I received this article from Kevin Baker, my1voice Product Marketing Manager for Protus (www.protus.com). He outlines a wonderful new voice communications tool that can help your small business look and feel like a larger organization while maintaining customer intimacy.

The classic Star Trek quote of ?The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one, might sound like a vague movie line, but think again. It actually applies to many situations in life – including how small business owners manage their customer communications. It might seem like a stretch, but what works well for an individual employee often doesn’t work as well for the entire business.

Take for example the number of employees in a small business that might be working from a virtual office, at home or on a client site any given day of the week. Chances are having clients call the office?s main phone number to get in touch with a particular employee won?t be the best option. Sure, each employee can give the customer their home phone number, cell phone number and another office number, but then small businesses are asking their clients to play a inconvenient game of calling roulette and guess which number they should call and when.

Let’s say you’re a business owner, and you have two additional employees. You each get a number from one of those free services like GoogleVoice with the idea each employee can now be reached anywhere. It still means customers, prospects, business partners, etc. have a choice of three mutually exclusive numbers to call. If you add another person later, that’s one more number in the mix. And if the caller only knows one of those numbers already, there’s no way for him/her to discover what the others are. As Mr. Spock would say, it’s not logical.

Instead, the better choice is a virtual phone service for small businesses. A virtual phone service allows you to unite all of your employees under a single phone number using a virtual receptionist and create individual extensions for each user – even if those users are spread all across the nation. The individual extensions can then be set to ring all of the users? different phones one at a time or all once, providing the same level of ?reachability? as those services for individuals.

The value of a virtual phone service for small business goes well beyond one number to call? convenience, however. It also adds functionality that improves the business on several levels. Some examples include:

. Creating a Professional Image- When customers, prospects, etc. call the virtual receptionist they are met with a professional greeting, just like they would receive if they called a large corporation. The virtual receptionist also includes a dial-by-name directory, helping callers find the right person even if they’re not sure who the right person is. Having multiple extensions under one number makes it possible for employees to transfer or forward an outside call from one employee to another, if needed. That’s something you can’t do with the consumer services.

  • Marketing Your Business- You can advertise a special offer, and have customers call a specific extension to learn more. This technique not only promotes the offer – it allows you to determine which advertising medium is most effective so you know where to concentrate future marketing efforts.
  • Growing Your Company- What if you’re an entrepreneur who doesn’t have any other employees? Wouldn’t the consumer-level service work then? Yes – providing you always plan to be a one-person shop. If you hope to add employees in the future, though, it’s not such a good idea because the phone number you’ll receive isn’t portable. In other words, you’ll spend a lot of time and effort promoting one number, then will have to retrain customers, business partners, etc. when it’s time to move to a more business-oriented phone service. It would be the equivalent of building a Web site with a specific address, spending a lot of money driving traffic to it, then changing that address down the road. It can be done, but not without a lot of pain.

So all in all consumer phone services like GoogleVoice are fine for helping individuals manage their different phone numbers. But they’re not very good for business users. To address the needs of the many, or even the few, opt instead for a virtual phone service for small business. It may not help you live longer, but it will definitely help you prosper.

Kevin Baker is my1voice Product Marketing Manager for Protus (www.protus.com), provider of the highest quality Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) communication tools for small-to-medium businesses (SMB) and enterprise organizations, including my1voice (www.my1voice.com), the cost-effective, feature-rich virtual phone service that travels with the user from phone to web, award-winning MyFax, the fastest growing Internet fax service and Campaigner, an email marketing solution with advanced automation features. Kevin can be reached atkbaker@protus.com