Can you hear me now? That phrase is one we all utter, most frequently from mobile phones, but sometimes from landlines and VOIP phones. We have to keep up with voicemail and text messaging. I want phone services to keep up with me, not the other way around.
In this post, we highlight 22 phone services that small business owners will want to check out. Some of them save time, effort, money or a combination of those. Some say you can’t have all three, but you can.
Here are just a few of the many features these services provide for growing companies: Voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP), Voicemail, Call Forwarding, 3-Way Calling, Conference Calling, Web Conferencing, Call Following (no, not stalking), Voicemail to Text or Email, Voice Transcription, and toll-free numbers.
Grasshopper is best known as the professional, but very hip virtual phone services company. They produce videos that are heartwarming in some cases and LOL funny in others. No free trial, but a 30-day money back guarantee. Plans start at $9.95/month for the Pay as you Grow plan, then $24/month. $25 Activation fee.
Feature I Like: Faxes emailed as PDFs.
Ringcentral is a VOIP service aimed at small business. They offer unlimited phone and fax from your existing phone or a RingCentral one. No free trial, but 30-day money back guarantee. Plans start at $49.99/month with 1,000 free toll-free minutes. Feature I Like: Flexible answering rules so you can specify hours and days that work for my company and employees.
Yahoo! Voice is similar to Skype or Google Voice. It is pretty simple if you’re a Yahoo! User (or even if you’re not). Computer to computer calls are free; all others are low per minute rates. You can get a number so that those not on Yahoo! Voice can call you. Feature I Like: Super fast site and rate checker so I don’t have to scroll through miles of country rates.
3Jam is an up and coming VOIP provider. Two-way SMS/text messages from web to mobile, or even email. Unlimited incoming text messages. 30 voicemail transcriptions a month. All the usual calling features. No free trial, but you don’t need it with plans starting at $4.99/month, then per minute charges. Features I Like: All the texting (SMS) options. No one else has these. Oh, and you can manage groups of phone numbers.
Onebox is a virtual phone system with lots of great features, but the one thing that stands out is their LIVE receptionist option. Many small companies want to have an affordable option for someone to answer their calls with a personal touch; Onebox offers it. They have a 14-day free trial, then plans start at $49.95/month for the phone portion. Live receptionist option starts at $169.95/month.
Phone.com is one of the market leaders and keeps their site and offering well organized. No free trial, but plans start at $9.88/month. Feature I Like: Click to Call option with buttons for the web or email signature.
Freedom 800 is a virtual phone system that gets the “cloud computing” future. They have a user-friendly website with instant number activation, a 15-day free trial, then plans start at $9.95/month. Feature I Like: Availability Scheduling. I can specify the times when I want calls forwarded, or not.
Toktumi is shaking up the VOIP world. They have a feature-rich package. 30-day free trial, then only $14.95/month. Feature I Like: Up to 20 callers can join a conference call and you can even record the call, all part of the monthly fee.
Vonage is probably as well known as Skype. They were one of the first VOIP providers that made it truly easy to get a virtual phone system going. First month free with a one-year agreement, then $25.99/month. But the contract is because they send you a telephone adapter that allows any touchtone phone to be used on their VOIP system. Feature I Like: SimulRing which will simultaneously ring 5 other phones to reach me.
Kall8 is a powerful toll free number service that starts at $2.00/month, if you can live with an 888 or 877 or 866 number. They then only charge a per minute rate. With these rates, and no monthly minimums or contracts, you could easily use this service to tie a Google Adwords campaign to a phone number and allow you to track which ad performed best. They must have customers doing this because they talk about online campaign management. Feature I Like: the online tools for tracking.
FreedomVoice is a virtual phone system that acts like an enterprise system, according to their site. They offer a 15-day free trial, then $9.95/month. Features I Like: Great blog. And I like the idea of getting my voicemails as MP3s (other services often make them into .WAV files or something proprietary (Skype).
Google Voice. You simply can’t ignore Google. One number for voice, messages, call routing, voicemail transcription, delivered to your inbox. It used to be invite-only, but now it is open to everyone. Feature I Liked: They are making the service faster and better on mobile devices like Android and Blackberry. I also liked that you can set a “Do Not Disturb” option and it will roll straight to voicemail.
Evoice does not want to lose a single prospective customer – they offer a six-month free trial for their virtual phone number service. Six months free for the simple $12.95/month plan only. Beyond that amazing offer, they have tons of features like voicemail to text, toll free numbers, music on hold, and call routing (follow me type stuff). Feature I Like: I can’t get away from that six month trial. What’s not to like?
American Voicemail offers a wide range of voicemail features, but also includes fax receiving and fax-to-email for $19.95 a month. No free trial. Feature I Liked: Automated Order Taking and Surveys: Asks your callers questions, one at a time, and record their answers for an additional $9.95/mo. It includes 8 questions. Responses are delivered to you by email as a single voice message.
Voicenation is a toll-free voicemail service. No free trial, but starts at $9.95/month that includes 100 minutes. Features I Liked: Wake up call option. This is sweet – no more alarm clocks. Also, they allow you to use their service as a hotline where you play a greeting message, but don’t accept actual voice messages. Think real estate hotlines, sports team announcements.
Skype is probably the best known voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) provider on the planet. I use this service for my small business and love it. I spend about $70 per year for my business line, voicemail, and other features. It is not as feature rich as some of the others, but I make it work. Feature I Like: Pamela for Skype, which is a free and premium add-on that lets me record calls or conferences. It does more, but you’ll have to read about Pamela for Skype here. Oh, you can have Skype completely free if you’re calling another Skype user.
Workeasy is focused on being voicemail for growing businesses. They also offer a toll-free virtual phone number service. No free trial, starts at $19.95/month. Feature I liked: Voice talent service – they’ll provide a professional to record your voice message for you. Loads of services from fax on demand to an auto-attendant (For Service, press 1, for Support press 2…)
Voiceshot positions itself as your virtual receptionist helping to manage your calls. It offers a free trial and rates start at $25/month with a set amount of minutes. Features I Liked: Group texting function (as in text messages/SMS) and Outbound Calling that lets you send a voicemail to a number of different people (think Get Out the Vote type campaigns – love ‘em or hate ‘em).
My1Voice: I like that they lead with a statement about being the virtual phone system for small business. They are focused. The home page highlights customer quotes from real people with websites you can check out. Offers a free trial, plans start at $10/month. Feature I Liked: Call me button you can put on a website.
These last three seem to be more for the small business that has more than a few lines and employees:
Sipcat offers free and paid software IP telephony systems. You can set up your own Voice over IP system, which they explain is easy to setup and manage. Install it on any computer in just 15 minutes time. You can use it free, buy a license pack, or use their hosted version and buy bundles of minutes. Feature I Like: fully functioning free version.
Neobits is a leading distributor and reseller of phone systems for the small to midsize business. They offer business phone systems from well known brands like Panasonic. They specialize in helping design phone system solutions for specific requirements, especially in the VOIP category. Feature I Liked: When you need actual phone hardware to go with your virtual phone service, this site is a good resource and store.
VirtualPBX offers a hosted PBX service aimed at users who already have VoIP phones or want to use a low-cost VoIP service. They have a free 30-day trial and plans start at $9.95/month. Feature I Like: Their website explains VOIP and PBX details really well, so you know what you’re getting.
Let us know if you have a favorite phone service or system. We’d love to hear about it.