Would you spend hundreds or thousands of pounds with someone who gives a card or has a website with only a mobile number on it?
If you are like me, the answer is probably 'no'!
Irrelevant on how trustworthy they are or good at their job, I think it is just too risky. The thing is, people think that having a proper phone number still costs a few hundred quid to get connected and loads per month and ties you to a long contract.
Well, I am here to tell you that all of that went a long time ago!
You can get a local phone number for only a few quid a month...... rolloing tumble weed..... silence. That's it!
Let me say that again (with a little bit of elaboration). You can get a 01, 02 or 03 (limited) number, that people can call you on from about £2 per month. You can still use your mobile phone for outgoing calls, but, as far as all of your customers are concerned, you have a long bit of wire coming out of your wall, connected to a lump of plastic on a desk somewhere - credibility!
This is all done by internet telephony, AKA VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). I have used two main suppliers over the years, Voipfone and Voicehost. Both offer a great service, with similar prices, but I would choose Voipfone if you only want a number or two and make a lot of outgoing calls. If taking several numbers and are connecting to your own PBX switchboard, I would use Voicehost, as it is easier to set up. but for most people, there is little to differenciate, with Voipfone being a bit better (and award winning).
If you are a member of Your Business Community, you could also sign up to their deal which is a landline number plus 500 minutes of call diversion to your mobile phone for £9.99 a month - all you need to get you going!
You could always use Skype In, however, die hard traditionalists will still say call quality lags behind other 'real' VoIP suppliers. Connectivity to other things that are not computers can be an issue/costly.
Now, how do you answer the calls (assuming you do not have that YBC package or calls diverted)? Well there are several ways:
- Softphone - a program that runs or your computer, with several available for free
- Handset - like a normal phone, this connects to your compluter network or router and cost from about £20 up
- Mobile phone/tablet - you can get a softphone for these devices, Bria being one of the better (a few quid), but, several Android phones allow you to connect to VoIP in their settings, so it is like having your office number built into your mobile - you've gotta love technology!
Now, if you want something a little more fancy, you can get extensions from these suppliers, so you have one phone at home and your colleague has another on thier mobile, both reacting to your new office number. This virtual PBX switchboard will deliver functions normally seen on bigger systems - call divert, ring groups, IVR (press 1 for sales, 2 for accounts... ), time conditions, etc.
What do I have?
Well, with about 12 numbers for different businesses, I have set up my own phone server on a box in Newcastle (I am in London), with extensions all over the country and a couple abroad! I use free software called Asterisk & FreePBX to run my system. I do not have a BT line at home, opting for a fast Virgin fibre connection, but with the same phone number I have had for 30 years. I forgot to mention, you can normally move your exisiting numbers over to these services for a small, one off charge!
By the way, don't let the con artists and wide boys know about this as I will soon have to start distrusting landline numbers!!