Charles E. Day & Associates charges its clients thousands of dollars to improve their customer service and call-center systems. So when a potential client calls his office, president Charles E. Day knows his staff must do an excellent job.
“When your business is consulting on customer service, every time a client calls, they are evaluating you too,” says Day. His staff gets high praise, despite that fact that in 14 years, Day has never given anyone a raise, paid vacation, or health benefits. This is because his five-person staff comes with a virtual office package.
A virtual office is a location that allows more than one business to share an office address anywhere in the world without physically operating there. The arrangement evolved from executive suites, a form of subleasing or office sharing in which you rent everything from a single desk to an entire group of offices within a building. Customers use common conference rooms, business machines, kitchen areas, and other facilities.
Many virtual office plans include a prestigious business address, a receptionist for answering the telephone, voice mail, and use of an office with high-speed Internet access. Day saves nearly $18,000 annually using a virtual office instead of renting an office full time.
“Property is the third-largest expense on most businessâ€™ profit and loss statements. Only payroll and IT cost more,” says Robert Gaudreau, executive vice president at The Regus Group (www.regus.com), one of the largest providers of virtual office services. “When you can reduce cost by 20% to 40% on a single line item, the pressure to go virtual is there.” The emergence of mobile and wireless technologies — such as cell phones, personal digital assistants, portable computers, and wireless Internet — is the force driving the virtual office revolution, says Gaudreau.
A less expensive alternative to a virtual office is the virtual phone system, which provides small businesses with an 800 or local phone number, automated message on hold, call forwarding, fax services, and multiple mailboxes for as little as $9.95 per month.
“It used to be that a phone number equaled a physical location. Now a phone number equals a person and it doesnâ€™t matter if that person is in the office, at home, or anywhere else in the world,” says David Powers, vice president of communications for GotVMail (www.gotvmail.com), which offers virtual phone system services. A virtual phone system is also a great way to manage independent contractors or employees who work from home.
Virtual Office Services
1. Regus www.regus.com 888-271-4615
Price range: $50 to $725 monthly
2. GBC One www.gbcone.com 800-366-5004
Price range: $165 and up
3. Intelligent Office www.intelligentoffice.com
Price range: $200 and up
4. City Office www.yourcityoffice.com 212-386-5608
Price range: $17.95 to $218
5. A Virtual Office Service www.vosjax.com 904-448-5448
Price range: $225 and up
6. Onebox Executive www.onebox.com 888-588-4600Price range:
$16.95 to $29.95
Virtual Phone Systems
1. GotVMail www.gotvmail.com 800-820-8210
Price range: $9.95 to $39.95
2. Ring Central www.ringcentral.com 800-574-5290
Price range: $9.99 and up
3. Virtual PBX www.virtualpbx.com 888-825-0800
Price range: $9.99 to $250