Saturday, October 17, 2015

You don’t have to give out your phone number, there are apps for that - October 16, 2015

The telephone is often the bane of our existence, yet it is the necessary enabler of business and personal interactions. If you sell things online, have a home or family-run business, or if you are a single wanting to talk to someone you met online, you need the telephone.

Yet there are risks to giving out your own phone number you should avoid.

For example, you sell a bicycle online. You don’t want to give the person your phone number to avoid the possibility of them calling you a year later telling you the bike has broken and they feel you sold them a defective item.

Or you want your one- or two-person family-run business to look like a bigger company but don’t want to hire a receptionist, what can you do?

There’s an app for the iPhone and Android called Burner that lets you purchase a phone number that is good for a time period you choose. That way, you can list that phone number in your online ad. Any calls coming into the app from that phone number, come into the app where you can answer or let them go to a voicemail setup for just that number and use.

Once the transaction is done, you can simply cancel the number and future calls to that number do not reach you.

Text messages can also be sent and received using a Burner phone number, so if you hand out the number to a someone, there is no reason they have to know that you have not given them your regular number.

If you need to call someone but do not want them to see your caller ID number, a Burner number shows only that phone number, not your own. This is valuable if you need to call a business you fear will put you on their telemarketing list. The number will only be good for a short while.

You may wonder why I do not recommend the service I use and have talked about before, Google Voice. Burner phones are better for a one-purpose use such as an online ad or dating service. My Google Voice is the only number I hand out. If a telemarketer does get hold of it, I can block that number from reaching me.

Blocking a number only prevents calls from that one number. A Burner number, once it expires, means the person who had that number to call you, cannot reach you from any phone, so there is that added security.

If you are running a business from your home, or your family has a small business and you’d prefer your customers not know how small you are, or that you are in your home, a service like Ringcentral might be good for you.

Ringcentral lets you setup a virtual PBX. That is, it gives you one phone number people can call and then type in an extension to reach a specific person or department. Transfers to the sales department, shipping or support could all go the same person if need be. The call is forwarded to a landline or to a mobile phone. You can even have it ring multiple phones such as your home office line and your cell, so no matter where you are you can answer it.

The auto attendant can route calls based on rules, or by the caller entering in an extension number.

It can even give your tiny business a toll-free number, as well as call recording and conference calling.

Ringcentral can tie into Office, Dropbox, SalesForce, ZenDesk and other systems to give you an integrated communications system.

And instead of paying a receptionist for 40 hours a week, you pay once for just the time it is taking your calls using services like My Receptionist.

Additional services let it book appointments for you using an online appointment system you can use. The appointment system can send out confirmations and reminders to your customers via email, text message and even Twitter.

It can even take orders for you and process credit card payments. All this is setup to be an add-on to a Ringcentral phone system.

All of these services give you a managed telephone system for a set cost per user, per month. You can have large business services, without having to have staff and equipment of your own to manage it.

I’ve used Burner, Ringcentral, My Receptionist and Google Voice as examples. There are many providers for these services. Check this week’s Link Post at for resources.

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