Running a business – big or small – is incredibly tough, but it can be rewarding. Even more tough is getting all of your equipment in place, like a computer network, phone system or one of the many other tools you’ll need to operate.
One thing you absolutely need when it comes to making sales and generating leads is a reliable phone system. If you don’t have a way to contact potential customers or clients, or a way for them to reach you, then you won’t have much business. While email and online contact certainly work great, sometimes you just need to speak to a person directly to get things ironed out.
A modern phone system in today’s hyper-connected world involves using VOIP, or Voice Over IP, communication devices and software to talk to people via the Internet. This includes programs like Skype or Google Chat on the consumer side of things and services like Vonage, 8×8 or Jive for business.
Before making a commitment and setting up a VOIP phone system – or any system for that matter – it makes sense to understand a little bit about it first. In particular, you’ll need to know system requirements and limitations to ensure you get the most of your new service.
Know Your Equipment
Before choosing a system and having it installed or activated, do your research. This may seem pretty straightforward, but a lot of people skip over this step.
Compare prices and reliability when choosing a VOIP service provider. Ensure your Internet connection and bandwidth can handle your incoming and outgoing call loads. Know how many people will be working at a given time and how much equipment or hardware you’ll need to accommodate them.
Depending on how often you’re calling clients, you might want to skip that unlimited plan VOIP companies are offering, especially if you’re a small business with fewer needs. You never want to overpay for service.
Identify Bandwidth Limitations
Since VOIP services require an active Internet connection to work properly, you’ll need to be sure that you not only have a reliable connection in place, but also one that provides the proper bandwidth. You’ll need to figure out the amount of voice traffic that your system will be handling.
You can calculate the amount of bandwidth you’ll need yourself by taking a look at your current PBX (private branch exchange) system if you have one in place.
The reason you need to know this is because every time someone picks up a VOIP phone, it ties up a certain amount of bandwidth on your network. You’ll want to be sure there’s enough for everyone to be working at the same time. If not, you could experience call drops, shoddy connections and poor sound quality.
Establish an After-Hours System
No one works 24/7; you need some down time and so do your employees. Make absolutely sure you have an after-hours system in place that can take calls when no one is available. This could include contact information for sending an email, a voicemail system or even forwarding calls to a personal number.
If you do set up a voicemail account, be sure to offer explicit instructions for how callers can get in touch later. If that means informing them to leave their contact information and promising to call back, then do so.
A great feature to enable for a system like this is voicemail-to-email transcription, which most VOIP and business PBX systems provide. The system will automatically transcribe new voicemails that customers leave and send them to you via email or text message. No more fumbling with the voicemail system or trying to write down contact information. It’s all sent directly to you.
Activate a Call-Waiting Service
During business hours, you do not want to send potential clients or existing customers to voicemail. This could give them the wrong idea about your business.
Set up a call-waiting service so your customer is automatically connected to the first available representative. This also allows you and your staff to put contacts on hold for a period of time if you’re super busy.
Use a Hosted PBX System
A Private Branch Exchange, or PBX, system is like an operator for business phone lines. It connects and manages various extensions throughout a company. This is how automated systems direct your call to the appropriate department when you phone in.
There are two types of PBX systems available: hosted and on-site. A hosted PBX system is primarily handled by the VOIP provider and all of the equipment is in a remote location. An on-site PBX is located somewhere on the business property and requires an active team to manage it.
It’s always better to go with a hosted PBX system as opposed to an on-site one because it’s cheaper and less time-consuming. Not to mention, if you set up an on-site system, you’ll need to hire an IT team to manage it.
Don’t Throw Out Old Hardware
If you’re simply making the switch to VOIP or have old hardware lying around, then don’t toss it. There are analog-to-digital converters that allow traditional LAN phones to work with VOIP services. There are even PBX converters if you already have a PBX system in place.
Don’t waste money picking up brand-new hardware if you don’t have to.
The right phone system will help your small business run smoothly and improve your image.