When you’re not familiar with virtual phone systems, the idea of running more than one business from a single phone might seem like a really bad idea, if it’s even possible at all. But it is more than possible; it actually works excellently if you have a virtual phone system like Talkroute. What you’ll see in this post is a breakdown of the steps you can take for exactly how to set it up in a very short amount of time, with an explanation of the features that you will have at your disposal.
Open a Talkroute Account
To get started, just go to talkroute.com/sign-up and sign up for a new account. Don’t worry; there is a free trial period, so you don’t have to commit right away. If you do decide to take advantage of the trial, then you can select a temporary, working phone number which you can use to test everything out and see how it all works. You’ll have full access to the complete set of features included with whichever plan that you choose, so that you can know exactly what you’ll be getting and a good idea of how to use it. It’s an extremely easy system to use.
Choose Your Phone Numbers for Each Business
As soon as you open your account, you’ll be able to add your main phone numbers for each business. If you are choosing new phone numbers directly from the Talkroute inventory, then they will be active and ready to use almost immediately, unless you request a custom vanity number, which can take a few days to become active. You can search for either local or toll free phone numbers. 800 area code toll free numbers are available. If you already have phone numbers for your businesses, you can port (transfer) those into Talkroute at any time.
Add Your Phone as a Forwarding Number
The next step is to add the phone you will be using to receive calls as a forwarding number on your account. In this case, we’re describing the process for using only one phone; however, if you ever have the need to add more phones in the future as you grow, then you can add or remove forwarding phones as needed at any time. It only takes a second to add your phone to the forwarding numbers list from your online dashboard, and once it’s there, you’ll be able to set your account to route your calls, virtually, in whatever configuration that you need.
Decide How You Want to Route Your Calls
There are a variety of ways in which you can route your calls for each of your businesses, and keep in mind that the settings can be different for each business number if you like. You don’t need multiple accounts, either, because you can have multiple phone numbers on a single account. Think of this virtual system as a traditional phone system on steroids. Utilize any of the professional features that are included with your account for your system, and set them to function exactly the same for each business—or totally independently for each. Let’s take a look at the routing setups that you can use:
For the no-frills, direct routing setup, you can simply set your account so that when someone calls in, it will immediately begin to ring your phone. This means that you can either set it to play a standard ringing tone or play music while it’s ringing, and you can either answer the call or let it go to your voicemail (which we’ll address later in this post).
Just to clarify what it is, a call menu is also known as an IVR, auto attendant, or phone tree. This is a professional audio menu that you can set up for callers, so that they can press a number to be routed to a specific destination. When running multiple businesses from your single phone, this can come in very handy and make you sound more professional, so that the caller never knows you are running everything from your cell phone. When they call in, they will hear the menu prompt telling them to, “Press #1 for…, Press #2 for…,” and so on. Again, you can set one business line to ring your phone directly if you want, and set the other to route to the call menu first.
There are other options, too, if you require a more custom setup. For example, there is always the option of sending callers immediately to voicemail as soon as they call in. Many businesses go with that option so that they don’t become inundated with constant calls to answer, and instead they can just check all the voicemail messages as they come in and call customers back when they’re free to do so. You can also send callers directly to a recorded message if you prefer, which will give them important information instead of ringing right to your phone. This message can be merged with the main menu prompt on your call menu, too.
Set Your Incoming Caller ID
This feature is essential when you have customers calling in from multiple businesses. Set the incoming caller ID to display on your phone which number the caller dialed, so you can always know which business the caller is trying to reach. You also have the option of setting the caller ID to display the caller’s number, if you ever need to do that, but in the scenario of routing calls from more than one business, you’ll probably want to keep it showing the main number which they dialed.
Get the Mobile App
You can use any type of phone with this system, but as you’re probably using your cell phone, one of the first things you’ll want to do is download the Talkroute mobile app for either iOS or Android. From the mobile app, you can make outbound calls, check voicemail and text messages, and view your complete call history. Though it’s easy to access your full online dashboard for your account from a mobile browser on a cell phone, it’s even easier and faster to use the mobile app.
Set Up Your Voice Mailboxes
Professional voicemail is included with your account, and you can add multiple mailboxes as needed. This is business voicemail which is separate from your phone’s internal voicemail (which you can still revert calls back to if you prefer). You can keep everything separate for each of your businesses, and that includes voicemail because you have the option to add multiple voice mailboxes on your account so that the messages for each business are routed to their own dedicated mailbox.
Add Custom Greetings
Add a different welcome greeting for each of your business numbers to let callers know they’ve called the right place, and also add different voicemail greetings for each mailbox. You can actually add audio messages to be played at any point in your system, according to how you have it set up. So, how do these audio files get there, in the first place? Included with your account are default audio messages, in addition to a library of on-hold music, but you can also record or upload your own audio. You can record custom messages right from your dashboard using Dial-and-Record, which allows you to record it through your phone. Then, once they’ve been recorded, they’re saved in your account to be placed in any section, such as for the welcome greeting, menu prompt, or voicemail greeting, in addition to other sections.
Set Your Hours of Operation
Hours of operation is a feature that you’re probably going to need, as it ensures that you won’t get calls during all hours of the day and night. You can basically set the hours in your account for when you will be “open” or “closed”, and then send callers to voicemail when your system has turned off automatically. Or you can simply play a special “closed” message for after-hours callers which you have recorded beforehand. In addition to the normal hours of operation feature, you can also utilize the scheduled forwarding feature, that will let you set multiple, unique time conditions, instead of one set of hours for all, as a global setting.
Assign Ringtones on Your Device for Each Business
This step is actually something that you would do outside of your virtual system, but a really useful step nonetheless. When you have calls coming in from multiple businesses to the same cell phone, it can help a lot to assign a distinctive ringtone on your cell, that is different for each of your phone numbers. It’s a very simple setting that you can change in your phone and acts as a quick alert for you to know where the call is coming from, in the same way that you would for your personal contacts.
After this crash course in how it works, you can see that with a virtual phone system, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t run more than one business from a single phone, even if it’s just your personal cell phone. Using this method, in fact, is far less expensive and way easier than if you were to go to a conventional phone carrier to have them set up a complicated system with all kinds of equipment that you don’t really need. Try out a Talkroute system today, and see how well it can work for your needs.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.