Sometime ago QC Hustle published an article titled Look at You and Your Fancy Business which outlined the importance of having a physical business presence. Having a physical presence serves a dual purpose in 1) your clients may take you a little more seriously and 2) you're not giving out your personal home information. As vital as this prescence may seem, the actual presence of contacting a business on a national level is as equally important.
Many of us who are starting a business may use our home phone or cellular number, unfortunately being contacted in this fashion is quite a drawback. For one you could rack up on some pretty expensive cellular minutes and 2) your personal time at home could be compromised as well as you can really damage your business credibility especially when your cute 3 year old picks up the phone and gaga googos thru a hello. The answer to these business perils is securing a business phone number.
Business phone numbers can be achieved through your local phone or cable company. While these are accessible options they at times can be somewhat inflexible and expensive. More recently a couple of virtual providers have emerged that can aid in giving your business that national contact clout through the use of 1-800 numbers. When looking for a virtual phone number provider the following should be considered.
1) If you're starting out small meaning you don't have lots of customers then look for the cheapest plan. The most important aspect when starting small is getting some visible presence. A 1-800 number regardless of the means will give you that.
2) Look for 24x7 support. Make sure before you sign up via their web form that you call the company and see how quick support is given. Remember your phone number is your NCC (National Contact Clout) and should be treated as vital as your business product/service.
3) Try to find a phone service that connects to your mobile phone or existing service. Google Voice is actually a great alternative in which you can secure a local number to your cell phone which then can be forwarded from a 1-800 service.
Most providers will provide a leased phone number and a trial period. The following are standards that are included with most services: multiple extensions, voice mail, call forwarding and transcribing messages to text. Rates usually beginning around $9.99 a month plus additional fees per minute per incoming calls. The crew here at QC Hustle did a little research and have come up with a couple of providers that have caught our attention.*
1) eVoice - Plans start at $12.95 and include, Auto Attendant features, Conference Calling, Music on Hold, and Dial by Name Directory options.
2) TollFreeNumber.org - This service is a bit different from the others in which you can own your number. This serves a host of advantages in which you can 1) always keep your number and 2) change to another service but keep your existing phone number. Other services provide you with a leased phone number. If you cancel that service you will lose that number. With TollFreeNumber.org the number is yours forever. However, there are some exceptions 1) there's a one time $49.99 activation fee and minutes are charged by .05 cents a minute per incoming call and 2) there's a $9.99 monthly Maintenance and Recovery Fee. This particular plan is limited in terms of voice mail and some other standard features. You can also look at the unlimited minute plan which is $49.99 a month and includes a host of features.
3) Callture - Offers forwarding to Skype at 2.8 cents a minute, Memo on call - allows you to record notes after a call, After hours mode, Click to call - allows calling from your website, Voice Studio - enables a professional voice talent for greeting, music on hold and dial name by directory plus a host of other features.
4) Phone.com - Includes all of the features listed from the above providers plus, Do Not Disturb - your phone will not ring for that specified time, Schedules - set employee schedules meaning designate when the phone will ring to them, Call Tagging - say Sales and your customer will be directed to the person(s) in your company who handles sales, Block Surcharged calls - these are calls made from a pay phone in Canada and 911 service.
The decision in choosing a provider is not easy and should be determined based on your needs and later on down the road your wants. The most important thing is start researching which vehicle would be a best fit for your business. Regardless of what you do you can't go wrong!
Wishing You Prosperity,
*QC Hustle does not endorse any of the products mentioned. Products are mentioned solely for informational purposes.