VoIP phone service providers have revolutionized the industry by making features that were previously only available with expensive PBX hardware more accessible and affordable. Your small business can take advantage of these features to appear larger and more established to your customers than you might actually be, to provide better service to your more valuable customers, and to expand the ability of your employees to respond to phone calls outside of the office.
What VoIP Phone Service Is
Instead of your local phone company’s copper wires, VoIP phone services use your business’ existing internet connection to convert and transmit voice as data. If you’ve used Skype to make a phone call, then you’ve used VoIP technology before. But while Skype is typically used by individuals, there are other services, like Nextiva and Vonage, that leverage the same technology on a larger scale for businesses.
VoIP systems provide a feature-rich and technically advanced phone solution. They are easily setup, configured, and managed, and are usually a more economical option than traditional landline systems. The technology behind VoIP services also means that they can offer features that traditional landlines can’t, like live answering services.
VoIP services allow you to use your mobile phone as an extension of your office phone, which extends your phone system to literally anywhere you’re located. You can have calls forwarded to you to receive them anywhere you are, as well as make calls and have them appear to come from your office phone number. This is a huge benefit for people who visit clients, such as sales or account managers, as well as remote employees.
VoIP apps allow you to use any phone or even computer as your personal extension, which means that you’re not limited to making or receiving calls at your desk.
Cloud-based VoIP services enable you to login to your account from your computer or smartphone app and manage your phone system on the fly, including how calls are routed and handled. For example, you can use the advanced routing features to setup a recurring schedule in which calls are forwarded to your mobile phone on evenings and weekends.
Most VoIP service providers offer advanced accessibility features, such as having voicemails converted to text and sent to you by text message or email, which can be a particular benefit to the hearing impaired.
The same voice-to-text feature also means that your VoIP system can be integrated with third-party applications, such as CRM software or an auto dialer software. So, for example, when you receive an incoming call your CRM could automatically scan for the number and display any relevant data you have associated with it.
Questions to Ask Before Setting Up Your VoIP Phone System
Here are some questions that you should consider before setting up your VoIP phone system to ensure that you’re choosing the best provider and features for your needs.
Which VoIP phone service provider is right for you?
Which VoIP phone service provider you choose to partner with will depend on a number of factors, such as the available features that you’ll use, the ease of use of the service, the customer support that they offer, and most importantly, the price of the service — both monthly and for international calls, if your business makes them.
After an extensive review, we recommend Nextiva as the best VoIP phone service provider for small businesses because of their price and industry leading customer support — but we were nonetheless impressed by a number of other options. For example, RingCentral offers a highly regarded service with a wide range of features and 8×8 can be the most economical option for many businesses that make a lot of international calls.
Still not sure which VoIP phone service provider is right for you? Take our quiz and find out.
How many VoIP phones can your internet connection support?
Because VoIP technology converts your voice into data, the quality of your phone calls is dependent on the strength and stability of your internet connection. Before you install a VoIP phone service for your small business, it’s important that you measure your internet connection’s ability to manage the traffic.
Use a free VoIP speed test and make note of your results then check them against the chart below:
Which VoIP phones are best for your business?
Once you’ve chosen the best VoIP phone service provider for your small business, your next step is to equip your staff with the phones they’ll use to access it. These can be desk phones, conference room phones, or both. For accessories, you may need to get VoIP headsets and VoIP adapters.
VoIP phones generally resemble your traditional landline phones, but they often include a wider range of features and, more importantly, they connect to your business’ internet connection rather than a traditional phone line.
Do you want to present your company as a smaller business or a larger company?
Depending on your industry and the types of customers you usually serve, you may benefit more from presenting yourself as a smaller business or a larger company. A smaller business may create the impression of more personalized service whereas a larger company projects authority and stability.
Here are a few of the factors that can influence your customer’s perception of your business:
The Voice of the company
Should the head of your business or another well-known employee be the voice of your phone system, or should you hire a voice actor to record a professional greeting? This will depend on the image that you want to project. If your customers come into your business regularly, then a professional recording isn’t going to make them think you’re a corporation with hundreds of employees. On the other hand, if you serve other businesses that may never see your office, a professional sounding voice may positively influence their opinion.
The Opening Menu
When a person calls your business, what type of options do you want your auto attendant to provide them with? Almost all of the major business VoIP service providers give you the ability to setup a phone tree with the option of a dial-by-name directory. In addition, do you want callers to be able to have the option of contacting different departments such as sales, support, or billing or be separated into categories like new or existing customer? The more options that you give, the larger your company will likely appear. However, more options can also increase the chances of calls being abandoned before they’re completed.
Nothing says large corporation like the phone announcement: “Your call may be recorded for training and quality control purposes.” However, unless you have a really good reason to record calls, like taking orders over the phone, this announcement may do more harm than good if your customers associate it with impersonal service. As well, call recording laws vary by state, so be sure you’re in compliance if you do decide to record them.
Do you want to manage all of your calls in the same way?
Every business has to decide how to allocate their limited resources. For example, do you want to encourage your customers to call your business? Are there certain categories of customers or requests that you want to prioritize above others?
Answering 80% of your incoming calls with a live person within 30 seconds is considered good, with the goal of keeping the number of abandoned calls (hang-ups) under 7% of total call volume. Of course, every business is different. You may want to encourage your callers to look for information on your business’ website or your customers may be willing to wait longer to be served.
These are some of the questions to consider when setting up your phone system:
- What are the common reasons people call your business?
- Should their type of request be handled by a specific individual, a group of people, or is there a better alternative?
- Which types of calls do you absolutely want to be handled by a live person?
- Are there certain times of day or situations in which your business is flooded with calls? How do you want to manage this increase in demand?
- Do you want employees to receive and make business calls when they are outside of the office?
The answers to these questions will help you develop or draw up a flow chart of rules for how you want calls to be handled.
For example, when a customer selects an option, their call can be routed to a specific individual or a team. The call can ring on several extensions at once for the first available person to pick up or be allocated depending on workload. And if the call isn’t answered within a certain number of rings, it can be automatically forwarded to a different individual or group, a backup number like a mobile phone, or be sent to voicemail. You can even change these rules depending on the time of the day.
Bottom Line on Setting Up VoIP Phone Service
Setting up a VoIP phone service is likely one of the first things you’ll do when setting up your new office. However, it’s best to take a little time to review your business’ needs and how they align with the features and prices of each provider before you commit to one.