For most business owners, it’s not the technology itself, but what it can do that matters, so why should SMBs think about switching to VoIP? We try to answer some of the most challenging questions small businesses might have about hosted voice services
Most business users don’t really care about VoIP technology, they just want a telephone system that works. Whether they are interested or not, today the common-sense way to get reliable, cost-effective telephony is to make use of a hosted business VoIP service.
Even so, if you are a hard-working business owner, you may have a few questions you want answered before you’ll be prepared to sign-up for a VoIP service.
Why do I need to change? What we’ve got works just fine!
That may be so, but it won’t if you leave it for too much longer. BT plans to switch off the analogue Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) service and revert to purely digital services by 2025. That may be five years away, but in the interim, all the investment and effort is going to go into developing the digital infrastructure and extending the fibre network. While the old PSTN network will continue to be maintained, as it is used less, the compulsion to switch over will grow. You will need to switch to VoIP sooner or later.
Why is BT making this switch? Quite simply because an IP-based voice system will deliver better results, it will be more flexible, enable BT and other communications providers to offer a better service, and cost less to run. In short, all the benefits that a small business gets from VoIP are magnified for the service operators. This is the future and it makes sense to embrace it as soon as possible.
We already used Skype – why do I need a VoIP service?
If you are a very small business, or a sole trader, you might well get by using Skype or some other free VoIP service. But these services are only free unless when you connect to other Skype users over the Internet. If you want to make calls to other numbers, whether it is overseas, to another mobile or a local fixed line, you’ll need to buy credits or set up an account. Effectively, you’ll then be using a hosted VoIP service anyway. But you will only have access to the functionality Skype offers. You won’t the extra features and services that a business VoIP service provides.
Everybody uses mobiles these days, don’t they? Why do I even need a fixed line number?
Most people do use their mobiles for work. But there are all kinds of issues with that – as you may already know. One is security and control – you really need to be keeping track of who is talking to whom and when, and you can’t do that very easily if staff are using their own mobile phones. Another is cost – staff won’t want to pay for calls that fall outside their personal plan and may ask you to pay a share of it to compensate. Often, it’s easier to give them a separate mobile for work – but that incurs a cost as well.
As for not having a fixed line, how many serious businesses are there that do not have a fixed number? It gives you credibility – but it need not cost as much as it does now. VoIP will be cheaper overall, and you can have any number – or any assortment of numbers – you want. With VoIP, you can also very easily allow home and even mobile users to make use of the VoIP service wherever they are, which helps to reduce costs even more.
Also, if you have a number of employees, they will need some consistent and unified way of making and taking calls, picking up messages, transferring calls – and talking to each other. VoIP makes all this very easy and cost-effective.
What about the quality and reliability?
This is not a problem hosted business VoIP services deliver just as good quality and reliability as any fixed line service. In fact, they could be said to be more reliable as all you actually need to use them is a broadband or other connection to the Internet, so you can simply switch to a backup connection if your main link to the Internet goes down for any reason.
Can we be sure it will save us money?
Yes, and any VoIP service provider should be able to illustrate this for you. As well as reductions in basic line rental and calls costs, you should also save money on improved efficiency and productivity. Staff will be more responsive and easier to manage, and you should see a benefit in customer service terms too.
How can we pick the right supplier?
Choose your supplier carefully and look at their track record, the levels of customer satisfaction and their reputation in the market. You may of course, have a trusted local IT supplier, in which case, you can work with them to choose the right hosted VoIP service for your business.
What if we don’t like it or it just doesn’t work?
This is very unlikely. In fact, most businesses expand and extend their use of VoIP within a few weeks. But if you do not get on with your supplier for some reason, switching is not difficult, and you should be able to do it quite easily and swiftly.