Let me clear this myth first. You don’t need wiring or technical knowledge to set up a business phone system. In fact, the process is dead simple & quick. Don’t believe me?. Therefore, I'm gonna talk about how to set up office phone extensions in this post. Using the below steps, you should be able to set up a work phone line for your business in a few minutes. Yes, literally!
When I first started out (an e-commerce company), I had provided my own mobile number as a customer support number on the website. So, naturally, I used to get multiple calls on a working day. Some asking about order status, some inquiring about products & others complaining about delivery etc.
At that point in time, I wished I could forward or route the calls to specific people in my team. Like for order & delivery queries, calls should be forwarded to the operations guy. And, for product related queries, calls should be forwarded to the sales guy. How cool that could've been?.
Every serious business owner wants to provide awesome service to her customers. Your business is doomed for failure if don’t value your customers. Having a phone line with multiple extensions is one single most important thing you can do today to instantly improve your customer service.
Imagine, a prospect calling a web design company & instantly being greeted by an automated message & call menus. Based on the prospect’s replies, the call gets automatically forwarded to the concerned employee. If the prospect wants to know more about your services, her call in automatically forwarded to the sales. And, if the prospect wants to know more about the payment options, she further gets connected to the billing dept.
So, a phone extension system works great for:
- Customer Service
- Internal communication
Gone are the days when you needed a technician to install a work phone. In today’s virtual world, all you need is an application or software & you are set.
The process outlined in this post will help you to set up phone extensions at your workplace with:
- Minimum time
- No technician
- No extra equipment or device (you can route your calls to a mobile number)
So, let’s dive in & explore the steps needed to set up office phone extensions.
HOW TO SET UP OFFICE PHONE EXTENSIONS FOR A SMALL BUSINESS
Step #1. Sign Up For A TalkRoute Account
TalkRoute is a simple, robust & one of the most popular virtual phone systems. It supports various cool features like:
- Unlimited phone extensions
- Local & toll-free numbers included
- Voice & text messages
- No telephonic equipment required to be installed
The process is quite simple. Click on the “Start a free trial” link available on the top right corner of the homepage.
And, then, fill up the necessary details like name, email etc & click on “sign up”.
That’s it. You now have a TalkRoute account that you'll use to set up office phone extensions.
This step shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes. Click here to start a 7 days free trial on TalkRoute.
Step #2. Get A Business Phone Number (For Free)
At the outset, you need a Talkroute virtual phone number. This will be your business number visible to your customers.
Example: +111111 is your Talkroute virtual phone number which is visible to your customers. And, +999999 is your personal mobile number. As & when customers call on +111111, Talkroute will automatically forward that call to your mobile number. Yes, you can also add extensions (I'll talk about that later).
Note, I said a phone number. Not phone itself. Just a virtual phone number is all you need to get started.
This Talkroute virtual phone number can either be a local number or a toll-free number. You can either get a new one or transfer your existing phone number to Talkroute. Makes sense?
After you click on “New Virtual Number”, you'll be asked to select a city. Based on your city, TalkRoute will show a list of available numbers.
Select a suitable number & then choose a plan. Alternatively, you can also use your existing business phone number. In that case, click on "Keep existing number", transfer your phone number to Talkroute & then choose a plan.
Before proceeding further, let's first understand the basics of a virtual phone system.
This is how a basic virtual phone system works (Forwarding call to a single phone line):
- Caller dials your business phone number (Talkroute virtual number) >> The call gets forwarded to your mobile, landline or VoIP number, etc. >> You receive the call & answer the same.
However, you can also forward calls to multiple phone lines as described below:
Live Call Transfer
- Manually picking up the call & forwarding by dialing the desired extension (Example: Picking the customer call, discussing the issue & forwarding to the concerned person by dialing extension like ‘200’ or ‘100’). In the step #3, I'll show how to create phone extensions.
Welcome Greeting + Call Menus
- Automatically greeting the caller with a recorded message & a call menu (Press ‘1’ for sales, ‘2’ for billing etc.). In step #4, I'll show you how to create call menus.
Ringing Multiple Phone Lines In Sequence
- Imagine you've configured 6 phone extensions (in the next step, I'll show you how to create these extensions) assigned to 6 employees. Now, what'll happen if your customer calls your Talkroute virtual number?. Whom will the call be forwarded to?. That depends on the ring sequence. Yes, you need to create a sequence of phone numbers in the order of priority. If the first priority number is busy, then the call be attempted to priority #2 & so on.
- You can also schedule call forwarding based on dates, days or time. Example: You want to forward the calls you receive on holidays or outside business hours to a particular phone number, that can be done.
The basic plan supports the basic features required to route or forward calls. For more automation, you can always opt for the plus plan. Click here to check the pricing plans of Talkroute.
This step shouldn’t take more than 4 minutes.
Step #3. Create & Set Up Multiple Extensions
Under the ‘manager’ menu, you will find a sub-menu to create extensions. Click on the same (the ‘add new extension’ button).
After that, choose & route the extension to an existing employee’s number (can be either a mobile or landline number).
These extensions can either be single digit or multiple digits. Both are allowed. This step shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes.
Step #4. Configure Your Call Menus (Optional)
Under the ‘manager’ tab, you've the option to create call menus. This is the menu your caller would receive when she calls your business number (Talkroute virtual number).
Example: Press 1 for sales, Press 2 for technical support etc.
You can also set up sub menus under menus. That kind of set up is important if you have multiple departments & work verticals.
This step shouldn’t take more than 4 minutes.
Remember, this is an optional step. Instead of having a call menu, your call representative can directly receive the call & forward to the concerned person by dialing an extension number (live call transfer). In fact, that approach sounds like more personal. Most of your callers or customers will like to talk to a real person upfront.
Of course, once your business or team grows, call menus can become handy.
Step #5. Set Up A System Flow
Now comes the last step of this process.
Here, you need to create a system flow. A system flow is nothing but a process that your caller will go through once she dials your business number (Talkroute virtual number).
Example: If a caller calls, then an audio greeting should play out & then the call should be forwarded to a call representative who in turns routes the call further to the concerned team member.
To start creating a process flow, click on ‘edit’ button available under virtual phone numbers submenu of the manager tab.
This is how the system flow wizard looks like:
This step shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes.
The process flow should be such that it eases the communication flow between your caller & your business. I find it really annoying when businesses over-complicate their communication system.
That’s it. The aforesaid 5 steps are all that you need to set up office phone extensions. It hardly takes 15 minutes. And, the best part is that you don’t need a single equipment. Isn’t that cool?.
The virtual phone system has revolutionized the telephonic industry. With a simple application, you can set up a phone system that earlier was affordable to only big corporates.
Add-On Benefits of Using A Virtual Phone System:
While this post is only about setting up office phone extensions, I feel it won't be fair if I don't discuss various add-on benefits that come with a virtual phone solution like TalkRoute:
Business Text Messaging
Wouldn't it be great if Talkroute also helps you to receive text messages from customers (SMS)?. That's what I'm talking about here.
You can check & reply to SMS directly from Talkroute dashboard. Or, alternatively, you can also use the Talkroute Android & iOS apps for the same. The best part? You can assign authority as to who in your team will have the permission to read & reply to these messages.
You can also configure TalkRoute to receive email notifications as & when your customers send text messages to your business phone number.
What if your customers call you outside of your business hours?. Or, what if your customer support team is on an outing?. And, what about holidays?. In those situations, voicemails become useful.
Using talkroute, you can not only set up custom greetings (if customers call after business hours or on holidays/leaves) but also integrate voicemails with them. That means if a customer calls during odd times, she'll hear a custom greeting & after the greeting, she'll be asked to record her voice message.
You can access & listen to voicemails on Talkroute dashboard or on Talkroute mobile app. Also, there's an option to get voicemails delivered straight to your email inbox.
To customize further, you can also allot voicemail boxes to each extension or department. That means when a customer calls during odd times, she'll be given an option to record her voicemail depending on her requirements. If she has a support query, she can press 2 & record her voice or if she wants to know more about a product, she can press 5 & record her voice.
Multiple Calls At Once
What if your business handles lots of customer calls?. You may have a scenario where multiple customers are trying to reach you at the same point of time?
Example: You've 5 dedicated phone extensions for sales support. Each extension being handled by a salesperson. Now, what if 8 customers call the sales team at once?. Yes, only 5 calls can be handled. But, what about the remaining 3 calls?
Problem?. No, with Talkroute, you can stack multiple incoming calls. That means the incoming calls can be queued until a phone extension line is available to receive the next call. The incoming calls that've been queued will either listen a custom message or a music by the time their call gets successfully attended by someone from your team.
You can configure the custom message as you wish (you can even talk about your latest products). Talkroute also comes with a library of music that you can play for customers that've been queued. That way they won't get bored & will wait for their turn to come. Every customer call is important & of course you don't want your customers to get turned off because of a busy phone line.
There's also an interesting option where you can transfer the stacked calls to alternative destinations after a fixed amount of time. Example: A customer waiting for more than 5 minutes can be given an option of record a voicemail.
Businesses generally like to record incoming & outgoing calls for the following reasons:
- To check quality of support
- To train new hires
- To resolve customer disputes
- For documentation & legal purpose
Using Talkroute, you can record incoming & outgoing calls with ease. The best part?. They don't have any storage limit. You can store as many call records as you wish & access the same from Talkroute dashboard or mobile app. Also, there's also an option to restrict access to these recordings to a particular group of employees.
Talkroute comes with an outbound dialing feature using which you can display any Talkroute phone number as your caller ID. This is beneficial if you're using your own phone number as a primary business number & want to hide it from call receivers.
Users & Roles
You can create custom users & grant them special permissions on Talkroute. There're 3 levels of users in Talkroute:
- Account user: Only basic access to its own records
- Account admin: Full account access
- Account owner: Ability to create & delete users + full account access
You can change permissions for any user the way you want. Example: You don't want account admin to access call recordings – fine that can be done by changing the permission configuration.
Call Reporting & Analytics
There's an easy way to serve your customers better?. How?. Simple – Study your customer call records.
Yes, take time & go through the customer call paths, duration & quality. With Talkroute's reporting feature, you can view the following:
- Call history - Which calls were attended, which were missed & which ones got disconnected.
- Call path - The path a call took & where it finally ended.
You can also filter & export your call data.
While studying call records, it's important to focus on call duration. Short call durations can either mean the customer's problem was quickly resolved or the call agent wasn't engaging enough. Whereas, a high call duration can either mean it took some time to resolve the customer's problem or the call agent was engaging enough to hook the customer.
FAQs Related To A Virtual Phone System (Talkroute):
Is Talkroute a replacement of my existing phone numbers?
No. Talkroute is simply an application. Once a caller calls at a TalkRoute virtual number (Your main business number generated at Step #2), the call will automatically get transferred to your existing mobile or landline number. So, you can use TalkRoute with your existing phone number.
Does Talkroute work in my country?
Presently, TalkRoute is only available in US & Canada.
What if I decide to cancel TalkRoute in future?. Can I retain the phone number?
Yes. You will become an absolute owner of the TalkRoute number once your free trial ends. Thereafter, if you decide to cancel Talkroute subscription, you'll still retain the phone number.
Is it advisable to have call menus?
If you are a small organization then I don’t recommend setting up call menus. Keep it straight & simple.
What are a few alternatives to TalkRoute?
TalkRoute is my no. 1 recommendation. However, you can explore other alternatives like Grasshopper & Phone.com
How do I record a professional audio greeting?
Professional audio greetings can be recorded & uploaded in the process flow. Generally, it should be placed at the start of a call.
I recommend you to check out Fiverr to get professional & custom call recording for as low as $ 5.
Can I use a TalkRoute number to make outbound calls?
Absolutely yes. This will help you hide your actual mobile number from your clients or customers. That kind of set up is specially popular among top corporates.
What do you think of the aforesaid post on how to set up office phone extensions?. Please comment below.