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Ooma Business Blog

What Is a VoIP Number? And why your business needs one.

By Dennis Peng|Wednesday February 26, 2020

Have you heard people talking about VoIP numbers? If so, you may be wondering what a VoIP number is, what the letters stand for, and how the technology works.

The short answer is that a VoIP number is a type of telephone number. However, there’s more to consider than that. In this guide, let’s review the essentials of a business Voice Over IP phone number so you’ll understand what it is and the technology that powers it.

What is a VoIP phone number?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the technical term for internet-based phone service.

With the same 10 digits as other phone numbers, a VoIP number can be used like any other number. Sometimes a VoIP telephone number is called a virtual phone number because VoIP can be part of a hosted cloud communication system.

Are VoIP numbers different from traditional phone numbers?

Using a VoIP phone number is the same as traditional phone service. The only difference is that calls are transmitted over your internet connection rather than via copper landline or cellular voice service.

When making a VoIP call, you’ll use a phone handset or smartphone. Most VoIP services include the ability to call any phone number, including local numbers, long-distance numbers or even an extension.

VoIP differs from a traditional phone system when it comes to location flexibility. Rather than being assigned to a specific location, you can bring a VoIP number with you if you move to a new office location.

Additionally, VoIP numbers give you the flexibility of being device agnostic. You can make or receive calls on a desk phone as usual. The same number can be accessed via a businesses phone mobile app, allowing users to make or receive calls while they’re on the go. Users can even switch devices during a call, jumping from a hard-lined phone to a smartphone without missing a beat.

How does a VoIP number change how businesses connect?

A VoIP number can be used by your customers and staff similar to any other phone number. You’ll have 10 digits, like usual, and dialing will be the same.

In some cases, VoIP providers will also offer seven-digit dialing or extension dialing. Some VoIP phones also allow for speed dialing. The net effect is improved efficiency and an easier user experience.

The technological underpinnings that power your VoIP number give you even more tools to modernize your phone communication. For example, unlike the limitations of an on-premises PBX system, a VoIP number can be used to join together different office locations or remote employees.

An incoming call to your main line in Ohio can be routed to anyone within your network. This can be a sales rep in Dallas, a manufacturing plant in Minneapolis, or an administrative office in Atlanta. This location flexibility can help small businesses expand, startups to support remote workers, and enterprises to establish a global presence.

Some providers take business connectivity one step further. Your VoIP phone system can have one number as the main line for your business, and each user can also get a direct dial number.

What Voice Over IP phone numbers are available?

Business VoIP phone numbers have both location flexibility and portability.

If you have an existing landline number, you can transfer it to a new VoIP provider. This process, called “porting,” takes your existing 10-digit number and converts it into a VoIP number. You can even port a set of phone numbers. Your old number will work on VoIP just as it did on traditional networks, there are no restrictions.

Businesses can also get a completely new set of digits for their VoIP number. Because you can choose just about any available area code, it’s an opportunity to localize your business.

Area codes are part of your identity. For example, if you’re opening a new restaurant in Charleston, it’s important to have a phone number with a Charleston area code. Similarly, if you’re starting up a tech company, getting a Silicon Valley area code can give you credibility in the tech-sphere. Because your VoIP area code doesn’t have to match your physical location, you can get a coastal area code even while you’re still working from Dallas.

The area code of your VoIP number can also be used to establish regional customer service departments. Whether you want to create relevance in the midwest, northeast or a specific county, using a VoIP number to select your own area code can help you frame your business identity.

Woman using a VoIP phone

Where do VoIP numbers come from?

All phone numbers in the U.S., including VoIP numbers, are a part of the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), which specifies a consistent 10-digit numbering format.

With a three-digit area code, a three-digit prefix, and a four-digit local exchange, there are 10,000 possible phone numbers per prefix and 10 million potential phone numbers per area code. In total, there are 1.3 billion assignable phone numbers.

The allocation of these phone numbers falls under the jurisdiction and regulation of the FCC. Regulations specify that a single phone provider can’t control all phone number combinations of a local exchange. Those 10,000 potential numbers are divided into 10 blocks of 1,000 numbers each. These blocks can then be acquired by different carriers. They could become landline, mobile or VoIP numbers.

For example, within the potential phone numbers in the sequence 408-606-XXXX, there could be up to 10 carriers each holding 1,000-number blocks. This could include traditional carriers such as AT&T or VoIP carriers such as Ooma.

Even though providers are acquiring and distributing numbers from these 1,000-block sets, holdings can get shuffled around. As of 1996, phone number portability became mandated. That means if your phone number was initially a part of an AT&T block, you can port it to another carrier.

As of 2017, 51 percent of all available phone numbers were assigned to users. Many providers let you check phone number availability to see what digits could be available for a new VoIP number.

How can I get a VoIP phone number?

Ready to get started? Here are the four steps to getting a VoIP phone number for your business:

1. Choose your VoIP provider

You aren’t limited to the major phone companies, and there are several VoIP providers available. This gives you the freedom to compare plans and choose what’s right for your business. When deciding, the following aspects will affect how you can use your business VoIP number:

  • Features
  • Ease of use
  • High-quality service
  • Affordability
  • Customer support
  • Easy to get started

2. Get your digits

After deciding which company will issue your VoIP number, you can then choose your new phone digits or transfer an existing phone number.

3. Do you need a toll-free number too?

Some VoIP companies give businesses a free 800 number included with their service. This can make even the smallest businesses seem like a big deal. Decide if you need or want a toll-free number and request those digits from your provider.

4. Set up your system and start making calls

Each provider will have different setup instructions. Sometimes it’s as easy as plugging in a desk phone or downloading the app. You can then start making calls using your VoIP number.

Don’t forget to configure your features so you can start taking advantage of automated call routing and other advantages of your VoIP phone number.

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Loyal customers are critical to business success because they tend to be a source of repeat business. According to The Loyalty Report 2018, “Loyalty programs that establish positive emotional connections with Members see 27% more of their Membership increasing their spend with the Brand.” This research tells us that building customer loyalty can lead to more spending.

Loyalty programs vs. improving customer experience: Designing your approach

There are different approaches to building customer loyalty. Some companies use loyalty program cards, bonus offers and other incentives. You might offer access to special deals like CVS or take 5% off the purchase price like Target. You might even give some or part of your product away for free, like airlines that provide free flights through their loyalty programs. What if your small business isn’t interested or able to offer these kinds of loyalty programs?

There is another way to encourage loyal customers to keep giving you repeat business. Gather customer feedback through a phone survey and then use that data to improve the customer experience. When customers see that the business owner has acted on their feedback, they may feel inspired to return to that business. That means more revenue for the bottom line. You just need a fast and straightforward way to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. That’s where a focused business phone survey comes in.

Why increasing customer loyalty with a phone survey is a good choice.

Organizing a customer satisfaction survey by phone offers notable advantages compared to other methods. While a net promoter survey can give you interesting data, there is no conversational element involved. Further, using the net promoter survey approach effectively requires a certain degree of specialized training in the net promoter methodology.

You might also consider online customer surveys. Surveying your email list or website is worth attempting. Depending on the size of your email list or website traffic, you might be able to get a large number of survey responses. The challenge with online customer surveys is that you will have to spend a lot of time reviewing the data to find insights. There is no way to ask a customer to clarify their survey responses or provide an example.

Conducting a customer satisfaction survey by phone gives you the best of both worlds. You can ask questions and get survey responses. However, you also have the opportunity to provide the human touch. For instance, you may hear a customer complain about a lost or delayed order. When you hear about a problem during a phone survey, you can gather all the necessary details to make the situation right with the customer.

How to increase customer loyalty with a phone survey step by step.

The following steps give you a starting point to create a simple customer satisfaction survey. Over the course of a month, you could gather a significant amount of insights to improve your customer service by calling five to 10 customers per day.

  1. Define your customer satisfaction survey goals.

Before calling a single customer, reflect on your business goals. Are you seeking to improve your profit margins? In that case, you may want to focus your survey on the customers that spend the most on your business. Finding ways to make high-spending customers content may give you an excellent return. Alternatively, you may decide to focus your survey project on whether your local SEO has attracted customers. 

  1. Write your customer satisfaction survey questions.

Now that you have clarity on your goals, it is time to write your questions. According to Survey Monkey, a survey software company, it is best to focus your survey on closed-ended questions. An example of a closed-ended question would be: “How many times have you bought from our business in the past 12 months?” However, this kind of question may not give you the ideas you need to improve the customer experience.

At the end of the survey, consider asking one or two open-ended questions to understand better what your customers like. Encourage customers to think creatively with a question like this: “If you could change anything in our business, what would you improve?”

Tip: Reduce your need for note-taking by using call recording, but make sure that you ask for permission first.

  1. Test the survey with a small group of customers.

With your list of customer satisfaction questions, make a few test phone calls to customers. The purpose of the test is to discover if any of the questions are unclear. If you receive confusing answers, revise the question to make them clearer.

  1. Train employees on how to gather survey responses.

Consider running a few training phone calls for your employees. Ask them to call you or other employees in a role-playing scenario. Making a few practice calls will help your employees become more familiar with the questions. Besides, practice phone surveys will help employees learn how to record survey responses accurately. Once the training is complete, give your staff a list of customers to call and let them get started.

  1. Review the survey responses for insights and follow up with customers.

After all of the survey responses are in, schedule time to review the results. In particular, look for patterns in the results. If a large number of people gave low scores to your website, you may need to make improvements. Also, review the survey responses received in the open-ended questions. You might be pleasantly surprised at what customers tell you.

  1. Follow up with customers after the survey when needed.

A phone survey lets you gather rich insights because you can quickly ask follow-up questions. However, merely gathering survey responses may not impress your customers very much. Instead, offer to refer problems to the business owner for improvement or offer to enter the respondent in a drawing for a gift card. That is a much more compelling improvement! By addressing problems and issues when they arise, you stand a much better chance of winning additional loyal customers.