Everything you need to know about telephone extensions

Smith, Emma

Publish: Wednesday, Apr 07

When you call a company, it is likely that the first thing you have heard is a voice that begins to say a typical message: “if you want to speak to administration, press 1; if you want to speak to customer service, press 2 … ”In these cases you are talking to an auto responder who simply redirects calls to a specific telephone extension, because if you press the number, the next thing you will do is talk to it. But have you ever wondered what are telephone extensions? Do you know what they can be used for? Keep reading because we will tell you below

What are telephone extensions?

If you think about daily life, any type of activity is carried out through communication. In the case of companies, this is a fundamental element, since if the different parts that comprise it do not communicate with each other, it is most likely that it will not develop properly. But what does “communication” specifically mean?

If we look in the dictionary, we will see that it has nine meanings. Specifically, the fourth tells us that it is the “mean that allows a union between certain things”. In the case of a company, not only must there be “union” between the different parties, but they also need to be connected with the outside. Specifically with its suppliers, customers…

In the digital world we live in, interactions develop in an increasingly direct and fast way. Although it is true that we have many tools that allow us to do so, the preferred means for communication (both internal and external) is usually the telephone. This means that access to one or more contact numbers to carry out this union is essential.

However, it is necessary to have an element that allows that connection. This is where extensions come into play. Avoiding technical details, an extension is a number that depends on a main number. In this way, the incoming call is directed to a specific employee of the company, without the need for the latter to have a separate number.

If it is easier for us, we can say that the telephone extensions are those people who are answering the calls, so for each extension, there will be one. Normally, the extensions tend to depend on a PBX, either physical (although it is currently in disuse) or virtual.

On the other hand, depending on the telephone installation of the company and how it is set up, access from the outside can be done directly (if the extension number is known) or indirectly through an auto responder (an option menu that will include the message we mentioned at the beginning).

Evolution of telephone extensions

From the invention of the telephone to the manual PBX

At the end of the 19th century, Alexander Graham Bell presented a device that would revolutionize communications forever: the telephone. This system allowed communication between two people and had a cable that transmitted sounds through electricity. However, it was such a basic system that it simply allowed communication over short distances, and as long as both devices were linked by the same cable or extension.

Subsequently, the Graham Bell company (Bell Telephone Company) acquired the patents for the carbon microphone from Western Union, which allowed long-distance calls to be made. In the latter case, communication was carried out through a manual PBX.

In these cases, the union was carried out through intermediaries. If we think of films and series set in the 19th and 20th centuries, the image that comes to our mind is a person who works in a telecommunications company (an operator) attaching a plug to a great machine with lots of lights. Subsequently, it asks the number of the subscribed customer and attaches the other end in the right place, producing the communication. Finally, the image we have is of many cables that create a link between two points. The ends of each of those cables were the extensions.

From the manual PBX to the automatic PBX

However, the old system was inefficient and had many mistakes. Thus, in 1889, Almon Brown Strowger invented the automatic PBX, which had an automatic distribution mechanism that prevented calls from going through an operator. Despite this, manual PBX were maintained until the 1960s (in Spain even longer).

With the beginning of the digital era, most companies began to implement virtual PBXs, which used to work through the IP protocol, which allowed receiving and issuing calls over the Internet. However, it has numerous drawbacks, such as requiring the installation of equipment that allows calls to be received or to carry out work only where that equipment is located.

Currently, this method has evolved so much that many of the virtual PBX and call center software, such as the ones we offer at Fonvirtual, which work through WebRTC, without the need for any installation. With the latter, internal and external communications can be passed to extensions directly through buttons and contact lists in a simple way, facilitating this task and increasing efficiency.

What are telephone extensions for?

Despite what it may seem at first glance, extensions are not used simply to make and receive calls between the company and customers, but have other uses:

For efficient call management

A company that has one or more telephone extensions can carry out efficient call distribution. For example, if we receive calls in both Spanish and English, we can assign an extension to the agent who best speaks those languages ​​so that they always answer calls of this type. In this way, we will avoid intermediaries and communication will be more direct.

To reduce customer waiting time

Related to the above, in these cases, it is possible that if the client knows the extension number of the agent with whom he wishes to communicate, he will do so directly. This way we will improve the quality of our customer service and the customer experience will be more satisfactory.

For internal communication

By depending on the extensions of a PBX, employees can contact each other quickly, simply by dialing a code, no matter where they are. When teleworking is common, businesses seek to improve their internal communication through systems that help them talk to their colleagues from anywhere. That is why they are looking for solutions such as a virtual PBX that include internal call services, corporate chats, videoconferences …

Telephone extensions, as shown before, have both external and internal use. As we said at the beginning, business communication in both directions is essential, especially in these moments, when telephone communication is such a valuable element in companies.



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