How Does 3-Way Calling with VoIP Work?

Posted on: 2018-10-02 | Categories: VoIP Services

Conference calling has become an essential phone feature for businesses. They can use audio or video conference calls for meeting with clients, presentations, training seminars, and a variety of other purposes. Although it was available with PSTN landlines, the feature was expensive and only large organizations could afford to use it. Like many other aspects of voice communication, VoIP has improved the conference calling feature and made it more accessible to enterprises.

Three-Way Calling Versus Conference Calls

Is there a difference between the 3-way calling and conference calls? Technically speaking, 3-way calls are a subset of conference calls where the maximum number of participants is three. On the other hand, most service providers offer conference calling services where the participants can range from as few as four to as many as 30. It is the simplest form of conference calling and is also available to residential users in many cases.

3-way calls are easier to initiate than a typical conference call. The feature is designed in such a way that the user can convert any regular person call into a 3-way call with a few button presses. In general, 3-way calls tend to be impromptu conversations and are not set up in advance. It’s useful in situations where the callers realize they need a third party for specific information, to make decisions or provide status updates.

In contrast, most conference calls are configured and planned in advance. Companies use conference calls as a substitute for in-person meetings, especially when participants are scattered across different offices or countries. The host is often able to share their screen with others. Many conference calls also include a video component and some participants may choose to use audio only if their device does not support a camera.

How to Initiate Three-Way Calls with VoIP

The method to convert a regular call into a three-way call will vary according to the service provider and the actual device. Users can make three-way calls from most devices including smartphones, SIP desk phones, and computers. However, the ability may be restricted on some devices due to the service plan or other considerations.

Broadly speaking, the user can add a third participant to a regular call using the following steps:

  • Place the first call on hold (some phone have dedicated buttons while others rely on specific key combos)
  • Listen for a dial tone and call the second party
  • After they answer, you can talk to them before adding them to the original call
  • If they don’t answer, you can always go back to the first call

What Does It Cost?

The cost of three-way calls will depend on a number of factors. With VoIP, calls between employees of the same company are free as they don’t travel on the public network. If the three-way call involves participants within the business, the service provider may not charge you at all. But if one of the parties is an external call, then you might incur long-distance charges. In most cases, vendors include the feature by default in most service plans. However, they may also have specific plans where such calls are excluded and cost extra.

When to Use 3-Way Calling with VoIP?

3-way calling is useful in a variety of situations. Employees can use this feature to share information with multiple team members at once. Customer service representatives can convert a regular call with an irate client to a three-way call with the manager to resolve issues. Tech support agents can escalate problems to a supervisor while remaining on the call to provide additional information.

3-way calling allows you to control when the third-party enters and leaves the call. You can add the person whenever you need additional input and continue the conversation with the first participant after they leave. Depending on the features offered by your service provider, you can also swap between the conference call and the second call before merging the two.

There are several situations where a three-way call is more appropriate than a regular conference bridge used by the business. Suppose you have a project team responsible for launching the company’s new website with three people. The team uses the conference bridge to hold weekly meetings to provide status updates and keep everyone on track. On the other hand, three-way calls are useful when 2 members are talking and need input from the third member for some reason.

Let’s take another example. Suppose you’re on the phone with an employee from the marketing department, discussing a new initiative. In the middle of the call, you realize that you need someone from accounting for a cost-benefit analysis. You can easily add the specific person to the existing call, discuss the issue, and continue the conversation with the first employee after they leave. 3-way calling is yet another example of how VoIP can help you save time and improve productivity.