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  • Writer's pictureAngela Sanna

What is a virtual phone number?

Getting a virtual phone number is a simple, cost-effective way for your business to establish a local presence, save on long-distance calling, and benefit from the flexibility of VoIP.

When your small business is ready to expand its market, add more employees, and manage a higher volume of customer service requests, a virtual business phone number is an absolute necessity.

Because virtual telephone numbers let users make and receive voice calls via the Internet, they offer HD call quality, mobility, advanced features, and additional conveniences traditional wired PSTN phones can’t. And with traditional landlines being switched off by 2025, now is the ideal time to go virtual.

But what is a virtual number, and how does it work? How will having one–or more–benefit your business, and how can you get one?

What is a Virtual Phone Number?

A virtual phone number is a cloud-based telephone number that facilitates voice calling via the Internet instead of a physical connection to the wired Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN.)

Landlines direct calls via circuit switching, and are tied to one specific location/address. These traditional phone systems require onsite setup, storage, and maintenance–and adding another phone line means a disruptive, lengthy, and expensive installation process.

In contrast, virtual numbers (sometimes called VoIP numbers) facilitate internal and external business communications without depending on a traditional analog network. VoIP numbers use broadband or wireless Internet to establish a virtual connection to phone networks.

Instead of being linked to a physical address, virtual phone numbers are assigned to individuals, departments, branches, or even specific groups of agents (called a shared line.)

This virtual connection also means users can access their VoIP number from anywhere in the world, on any device with Internet access. These devices can include desktop and laptop computers, cell phones, tablets, and even IP deskphones. VoIP facilitates voice calling via a mobile softphone application that’s accessible on multiple devices simultaneously.

Virtual phone service also comes with more advanced VoIP features than landlines, including:

  • Call routing

  • Call forwarding

  • On-demand/automatic call recording and transcription

  • Visual voicemail

  • Call blocking and Caller ID

  • Ring groups

  • Call waiting and call queuing

  • Call park, call flip, call hold, call transfer

  • Business text messaging (SMS and MMS)

  • Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)

  • Auto-attendant

  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

  • Third-party integrations

How does a virtual number work?

Virtual phone numbers do not require a SIM card or a physical address. Instead, virtual numbers accept calls through Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Fundamentally, it’s the same proven technology used to make calls and text messages through iMessage, WhatsApp, or Google Voice.

All you need is a reliable Broadband internet connection or mobile data to start making and receiving calls using your virtual phone number. The sound quality with VoIP is also typically much better than with an older-style landline phone, plus it’s affordable and doesn’t require loads of data.

Types of virtual numbers

There are four main types of virtual phone numbers businesses use:

Local numbers

Are also sometimes called 'geographic numbers' and relate to a specific area of the UK. If a UK landline starts with 01 or 02 then it’s classed as a local number.

Many businesses choose to have a virtual phone number with a locally recognisable area code, even if they’re not actually located in that area. It’s perfectly okay to do this, in fact it can be a useful tool in targeting customers within a specific locality. As people often like to call numbers that have a familiarity to them, local numbers can help generate more incoming calls. It can also help you build your market within a certain area, without going to all the expense and hassle of actually having an office there.

Freephone numbers

Also known as ‘0800 numbers’ or ‘toll-free numbers’, freephone numbers don’t incur any charge when made from a UK landline or mobile. The owner of the freephone number will typically bill the recipient of the call instead of the person making the call, which customers often find appealing. This again can help boost call volumes which hopefully convert to sales for your business.

Non-geographic numbers

These are ‘03’ numbers. 03 numbers are known as “non-geographic” because they’re not tied to a particular location. This makes them very similar to 0844 or 0845 numbers. However, 03 numbers are cheaper to call, because they cost the same as calling a local landline - even if you’re calling from a mobile.

Mobile numbers

These are virtual phone numbers that can not only handle calls but also receive SMS text messages.

Benefits of a Virtual Phone Number

Virtual phone numbers offer numerous benefits to businesses of all sizes and across all industries.

Smaller businesses can avoid giving out their personal phone number while appearing more established and legitimate to customers. Plus, they can keep their existing equipment and enjoy unlimited monthly local and long-distance calling to help keep operating expenses low.

Larger companies will benefit from the advanced features, incoming call flow management, scalability, and compliance regulations virtual phone numbers provide.

Below, we’ll explore additional virtual phone system benefits.

1. Virtual phone numbers incur lower costs

One of the most significant benefits of virtual phone numbers is that they offer a much lower TCO than traditional landlines. When choosing a business phone system, you’ll find that traditional system costs quickly add up and become prohibitive, especially if your business is growing.

Because a virtual line doesn’t require specialised or dedicated devices, your hardware costs are virtually nothing. And when you’re moving a business into new communities or regions, you can create a local number to avoid the added costs of long-distance calls. It’s essential to keep operating expenses as low as possible when opening your business to new opportunities and clients; virtual phone numbers can help you do this.

2. Virtual phone numbers serve multiple markets

Because anyone can get a virtual number for any location, you can create local numbers to serve any region. This decreases costs because you’ll avoid premium charges from long-distance calls as you find new neighborhoods and clients to serve.

3. Virtual phone numbers are easy to scale

Without the need for dedicated hardware and with no line limitations, creating more virtual phone numbers to scale with your business is easy. When you’re building a sales team and hiring more employees, you can call your administrator and add all the virtual phone lines you need.

4. 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.

How to get a virtual number

Getting a virtual phone number couldn’t be easier. Get in touch with the team today on 020 4599 1365

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