Using your personal phone as a business number might seem like the best solution for a startup. It saves on additional phone costs and is more convenient than carrying two phones around with you everywhere you go. It also saves you from one more hassle when all you really want to do is get stuck into the nitty gritty of your business.
But it’s important to distinguish between your personal and business lives – as much for your own wellbeing as for the reputation of your business.
The top three simple and affordable call answering service methods of doing so are:
- A virtual landline
- A virtual receptionist
- A virtual PA
Top reasons to have separate business and personal numbers:
Unsolicited calls – If you want to avoid unsolicited calls, you need to keep your number discreet. Having your personal number advertised across the internet will almost certainly lead to an increased number of unwanted sales calls when all you want to do is relax. This deluge of calls will also impact your business. In your personal life, it’s easy to become so frustrated by the number of unsolicited calls trying to sell double glazing or asking whether you have been in an accident that wasn’t your fault, that you resolve to only answer calls from ‘known’ numbers. You cannot do this in business. This can lead to your working day being dominated by fielding calls – most of which are nothing more than an annoyance. A virtual receptionist will ensure these calls are filtered out and that you only need to speak to people for genuine business reasons.
Interaction with employees and customers – As an entrepreneur or small business owner you accept that your working week is no longer 9-5, Monday to Friday. But you still want to maintain control of your work life balance. If you use your personal number as your business line, you lose the capacity to influence when staff or customers can contact you. During ‘acceptable contact hours’, as the owner, you might want to take every call in the early stages of your new enterprise. But as your business grows, this may become untenable. But, at that critical moment in the life of your business, changing contact details is a huge risk.
Interaction between employees and customers– If you don’t have a business phone, it’s almost certain your employees don’t have a business phone. When you ask employees to keep in contact with customers using their own phones, you lose control over part of your business. You also increase the risk of an employee accidentally causing distress or upset to customers while ‘off-duty’ or deliberately sabotaging a business relationship after leaving your company.
Threats – The internet is awash with scammers, hackers and other threats to the privacy of your data. Of course, it’s essential for you to advertise your business number and you want it to be spread far and wide. But if it’s also your personal number, you run the risk of exposing your personal data to billions more potential threats than is sensible or advisable. If hackers get into your personal phone, they can get access to your banking apps, social media accounts, gallery and personal emails. A separate business number can help prevent this. In most instances when a phone number is compromised, the only solution is to replace it – frustrating in your personal life, devastating and costly to your business. A virtual landline will ensure that the only number widely advertised as a means of contacting you is a landline, thus reducing the risk of you being exposed to scammers and hackers.
It’s clear that there are huge risks associated with using your personal number for business purposes. But what are the pros and cons of each of the alternatives and what impact will they have on your bottom line?
Virtual Landline: The Pros and Cons
- At just £7.50 monthly (£75 annually), this is the cheapest option.
- You can choose a number. If a local dialling code is important to your business, you can have one. If you prefer a national number to give the impression of a large organisation, that’s fine too.
- The number can be diverted to your personal phone so you can take calls directly whenever it is convenient for you to do so.
- You can tell before you take a call whether it is to your personal or business number and answer accordingly.
- You can still miss a call if you are busy.
- If you’re in a shopping centre or restaurant when you take a call the background noise can sound unprofessional.
- There is no guarantee that when you receive a call, you will have a pen and paper handy to take down notes or contact details.
- You may not be able to fulfil the callers’ requirements e.g. they want to make a booking or schedule a meeting but you cannot access your systems.
- You only have one voicemail for both your personal and business numbers
Virtual Receptionist: The Pros and Cons
- Still affordable at just £25 monthly (£250 annually) plus £1.10 per call.
- A trained, professional receptionist will answer calls using your company name and script.
- All relevant information regarding the call and caller will be forwarded to you by email.
- All calls are answered in a professional environment.
- All calls are answered in the UK.
- Your team of receptionists will answer your calls from 8am-8pm on weekdays and 9am-7pm at the weekend.
- You can still take calls yourself and only divert them to your virtual receptionists when you are unavailable. Or you can use the service as an overflow for particularly busy periods.
- You can keep your existing business number.
- You can choose a number. If a local dialling code is important to your business, you can have one. If you prefer a national number to give the impression of a large organisation, that’s fine too.• You will have a separate voicemail for business calls.
- You can manage your account via an Online Portal at any time; review call history, retrieve messages, check invoices, manage your virtual reception, set answering times, set voicemails or call diverts.
- Your receptionist will answer calls professionally but can only take messages and send them to your inbox.
- If the caller wants to book a meeting or schedule an appointment they will have to wait for you to call them back.
Virtual PA: The Pros and Cons
- Enjoy all the benefits that come with the virtual receptionist service and more.
- This is a bespoke service tailored to your needs. The price is agreed based on the services so you only pay for what you use. This starts from just £48 a month.
- They will collate all information from the caller as directed by you.
- A virtual PA will transfer live calls to your team members as you instruct.
- A virtual PA will take bookings, schedule appointments, add contacts to your CRM, and return certain calls on your behalf.
Keeping your business and personal numbers separate is the best move for business. Your preferred option will depend on your individual circumstances, but most entrepreneurs or SMEs are advised to choose a virtual receptionist in the first instance. A virtual receptionist portrays a professional image and is ideal for low call volumes. At just £25 per month, plus £1.10 per call, the ROI in terms of image alone is worth it, and the peace of mind that you can focus on the job in hand without worrying about missing a vital call is priceless.
If a virtual receptionist proves not to quite meet your requirements, you can quickly and easily upgrade to enjoy the additional benefits of a virtual PA.