Did the Internet Kill Off the Phone Business?
by Tom Senkus
There’s no question about the disruptive power of the Internet on nearly every single industry. This is particularly relevant to the telecommunications industry. With all of your modern technology replacing traditional forms of communication, one has to wonder: Did the Internet kill off the phone business?
The truth is that the Internet hasn’t killed off the phone business. In fact, it has only enhanced it! In this article, we’ll take a look at why this is.
The Truth about the Internet’s Disruptive Capabilities
The Internet has uprooted much of how human beings interact, but it has not changed the fundamentals of communication. While landlines are nearly extinct and being replaced with Internet-based communication (i.e. social media, WhatsApp, live chat, et al.), there still is a fundamental human need for individuals to talk in real-time to discuss business.
Despite the prevalence of instant messaging and self-service options for customers to communicate with businesses with next to no human interaction, there is still a large market share of people who demand to speak to a customer service rep (especially among older demographics used to this manner of conducting business). In fact, less than half of the people from this study prefer to handle their business without exchanging words with a real individual (not a faceless “virtual assistant” or labyrinth-like directory). The reason is that there’s a sense of rapport and accountability attached to speaking with a person, as well as the speed in which answers can be provided (human beings listen at a rate of up to 400 words per minute, whereas we can only comprehend 200 written words per minute, comprehending only 60% of the material).
So, where does this leave us? Are the Internet and spoken communication engaged in a power struggle for greater market share and never-ending competition?
No, the truth is that the Internet and its successive technologies have created a synergistic relationship with “phone” communication, evolving the technology into a 21st version. One of the best results of this union? Virtual phone numbers. Let’s take a look at what virtual phone numbers are and how they’re fulfilling the needs of individuals, while also enhancing the capabilities and potentialities of human-to-human interaction.
What are Virtual Phone Numbers?
Virtual phone numbers are phone numbers that are powered by the Internet — specifically through the advances of cloud computing and using a broadband connection to route calls, particularly through VoIP, or “Voice over Internet Protocol.”
When a virtual phone number is dialed, the call is instantly routed to another phone number (known as the “destination phone number”). This means that if a China virtual phone number is dialed by Chinese citizens, that call can be instantly routed to a call center in the United States without delay or obstruction (including being blocked by service providers or the cost of long-distance fees).
What makes virtual phone numbers appealing is that they function identically to “normal” phone numbers, while also being identical in look to a local area’s phone numbers (matching the country code, area/ region code, and containing the same amount of digits). This means that callers can reach businesses and individuals that were, at one time, unreachable for financial or other reasons.
Virtual phone numbers come in several varieties including:
- Toll free numbers
- ITFS numbers
- Vanity numbers
- Local access numbers
Each of these types of virtual phone numbers has their own functionality and usage, especially when it comes to enhancing a business or an individual’s capabilities. Additionally, virtual phone numbers can be enhanced with a number of features/ add-ons (see below) that can be tailored to how you conduct your business or personal life. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits.
Benefits of Virtual Phone Numbers
- Expanding your Global Presence: If you’ve got a business, you know that trying to establish a physical branch office in new countries or regions requires significant amounts of capital, time, and effort — not to factor in the risk that’s associated with various “unknowns.”With virtual phone numbers, you don’t have to wait for the stars to align. Instead, by purchasing a subscription to a virtual phone number service, you can pick and choose which country that you want to market your business to without having to invest significant amounts of capital or even setting foot there. This not only sidesteps the lengthy process of setting up an international location (i.e. government regulations, hiring staff, leasing property) but can act as market research before you decide to set up your business up in earnest. For instance, if you use virtual phone numbers in Ireland and your business doesn’t succeed, you only lose the overheads associated with a virtual phone number subscription. However, if you set up a physical location in Ireland and your business fails to gain traction, the process of extricating your physical branch office requires even more capital and effort — not to mention endless headaches and regret.
On the flipside, if you experience success in those same markets with virtual phone numbers, then it may make sense to establish a physical presence to accommodate waiting customers and an already-established market.
- Accessibility: As mentioned before with our China example, virtual phone numbers function like local area phone numbers. This means that callers aren’t billed long-distance for the “privilege” of contacting your business. Furthermore, virtual phone numbers blend into local ways of conducting business, making broader audiences trust your foreign organization from the get-go instead of having to take measures to ingratiate yourself to an unreceptive audience.
- Added Functionality: Virtual phone numbers come with a variety of add-ons that can supplement their built-in versatility. For instance, you may want to use “call recording” to record all inbound and outbound calls to ensure that your employees are providing top-notch service, while also adhering to international regulations (particularly in the banking and finance industries). There’s also “simultaneous ringing,” which can allow calls to be routed to multiple phone numbers to ring until an inbound call is answered.
Furthermore, you may want to augment your entrepreneurship with “time of day routing,” where business calls are directly routed to your phone during business hours, however, when you’re “off-duty,” those calls are routed to another staff member or a voicemail. This can ensure that you maintain an adequate work-life balance.
Tom Senkus is a freelance writer specializing in the emerging trends of telecommunications that provide solutions for small business and startups. For more information about his published work and list of services, visit www.tomsenkuswriter.com