Monday, 7 January 2013

VoIP and your business

Fed up of being harassed to save pennies on call charges? Wonder how you can do more with less?
The technology is there not just to save pennies but in these hard times it is about working smarter, being agile and doing more with less. So with the advances being made in Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony it is now not just cases of looking at cost savings that can be made on calls but at the features that come with a phone solution that traditional providers bolt on substantial premiums for if you want to use them.
The decision to switch to VoIP telephony is not a hard one to make, as the cost savings are well known. The main problem choosing a system is which one of the many suppliers do you choose and how do you go about it?

To answer these questions there are some basic points to consider when putting together your list of potential suppliers?

Some basic points to consider are:

How easy is the system to set-up?

  • Ease of use/installation should be a major consideration particularly if you are going to provide a level of internal support. 
  • How easy the system to set up and how easy is it to administer. 

Many providers offer a simple ‘plug and play’ solution that is quick to configure and roll out by your own staff. Most VoIP systems are highly scalable, starting with a single user through to multi-site and multi user solutions. System flexibility is of paramount importance so that as you grow your phone system grows with you.

Extensions:

When you are considering your switch to VoIP telephony, it is crucial that you are clear about how many phone extensions and services you will need, what you want to use them for and types of phones i.e. standard phones, executive phones or soft-phones  Some employees may need to have direct dial (DDI) numbers for ease of contact, which will also reduce inbound call loads to the main switchboard. Your business telephony needs may also require the use of other services such as call queues or IVR’s (virtual assistants) to improve productivity.

Expansion/Upgrading

Your new system has been installed, is working how you want it to and your business changes. How flexible is the new system and more importantly can the supplier make these changes for you quickly? Therefore you need to be clear from the outset: can the system respond and how quickly can the changes be enabled and are the required changes part of any agreement or are these costs hidden until you need to make a change?

Contract Terms:

Review the contract terms offered by potential suppliers. Do they tie you into long inflexible terms or do they offer short duration contracts such as 30 rolling days where you can leave without penalty.

Call Charges:

There are many types of calling options/plans available ranging from pay for every call you make to unlimited calling plans. Before committing yourself to a calling plan it is vital that you ensure you are not going to pay for more than you use. If you are a high consumer of calling minutes and are considering an unlimited plan ask any potential supplier to provide an analysis of your current calling profile. Furthermore ask them to demonstrate if there is a benefit in paying for an unlimited package or paying for every call you make (and any options in between).

Voice-mail:

The ability to have voice-mail messages sent directly to your email address either on a PC, smartphone or tablet is now a common service that can improve business/client response times portraying the image of efficiency. Remote dial in to your voice-mail is also a handy service for mobile workers.

Fax to email/email to fax:

In the era of unified communications the ability to send and receive faxes via the internet enable employees to become more responsive to client needs. It also aids productivity by having a fax delivered directly to an inbox where it can be actioned promptly. Make sure your VoIP provider will allow you to continue to send faxes over the internet without the need for a dedicated land line.

Call Conferencing:

If you have staff working at various locations in the country or internationally and you need to have regular department or team catch ups, then easy conference calls is an especially useful service. Check to see if a conference bridge can be provided so that clients and staff can dial in as required. Can conference calls be held on “the fly” without the need for a conference bridge? A bonus for the business is that because internal calls are held via the VoIP telephone system they are free. If you have a need for conference calls with clients ask for a dedicated direct dial number.

Smartphone integration:

With the continual advancement of smartphones and the roll out of high-speed mobile internet, businesses with mobile work forces can harness the power of VoIP telephony to push the company phone system to the employee’s handset giving them access to voice-mail  colleagues and clients while at the same time giving you control over quality by using call recording.

The right choice for your business:

When embarking on a replacement phone system, be it a premises based product or a hosted VoIP solution, it is imperative that you are clear about your requirements for what a new system will do for your business. By looking at your current call flows, how the existing system works and what you would like to achieve in the future, you should be able to find a suitable supplier that will assist in reducing your call costs, improve your business productivity and offer a better overall experience to your customers existing and new.

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