Virtual Phone System – Glossary of Terms

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The terms associated with, and used by various virtual phone systems providers can be confusing and frustrating to understand. Many times they use multiple terms to describe the same thing, or take literary license with a term to make it appear as if they support a feature that they either do not, or maybe only marginally support.

We have tried to provide a list of the most common terms used in the industry here.  We will also come back and update the list from time to time as we find additional or new terms that pop up.

A

ACD Queuing

ACD Queuing – Automatic Call Distribution – this term will carry quite a bit of controversy among providers as to what it really means. However, true ACD queuing allows a business to run a call center where calls are routed to customer service agents based on various criteria such as agents currently logged into the the system, current agent loads, agent skill levels, as well as call wait time and overflow queuing. Managers can log in and dynamically interact and mange the system. The other other term used in conjunction to Queuing is Hunt Groups, but isn’t nearly as advanced.

Auto Attendent

This is normally the first then your visitors will hear when they call you. It can be a message recorded by you, or some plans have professional voice offerings you can hire to record a message for you. This is is the message that greets your callers, tells them who they have reached and what to do next – press 1 for Sales, 2 for Support, OR press 1 for Tom Smith, 2 for Mary Smith, etc.

C

Call Announce

When a call is sent to you, a pre-recorded voice will announce the call, and different vendors provide different information that can be announced, and then you are provided with a choice of how you want to handle the call – answer it, send to voicemail, forward to someone else, etc.

Call Blocking

This feature allows you to prevent callers from particular phone numbers from reaching you. With some of the better plans, they will even allow you to customize how the call is handled – such as sending the caller to a specific voice mail box, simply hanging up, giving them a busy signal, or playing a message that “this number is not in use”.

Call Forwarding

This is the feature that makes your virtual phone system so powerful. You can have employees all over the world, but your customers will have no idea that you don’t all sit in the same office, because you can configure each extension in your virtual phone system to ring to any of your employee’s home phone numbers, cell phones, home office numbers, or all of them in sequence. That’s the power of a Virtual phone system. Also check out Find Me and Follow Me features that are related to Call Fowarding.

Call Hold

Basically what it says… calls are placed in a “holding pattern” before a person answers, and usually music is played during this time, however some systems allow you to customize what is heard by the people on hold so that you can play advertisements, for example. Also known as Hold

Call Reports

A detail listing of your incoming and outgoing calls normally provided via the web management/interface tool.

Call Screening

Requires the caller to identify themselves before the call is routed to the correct recipient, then the recipient of the call can listen to the greeting left by the caller and decide if he/she wants to take the call or handle it in some other way, such as allow to go to voicemail for example.

Call Transfer

Allows you to transfer a call to another extension, but again because this is a virtual phone system, it becomes a very powerful feature. For example, you could be talking to a customer, and need to transfer them to a partner that is located in California(you are in Minneapolis), no problem, just put the customer on hold, and dial your partner’s extension and transfer the call to his/her home office number or cell phone. This works, because again, every extension is associated to 1 or more phone numbers located anywhere(virtual). Try this with a traditional PBX.

Click to Call Out

This can be done either by Phone, where you can listen to a message and simply press one number and return a call, rather than writing down a long number, OR with integrations to various desktop applications such as Outlook®, you can have buttons that with a simple click you can place a call directly from your computer, OR the web management tool you can also return a call directly by clicking on the person’s phone number.

Click to Call Me Buttons

These are buttons that can be placed on your website or in your email communications to your customers, that then allow your customers to call you directly at no cost to them.

Conference Calling

The ability to connect and have a conversation with at least 3 different people, in 3 different locations, with 3 different telephone numbers.

Cardless Calling Card

This is the ability to use your 800 number similar to a pre-paid calling card, where the minutes used are charged against your monthly minutes.

Custom Hold

Allows you to have specific messages played while your customers are on hold. This can be useful for informing your customers of special sales promotions, holiday hours, or just playing soothing music to customers waiting for technical support.

D

Dial by Extension

This is your standard “if you know your parties extension you can dial it at any time” that vrtually all plans offer.

Dial by Name

This feature allows your customers the ability to type in a portion of the person’s name they are calling in order to be routed to their extension.

Dedicated Toll Free

This just means that your 800 number is yours, and yours alone. You will not be sharing it with any other company.

Dedicated Fax

Some providers will also provide you(either free or for a fee) with a separate dedicated line for your fax. However this is less the case now, as most provides are going to Integrated Fax systems.

Direct Connect

This feature is harder to explain. It’s most often used when you have a dedicated number you want to assign to an outside number for something like a support center for example. What happens is that the minute the virtual pbx picks up(line goes off hook) it immediately direct dials a number or another extension. This means that you will lose a lot of optional functionality such as call hold, call announce, and call transfer for example.

Direct Inward Dial(DID)

Direct Inward Dial allows callers to reach internal company members without having to go through the auto attendent. This is a feature common to traditional PBX’s but not to virtual PBX’s. An example of a use would be: The fax number of a customer may be entered in the VirtualDID routing table so that each time this customer sends a fax to the main business number of a company with a VirtualPBX, the fax is automatically routed to the specified extension’s Fax Mail instead of to the company operator.

F

Fax on Demand

You can preload documents to Fax on Demand extensions where customers are then prompted for which document they would like, and what fax number they would like the document faxed to. Once they enter the information, the document is faxed to them. This can be particularly useful for documents that your customers request quite often, that can save your customer service staff countless hours.

Find Me

This is a great feature to insure you never miss a call. For each extension, this feature allows you to route calls to several preset phone numbers, either simultaneously or in sequence. Specify the order you want the phone numbers rang, ie: Office, Home, Cell. Even specify the number of rings at each phone number before it moves to the next one.

Follow Me

This allows you set up priority routing to one single phone number, and overrides the find me feature if turned on. This can be useful in temporarily routing calls to a land-line if cell phone service is down.

G

Group Voice Messaging

Basically what it says, it allows you to send a voice message to a group of people in one step, rather than re-recording the message and leaving it for each indidivual person.

H

Hold

Basically what it says… calls are placed in a “holding pattern” before a person answers, and usually music is played during this time, however some systems allow you to customize what is heard by the people on hold so that you can play advertisements, for example. Also known as Hold

Hold Music

Your Callers will hear music while on hold. Choose ready-made default recordings and music, record your own from your computer or phone or upload professionally recorded greetings. Some companies even partner with production companies to allow you to create your own custom professional recordings to give the exact image you are looking to present.

Hunt Groups

Hunt Groups are similar to Queues, except much more limited. With a hunt group, a call is sent to a group of employees, either in order or randomly, and the system hunts down the next available person, until the call is answered. If the call is not answered in timely manner then there is a default action that results.

I

Informational Extensions

These are informational messages that are played for callers that correspond to particular choices callers make. They are particularly useful in providing detailed information about products or services without having to actually speak to a customer service representative.

Integrated Fax

With Integrated Fax, your callers can send a fax directly to your normal toll free number and the system is smart enough to determine if it’s person or fax calling and handle the call appropriately.

Internet Fax

Send and receive faxes to your email or other Microsoft Office® application, or in some cases the provider will also provide an online account management system as well. This allows you to not tie up your phone line or computer, and is easy to use and keep track of valuable communications.

IM Console

This is also known as Message Alerts, and basically allows you to be notified of new voicemails and faxes. It is configurable and normally allows for delivery by one of the following methods email, cell phone, hand held PDA device, some form of on line account management system, or normal phone. Some systems even notify you if the message was flagged as urgent.

L

Legs

All calls that come in to you via your Virtual Phone System require 2 legs or connections. The first leg consists of the connection from the caller into the provider of the Virtual Phone system you select ie: RingCentral or Phone.com. The second leg is from the virtual phone system service provider to the actual phone numbers you configured to have run when an extension is selected. While many companies are doing single leg billing now, be very careful and check with your provider to verify what your provider is doing. There are cases when double leg billing is still being charged – for instance the “click to call” feature with eVoiceReceptionist is billed out with double leg billing.

Local Number

Along with having a toll-free number most plans will also allow you to have one or more local numbers. This can be a great advantage not only to companies who have already established a local presence using their local number and don’t want to lose that, but also for companies wanting to offer local regional support numbers.

M

Message Alerts

This is also known as IM Console, and basically allows you to be notified of new voicemails and faxes. It is configurable and normally allows for delivery by one of the following methods email, cell phone, hand held PDA device, some form of on line account management system, or normal phone. Some systems even notify you if the message was flagged as urgent.

N

Non-Blockable Caller ID

With this feature you are able to see who is calling you even if they have an “unlisted” phone number.

P

Personal Hold Message

This is similiar to Custom Hold. You can set up you own personal hold message or music that will play when you put someone on hold.

Q

Queue

This feature is essential if you do not want to miss a call. This is the “You are third in line” message you have heard when calling into a techical support or customer support line. Make sure your provider has this feature available so that you callers will be put into a queue for the next available agent rather than getting a busy signal and getting frustrated and hanging up.

Questionaires

This is a cool feature if you are looking to collect information from your customers, such as a customer satisfaction survey after a support call. You customers will be asked a series of questions that you design and then stored so you can download and review. If this is important to you, make sure your provider supports questionaires.

R

Random Hold Music

With this feature the system will rotate through different genres of music for callers on hold.

Return Calls

This feature allows you to connect directly to the call responsible for the voicemail, but do it while you are still in the voicemail, simply by pressing the appropriate key combination. It is very similiar to the *69 feature but for your voicemail.

S

Schedule Enabled

With this feature you basically can set up a schedule(days/times) of when the system directs calls to your phone extension. All other times, calls will go to voicemail. This can be a fantastic feature for offices with set hours of operation, after which they do not want to be bothered with calls.

Setup Fee

This is a fee that some providers charge to setup or activate your account, or possibly to setup one or all of the features of your account.

SMS Notification

This again is similar to Message Alerts and if you have a cell phone with SMS enabled you can be notified of new voicemails, and faxes without having to take the call. This way you won’t miss knowing about that important call.

SOHO

Stands for Small Office/Home Office

Supervisor Control

This feature is big for call centers, and allows supervisors to monitor where calls are routed, to which agents, and even listen in on calls for training and quality assurance purposes.

T

Transfer

Allows you to transfer a call to another extension, but again because this is a virtual phone system, it becomes a very powerful feature. For example, you could be talking to a customer, and need to transfer them to a partner that is located in California(you are in Minneapolis), no problem, just put the customer on hold, and dial your partner’s extension and transfer the call to his/her home office number or cell phone. This works, because again, every extension is associated to 1 or more phone numbers located anywhere(virtual). Try this with a traditional PBX. Also known as Call Transfer.

Transfer Fee

This is a one time fee that some providers will charge you to transfer a toll free number that you may already have, that you want to keep and simply transfer over to their service.

True 800

This simply means that the toll free number you select starts with 800, rather than 866, 877 or 888, etc. Most companies charge a fee to get a true 800 number now, and the reason for this may be that true 800 numbers appear to be harder to come by.

V

Vanity Number

A vanity number simply means that the toll free number spells out something of meaning to you or your company. For example 1-800-FLOWERS. It is used to help your customers remember you. Again, most providers will charge a one time fee for a vanity number.

Voice Mail

Think of this as a remote virtual answering machine for your business. It takes calls and stores them for you to retrieve later, or in most cases even emailed to you.

Voice Mail to Email

This is a pretty cool feature for most people who heavily use their email. You can have your voicemail converted to email and sent you you as email messages. So you can manage all your messages in one place.

Voice Mail Storage

This is the amount of storage a particular provider will allow for voicemail messages. Some limit the storage and others do not, so if you are a person who tends to keep messages forever, you may want to check this out with your provider.

Voice on Demand

These are informational voice mail messages that are played for callers that correspond to particular choices callers make. They are particularly useful in providing detailed information about products or services without having to actually speak to a customer service representative. Also known as Informational Extensions.

W

Web Management/Interface

This is an extremely important feature and should be available via any provider. It allows easy access and management of all of your account features and setup via the web. Checking messages, changing phones associated with extensions, adding extensions, viewing call history, etc.
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Christina Sterling

Editor at VirtualPhoneSystemReviews
Christina is the chief editor at VirtualPhoneSystemReviews.com. In her spare time she is also a web developer and a small business owner. She loves camping, traveling, and all things VoIP related.

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