Every business requires a reliable phone extension system that is tailored to their specific needs. An enterprise phone system is better than relying solely on a cell phone or personal line for small businesses. Phone lines that are consumer-oriented do not have business-grade features such as call transfer, virtual extensions, and phone directories.
As your staff numbers grow, so do your communication requirements. Each new employee should have their own phone number and contact information for colleagues from other departments or offices. Your employees must communicate with you and each other as well as with customers.
This is, where extensions for phones are available in. Extensions allow you to link every link within your company to one another and to you. Customers can reach the department or person they need by using extensions. Phone extensions are essential for large companies to communicate effectively.
This comprehensive guide provides a detailed look into phone extensions and how they can be used for your business.
Business vs. Residential phone extensions
Phone extension is a feature that has been around since the dawn of time. They are almost as old and well-known as landline technology. Phone extensions can be used in either a business or consumer context.
An extension is a way for residential lines to answer calls from any place in their house. This basically means that you have a second or third instrument connected to the main number. All devices in your house will ring when someone calls you. This allows you to answer calls from anywhere.
The most important thing to remember is that only has one line to the house. You can only talk to the person on the second device if you’re calling outside using another device. For everyone else not on the call, the line is busy.
Different phone extensions work in business systems. This allows organizations to buy fewer lines that the total number of employees. This is possible by sharing just a few lines via extensions. Because employees won’t use their phones constantly, this system works.
If you have 10 employees, for example, you don’t need to purchase 10 lines. You can choose to purchase based on your specific needs. You can live with just 3-4 lines and phone extensions A employee using an extension doesn’t tie up the lines of everyone.
What is a phone extension?
Extensions can be short numbers you can assign to an individual employee, a group, or a division within your business. It’s an internal code that allows users to quickly reach their colleagues. Customers can also bypass the usual auto-attendant by calling the extension number of their desired person. This feature is also known as extension dialing.
Both internal and external callers use identical extension numbers in different ways. Imagine Alice and Bob work in the same office. Alice’s extension number is 103, while Bob’s is 104. Alice can call 104 to speak to Bob if she needs to. You don’t need to dial the full business number.
Extension numbers must be added to the main business phone number for external callers, such as suppliers or customers. If your company number is 987-6533, then customers should dial 987-653-103 to speak to Alice, or 987-653-104 to speak to Bob.
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How do phone extensions flow?
Extension numbers have traditionally been 4 digits such as 1002 or 2563. An analog phone system did not allow for longer or shorter extensions. Hosted phone service providers also offer 3 and 5-digit extension dialing. Extensions such as 4 and 65 can be assigned to employees.
You can also have extensions for departments or project teams. This allows users to reach out to colleagues from other divisions or departments of the company. Although a small business might not require department extensions, this feature is essential for organizations that grow.
The auto-attendant feature works in conjunction with phone extensions. If the customer doesn’t know the extension number for the person they are trying to reach, the Auto-attendant will allow them to choose the department to forward the call to that extension. If a customer knows the extension number they can skip the auto attendant recital and dial directly the extension.
Difference between virtual numbers and extension
Extensions work in a similar way to virtual numbers, as they both forward calls from other endpoints. Both extensions and virtual numbers are not tied to any particular location or ZIP code. Both are composed of numbers. Extensions are sometimes shorter. The context in which they are used will determine the difference.
A virtual number is usually associated with the IP address of a particular device. It doesn’t matter if the device is a desk telephone, a cell phone, or a computer. The number is called by someone who wishes to call the device associated with that IP address. This number is visible on the phone screen of others when you call them through the VoIP system. This allows staff to make and take calls from different devices using the same business number.
An extension does not have to be associated with a particular device or its IP address. It is part of the VoIP phone system. You will be charged for creating and using the virtual number. Although extensions are generally free, there may be a maximum number that you can have. You can extend to an individual, a team, or even a voicemail mailbox.
Adding users and extensions
Adding a user or extension to a VoIP phone system is easy. Log in to the online dashboard, and click the Add a User option. You can also assign a specific extension to a new employee when you create them.
What if you have staff or user accounts and want to add an extension to them? An existing user can be edited and the extension added. Let’s say a staff member moves into a new office. It doesn’t matter if they move to a different office. Their current extension will continue to work regardless of the change in the physical location. You can change an employee’s number in the event of a promotion or a division switch.
It is easy to delete an extension or remove a user completely. If an employee leaves or the business doesn’t require as many extensions anymore, you can simply delete them and then update the auto-attendant if necessary. Regardless of whether your provider charges extra for extensions to your phone, You might delete any that are not needed for easier management.
How to dial a phone number with an extension
Dialing a phone extension works the same way as dialing a VoIP number. Only the difference is how internal and outside calls are handled.
Internal calls refer to those that originate within the organization, regardless of physical location. Two employees from different countries or offices can still communicate with each other without long-distance charges. Alice can dial 104 to call Bob, regardless of where they are located. If your team is dispersed in different locations, extension dialing is particularly important.
External calls refer to calls that originate outside of the company and go to an internal endpoint. Customers, suppliers, partners, and other parties can call the extension, but it is typically added to the main business number. You can route even non-technical callers to the right person if you enable the auto-attendant function on your phone system.
Some business people may not require an extension, while others might need a full-fledged virtual number. Numbers are typically required by senior executives and receptionists. Extensions can also be used by employees in other departments, such as accounts or technical support.
How are calls routed to the extension?
extensions are not different from phone numbers, from a user standpoint. They provide crucial functionality. It is important to understand how calls are routed to different extensions once the caller dials the number.
Routing calls to extensions require one of many algorithms that determine how calls will be handled. Most organizations will have distinct rules depending on whether the recipient is an individual, a team, or a department.
First, create a directory to direct callers to specific departments or individuals. The call is routed according to the option or extension dialed by the caller.
Setting dialing rules for individuals
Users can set rules for which devices should ring for incoming phone calls. Let’s say the sales manager has a desk telephone, a business phone, a laptop, and an app on their personal cell phone. They have the option to have all incoming calls ring at once or to have each one ring in a particular order until they answer.
Setting dialing rules for departments
Different rules may be needed for different departments. The HR department might not receive many calls from customers. If the manager is not available, all calls can be routed to him first and then to one of his team members. As an outsider’s point of contact, the manager is your single point of contact. Later, they can assign tasks to employees.
Set dialing rules for teams
Technical support teams receive hundreds of calls per day from customers. You can either set all incoming calls to ring the entire team (simultaneous routing) or cycle through each extension until you get a response (round-robin routing).
This can lead to call routing that repeats the same sequence of extensions, which can prove detrimental. This means that the first employee will be asked to answer more calls. This could disrupt their other tasks. All employees should be able to answer calls if your service or sales agents need to meet targets (deals closed, tickets resolved).
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Benefits of using extensions
You may have heard of extension dialing in business settings since it has been around for quite some time. Hosted VoIP services offer a stronger feature set to allow phone extensions. These services are more flexible and can be used in many situations previously impossible. While call forwarding is still the most important function of extensions, businesses are also using them to market research, advertise in new markets, and so on.
However, if your business is small, are extensions really necessary? Consider the following benefits of using extensions if you are still unsure:
1. Share multiple lines
Extensions become a necessity as an organization grows. Extensions can be used by even a small company to save time and avoid assigning each employee a line/number. It doesn’t matter if you have ten or a thousand numbers, the savings add up quickly.
It’s more than just the cost of an additional line. Hosted VoIP systems increase traffic on the network so every additional line means more bandwidth. Extensions allow you to make the best use of the resources.
2. Easy calling for internal use
Extensions make it easier to call colleagues within your business. Extensions make it easier for staff to remember numbers. It might not be important for a small business with five employees. What if the worker has to communicate with five or six teams throughout the day? It is easier for everyone if there are shorter extensions.
3. Customers can bypass the auto attendant
A useful feature is the auto attendant. This is especially true for large companies that have multiple divisions or departments. A caller can reach the right person even if it’s the first time they are reaching out or don’t know the correct phone number to dial.
For returning callers, who know exactly where they want to go, however, it can be tiring to wait. Customers can quickly contact their manager or account representative by using extensions, provided they know the right extension.
4. You can save time and increase productivity
By enabling extensions for individual users, organizations can save hours. In other cases, extensions can be used to make calls more efficient. Extensions make it easier for employees to transfer calls to the correct person faster. Because they dial fewer numbers, employees are less likely to make mistakes while transferring calls.
How can you add a few users to an existing conference? Extension dialing speeds it up. It might not seem like much, but a few extra seconds here and there can make a big difference. Consider how many calls your network receives each week. Extensions can make a real difference in productivity.
5. Evaluate and test advertising campaigns
Mass media has been a common medium for traditional advertising campaigns. Today’s ads are targeted at different segments of the market and are often customized to meet specific criteria. Businesses can run multiple campaigns simultaneously thanks to online and social media advertising.
How can you determine the effectiveness of each campaign? You can use extensions to your phone to get potential customers to call you. Let’s say you want to test 3 ads on social media that feature celebrities. You can add a different extension to each ad, and track the incoming calls. You will soon be able to see which ad is performing better than others if any.
6. Maintain a local presence in new markets
Companies are always at risk when expanding into new markets and territories. While you need an office to offer services to customers, you don’t know how much sales will justify opening a branch. Potential clients might be wary of an outside company, so it is important for your business to have a local presence.
Another example of the use of phone extensions is in this situation. You can create an extension to your virtual number by attaching several extensions. Extensions do not take into account the physical location of employees. Staff in Seattle can therefore answer calls from California. California customers will only see the local number and won’t need to know where your agents live.
7. Do not consider the physical location of users
Are you a mobile workforce? Perhaps the current pandemic forced your team to work remotely in the near future. Many companies are trying hybrid workdays, where employees only come in part of the week. Others might work from home and come in for training or meetings.
This format allows you to recruit and retain employees with additional responsibilities at your home. Your customers still expect you to answer their phones and solve their problems. Extensions can help you maintain a professional appearance for customers, even if employees work from anywhere. As long as the caller can reach them, they don’t need to know where your staff is located.
8. Enable enhanced mobility for employees
Location independence has the flip side. It allows employees to work wherever. Staff needs time off to visit the doctor, pick up their children from school, or visit ailing parents. Employees don’t have to commute as often to work with the new format. Employees can work around other tasks, and even later at night if necessary. You should also be aware that some illnesses may not prevent your employees from working but could make them contagious, so it is important to keep them away from the office. Staff can work from home and not get sick.
You will need to have a phone extension in order to make this possible. These extensions allow employees to work in multiple locations and even on the road if necessary. An employee might have a desk phone at work, a laptop at home, and a mobile phone when on the road. They can also use phone extensions to stay connected while on the go. Employees don’t have to miss customer calls with mobile apps.
9. Analyze, track, and record call patterns
Another great use of a phone extension is to analyze and track call patterns specifically for customer-facing departments such as sales or tech support. Many companies will have multiple services and products. It doesn’t matter if you have separate teams for each product, it is still helpful to identify which products require more support.