Don’t Skimp on a Phone System for Business

When choosing a business phone system, remember the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’. If you put in the effort to start and grow your business, cutting back and using a free phone service will only cause you problems.

So you have a growing company, and you currently pay very little for your phone calls because you are using a free service. It might seem like a good idea now but what about as your business grows? Do you want people to continue to view your business as a one man shop? If not, then you need to upgrade to a professional phone system. And with all the inexpensive VoIP hosted PBX options out there (telecom in the cloud) you not only set yourself up as a professional business but are ready for growth.

VoIP hosted PBX systems normally offer many features that free phone systems do not offer like: call queues, call reporting, call recording, and transcribed voicemails (voicemail to text).

Now, don’t get me wrong, those free phone systems a lot of fans who rave about the features it gives them. But, it’s simply not a professional phone system that any size business should utilize for their day to day operations.

Here are the reasons why you should NOT use a free phone system as a business phone system:

1. It Isn’t a Phone System

No admin login, no separate user logins, no call reporting, no call queues, no unlimited phone numbers, no toll free numbers, no logs for different users, no logs for different numbers, no e911, no dial by name directory, no web faxing, no music on hold etc. etc. It’s just NOT a phone system.

But… if you need more reasons:

2. Most free phone systems are not Based on SIP (Session Internet Protocol) and therefore Lacks Features

Systems that use SIP have many advantages over a POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) in that they can utilize many of the programmable features that only calls sent over SIP can provide. As an example, Asterisk is a programming language based on SIP and is constantly coming out with new features for VoIP providers. Asterisk is an open source software and therefore available for free. Some of the features free services are lacking that a business will need include: Call Queues, Conference Bridges with a Pin Number and email reminders, Call Reports, Administration and User level logins for managing lines/extensions, web faxing, a dial by name directory, music on hold, e911, and much, much more.

3. You Cannot Use Free Services on a Soft Phone

Since most free phone systems are not based on SIP, users of the system cannot use a SIP based client like a soft phone. Soft phones are software programs that run on a computer that enable users to make/receive calls over the internet. An example of a soft phone is Skype. Soft Phones are used by many companies for call centers and in place of a company phone. Soft phones are free to start and then can cost a small one-time cost for a lot of extra features. One company that sells soft phones is Counterpath.

4. Most Free Phone Systems Only Offer One Local Number

With most of these free phone services you are only given one local number. With the advent of VoIP, businesses can finally get local business numbers for any location in the U.S. without having to have a physical location there. So, many businesses are seeing the benefit of maintaining multiple local phone numbers. For example, if your business is located in Austin, Texas but you have vendors in New Orleans, Louisiana, you may want to give them a local number that they can call instead of having to make long distance calls or using your toll-free minutes on your toll-free number. If you have a VoIP hosted PBX system, you can purchase as many local numbers from as many local U.S. destinations as you want. And, you can forward these numbers to any location you want including your cell phone, an extension at your business, or your VoIP phone (wherever that might be located).

5. Free Phone Services Usually Do Not Work with Powerful VoIP Phones

Many of the features that are making businesses more successful when using VoIP are only accessible using a VoIP phone. Polycom, for example, has a entire line of VoIP phones used just for conference rooms. There are also phones used by secretaries that show who is on the phone, as well as basic VoIP phones with buttons like ‘hold’, ‘mute’, ‘headsets’, ‘conference’, ‘forward’, ‘Contact Directory’, ‘Call Lists’, ‘Messages’ and much more. And with a VoIP phone, you can use your phone anywhere in the world you have a dedicated internet connection.

6. HD Voice (wideband audio) is Not Available with Free Phone Services

Wideband audio is an audio technology used in telephony. It extends the frequency range of audio signals transmitted over telephone lines, resulting in higher quality speech. With HD, Voice calls sound clear and crisp, almost like the person is standing right next to you. HD Voice is available with most VoIP hosted PBX providers and with most VoIP phone providers but not with free phone services.

7. Free Phone Services – Voicemail to Text Service is Crummy at Best

Perhaps one of the free phone services coolest features is also currently among its weakest. The transcription service can give you some less-than-literal translations. Voicemails may or may not come through perfectly when transcribed to text. “I hope to see you soon” may come through as “I love your friend June.” Ouch.

8. Privacy Can Be An Issue for Free Phone System Users

Preston Gralla of Computer World says “Lost in all the hooplah about the release of — is this disturbing fact: The service will give (Internet Browser Company) — enormous amounts of information about the intimate details of your everyday life, including recordings of your voice mail and possibly your phone calls. Combined with what (Internet Browser Company) — already knows about you, it could mean your privacy is at an end.” Gralla goes on to say: “— will be offered for free. (Internet Browsing Company) —, though, will certainly be looking for ways to make money from it. One of the most obvious ways is via targeted advertising, particularly because the company recently announced that it’s going to figure out new ways to target ads based on your interests. It already does this with — So don’t be surprised to see ad targeted based on who calls you.”

9. Free Phone Services Do Not Offer Phone Support

Okay, this has to be the biggest problem with relying on a free phone service for your companies phone system needs. Have you, or anyone you know, ever been able to actually talk to their support for anything? I doubt it. Go with a provider you can talk to any time since having a working phone system is most likely a crucial factor in your businesses success.

10 Free Phone Services Do Not Look Professional

Bottom line is, when you are trying to get a new customer to trust you, the fact that you are using free phone services instead of paying for a better phone system shows that you just don’t care. You don’t care that your phone calls are possibly being monitored, don’t care that your phone calls are breaking up and sound terrible, and you don’t care about having reliable business telecommunications.

Conclusion

Free phone systems are not meant to be used to run a business’s telecommunications system. The “fun” little features that they tout are just that, fun. They won’t help you run your business more efficiently and in fact will most likely slow you down. I mean who has time to set up different voicemail greetings for different callers when you are trying to run a business?? And do you really need that?? So stick with what works and grow your business without having to worry that your phone system will drag you down. Choose a VoIP hosted PBX system and you can’t go wrong.

Hosted VoIP – Changing the Business Communications Landscape

Every day, companies all across America are trying to accomplish the same thing to improve their businesses. Whether you’re a typical “Mom and Pop” SMB, a mid-size business with 250 employees or a Fortune 100 enterprise, you all share the same four basic goals. 1) Reduce costs. 2) Increase revenue. 3) Become more flexible to changing market conditions and 4) Reduce any risk of disruptions to your business model. In a nutshell, every business wants a better way to accomplish their “Business Continuity” strategies.

So, how are these various businesses accomplishing these lofty goals? One of the quickest and easiest ways to tackle all four items at once is to understand that technology has again changed the way we do business… for the better, and now is the time to embrace the change.

Businesses of today (and tomorrow) are changing how they communicate with one another. Gone the way of the dinosaur are the old, expensive models of communicating. For those of us who are willing to show our age, you can think back to the days of expensive long distance. Remember when you would ask to use someone’s home or business phone and the person paying the bill would always ask the same question, “Are you calling long distance?” Thankfully, with the breakup of Ma-Bell in the ’90’s, competition drove the costs down to a manageable $0.03 per minute from the norm of the era, where it was about $0.40 per minute.

Transition came again with the advent of the internet, and then email, and again with conference calling and mobile services. Each new technology certainly experienced its own bumps in the road, and each took time for the masses to adopt them, but ultimately, each new step brought us closer to the four goals noted above. Reduced cost, increased revenue, market flexibility and reduced risk of downtime.

Today, technology has blessed us with yet another advancement. Over the last decade or so, we have seen the advent of Cloud and Hosted technologies. What began as a slow paced crawl has sped up to an Usain Bolt paced sprint in technological advancements, thanks to cloud computing. As is the norm, it always takes a few years for the masses to understand and in turn, adopt these new technologies, but once it happens there is no turning back. That’s where we are today and thankfully, for businesses looking to ramp up their technology or capitalize on the very impressive catalog of feature sets (now standard in most offerings), your business continuity goals are finally within reach.

If you haven’t already begun the transition of replacing your old dilapidated PRI based phone system, then you are doing your business a huge disservice, and that is a delicately phrased understatement. Sure, you see your old phone system as an asset, something you own, that is tangible and yours, but if you think about it beyond the obvious, what has your phone system done for you lately? I’m sure it rings and can place a call for you, but what if you could have your extension ring at any location you are visiting for the day, or even ring simultaneously with your mobile device? Never missing a prospective customer’s call will drastically help you increase your revenue. Or, consider the amount of time it takes you each month to understand and rectify your paper billing. Are your rates all billing correctly for each type of call you place? Doubtful, but imagine having an online portal tracking each and every call, to and from (down to the extension level), so you not only know where your clients are calling from and who they are speaking to, but also ensuring that each outbound call is actually included, FREE of charge, with the system? That’s both cost reduction and flexibility.

Did you ever have to close during inclement weather? Your competitor who already uses Hosted VoIP services didn’t, because when they awoke to find 6 feet of snow on the ground, they simply opened up their smart phone, logged into the portal and with one click of a button, re-routed all of their calls to their predesignated emergency overrides, in real time! Guess what, they never lost a dollar in existing revenue and better yet, they even gained your lost revenue, because they were open for business while your company was closed for business.

The most common misconception when considering a Hosted VoIP PBX is the price. Most fear that such an advanced Unified Communications system (and that’s what it really is; this ‘aint your Granddaddy’s phone system) is priced the way the old phone systems were, with a huge capital outlay, strapping your business for cash until you got some sort of ROI. That is patently incorrect. Todays Hosted VoIP PBX’s cost little to nothing in upfront costs, and are simply charged monthly just like your phone bill of old.

Included in the monthly costs are your brand new phone system and handsets, all of the usage (domestic calls are usually FREE or UNLIMITED), dozens of features and voice mail options, auto attendants, software upgrades, break fix, installation, training, intuitive administration and user portals (to manage the service, pay your bill, chat, monitor extensions and even view trouble tickets in real time!) and a variety of other bells and whistles. Best of all, these systems, typically priced by the number of handsets ordered, are usually within 15% of your total current spend!

So, the next time that you have a staff or budget meeting and you are trying to determine how to hit your four main goals (again) – Increasing Revenue, Decreasing Costs, Becoming More Flexible and Reducing Downtime Risk – I would recommend that you take a good hard look at Hosted VoIP PBX as an option. The only downside is that you haven’t done it sooner.

About the author:

Jeff Keane, 38, is an expert in business telecommunications services, with over 15 years of industry experience. Jeff is frequently the highest producing sales rep in his company and over the course of his career has helped thousands of clients save millions of dollars annually by implementing his recommendations for various voice, data, VoIP, IT and Cloud services. Jeff lives in Southern New Jersey with his wife Brandy, 36, and two children, Ryan Christopher, 14, and Emma Grace, 10. Jeff is an avid sports fan and also enjoys a variety of music, art, food and technologies.

Where to Go to Find Information About Business Telecommunications Deals

With the current economic climate, many businesses are struggling to keep their heads above water. Many others are doing okay, but are looking for ways to cut costs so that they can continue to ensure their viability as an ongoing concern.

One way to cut costs is with your business telecommunications plans. There are new business phone deals coming out all the time and it is important to ensure that you are on the plan that is most suited to your business. If you are thinking that it might be time for a change, here are some ideas to consider when looking at new plans.

  • Go and visit some shops- The most common way to find out about any new deals that may be out there is to go and visit a telecommunications shop and get an idea of the plans that they have available. The only problem with this is that there are countless phone providers out there and it can be very time consuming to go to all of them.
  • Research the information you are looking for on the internet- If you want to avoid the struggle of visiting countless shops, you could get online and do some research from all the company websites. This is still time consuming though as you have to analyse all of their plan offerings to see which one most suits you.
  • Speak to a business telecommunications consultant- This is by far the best option. Do yourself a favour and seek out the advice of a business telecommunications professional. It is their job to keep track of what plans are available on the market and then be able to advise you on which one of these plans is going to best suit your business.  

You do have a couple of options if you are looking at cutting your telecommunications costs to keep business spending in check. By far the most efficient and least time consuming option for you to take would be to see a business telecommunications consultant. Do yourself a favour and make an appointment today.