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What Is a Virtual Call and How Can It Revolutionize Your Communications?

This article was updated on July 1, 2024

Trying to understand what virtual calls are? Maybe you’ve heard of them in passing and you’re interested in understanding how they work, or you want to learn more about the benefits of virtual calls. We have all the information you need in this handy guide.

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What Is a Virtual Call?

Have you been stung by long-distance call charges before, or missed a call because you were out of the office? Then you’ll no doubt understand how frustrating it can be to be tied to a desk, reliant on physical lines and all the costs that come with them.

Virtual calling provides an effective, affordable solution that takes away the stress, inconvenience and expense of regular phone calls. A virtual phone system uses the internet to make a digital call, helping you stay connected without having to use a landline or rely on a mobile connection.

It’s particularly useful for smaller businesses looking to save communication costs, remote workers who need access, and frequent travelers who can’t be tied to a single device or location.

What Is a Virtual Number?

Placing a virtual call means you’ll need a virtual number. This is essentially a telephone number which is not linked directly to a telephone line. Sometimes known as an online or digital phone number, it allows callers to connect to a virtual phone system.

Using a virtual business phone number can help small businesses maintain a local presence without the associated costs. Instead of paying out for local telephone lines, businesses can instead employ a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system to use any area code they like.

Businesses can also choose from a range of virtual number types, including toll-free numbers, international numbers, and vanity numbers (e.g. 1-800-PAPER), for maximum flexibility.

How Does a Virtual Call Work?

If you’re new to virtual calling, you might be wondering how it works. Luckily, we’ve got it all laid out for you.

1. Set Up Your System

Whether you’re using a basic call-only option or an advanced VoIP system like Vonage, you’ll need to register with your provider, get your account up and running, and log into the system. This is a straightforward process which should only take a few minutes, so don’t worry if you haven’t done it before.

2. Import Your Contacts

If your business makes a lot of outbound calls, you’ll want to make sure you can import your contact list into your virtual call system. This can also be done through integrating your CRM with your VoIP solution (as long as you’ve picked a feature-rich provider like Vonage). This makes it easier and quicker to make calls and ensures everyone can access the correct contact details.

3. Make the Call

As soon as you’re ready, select the name or number you need from your list of contacts. The virtual call system will establish a connection between devices so you can start talking instantly. If you’re using a VoIP connection, your audio will be converted into data packets which are then sent across the internet to the receiver, where they’re reassembled into audio — and the same thing happens to the reply.

Virtual Calls vs. PBX Calls: What’s the Difference?

Whether you’re making a call over the internet, or your PBX, the outcome is roughly the same — instant communication. So what’s the difference, and how can it affect you?

Technology

Traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchanges) calls rely on hardware installed on-premises, meaning businesses must install, update, and maintain infrastructure on-site. This usually requires analog phone lines that connect to Public Switched Telephone Networks.

Virtual calls, on the other hand, use the internet and cloud services to connect callers. Users leverage software and online solutions like VoIP or virtual PBX systems to place the call, and their internet connection will transmit their voice data.

Installation

Traditional PBX involves significant upfront investment. From hardware and line rental costs to regular management and maintenance, the expense of traditional PBX adds up pretty quickly. On top of that, your PBX infrastructure will need dedicated physical space on-site for servers and equipment.

In contrast, all you need to get started with virtual calling is an internet connection. Forget hiring extra office space, installing analog phones, and paying for expensive line rentals — simply connect a compatible device to the internet and you’re ready to make a virtual call.

Usage

PBX is usually found in large enterprise companies who receive a significant amount of inbound calls. This may be governmental or financial institutes who rely on dedicated infrastructure and must comply with specific regulations.

Virtual calling is ideal for small and medium-sized businesses, especially those with remote or distributed teams. The lack of hardware required means businesses have maximum flexibility, allowing agents to make calls from anywhere on any device as long as it has access to the internet.

One major advantage of a virtual call solution is its integration capabilities. VoIP systems can easily integrate with other communication and business platforms, such as CRMs (Customer Relationship Management), collaboration tools, and email providers. This boosts employee productivity, enhances the customer experience, and allows teams to work together for maximum efficiency.

Features

Traditional PBX only offers basic functions that may not always meet your needs. You’ll get the essential call features — such as call transfers, voicemail, and call holding — but anything more advanced, like a virtual video call or auto attendant, won’t be possible.

Users need to be physically present at the location where the PBX system is installed, which will limit mobility and flexibility for your business and employees.

In addition to this, traditional PBX requires manual maintenance and on-site support. This means added staffing costs and restrictions in terms of scalability, as adding extra phone lines will demand more hardware investment.

Virtual calls offer advanced call management, including features like virtual voicemail, call recording, and analytics. As your business grows, you can easily add (or remove) lines or features as required, and only pay for the services you need. Any updates or maintenance will be handled remotely by your VoIP provider, ensuring you can continue your work with minimal interruption, cost, or delay.

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Practical Benefits of Conducting Virtual Calls 

Virtual calls offer many benefits for your business — so let’s take a look at some of the key advantages.

Enhanced Communication

According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer Report, 88% of customers engage with companies over the phone. And while 61% will happily use self-service options for simple issues, 77% expect to interact with someone immediately when they do get in touch.

Using the internet for your calls gives you access to high-definition audio and video quality, helping to ensure you don’t experience outages, bad reception, or call drops. This enhances the experience for your callers, boosts productivity, and minimizes misunderstandings — essential for customer service centers, sales teams, and any business where clear communication is critical.

Remote Team Collaboration

A recent study by the Harvard Business Review found that employees spent 60% more time in remote meetings in 2022 than they did in 2020, showing a clear trend for remote collaboration.

The flexibility of virtual calling allows remote workers to work from anywhere without being tethered to a particular location or device, so teams can perform their duties even if they’re working from home or traveling.

Virtual call systems also offer extensive integration capabilities, empowering employees to keep track of communications and projects, boost their productivity, and collaborate more effectively — ideal for businesses with remote or distributed teams, or employees that travel frequently.

Device Compatibility

Virtual calls are compatible with almost any device that connects to the internet, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, and desktop computers. This is useful for organizations with a mobile workforce, or small to medium-sized businesses with employees using their own devices.

Cost Savings

With virtual calls, all you need is an existing device, an internet connection, and a subscription to get started. This means no upfront investment in equipment, phone lines, and so on, saving significant costs and enabling you to get up and running in a flash.

Virtual calls also reduce or eliminate long-term costs such as line rentals, maintenance costs, and international call charges. These cost savings are particularly important for startups and SMEs looking to minimize operational costs.

Flexibility and Scalability

Choosing virtual call solutions means you have maximum flexibility when it comes to scaling up or down. You can easily change your plan to suit your needs and budget, adding or removing features and lines whenever you need them. VoIP systems offer flexible payment models, giving you the option to adjust your plan without being locked into contracts or forced to pay for lines you no longer need.

These changes can be made instantaneously and at affordable rates — unlike traditional phone systems which require extra time and money for additional hardware, installation, and more. This is particularly helpful for growing businesses, ecommerce companies facing seasonal peaks, and any organization which often faces fluctuating communication needs.

Call Analytics

A fantastic feature of virtual calling is the ability to record and analyze calls. This gives businesses access to detailed call metrics and analytics, including call duration, frequency, wait times, participant engagement, call abandonment rates, and so much more.

These valuable insights into communication patterns and performance help organizations optimize business processes, measure agent performance, and improve customer service.

How To Set Up a Virtual Phone System

Setting up a virtual phone system is a straightforward process. Follow these steps to learn how to set up your system and get the most out of virtual calling.

1. Work Out What You Need

Before you dive in, it’s important to make sure you’re choosing the right provider. Take the time to assess your business requirements and understand what you need from a virtual calling solution. Find out how many users will be working with the system, what features they need, and what tools need to be integrated with it.

2. Research and Trial Providers

Make sure you fully research to find the right VoIP provider for you. Always check which capabilities they offer, ensuring they can meet your needs now and in the future. Consider factors like pricing, scalability, customer support, and reputation, and reach out to their team before committing to a plan. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and sign up for free trials — a reputable VoIP company will take the time to explain anything that’s unclear, offer solutions, and listen to your needs.

3. Set Up Your Internet Connection

If you haven’t already done so, make sure to set up your broadband or internet connection so you can start virtual calling as soon as possible. A stable, high-speed connection is crucial for maintaining call quality and reliability, so ask your provider about upgrade options if you’re concerned your current plan won’t be suitable.

4. Download Software and Configure the System

Your VoIP provider may use certain programs or apps to facilitate virtual calls. These can be installed in a matter of moments, but it’s a good idea to download the software ahead of time to make sure everything is up and running.

Next, set up your phone system and any additional features you need. This includes configuring call routing, adding users, setting up virtual receptionists, etc.

5. Test and Train

Once your system is up and running, put it to the test. Try out all the features, see if your call routing rules make sense, and make sure everything is working correctly. Train your staff to use the new system, ensuring your team can leverage virtual calling for maximum efficiency and productivity.

Going Virtual: The Future of Business Communications Is Calling

Virtual calls can revolutionize your business communications by enhancing flexibility, reducing costs, and offering advanced features that traditional PBX systems can't match. Setting up a virtual phone system is straightforward and provides significant benefits, including enhanced communication, remote collaboration, and detailed call analytics.

Ready to embrace virtual calling? Contact Vonage today to explore easy-to-use, cost-effective, and scalable solutions tailored to your business needs.

Still Have Questions About Virtual Calling?

Yes. Just like traditional calls, you can use a virtual phone to dial a number or choose a contact to call. You’ll both be able to speak to and hear each other like a regular landline or cell phone.

Placing a virtual call couldn’t be easier. Simply choose a person from your contacts list or dial in the number, wait for their answer, and continue talking as normal.

You’ll get a virtual phone number when you sign up to a VoIP provider. They can help you select your new number if you want something specific.

The cost of virtual calling differs depending on your requirements, such as which features you want, the amount of users you have, how many lines you’ll need, etc. VoIP providers offer affordable, cost-effective plans that are much lower than regular call charges with the flexibility to adjust plans as needed.

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