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What Is Business Call Forwarding & How to Effectively Set Up?

Business call forwarding

Every business owner must consider the question: How do I make myself accessible to my customers while maintaining boundaries?

Answering calls from customers and prospects is particularly tricky if you’re on the go. Missing a call can mean hurting your business. Should you mix your business and personal calls with a single phone? Should you carry two cell phones

One option is to rely on business call forwarding, which sends your calls from one device to another. There are different forwarding options, so we’ll walk you through how to set this up. Plus, we’ll show you a better alternative so you can avoid call forwarding altogether. 

What exactly is business call forwarding?

Business call forwarding routes incoming calls from your business phone number to another number. The forwarding number can be a local phone number, a virtual number, a mobile number, or a voicemail system. 

With call forwarding, you’ll miss fewer calls. For example, you can forward calls from your office phone to your cell phone or from your primary phone number to a virtual phone service (also known as a VoIP system). The call forwarding feature makes it possible for you to answer calls from anywhere, giving you more opportunities to grow your business.

If you hear “answer calls from anywhere” and think “zero work-life balance” — it doesn’t have to be that way. You can forward customer calls to a backup person (like an assistant) when you’re unavailable. Plus,configure your voicemail message to communicate your availability and when callers can expect to hear back from you.

Business call forwarding vs regular call forwarding

Anyone can set up call forwarding on a phone number, but business call forwarding has more options than a personal device. 

Personal call forwarding is very linear: forward calls from one device to another. Business call forwarding is the same if you use a landline or cell phone. But you’ll have more options if you use a business phone system (such as a virtual phone) or a call forwarding app built with businesses in mind. 

With business settings, you have different ring options, such as ringing multiple people simultaneously or randomly ringing different employees before forwarding to another device. You can set your business hours so that phones don’t ring after hours and then forward the calls to voicemail. You can also route calls to different people based on their assigned shifts or skill sets. 

How business call forwarding works

When you set up business call forwarding, callers are routed based on the rules you’ve configured. For example, if you want to ensure the caller always speaks to a representative, your call forwarding number could be an on-call rep or a third-party answering service. 

The inbound calls will seamlessly connect to the forwarded number. With a virtual business phone platform, the caller won’t know the call was forwarded. 

How business call forwarding works charted out

How to forward business calls to another device

Everyone has different preferences for managing their phone calls (we get it; we do, too!). With business call forwarding, you have several options. 

1. Unconditional (always-on call forwarding)

Let’s say your primary business number is a cell number or traditional landline (versus a virtual phone system). You can set up unconditional call forwarding, which will always route incoming calls to another number. This works well to send calls from your landline office phone to your cell phone, for example. Or you might send all calls to a backup person if you’re on vacation. 

To activate unconditional call forwarding, dial *72 on your phone, followed by the 10-digit forwarding number. To deactivate, you can go into your phone’s settings or dial *73. 

How to set up unconditional call forwarding on the OpenPhone mobile app

If you’re using OpenPhone as your virtual phone system, you can also set up unconditional call forwarding. Here’s how to set up call forwarding from your iPhone or Android device:

  1. From the OpenPhone app, tap on your account image in the upper-left corner.
  2. Next to Inboxes, tap on Manage.
Call forwarding from iPhone or Android device
  1. If you have multiple phone numbers, select the phone number for which you want to set up call forwarding.
  2. Tap on Call Forwarding and type in the telephone number (US or Canadian) to which your calls should be forwarded. 
Call forwarding to US or Canadian telephone numbers
  1. If you want to turn off call forwarding, navigate back to Call Forwarding. Delete the number and click Save

Another option is to encourage callers to text or email instead. In OpenPhone, you can use the option to play an audio recording instead of letting callers leave a voicemail. 

How to set up unconditional call forwarding on OpenPhone web or desktop app

To set up unconditional call forwarding on the web or desktop app, follow these steps: 

  1. Click on Settings within the left-hand menu.
  2. Under Workspace, click on Phone numbers.
  3. If you have multiple phone numbers, select the phone number for which you want to set up call forwarding.
  4. Scroll to the Call flow section, then click on the Forward all calls button. 
Business call forwarding: Set up unconditional call forwarding
  1. Within the Forward Calls To pop-up window, type in the number. You can forward calls to any US or Canadian telephone number. Click the Forward button. 
Business call forwarding: Unconditional call forwarding on OpenPhone
  1. To turn off call forwarding, return to the Phone numbers section. Go to your number’s settings and click Disable Forwarding
Business call forwarding: Turn off unconditional call forwarding

2. Conditional (busy, unanswered, or unreachable calls)

Unconditional call forwarding is an all-or-nothing approach. On the other hand, conditional call forwarding will only forward calls if you’re busy, unreachable (outside of range), or not able to take a call. 

For call forwarding on an Android device, you can set up conditional call forwarding in your call settings. On iPhones or landlines, you can set up unconditional call forwarding with star (*) codes, which vary by service provider.

Conditional call forwarding is much easier with a virtual phone system like OpenPhone. While you may not even need the call forwarding feature with options like simultaneous ring or call routing, you can still set up call forwarding within the app. No need to remember star codes or manually activate (and deactivate) them! 

How to set up conditional call forwarding on the OpenPhone web or desktop app

OpenPhone has advanced call handling that lets you forward calls based on specific conditions. This is available on our Business plans

From within the desktop or web app:

  1. Click on Settings in the left-hand menu. 
  2. Within your Workspace, click on Phone numbers. Choose the number for which you’d like to enable call forwarding. 

You have a couple of options for conditional call forwarding: 

  1. If you want to forward calls outside of business hours to another phone number, go to Call Flow settings and click on Business hours. Under Outside business hours, add the telephone number you’d like to forward calls to. 
Business call forwarding: Forward calls outside business hours
  1. If you’d like to forward calls during business hours to help manage call overflow, scroll to the Unanswered calls section within Call flow. Underneath When no one answers, select Forward to another number. Type in the number you’d like to forward calls to. You can also send the caller to voicemail or play an audio recording. 
Business call forwarding: Forward calls during business hours

Learn more about how to forward calls to a dedicated number outside or inside of business hours in our Help Center.

Best practices for forwarding business calls

If you’re considering call forwarding for call management, you should think about what’s happening from the caller’s perspective. You don’t want your customers to feel like they are being bounced around just so you can avoid calls going to voicemail.

Here are some things to consider: 

  1. Establish clear call forwarding policies, including when calls should be forwarded to other numbers and what forwarding numbers should be used. 
  2. Make sure any employees answering forwarded customer calls are properly trained to handle customer questions. 
  3. Regularly review your call analytics within your business phone system. Have you reduced the number of missed calls?
  4. Seek feedback from your customer service reps regarding forwarded calls. Do they feel comfortable handling the calls? Do they know when to use call forwarding themselves?
  5. If you use a virtual/VoIP system with a mobile app, your business calls can ring on your mobile phone, and you don’t need to forward calls to yourself when you’re on the go.

Being able to call and text without having to worry about forwarding calls is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using a virtual number. 

5 perks of virtual phone numbers: A better alternative to call forwarding

We’ve mentioned a virtual phone system a few times. A virtual phone solution is a modern phone system that uses an internet connection to answer calls using a virtual number instead of traditional phone lines. You can call and message clients from a web browser, desktop app, or mobile app — giving you more flexibility to connect with customers from anywhere. As long as you have WiFi, you can access your phone line.

A business call can ring on your cell phone, so you don’t need to give your personal cell number to customers. Additionally, virtual phone numbers have other advantages over using traditional desk phones and cell phones: 

1. Business texting features make your life easier

Modern phone system business texting features

You can set up auto-replies and snippets (which are like message templates) and schedule your messages. No need to let your business text messaging become unmanageable! 

2. Virtual numbers are cost-effective

If you’re a solopreneur or have one employee, traditional cell carrier plans can get pricey with two lines on the same plan. AT&T, for example, charges $185 per month.

With a virtual phone system, pricing starts at $15 per user per month. You’ll also get access to more business-focused features than you would with a traditional phone carrier. 

3. You have more control over call handling

Virtual phone systems have interfaces that allow you to easily change your call settings and how calls are handled. They avoid the limitations of call forwarding with traditional phone lines and cell phones.

With a business virtual phone system, you can set up auto-attendants (also known as IVR systems). These phone menus guide your callers to the right destination with a recorded greeting, such as “press 1 for customer support, press 2 for sales…”

You can also set up a shared number so your calls ring to multiple teammates simultaneously. 

Shared number for your team

You can also set a ring order where the call rings specific colleagues first, then the next ring group. Both of these give you more control than call forwarding. 

4. Work together as a team

With a traditional desk or cell phone, your phone can only receive calls and texts. With the exception of forwarding calls to a team member, it isn’t easy to collaborate on incoming calls and messages. 

Virtual phone systems facilitate team collaboration

With a virtual phone system, you can use the interface to loop in team members on every customer conversation. In OpenPhone, you can communicate with other employees using internal threads or connect callers via warm transfers. You can also use custom properties on contacts to note who on your team is their point of contact or any other relevant information. 

5. Document your customer interactions automatically

You can better serve your customers by documenting what was said on calls. Whether you’re a solopreneur or a team, documentation lets you know — for certain — what was communicated. 

All calls in OpenPhone are auto-recorded, so you can listen to the call recording later. AI-generated summaries and transcripts let you review the call and quickly get up to speed on the context. 

Provide better phone service with OpenPhone

You don’t have to settle for basic business call forwarding options with a traditional phone. You can serve your customers better and maintain flexibility — whether answering calls while on the go or rerouting calls to someone else. 

OpenPhone provides the calling features small businesses need to communicate effectively with their contacts. Whether you’re a company of one or have a growing team of employees, OpenPhone’s virtual phone numbers allow you to seamlessly connect with customers wherever you’re working.

Sign up for a free trial to try OpenPhone today. 


How much does it cost to set up call forwarding?

Call forwarding is free to set up whether you use a traditional phone carrier, cell carrier, or virtual phone number. 

What are the different types of call forwarding?

Unconditional call forwarding will forward all calls from one phone number to another. Conditional call forwarding will forward calls in certain situations, such as an unanswered call, a busy signal, or outside business hours. 

Is it easy to change the rules for forwarding calls?

To turn on and off call forwarding with a landline or cell phone carrier, you need to use star (*) codes, which vary by carrier. With an Android device, you can change call forwarding in your phone call forwarding settings. With a business VoIP system, you can set more advanced call forwarding rules directly within the system’s app or interface.

How can I deactivate call forwarding?

To deactivate call forwarding on a landline or iPhone, you’ll need to use a star code (*). You can deactivate call forwarding in the call settings of an Android device. 

With a business VoIP system, you can deactivate call forwarding in the system’s app or interface.

Can I forward calls to international numbers?

The ability to forward calls to an international number varies by provider. With OpenPhone, you have the option to forward calls to an external US or Canadian number if those colleagues don’t have access to your OpenPhone workspace.

How do I forward my business calls to my cell phone?

You can forward business calls to your cell phone number using unconditional call forwarding from your business phone number. This works whether you have a business landline or a virtual business phone number. However, if you wish to have the full context for any incoming call and split responsibility for contacts that reach out, you can set up a shared number with virtual phone services like OpenPhone. 

Does caller ID for incoming calls work when I set up call forwarding?

Yes, you will see the original caller’s phone number as the incoming number when the call is forwarded to a different line.

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