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This post is part of my series about online services that help run our business. You’ll be able to use our experience and suggestions to save time, trouble, and money. You might be looking for these types of services, or maybe you didn’t even realize there was an online solution at all. By the way, I’ll put a link to the service at the bottom of the article. We will sometimes get a referral credit if you use our link to sign up. It won’t cost you anything more. If you find the article useful, I’d really appreciate if you click our link and visit the provider’s website. As usual, if you know of a better service please leave a comment. I’m always looking for new options to explore.

Run Your Business With Cell Phones And An Internet Connection

If you’ve ever wanted a simple system for toll-free numbers and multiple extensions, this review is for you.

We expect everything to be easy now. But it wasn’t too long ago that this took a bunch of expensive hardware.

Back in 2001, we were looking for a telephone system for our office.

One of the salesmen that approached us had a telephone built into his briefcase.

When he came in to meet with us, he hooked up his briefcase directly to the internet. Then he used it to tap into an existing phone line.

It seemed cool, but it didn’t really work very well.

It got pretty weird when he started to tell us about “the end of fast busies”.

(That was the industry term for when you tried to make a call on one of these types of phones and just heard the irritating hum of a dead line)

Anyway, the idea was that we’d buy his hardware and get it all hooked up.

You can picture it: a bunch of strange equipment that would quickly get outdated… massive price tag… constant repairs.

We really wanted to have recorded messages, extensions, forwarded calls (click 1 for support — that kind of thing). However, we also wanted good value for our dollar.

But more than anything, it all had to be easy to configure from anywhere.

Because we service clients all over Canada, we needed to push calls to people in different locations.

Enter Grasshopper.

The Best Online Tool For Managing Incoming Business Calls

We have been using Grasshopper for over 10 years.

Here are just a few of the handy things that you can do with it:

1. Set up a toll-free number or a virtual local number

With Grasshopper you can set up a toll free number or a number with your local area code instantly. You can do all the regular ones like 1-800, 1-888, and 1-877.

I didn’t even realize toll-free numbers now go all the way to 1-866, 1-855, and 1-844.

If you already have a toll-free number or local number you want to use, you can contact Grasshopper to move it over to their system really easily.

2. Record greetings and manage transfers

Once you have the number(s) set up, you can log in to Grasshopper’s website and configure everything.

You can record a Main Greeting where it says, “You have reached Whatever Company, press 1 for Support and 2 for Sales, or enter the extension of the person you want to reach”, or you can set it to just ring like a normal call.

You can create all the extensions like 1, 2, 3 for departments and you can make longer extensions for particular people (eg. 701, 702, etc).

Depending on how you set it up and what the caller selects, the phone will start ringing on your side.

You can set a department or extension to just ring one phone, or to ring more than one phone at the same time (so whoever isn’t busy can pick up the call).

You can also set timing.

For example, you can have your office line ring for 30 seconds, and if you don’t pick up because you are on the road, after 30 seconds your cell phone will start to ring.

The mapping of the calls can be very simple or very complicated depending on your needs. You can also set different schedules for different days and different times of day, after business hours, and for special cases (like vacations).

3. Customize voicemail

The voicemail can be customized just like it would be on your cell phone. Each user can set their own voicemail and availability, and it is really easy to log into Grasshopper’s website and change the settings temporarily.

Callers can be told to press * to leave a voicemail if they don’t want to hold, and you can set a caller to hold for any amount of time you want before going to voicemail.

When they get sent to voicemail it can be a general mailbox or a personal mailbox. Then you can also set who gets the notification by email.

You can attach the voicemail to the email so you can listen to it easily without connecting to your Grasshopper account or calling in to hear it.

4. Manage outgoing calls and texting

There is an app for iPhone or Android that lets you make outgoing calls through your Grasshopper account. The caller-id can be set to show your Grasshopper number.

Another cool feature of the app is for managing faxes. You can receive faxes inside the app and it allows you to sign in and save, then send the fax back to somebody. The app also lets you send and receive text messages with your main Grasshopper number.

5. Do conference calls

This is grasshopper’s newest feature. You can easily add up to 9 people to a call.

As of right now, Grasshopper doesn’t have an option where people can call in and connect to a conference call.

Costs… And One Critique

Grasshopper charges an ongoing fee.

Like everybody these days, they don’t try to lock you into any long term contracts. It is just $50/month for 2,000 minutes of incoming calls and that includes two toll-free numbers.

If you need more, you can pay by the minute or upgrade when you get to 10,000 minutes/month. That includes all the features I wrote about.

It is barely the cost of a cell phone line. A really great value.

They have fast and helpful telephone and email support, and you have a 30 day money back guarantee. So give it a try!

However… full disclosure. They are missing one feature:

Call recording.

Like when you call your bank and hear “this call will be recorded for quality and training purposes”.

We have always thought call recording was handy to train new employees. It shows them what people call about and how to help effectively.

However, it’s really hard to find a service that does call recording AND all the other stuff I listed above.

We have looked around a few times for alternatives to Grasshopper that offer call recording. It has always been a huge disappointment. The other core features like call forwarding and the call quality are never even close to as good.

Try Grasshopper: http://shrsl.com/?~b9nb