If you're a budding restaurateur, you could start your business venture by scouting for an F&B location, fit out the place to match your brand, and then start hiring people for the front of the house and kitchen. However, this process is very costly: you need to pay rent, talent may be hard to find, and there's no guarantee that you'll succeed.
A more sensible option to test the market is to sign up with a virtual kitchen provider. You can focus on fine-tuning your menu and building your new brand without having to worry about rent, renovation and recruitment expenses. Plus, customers ordering takeout from you may not even realise that you're operating out of a virtual kitchen.
Business virtual phone numbers are similar to virtual kitchens. You get a local presence without the cost and hassle of opening a physical office or applying for a phone number. Plus, like working from a ghost kitchen, customers may not realise you are using a virtual phone number for SMS messages or phone conversations!
Continue reading to learn more about virtual numbers and how you can use them for a truly borderless business experience.
What is a virtual phone number?
A virtual phone number for business is a phone number that is not tied to a fixed phone line but instead redirects calls to any preferred phone number. For example, if you have a virtual phone number in San Francisco, incoming calls are routed to another landline, mobile number or VoIP phone wherever you are in the world.
Since virtual phone number services are powered by cloud infrastructure, they are location-independent. This means that the virtual San Francisco number does not require you to be physically present or to have a brick-and-mortar office there. In fact, callers to your virtual number may think they are talking to a local company!
How can virtual numbers help your business?
There are many ways a virtual number can help your business expand beyond its local or national borders. Let's take a look at some of them in detail.
1. Phone numbers on demand
Similar to browsing the online menu of a virtual restaurant, you may choose the country, area code and phone numbers that you want from the inventory of virtual phone number suppliers. CINNOX, for example, provides Local Access Numbers (DID) and International Toll-Free Numbers (ITFS) in more than 160 countries.
Picking from virtual numbers, like customising your meal, gives you control over your Caller ID display. When cold calling small businesses or consumers, using a local number reduces their resistance to an unknown, out-of-state phone number. Or choose an international toll-free number if you plan to offer global, 24-hour support.
Having an international toll-free number reduces consumer friction. When you pay for their overseas calls, people are more willing to call you. This is critical for your sales and support teams since converting a prospect generally results in a subsequent support request, which may drive repeat business or new referrals.
2. Unify channels using one number
People are wary of answering unknown numbers due to phone number spoofing and robocallers, thus your business calls may go unanswered. You can build trust, maintain brand consistency, and convince customers that your outbound calls and messages actually originate from your company by using the same virtual number across voice calls, SMS, and WhatsApp.
Even better, bid on a vanity number such as 1-800-356-9377 (1-800-FLOWERS), which spells out your brand's offering in Caller ID as well as throughout sales and marketing campaigns. People are also more likely to be able to recall words as opposed to a string of random numbers, and this is especially true for new consumers as well as returning customers.
3. Make use of distributed teams
Opening more cloud kitchens means sending orders to the kitchens closest to hungry consumers! Similarly, Internet telephony features such as SIP trunking can help you manage high call volumes by converting PSTN to VoIP, expanding your operations for decentralised teams, and reducing capital and operating expenses.
When you configure your borderless communications this way, you are creating a virtual PBX or a private telephone network within your company. Customers that call your virtual number will have no idea, for example, that your customer service team is based in Honduras while your inside sales team works from Toronto, Canada.
4. Rich multimedia experiences
A flip side of the pandemic saw a jump in home-based bakers who took orders via social media. Because virtual numbers are hosted in the cloud, you can quickly and easily add more digital social channels like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp for Business, WeChat and LINE for a complete omnichannel experience.
In addition, a cloud communications platform like CINNOX lets you seamlessly switch between SMS, voice call, live chat, video call, web conferencing, and more for a rich multimedia experience. Answer a call from a worldwide toll-free number, for example, and then immediately send a promotional SMS for the caller to take action.
5. Build rewarding relationships
All restaurateurs know that keeping customers is less expensive than acquiring new ones! So, diners often get discount coupons for their next meal. You can use relationship mapping technology to pair callers with the right agent, establishing relationships that keep people returning and increase customer lifetime value.
A virtual local number in Spain, for example, can use language routing to direct the call to your Spanish-speaking agent in Honduras. The caller may be unaware they are speaking to someone in South America but they share a common language, breaking down communication barriers and building strong customer rapport.
The same agent in Honduras, for example, can enable engagement mode to create a bind between the caller and the agent who first served them. So, when the customer calls again, he or she will automatically be routed to the same agent, deepening the relationship and the agent's understanding of the customer's profile.
Your teams can also collaborate to answer enquiries in a faster time. Calls from a virtual number are treated the same way as any other omnichannel enquiry, allowing agents to transfer calls to the right expert or team. A support call that turns into a quote request, for example, can be easily transferred to the Toronto sales team.
6. Versatile digital communications
More than 5 billion people are online (63% of the world's population), yet phone calls are still the preferred method of communication for many people and businesses, including banking, insurance, healthcare and logistics. The number outperforms other modes of communication including texting, emailing, video calls and chatbots.
Modern technologies like SIP trunking provides companies with the simplicity and flexibility to transition from a public switched telephone network (PSTN) to an IP-ready PBX, dramatically lowering installation and short and long-distance calling expenses, making phone communications more efficient and cost-effective.
However, not every SIP provider offers the same level of voice quality and reliability. Providers that own and manage their IP can quickly resolve network connectivity issues. A private network is also more secure and avoids public Internet congestion, resulting in shorter latency and improved call quality. Plus, to scale your business, look for a virtual number provider with carrier-grade SLA quality and global coverage.
Aside from matching telcos in speech quality, virtual numbers can also use digital telephony features that traditional phone numbers cannot. Call forwarding lets you answer a call on another device or number, whilst voicemail enables customers to leave a message for later follow-up. Plus, call labelling gives more context to a call.
7. Real-time business insights
Unlike traditional phone numbers where the interaction with a customer disappears when you hang up, a call from a business virtual phone number is stored as data in the cloud. Audio transcription can convert voice calls to text automatically, making it easier to search by keywords or to grasp the context of the call in far less time.
Should a call transition to a live chat session, team leaders can monitor chats in real-time to ensure service quality standards—or step in and take over to reassure a dissatisfied customer, for example. Elsewhere, a real-time web dashboard provides data to monitor call quality, usage and agent performance for decision-making.
Like tracking URLs, you can deploy different virtual numbers to assess marketing campaigns. You may find that, for example, virtual numbers on highway billboards convert well in Los Angeles because of traffic jams, whereas virtual numbers printed on subway posters work better for the underground pedestrian traffic of New York.