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The Affordable Small Business Phone System

Occasionally, when discussing the benefits of replacing cable with Internet TV, I meet small business owners that feel they can’t break ties with their cable company. Usually, their small business phone service is provided through a “Cable for Business” bundle from their TV provider. That’s when I tell them about Grasshopper.

Grasshopper Small Business Phone System

Grasshopper is a business phone system that provides a virtual phone number for your business that forwards calls to any cell phone or landline you wish.  Providing all the functionality delivered by a PBX, it’s an affordable option compared to traditional business phone systems.

Keep your Own Number or Use a New One

If you already have a business number, you can use it with Grasshopper. Otherwise, Grasshopper will provide you with a local or toll free number which is excellent for those that always wanted a vanity phone number that matches their brand.

Multiple Phone Extensions

Your virtual phone number can be used to forward calls to any home, office or cell phone. Grasshopper easily allows users to create both 1 digit department extensions and 3 digit employee extensions. Grasshopper even provides a name directory for callers to search.

The service provides unlimited extensions and call handling for your small businesses virtual phone system. Even during the heaviest call volumes, no customer will ever hear a busy signal.

These features provide customers with the impression that your business has dozens of employees manning desks, when in reality your streamlined business is running on a few personal cell phones.

Conference Calling is a breeze. Simply enter the numbers you want to conference with, and Grasshopper connects everyone together in one call. This will save your business money on a separate conference calling product.

A Business Number for Your Cell Phone

Grasshopper is designed to manage your business’s virtual phone number and your personal phone number on the same device. Your phone will work the way it always had in the past. Calls to your virtual phone number may be indicated as such on your phone. Grasshopper provides three methods of handling calls to your virtual office phone number; Call Screening, Call Announce, and Direct Connect.

Once a caller chooses their extension, Grasshopper places the caller on hold while the call is forwarded to the appropriate cell phone or landline. If you are using Call Screening the caller is asked to record their name before being placed on hold. Call Announce, the recommended setting, doesn’t ask the caller’s name.

While they are on hold listening to the music that you’ve chosen, the appropriate phone receives the call and provides the following options:

  • Press 1 to accept the call.
  • Press 2 to send the caller to voicemail.
  • Press 3 to hear the caller’s phone number.

Lastly, Direct Connect doesn’t provide any of these options when the call is forwarded to the appropriate phone. If you don’t answer the call, instead of the caller being sent back to Grasshopper to leave a voice mail, the call goes to the forwarded phone’s voice mail system. This is an excellent option if you want to use the cell phone or landline’s existing voice mail message system.

Voice Mail and Fax on Demand

If you opt to use Grasshoppers voice mail service, calls are converted to WAV or MP3 format and send via email. There is also an option for human transcription so you can read voicemail when you are unable to listen.

Grasshopper also provides “Fax on Demand” which allows callers to choose forms and printed information which you have loaded into your account. Your clients can have these important documents faxed to them any time of day using the Grasshopper automated phone system.

Call Routing and Queuing

Multiple numbers can be assigned to an extension. Grasshopper uses automatic call distribution queues to keep all customers on hold simultaneously until a number assigned to the queue is available.

Furthermore, calls can be routed to extensions evenly throughout the day. This is perfect for a sales department to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to close a sale.

Virtual Phone App

Users of Grasshopper also have access to the Grasshopper phone app which has a host of useful features for your business.

Grasshopper App Features:

  • Show your Grasshopper virtual phone number on the caller ID of the phone you are calling
  • Check voicemails, faxes and call history
  • Set up push notifications for missed calls and messages
  • Sign & email faxes and PDFs
  • Call any extensions that is set up on your Grasshopper account

All these features currently work with iPhone. The Android app is currently available in beta and doesn’t include the fax signing functionality.

Managing Your Virtual Phone Number

Grasshopper provides an easy to use portal for configuring and administering your small business phone system. The following are some excellent features available through the portal.

Greetings and Extensions

Grasshopper provides some fantastic services for your businesses phone greeting. You can record the greeting directly to your phone, upload an MP3 audio file containing your greeting, or use the microphone on your computer.

Furthermore, for a professional feel, Grasshopper’s voice professionals will record your greeting in their “Voice Studio” using the script you’ve written. This service is free to Max plan clients. Otherwise, there is a $75 charge for this service.

Extensions are no problem to manage through the portal. Simply create the extensions and configure the numbers to call per extension. Finally, list the email addresses to email per extension when a voice message is received.

A forwarding schedule can be employed to forward a call to different numbers based on the schedule you set. You can also set after hours messages easily through the portal.

Messages and Contacts

All the messages from all extensions can be viewed and managed easily with the message management tools available through the portal. You can:

  • View messages from multiple extensions at the same time
  • Add different tags to messages for better organization
  • Perform operations on multiple messages with a click and drag user interface

Contacts are another useful function in the portal. You can save message senders as contacts and they will show up by name instead of number when calling your virtual business number. Multiple numbers may be assigned to a contact, so they’re recognizable regardless of where they are calling from.

Purchasing Grasshopper

Purchase Grasshopper through this referral link. There plans start as low as $12 per month, with no contract, and a 30 day money back guarantee.

Here is a recap all the features included with all Grasshopper plans:

  • Dial-by-Name Directory
  • Informational Extensions – Turned off by default
  • ACD Queue
  • Rotational Extensions
  • On Hold Music
  • Conference Calling – Turned off by default
  • Call Forwarding – Turned off by default
  • Call Screening
  • Dedicated Virtual Fax Line
  • VirtualFax (Receive/ Forward faxes)
  • Voicemail & Fax Delivery
  • Live Call Transfer
  • Fax-on-Demand
  • Play on iPhone & Blackberry
  • Q&A Extensions
  • Unlimited Call Handling
  • Custom Main Greeting
  • Away Greeting (After-hours)
  • Unlimited Extensions
  • International Call Forwarding Feature
  • Outbound Calling with Calling Card & Call Out Feature (Calling Card & Call Out Feature  – Turned off by default)

Features turned off by default can simply be turned on through the portal.

Features Available at an Additional Cost:

  • Read Your Voicemail – $10 a month (free for 30 days)
  • Call Blasting –  $10 per month
  • Virtual Lines in addition to what is included with your plan – 5$ per month/per line
  • True-800 Toll Free Numbers $30 one-time fee
  • Vanity Numbers $30 one-time fee
  • Number transfers in addition to what is included with your plan – $30 one-time fee per carrier

With all these featured included with the base plans and other features you can add.  Running your business from your personal cell phone is easier than ever.  With plans as low as $12 per month Grasshopper is an extremely affordable alternative compared to small business phone plans from cable TV providers and traditional business solutions providers.

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