What is a Virtual Phone Number & How Does it Work?

August 15, 2022 | 6 min read

What Are Virtual Phone Numbers? (+How to Get Yours)

Your legacy phone system no longer cuts it these days. With the surge of people working remotely, traditional landlines just can’t keep up with the needs of your business.

There must be a better way to manage your business communications, right? There is! 

We’ll explain all the ins and outs of virtual phone numbers for your company and what you should know about how they work.

What is a virtual phone number?

A virtual phone number is a telephone number that isn’t bound to a physical location. Virtual numbers can be used to make or receive calls on any phone, such as VoIP desk phones, cell phones, or softphones. It’s perfect for employees in the office, or those who work at home.

You can select which devices receive calls from the virtual phone number, and change them when needed. Virtual phone numbers also provide increased anonymity over your landlines, which people can find in online directories.

Virtual phone numbers are critical to accepting calls from customers all over the world, regardless of where their offices are located. It gives them seamless lines of communication with their customers. They can’t distinguish between a virtual and standard telephone number.

There are 3 types of Virtual phone numbers: 

  1. Local phone numbers – These numbers are based in certain geographic areas, also known as rate centers or area codes.
  2. Toll-free numbers – These are special numbers that start with 800, 888, 866, and others that allow people to call it without any tolls or fees.
  3. Vanity numbers – These numbers are the catchy, memorable numbers like 1-800-FLOWERS. You would want to purchase these and port them in.

Remember, you can keep your existing phone number and take it with you to a virtual phone system. As your company expands, you can pick out new numbers or swap out others whenever you want.

How does a virtual number work?

Virtual phone numbers do not require a SIM card or a physical address. Instead, virtual numbers accept calls through Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Fundamentally, it’s the same proven technology used to make calls and text messages through iMessage, WhatsApp, or Google Voice.

Your phone calls are digitized and connected over the internet and across traditional phone networks. We use a process called number porting to ensure you can take your business phone number with you regardless of your VoIP provider.

As a result, all you need is a fast and reliable data connection — 4G LTE or Wi-Fi — to place calls. This is how virtual phone numbers allow you to take calls from your mobile phone.

Claim your virtual phone number. And it's free.

Get your business phone, messages, video meetings, contact management and notes–integrated in ONE powerful app. FREE.

How to get a virtual phone number

There’s no doubt that virtual phone numbers are more beneficial than traditional landline numbers. They work for small businesses with remote staff as well as larger companies who need to manage communication in their call centers.

Step 1: Decide on the area code or type of virtual phone number you want. Here are some of the most popular virtual phone numbers sold by Nextiva:

Step 2: Compare pricing and purchase the plan that fits your needs.

Step 3: Purchase your virtual phone number from a VoIP provider, like Nextiva.

What’s the difference between a virtual phone number and a regular one?

Traditional phone numbers usually are installed and provided by the local telephone company. Most people don’t know that they own the number, not the telephone company. Telephone companies typically assign phone lines to the street address of where it’s installed.

Traditional phone lines require phone lines to run throughout the building to each desk phone. Installing telecom lines isn’t always easy nor feasible in every office.

A virtual phone number, however, is location-agnostic, and it’s not bound to one location. It works for employees in and out of the office because they share the same cloud PBX.

That means your in-house or virtual team can pick-up calls from the virtual number in the office, at home, or on their cell phone. And, you can choose who receives incoming calls from the virtual phone number depending on your staff availability.

Top 5 Benefits of a Virtual Phone Number

Now that you have a better idea about these types of phone numbers, it’s time to decide if your business needs one.
Here are a few useful benefits you should know about virtual phone numbers.

1) Take calls from anywhere (no more office desk!)

A traditional telephone number connects to one desk phone. What happens when the person at that desk is out of the office? You have no choice but to send them to voicemail. Some research suggests that customers won’t call you back if they reach your voicemail.
Virtual numbers solve that problem. You can turn their desk phone connection off and have other agents answer calls on their mobile phones, or forward to another available agent. This capability reduces the odds of those callers falling victim to voicemail and never being heard from again.

2) Modern voicemail

But if they still land on a voicemail box, there’s still hope. A virtual phone system transcribes the message and emails it to you within seconds. Is that a robocaller or your child’s school calling? With voicemail to email, you’ll know.
Related: 35 Essential Office Phone System Features: The 2020 Buyer’s Guide

3) Eliminate expensive add-ons and fees with local phone numbers

People can use your virtual phone system from anywhere in the world without paying expensive calling charges. You can offer a toll-free phone number or a discounted local phone number that global callers may appreciate.
Let’s put that into practice and say you’re running marketing campaigns across the United States. You can ask customers to call your toll free number — a virtual phone number that doesn’t cost them extra for making the call.
A Direct Inward Dialing (DID) will point them to the specific person they need to speak with by calling the virtual number you’ve created for their city or country. They’ll be directed to your sales team, regardless of whether they’re in different countries. And, the best part: your leads won’t notice any difference.
Pro-tip: If you’re calling leads in a major metro area like Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Los Angeles, or Seattle, you might want to pick up a local virtual number.

4) Improve caller satisfaction with auto attendants

Cloud phone service providers like Nextiva include auto attendants. An auto attendant greets callers and provides a straightforward menu to reach the right person. This feature ensures that callers don’t waste time explaining their issue to the wrong person.
For example, if someone calls your virtual number to get help with a billing question, their call will be directed to an agent on your finance team. They won’t need to pass through several people to reach the agent best-equipped to help them.
Traditional phone systems don’t include these powerful call routing features. With legacy phone systems, you might need a costly on-prem PBX, an IT manager, and a lot of legwork just to bounce customers around. It’s not fun for anyone.
A Cloud PBX, along with virtual phone numbers, are the way to go.

5) Employees can separate business from their personal phone

Remote work statistics

It’s not just incoming calls that a virtual phone number comes in handy. You can use the same number to make outgoing calls—be that to your customers or coworkers. And, it conceals your caller ID when you do so.
This novel feature makes virtual phone numbers ideal for remote workers. More than 38% of companies have team members who work remotely; there’s a steady shift away from the office working.

Remote staff don’t need to install a desk phone in their home office, nor use their cell phone to take business calls. The virtual phone number masks their caller ID, which gives them greater control and peace of mind when calling contacts.
They don’t need to be concerned that customers know your private number. You can select business hours for the virtual phone number to accept inbound calls or divert them to a voicemail.

Claim your virtual phone number. And it's free.

Get your business phone, messages, video meetings, contact management and notes–integrated in ONE powerful app. FREE.

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Julie Bai


Julie Bai

Julie Bai was a product manager at Nextiva, UCaaS evangelist, no-bull communicator, and translator for people, dog lover, and mother to an adorably active boy.

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