If you have worked in a large corporation then you’ll know that one of the benefits is a fully functioning phone system with useful features like internal directories, receptionists and call forwarding.
But when you start your own business all that is unaffordable and yet you still need to give your customers the confidence that they are working with a professional business.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is one of the ways that a small company can look just like a big company and is something that every small business owner that needs to stay in touch should look at.
What is VoIP?
Put simply VoIP is voice calls over the internet.
Essentially it is a phone call using software together with a router or mobile data rather than sending your words down a copper cable from a desk phone.
VoIP can be implemented in several ways;
- Using an ordinary phone – this is where an Analogue Terminal Adapter or ATA is used to make an ordinary analogue phone compatible with internet calls.
- Voip to Voip – some VoIP specific devices can connect directly to others without the need for software or other interconnections.
- VoIP through an exchange – large systems may have a VoIP mini exchange called a PBX that allows the handset to connect using the protocol.
- App-based VoIP – the user installs an app to their mobile handset or computer. The best known would probably be Skype.
Whatever method is used to connect to the system the principle is the same; voice calls are carried across the internet rather than down a directly connected hardware phone line.
Lost calls mean lost business
We live in an ‘always on’ society and consumers expect to be able to get what they need when they need it.
This is never more true when we are thinking about communications.
Customers that can’t speak to the person they need will often simply move on to the next company until they find one that is responsive and for the SME that means lost business.
Although it seems that business is only ever done on the web, advocates argue that voice calls tend to convert better, especially when you are delivering a complex service or working B2B.
For businesses that have people out in the field phone costs can often be one of their biggest expenses and so being able to speak to colleagues easily and for free is a definite winner.
It makes sense then that smaller enterprises look towards ensuring that someone is always available but that the system they choose is reliable and of course cost-effective.
The benefits of VoIP
With a traditional PBX, services often came at a hefty price.
Back in the day adding on more functionality would often mean more hardware, installation and programming which naturally added to the cost.
With VoIP, features are essentially simple software additions that are often included anyway and so most VoIP solutions are fully configured straight out of the box.
Probably the biggest benefit for a small business is the price.
Setting up a fully-featured system is simple and start-up costs are usually very small indeed.
With VoIP, the user is generally paying for access to the system rather than a ‘per minute’ charge. Depending upon the provider, calls can often be free. This is in contrast with traditional landline services where the caller pays per minute. The exception here is with calls to customers mobiles that are often charged old-style.
If you have several employees all connecting through your business system then calls between them will also usually be free whether they are long-distance or to the next room.
For the customer, the biggest benefit is that they can get you wherever you are. They simply call your number and your phone rings wherever you are in the world.
Businesses can choose to have a non-location specific number meaning that they can always look like a local business whether you are based in Saskatchewan or Sydney!
This is where small business VOIP really comes into its own, providing instant connectivity for your customer when they are only ever calling one number.
For the business, virtual phone numbers mean that calls are routed directly to the correct person rather than being transferred.
Simple conference calling is another feature that has come to the fore recently and a good VoIP system will include this feature straight off the bat.
Being able to conference people into what was a one-to-one call is very useful and shows the customer that they are dealing with a business that knows what it is doing.
The ability to add on services that aren’t available with standard phone systems makes a VoIP solution a very flexible option for smaller businesses.
With the latest VoIP systems it is a simple matter to switch between voice and video calls, conference people in, send files, share screens and even accept or send faxes!
Using VoIP as part of a Unified Communication System
The flexibility that VoIP provides gives businesses the option of using it as the foundation of a unified communication system (UCS). The VoIP acts as a central hub that other services like emails, calling and personal greetings hang off.
A good software-based VoIP system should also integrate easily with your CRM meaning that other services can be accessed.
Integrated calendars, call logging, file sharing and team collaboration all sit in the basket of a UCS and VoIP acts as the enabler for all of these.The power of having all of these features at their command and yet at a low price means that the smaller business is able to compete easily with global corporations that may have invested millions of dollars into a bespoke solution.
VoIP makes sense for smaller companies.
VoIP systems are one of the best ways that a small company can look like a bigger business.
They allow customers to find you easily through a single number and give the business access to advanced features like conferencing and video calls.
Best of all they are probably the cheapest way to speak to your customers.
With all these benefits in mind, you can see why SMEs are loving VoIP for their communications.