the purposes of the hypothetical, let’s go with five employees), each employee could have their own online telephone number (many telephony plans already come with more than one online telephone number).
Because all of these numbers can be associated with your Admin account, you can have a unique perspective, able to see which employee is making the most calls, missing the most calls, how long their calls are, who they are talking to, and more. Not only does this allow you to centralize and more clearly organize your company, but it also allows you to maximize company time- which, in this incredibly competitive small business market, can be critically important to having a successful quarter.
As hinted above, an online telephone number also allows you to maximize flexibility in terms of the workplace. For decades, small businesses worked in offices, paying high rents each month and worrying about all sorts of building maintenance issues, because they had to- they needed a central communications hub, a place where all the phones could be plugged in. No, there’s no such reason. Your office can be an aforementioned coworking space, or your local coffee house, or your living room. With an online number you can literally revolutionize how you work. Think of all the costs saved- no more having to pay for an IT guy to help you figure out how to work those corded phones, no more having to pay for corded phones, no more office rent, no more gas spent going to and from the office every day. Everything is going digital today- why can’t your phone number?
That said: if you just love those black corded phones, and you cannot get enough, don’t you worry- online phone numbers can be set up to work through them too.
What are the features most commonly associated with it?
One of the many great things about online telephone numbers is that they can come with a bevy of features, depending upon which telephony company you elect to work with.
Such features can dramatically impact and strengthen your small business. Some, such as the aforementioned call statistics, along with automated call recording, visual voicemail, and complete, downloadable call histories, allow you to help yourself and your employees improve their communications skills. Due to their online and flexible nature, you can also forward calls from one device to another, set certain devices (or numbers) to receive calls at certain times of day, have incoming calls ring sequentially (for example, first ringing your cell phone, then your softphone, then your webphone), or receive any incoming call on all devices at the same time.
In terms of organization, online numbers can be used in tandem with auto attendants, which can get potential callers where they want to go! Plus, you can upload your own telephone directions (instead of having a robot do all the talking), which makes it way more likely to get callers to stay on the line.
And of course, as previously alluded to, depending on the telephony company (such as MightyCall), you can use an online number to send and receive text messages, ensuring that your business can communicate in a 21st century environment.
Once again, it is the flexibility of online numbers that really steal the show. With online numbers you are no longer held captive by clunky, older, and more expensive ways of doing business. No longer will you have to imagine getting to take full control of your own small business, freeing yourself from the confines of an office, tied down by corded phones. With an online number, you can digitally cut yourself free.
So get one today- and get calling!!
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