Virtual Phone Numbers: Everything You Need To Know

Virtual Phone Numbers are unique geographical numbers used for sending or receiving SMS and Voice messages without being directly associated with a telephone line. In technical terms, they are also called Direct Inward Dialing numbers (DIDs), or Access Numbers, which do not require any physical line or hardware (e.g. SIM card or actual phone) to be activated.

Virtual Numbers are thus not associated with a particular piece of hardware, and are usually used to forward calls to another number, which can be landline, mobile, or VoIP, and they can be associated with a different geographical location than the device to which they are forwarded. Because of virtual phone number forwarding, it is possible to receive incoming calls in another country without having to purchase an actual telephone line or SIM card in that country.

Why use a Virtual Phone Number?

International Phone Calls At Affordable Prices

Since Virtual Phone Numbers are not associated with any physical area, they can be set to any country or area code, so people calling from that country will not have to pay for a long-distance phone call. This provides people a local number to dial or send SMS text to. In other words, you can purchase a number in England, and set it to forward calls to your phone in Florida. If your callers are located in England, this will greatly reduce the cost for both of you. For this reason, Virtual Phone Numbers are a great way for Startups, SMEs or NGOs to establish an international network of local numbers in a very cost-effective manner. You can set up a presence in any city across the world without having to open an office there.

Forward Calls To Any Device

Virtual Numbers can be set to forward calls to landline, mobile or VoIP devices (please note that engageSPARK currently does not support this). Therefore they can be used as a gateway between traditional telephony (PSTN) and Internet telephony (VoIP). In fact, most VoIP providers sell telephone numbers, which are Virtual Phone Numbers associated with a specific VoIP user. In addition, a virtual number can be set to forward calls to several different devices – for example to a work phone during working hours, and to a mobile phone outside of working hours. It can also be set to forward calls to several different numbers sequentially, until one of them picks up the incoming call. Alternatively, if you have many different phone devices, you could create one virtual number that forwards calls to all of your phones (for example, check out this article in Techcrunch)

Create Automated Phone Campaigns

Another reason to use virtual numbers is that they can be used in conjunction with software platforms, such as the one developed by engageSPARK, to drive mobile phone campaigns that are fully or semi automated. engageSPARK is a Twilio Alternative that offers a self-serve mobile automation platform with full Telco integration. This platform can be used to gather information, launch marketing campaigns, or to be part of your customer support system. In all these cases, the recipient interacts with automated calls or SMS text messages associated with a virtual number, although you may choose to forward a call to an actual phone at some point during the interaction (e.g. in the case of customer support).

Who Benefits From Virtual Phone Numbers?

Any business or organization can use virtual numbers to avoid setting up an expensive company phone system, while still allowing customers and clients to call them on a phone number. Virtual numbers can be set to forward calls to any other phone, and so they allow employees to receive business calls on their own phones. For example, an employee can receive calls on their cell phone when they are working off-site, so they are not longer confined to the office for a work phone call, and are free to work remotely. Also, virtual numbers enable businesses to have a local presence anywhere on the globe, independent of their actual physical location. Recently, many companies and NGOs have started using virtual phone numbers to establish a presence in countries and cities other than the one in which they are actually based.

Virtual numbers are very popular with Call Centers providing hotlines for customer support. A customer seeking help can dial a local number, which then forwards the call to a Call Center agent located in a remote country. Also, Disaster and Relief Agencies use Virtual Numbers to provide help hotlines on local numbers in areas that are affected by natural disasters or other catastrophes, without having to set up a physical phone connection in that location.

As already mentioned above, virtual numbers allow any business to set up an global presence and receive international calls at very reasonable prices. Finally, businesses like to use virtual numbers for distinct marketing campaigns, making it easier to track performance of each individual campaign.

Is It Possible To Get A Free Virtual Phone Number?

Reliable providers of virtual phone numbers generally charge between $5 and $10 dollars per month per number. While many people search for free virtual phone numbers, you should beware of anybody offering a virtual number for free, since these are usually scams. You should also look for hidden charges if the price is very low (less than $1 per month).

How To Get A Virtual Phone Number

There are many ways to acquire a virtual number. Companies that already operate a physical phone system can either add virtual numbers to their service package through their current service provider or purchase these virtual numbers from service providers that sell them. This way, they can operate a virtual phone system alongside the VoIP phone system.

For instance, entrepreneurs working from home could purchase a virtual phone number to route all office calls to a home line, thereby saving costs while maintaining privacy. Businesses that do not have any form of phone system can purchase a full-fledged virtual phone system from providers who offer entire virtual phone systems. These options give you the opportunity to buy a package that has a minimum of one virtual number along with an assigned number of minutes and extensions.

If you want to purchase an engageSPARK virtual phone number, sign up for free and then choose the desired geographical location for your virtual number.