Virtual Phone Systems

A virtual phone system is a cloud-based PBX small business phone system. It’s virtual in that it’s cloud-based, which means it is hosted over the internet and accessible online 24/7. Unlike traditional PBX business telephone systems there’s no need for equipment or hardware. Traditionally, a small business phone system with auto-attendants would cost thousands of dollar to install and then hundreds of dollars to maintain. Implementing a virtual phone system requires no upfront investment and since it works with your existing phones (office phones, home phone, VoIP phones or cell phones) – no more phone closets full of complex telecom equipment. And because today’s virtual PBX phone systems are cloud-based, there’s no software to download or keep updated. In fact, upgrades are automatic so you are always using the latest and greatest version of the telecom technology.

Do Virtual Phone Systems Work with Cell Phones?

Absolutely. In fact, virtual phone systems allow entrepreneurs and startup companies to run their business using cell phones, yet sound like a Fortune 500 company. A virtual office phone system is perfect for startup companies or on-the-go entrepreneurs who run their business from their cell phones, because a virtual phone system has all the power of a traditional small business telephone system without the hassle of expensive equipment. You can set up a virtual auto-attendant with a greetings, extensions, and voicemails.

How does a Virtual PBX Phone System work?

A virtual PBX telephone system uses a hosted auto attendant to route calls to multiple phones and extensions. In the past a traditional PBX small office phone system use to cost thousands of dollars and take weeks to install. Now, with today’s virtual phone system technology, a small business owner can sign up for virtual phone service in minutes – with no setup fees, or long term contracts locking them in. All they have to do is simply pick a toll free number or a local number (with the area code of their choice), and then pick a minute plan. Some plans include a bundle of minutes (i.e., talk time); other plans are pay-per-minute (also called pay-per-use). Users can then login to their own virtual PBX system and set up greetings, department extensions, employee extensions, time-of-day routing, after-hours greetings, and virtual voicemail. This virtual telephone system includes a completely customizable auto-attendant that can be accessed, changed, and configured online 24/7.

Why should I get a Hosted Small Business Telephone System?

The main reason a small business should get a hosted phone system is time, money, and functionality. Not only does a hosted (or virtual) phone system cost a fraction of traditional small business phone systems, it allows users to work remotely (i.e., work from a virtual office). It also includes toll free number lines so you don’t have to buy 800 number services. With today’s highly mobile entrepreneurs, a virtual office phone system is exactly what is needed to keep on-the-go employees connected yet sound to the customers as if they are utilizing a professional Fortune 500 company’s phone system. With startup companies popping up in dorm rooms and garages, a flexible hosted small business telephone solution is exactly what is needed. Startups and home-based businesses alike can uses these affordable telecommunication services to sound professional and keep their remote workers connected.

Get a Virtual PBX Phone System for Your Small Business Startup

There’s No Such Thing as Unlimited Toll Free Forwarding Minutes.

There’s a good chance this blog post is going to tick off a few toll free service providers. Too bad. It’s time to call a spade a spade. The truth is no phone company actually offers unlimited toll free number service. There’s no such thing. BUT, unfortunately, there are some phone companies out there that are perfectly comfortable lying about it, and it’s pretty much legal to do so.

Get Toll Free Service with “Unlimited” Minutes, But There’s a Catch!

Phone companies that advertise toll free 800 number service with “Unlimited Minutes”, have something hidden in their lengthy terms and conditions’ legalese called a “Fair Use” Policy. This term is sometimes called other things, but in the telecom world it’s generally referred to as a Fair Use Policy. And there’s nothing fair about it.

What is a Fair Use Policy?

In the telecom industry a Fair Use Policy is a statement in a phone company’s terms and conditions that basically says your service provider has the right to raise your rates if they determine that you are using the service in an “unusual” way. What does that mean? It means your Phone Company can raise your rates if they think you’re using too many minutes. It’s as simple as that.

Unlimited-800-Number-Service-Plans

Your Unlimited 800 Number Service Has a Secret Limit You Don’t Know About.

The language for most Fair Use Policies is written in a way that makes it sound like the phone company uses qualitative factors to determine “fair use”, but in reality it’s strictly quantitative. Again, it’s simple. They put a secret limit on your “unlimited” plan. If you go over a certain amount of minutes, like let’s say you hit their secret 3000 minute cap, then they shut you off and charge you more money.

They lie to your face and put your business at risk.

So let’s say you hit their secret limit and they charge you more. If you don’t pay it, the best case scenario is they shut you off—worst case, your phone company holds your toll free number hostage and sends you to collections. They may even charge you late fees. If you formally cancel they might hit you with a cancelation fee. And after you’ve paid your bill, they might even let you transfer your number to another provider but only after you pay a porting fee for good measure. Maybe it’s your fault. After all, you did agree to their ambiguous Fair Use Policy buried in a 200 page downloadable PDF of terms and conditions. (It’s not your fault.) They tell you that you bought an “Unlimited Plan”. They didn’t tell you about the secret 3000 minute limit or whatever it is. They lie to your face and put your business at risk. Not cool. Not fair.

Toll Free Numbers with Unlimited Minutes

How in The H-E DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS is This Even Legal?

Okay, I’m not a lawyer or FCC expert by any means, but here’s my take on it. The FCC originally condoned Fair Use Policies for phone companies who provide unlimited outbound calling plans because there were real cases of auto-dialer abuse. Basically, telemarketing companies who use robo-calling programs to make thousands of outbound calls in seconds would crash networks and cause problems for normal use customers. That’s not fair use. However, the keyword here is OUTBOUND.

There’s a Difference Between Unlimited Outbound Calling VS Unlimited Inbound Calling.

So, when it comes to phone companies who provide unlimited OUTBOUND calling, it’s perhaps still a little misleading, but it’s reasonable for these companies to have a Fair Use Policy in place. It protects their network from outbound robo-calling abuse. There may even be other sensible reasons to have special terms and conditions that protect from other types of abuses, but this reasonable use logic does NOT apply to companies who advertise unlimited toll free number service with unlimited INBOUND minutes. Toll free numbers by design are for receiving inbound calls. 

Call it What It Is. Horse Hockey.

Companies who have a Fair Use Policy that applies to their INBOUND toll free minutes are not worried about OUTBOUND auto-dialer abuse. They are purposefully misusing the original intent of the policy so they can deceptively use the word “UNLIMITED”, and thus trick customers into purchasing their service. Call it a loophole. Call it a grey area. But call it what it is: A shady and unethical practice…and I guess it’s legal… It’s Horse Hockey! That’s what it is. (Sorry for using a Ned Flanders curse word, but our blog has a no profanity policy.)

800-Numbers-with-Unlimited-Minutes

Even If It’s Legal, Why Would a Phone Company Lie to Your Face?

You’d think it would be bad for business to blatantly lie to your customers, but you’d be wrong. Phone companies with unlimited toll free service plans lie to you with a smile on their face—for TWO reasons. They’ve done the research and they’ve done the math.

The Marketing Research Says People Are Scared of Overages.

Marketing research overwhelmingly indicates that people will pay more for the word “unlimited”. Customers would rather pay $75 per month for unlimited minutes, than pay $50 per month for 3000 minutes (even if they only use 1000 minutes per month to begin with). For some reason the idea of going over your plan’s minutes scares people. It must be the fear of the unknown or the security of knowing you are only going to pay so much every month. So you set your budget and you’re good. No need to worry. UNLESS OF COURSE, you hit your “unlimited” plan’s SECRET LIMIT and activate the FAIR USE POLICY, in which you’ll end up PAYING OVERAGES that you didn’t even know existed. Which, paradoxically, is actually scarier and a totally unfair policy.

The Math Says You’ll Only Tick Off About 10% of Your Customers.

So back to the original question. Even if it’s legal, and phone companies can technically charge their customers more, wouldn’t blatantly lying to your customers ultimately be bad for business? We’ll in the phone companies mind, it’s only lying if they get caught. Phone companies that offer these unlimited plans analyze their customer base’s usage. They simply do the math. They figure out what the sweet spot is where they will likely only ever have about 10% of their customers reach the secret limit. It turns out it’s totally worth it to tick off about 10% of your customers in order to make money with the word “Unlimited”.

Unlimited Toll Free Service Plans

So, If You’d Make More Money, Why Doesn’t Every Toll Free Service Provider Offer an Unlimited Plan?

It’s happening more and more. In fact, the reason I decided to write this article is because one of our major competitors recently changed their pricing and is now offering an Unlimited Toll Free Number Plan (with a Fair Use Policy of course). Before I even wrote this article I visited their website and chatted online with one of their sales reps. I got him to admit that their unlimited plan wasn’t truly unlimited. I even took screenshots of the conversation and thought about posting them. I decided against it. I felt like it would be a jerk thing to do. And heck, there are people in our company that have proposed we A/B test our own pricing with an Unlimited Plan. We have tens of thousands of customers to run an analysis on. We could find the money-making sweet spot and only tick off 10% of our customers.

It Just Doesn’t Feel Right.

We haven’t offered an unlimited toll free service plan because it goes against how we are trying to differentiate ourselves from other phone companies. In an industry chock-full of hidden fees and outsourced customer service, we’re trying to do better. We try to offer straightforward plans and pricing. And while other phone companies are outsourcing their customer support to overseas call center farms, we’ve purposely kept our customer service 100% USA-based. Do we love America more than other phone companies? Probably—but that’s not the point. We don’t offer unlimited toll free number service plans backed by dishonest Fair Use Policies, because it just doesn’t feel right. It feels like lying.

 

UniTel Voice provides toll free numbers and virtual phone systems priced and designed for small businesses and on-the-go entrepreneurs.

Virtual Phone Service

A virtual phone service provider is a phone company that provides virtual telephone numbers with hosted PBX features. Phone service providers offer these virtual phone line services via a hosted phone system (also known as cloud-based phone systems). That is to say, the telephone number is hosted online and can be accessed and managed online 24/7. The neat thing about a virtual phone number is that it can be any area code of your choice. This means a virtual phone service can give your business local numbers with area codes in L.A., Chicago, and New York. Thus giving your business a local presence in all three cities and making it look like you have offices all over the USA (pretty impressive!). Virtual telephone services can also provide you toll free numbers. A toll free phone number can be a smart investment. It not only gives instant credibility and a nationwide presence to a small business – it gives that small business the complete flexibility to port its telephone number to traditional business phone service providers or a virtual business phone service at any time.

virtual phone service provider

How does Virtual Phone Service work?

Virtual phone service is a business telephone service that is completely hosted online. It allows companies with office in multiple locations to stay connected. More and more companies are letting workers work remotely and/or from the road. A virtual telephone service allows users to use their home phone or cell phone for work purposes. How is this done? A call comes in on your company’s virtual phone line and then the virtual phone system routes the caller to the proper extension or voicemail. These extensions can ring multiple phones, your home phone, your office phone, or your business partner’s cell phone while he on the road traveling. If the call comes to voicemail the message is taken and then sent to a user’s email. Since the entire system is cloud-based there’s no equipment needed. Virtual Phone Services work with your existing phones. They can literally turn your cell phone in to your business phone so you can work from anywhere and still project a professional image to your customers.

Virtual Phone Service Benefits

Why should I get a Virtual Telephone System for my business?

Here are the top reasons you should consider getting a virtual phone system for your small business. You can pick a virtual phone number with any area code or even get a toll free number. You don’t need to install any expensive equipment or download any complicated software. You can manage everything online. Having virtual business phone service is like have a Fortune 500 company’s phone system yet you can run your business from your cell phone. There are no setup fees, no major investments of time and money, no long term contracts, and you can cancel anytime and port your virtual phone lines to any other phone company at any time. Telecommunications technology has innovated beyond many small business owners expectations. You can’t beat the price, flexibility, or features of a virtual PBX system. It’s definitely the way to go for today’s highly mobile small businesses and startup companies.

virtual phone system

vanity toll free numbers

Vanity toll free numbers are 1-800 numbers that spell out a word related to a company’s industry or brand name (for example: 1-800-CAR-LOAN or 1-800-DENTIST). Not all vanity phone numbers have to start with the area code (i.e., toll free prefix) 800. You can find vanity toll free numbers for sale with the toll free 888 prefix as well as the following toll free prefixes: 877, 866, 855, and 844. In fact the 844 toll free prefix is the newest released, therefore you are more likely to find toll free vanity numbers available for the 844 area code, because the other toll free area codes have been in circulation for much long. In fact, the 1800 toll free numbers have been available since 1967 making them as rare as a buffalo nickel.

The truth is 800 numbers are the most recognized toll free numbers available, however all the glitters isn’t gold. One reason you might consider getting an 844 or 855 toll free number instead of a toll free number that starts with 800, is recycling. With true 800 toll free numbers because there’s about a 100% chance that the telephone number was recycled (i.e., used by another company at one time or another). You might find the perfect vanity 800 number for your small business but because an out-of-business cable company used to use it, you’ll be bombarded by calls that you don’t want. It’s better to go with an 888 or 855 toll free number – simply because they are newer and less likely to have been recycled.

vanity-number

How do Vanity Toll Free Phone Numbers work?

Vanity toll free phone numbers work the same way toll free numbers do. They are the same thing. The term “vanity number” simply means a custom telephone number that spells a word when you decode the numerical version using a standard telephone dialing pad (for example: 2 = ABC, 3=DEF, 4=GHI etc.). One tip we would suggest is if you do decide to display your vanity 800 number on your website or marketing material, also include the numerical version of that number. It makes it more convenient for the caller to just dial the number and not have to decode the letters into numbers. But don’t get us wrong, vanity toll free numbers combined with virtual phone service are great for advertising because they are so easy to remember. If you are advertising your toll free number on a radio commercial, billboard, online, or on the side of your truck, vanity toll free telephone numbers are the way to go.

vanity numbers

What if my Vanity Toll Free Number has More Than 10 Digits?

If you are wondering: Can my vanity phone number have more than ten digits? The answer is, yes. In fact, vanity toll free telephone numbers with more than 10 digits are very common – it’s called using over-dials…but we’ll get to that in a second. As you may know the NorthAmerican Dialing Plan only allows phone numbers with 10 digits (3-ditit area code plus the 7 digit telephone number) to be used. If you live in the United States of America or Canada you probably already know that as common sense.

So what if my vanity number is more than 10-digits? That’s actually a common practice called over-dials, hears and example: 1-800-Get-FEDE(800-438-3333). The extra letter “X in red is called an over-dial – a common practice in the vanity number world when exact word matches are not available (and they almost never are). Finding the perfect vanity toll free number is harder than finding the perfect website address (also called a domain name or URL). The reason why over-dials are no big deal is because in North America you can only dial a 10-digit number. If someone dials the extra number 9 in this case (X=9 on a standard telephone keypad) it won’t matter, the call will either go through or the person calling will realize they dialed too many numbers.

find a toll free number

vanity phone number

A vanity phone number is a usually a toll free number that spells a word related to a business’s brand or industry. These custom toll free telephone numbers have been a popular marketing tool since the late 1960’s. In this case “vanity” doesn’t mean pride or self-importance; it means a unique word related to business’s marketing, brand, industry, or service. When someone hears an advertisement on the radio or sees your ad on a billboard, a vanity telephone number makes it easy for the person to remember your business’s toll free phone number. The independent organization called SMS800 is sanctioned by the FCC to house and regulate 1-800 telephone numbers. When telephone companies conduct an 800 phone number lookup and search for available phone numbers they are searching the SMS800 database. This database is used as a vanity phone number generator, generating all available vanity 800 telephone numbers not currently in use by other businesses.

vanity 1-800 number

How can I get a Vanity Telephone Number?

If you are looking for vanity phone numbers for sale you’ll need to find a toll free service provider, such as UniTel Voice, with a custom toll free search tool that allows you to do an instant vanity phone number search. This search should generate all available combinations of 1-800 telephone numbers (vanity toll free numbers) that spell the word or phrase you are looking for. However, vanity numbers don’t have to be 1800 numbers. Vanity telephone numbers can start with other toll free number area codes such as 888 or 855 or 866 or 877 or even the newest toll free area code 844. You should note that the three-digit area code of a toll free number is often referred to as a toll free prefix, not an area code. Using the search tool to look up available numbers is easy. Simply enter the word or phrase you’d like your phone number to spell and the toll free search tool will display all available results. If you find a vanity phone number that you like, you can instantly reserve it and signup for long term toll free service by choosing a usage plan. Some companies charge a one-time “vanity” fee for custom toll free numbers. This fee usually ranges from $15-$50 depending on number; however some vanity 800 number like 1-800-FLOWERS can even cost tens of thousands of dollars!

vanity telephone number

Why should I get a Vanity 1-800 Number?

The obvious reason to use toll free vanity 800 telephone numbers for your business is they’re easy to remember. They’re not only memorable they reinforce your company’s brand. However, the main reason your company should invest in a vanity toll free number is something called toll free number portability. This means you own your business phone number. Before the FCC implemented these telecom regulations to protect against the monopoly power of large phone companies – toll free service providers could hold your number hostage. If they decided to raise your rates, you could either pay the new rates or lose your number. Telephone numbers with local area codes do not have toll free number portability protection in the same way 800 numbers do. If you spend lots of money marketing your business’s phone number you want to make sure you own the number and are free to port or “transfer” that number to any carrier at any time. That is way local vanity phone numbers are not a good idea for business use.

find a toll free number

toll free forwarding

Toll free numbers aren’t just for large call centers or Fortune 500 companies any more. Now you can get a toll free number and forward it to your cell phone. If you’re an on-the-go entrepreneur or a small business owner this technology can help you stay connected and sound more professional. When someone calls your toll free number they’ll first hear a professional greeting like “Thank you for calling ABC Company. For Sales press 1, For Support press 2…etc.” Then your caller is routed to your cell phone or your business partner’s cell phone in another location. You’d see on your caller ID that it’s customer calling you on your 800 number so you would know to answer the call professionally. And if you don’t answer, instead of going to your personal cell phone’s voicemail the caller will be sent to your Company’s unavailable greeting (“We’re sorry all representatives are assisting other customers…”). Your caller can leave a message and that message will be emailed to you. This is type of toll free number forwarding is made possible by Virtual Phone Systems for Small Business. With a Virtual Phone System, you can run your business from your cell phone, yet sound like you have a Fortune 500 company’s phone system.

get toll free forwarding service

What does Toll Free Forwarding mean?

Toll free forwarding refers to the ability to forward a toll free 800 number to a local area code number. For example you can forward an 866 toll free phone number to any local area code number using a phone company’s toll free services. However, there are more toll free area codes than just 866 and they all have toll free forwarding capabilities. Toll free area codes are called prefixes (technically they’re just called toll free area codes, but for some reason they are wildly referred to as toll free prefixes, even though the prefix is actually the first 3 digits after the area code). The FCC has currently approved the following toll free phone number prefixes for use by small business and other organizations: 800, 855, 866, 888, 877, and the newest toll free prefix 844. Any toll free phone number (that includes toll free vanity numbers) with any of these prefixes are eligible for toll free call forwarding to local area codes in the USA or Canada North American Dialing Plan.

call forwarding service

How does Toll Free Forwarding work?

It’s simple. You sign up for toll free number service with a telephone company that is an official RespOrg (i.e., FCC authorized toll free service provider known as a “responsible organization” or “RespOrg” in telecom talk). You select an 800 number (remember the prefix or toll free area code does not have to be 800 – it can be 855 or 866, 888, 877, or 844) and you forward the toll free number to a local area code telephone number. Some toll free call forwarding services allow you to set up advanced call forwarding such as time-of-day routing, multiple greetings, extensions, phone numbers, or virtual voicemail boxes. In fact, some toll free forwarding systems offer virtual phone system features with all the power of a traditional PBX business telephone service. Or you can opt for simple toll free call forwarding and simply ring your 1800 number to your local phone number. Toll free numbers can forward to cell phones, home phones, office phones, VoIP phones or whatever 10-digit (3-digit area code plus 7 digit phone number) telephone number you’d like.

1-800 Number Forwarding service

Why should I get a 1-800 Number Forwarding service?

If you are a small business owner, home-based business owner, or startup company entrepreneur, you may be considering getting 1-800 number forwarding service. In today’s world it is not as important to have a toll free number so customers can call your small business toll free. Most people have cell phones with unlimited calling or use a VoIP solution with free long distance. However, there is a few good reasons to get toll free number forwarding services. You could get a vanity phone number that gives your home-based business a more credible image, like a Fortune 500 company who primarily uses 800 numbers. Another reason relates to number portability. A federal law passed in the 1990s to protect businesses from phone companies holding their business phone number hostage. This law granted toll free number portability, otherwise known as owning your business phone number and being able to easily and quickly port it to any phone company at any time. Local area code telephone numbers are not regulated the same as 800 phone numbers. Only toll free numbers with the toll free area codes 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, and 844 have this portability protection. If you phone company raises their rates you can port your number to another carrier virtually overnight and say goodbye to your current telecom provider. This allows you to shop around and find a new carrier that will provide you with the same quality of 1-800 number forwarding service at a better value.

virtual phone system

 Get an 800 Number

What is an 800 number?

Before we talk about how to get an 800 number for your small business, first let’s explain what it is. A 1-800 telephone number is a toll free number with the toll free area code prefix 855, 866, 877, 888, or 800. Business owners often wonder, if they get an 800 number, do they own it? The answer is yes – unless the phone company is “renting” the number. With UniTel Voice, for example you own your number with no strings attached. And in most cases, unless you agree to their special terms and conditions, you own the number and can port it to another provider at any time. Toll free numbers are the only telephone numbers protected by special FCC toll free number portability rules. As long as you are in good standing with your toll free service provider you can port your number to another phone company. Why is this so important? Let’s say you’ve spend time and money marketing your business’s phone number and you move locations, or you change phone systems, or your phone company goes out of business, or your phone company raises your rates. Toll free number portability means you have the right to port your number away from your current phone company without service interruption. Note: Some companies (UniTel Voice excluded) have cancelation fees or “porting” fees. Make sure you read their terms and conditions carefully.

buy an 800 number

Why should I buy an 800 number for my small business?

There are many reasons you should buy an 800 number, even in 2014. First, there’s no question that a toll free 1800 telephone number gives your business instant credibility and a nationwide presence – if you are small startup company or a home-based business that little bit of credibility can go a long way. However, the most important reason to buy 800 number service is the ability to own your business phone number. Toll free numbers are the only phone numbers protected by special FCC number portability rules that protect businesses and ensure the ability to take your number with you wherever you go. You invest in marketing your number – don’t lose that investment by marketing a local area code number that is not protected. Get a toll free number with the area code 800, 888, 877, 866, or 855, and protect your investment, and as a bonus, give your small business a nationwide appeal with a big business image.

Get 1-800 Numbers

How to Get 1-800 Numbers with affordable service

You can get 1-800 numbers from almost every major phone company. However, toll free service providers are not all are created equal. In fact, you can get the same quality of 1800 number service from a smaller company for a fraction of the price of going to one of the huge telecom providers. Not only do the smaller telephone companies have less expensive rates, the smaller phone companies have better customer service and more features (like 800 number voicemail and auto-attendant call routing). You might be wondering: If I get an 800 number from a smaller toll free phone service provider, will the call quality be the same as the large telecom providers? In most cases the answer is yes. Companies like UniTel Voice for example, use the same underlying toll free forwarding network as the major telecommunication giants. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the US government deemed the large telecom companies “monopolies”, forcing them to allow smaller phone companies the opportunity to use their networks as their underlying carriers. Once the monopolies were broken down, free market competition kicked in. As a result, the small phone companies innovated, making 1-800 toll free service more affordable, adding cool phone system features, and providing better customer service. That’s the power of the free market! Breaking up the telecom monopolies increased competition, lowered prices, and increase innovation across the board. See UniTel Voice’s Low Cost Toll Free Number Plans.

Toll Free Numbers with Virtual Phone System Features

Toll free numbers with virtual phone system features

Today, toll free service providers have combined cloud-based technology and with traditional toll free service to offer Virtual Phone Systems that provide small business with all the power of a traditional PBX business phone system without the hassle of equipment or software. Learn more about UniTel Voice’s Virtual Office Phone System.

find a toll free number

 

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