The phone is an essential tool for small business. It’s the way many customers form their first impression of your company, and is often the main communications channel between you and your customers.
It’s important that everything about your telecommunications solution helps to present your business in a positive and professional manner.
It’s equally important to select a solution that not only meets all of your needs today, but adapts with you as your business grows and your needs increase.
The benefits of “virtual” services
When you’re first starting out in business, you need to watch every dollar and spend money wisely. Even though you know it would make life easier to hire a receptionist and buy a fax machine, you can’t always afford to.
With virtual services, someone else spends the money on equipment, maintenance and salaries, and you pay only for the share of it that your business needs. This helps you to afford things that would otherwise be seriously over budget!
The beauty of virtual services is that you pay for what you need today, and increase your service levels as your business grows.
Virtual phone numbers
Start by getting a virtual phone number (1300 number or 1800 number). Not only do these numbers help to make your business look professional, they also provide many benefits:
- Route these numbers to any phone in Australia, including landlines, mobiles, VoIP phones, faxes and live answering services.
- Because these numbers are not tied to a particular phone or exchange, they can move with you from office to office as your business grows.
- One number works Australia-wide, so if you expand nationally, you can advertise a single number and use routing to send incoming callers to their nearest office.
- Built-in reporting included with these numbers helps you to monitor all incoming calls, and measure the effectiveness of your marketing and advertising programs.
Around 75% of callers hang up when their call is answered by a machine. Those who can’t afford a full-time receptionist can sign up for a live answering service.
A virtual receptionist will answer calls at times when you’re not available (e.g. outside of office hours, or when your phone is busy or not answering). They then forward messages to you immediately via SMS, email and web-based portal. With some plans, the receptionist will transfer the incoming calls to you.
You can sign up for an Australian-based live answering service that is online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for less than $1 a day. That’s a very affordable way to ensure you never miss another call or sales lead!
And as your business grows, you can continue to upgrade your live answering plans until you’re in a position to hire a receptionist of your own.
Call forwarding (IVR) menus
These are those “For Sales, press 1; For Support, press 2” menus that we’re all so fond of. When they’re done the right way, IVR menus allow callers to quickly get through to the person they want to talk to. They also provide benefits for small businesses.
There’s no need to buy any new equipment. These menus are available as an add-on service for your 1300/1800 number, and will add around $15 per month to your rental fee.
When your business is small, you can create the impression of a larger company by having multiple options routed to the same person. (No-one ever needs to know that you’re answering both the sales and support calls.)
And as your business grows, you can use a single incoming number to route calls to multiple people based in multiple offices. If your sales team is usually on the road, you can route calls to their mobile phones. If you outsource things like accounts or PR, you can route calls to external offices.
Fax2Email and Voice2Email
You can also save on the cost of buying and maintaining fax and answering machines.
Fax2Email/Email2Fax services allow you to send and receive faxes without a fax machine. All you need is an email connection. You can even use your smartphone.
Voice2Email services forward all voicemail messages directly to your email account.
Not only do you save money by not needing to purchase and maintain office equipment, you also have the convenience of being able to access your faxes and voicemails when you’re away from the office.
Create a virtual office
All of these services are designed to help you be productive and to present a professional image no matter how big your business is. And being virtual, all of these services will scale to grow with you as your business succeeds.
Gail Hodgson is the Marketing Specialist at
http://www.alltel.com.au”>Alltel Australia. Alltel is a full service business telco and communications company specializing in services for the business market: supporting businesses of all sizes from sole traders to major corporations.
Alltel is Australia’s ‘best service’ telco, specializing in products including 1300 numbers and 1800 numbers, live answering, and virtual office services such as voice to email, fax to email, and email to fax. You can find out more at
© Copyright Alltel Pty Ltd, 2011