These are exciting times for businesses across the country, as the infrastructure supporting technological advancement has expanded dramatically. With the introduction of superfast internet speeds available to businesses by Google Fiber, and followed by competitive responses from other providers, the backbone of this infrastructure now allows businesses to make technology choices they were not able to in recent years. Businesses are taking advantage of this opportunity to invest in cloud applications and technology to improve their processes as well as margins. This includes investments in voice over internet (VoIP) systems and service.
VoIP applications have been around for many years now. The availability of greater bandwidth has removed the final barrier for businesses to make the switch to the technology. Even though a VoIP call only requires around 80k/second of internet capacity, increasing utilization of an organization's bandwidth for other applications would create contention for bandwidth. Without packet prioritization routines, voice packets could be interrupted by data packets and create a poor call quality experience. With internet speeds approaching one gigabit/second (1000mb/s!), contention or circuit saturation is no longer a concern.
So, why are businesses moving to hosted VoIP systems and services? The reasons are plentiful, and the driving factor may vary by business. Simply put, hosted VoIP is an affordable way to advance their communication practices, driving a host of direct and indirect benefits back to the business.
Affordability. The phone system is actually provided in the cloud by a Hosted VoIP provider. The business no longer needs to invest in a system on a wall in their business. They only need to purchase the VoIP phone handsets. Thus, they are receiving an enterprise-level phone system at a fraction of the cost.
Obsolescence and Maintenance. These concerns and costs are removed with Hosted VoIP applications. It is the responsibility of the provider to continue to invest in their system and evolve their service. Finding parts for an old phone system or paying for repairs as a system ages is no longer required. The only hardware exposure is with the handsets themselves. If they ever need replacing, the cost is a minor expense. As time goes on, new VoIP phones may be available in the provider's line-up, and they can be mixed in if and when replacements are required.
Expansion and Growth Considerations. Businesses no longer need to worry about sizing their phone system to account for business growth. This is especially beneficial to start-ups, as they don't need to over-invest on a phone system nor replace and undersized and under-featured system as they grow. With hosted VoIP, you only need to deploy the number of handsets based upon the number of employees needing phones.
Flexible Deployment. Because this is a cloud-based system, business can deploy the phones outside of the confinement of the walls of their office! This frees the business to enable a remote workforce, whether they are at home, in a remote office, or highly mobile. Calls to these associates can be made with internal extensions. To the external caller, they will have no idea that calls are made and received outside of the business location. Additionally, highly mobile employees can have a duplicate account of their desk phone, or a stand-alone account if they don't have a desk phone, on a softphone application on their smartphone or laptop. Thus, they can make and receive calls from these devices and deliver the caller ID for the business.
Advanced Features. There's a huge feature set available with Hosted VoIP systems, so it is likely businesses will have several that carry appeal and deliver value. Examples are voicemail to email, call recording, direct dial numbers, external transferring, find-me/follow-me, paging solutions, call detail records, and much more. Such features open up a world of applications that leave antiquated analog phones systems in the dust.
Call Flow. One of the greatest attributes of the Hosted VoIP phone system is that it is essentially a software program. Good Hosted VoIP providers work with their customers to design a call flow that matches their unique requirements and improves their communication practices. You shouldn't have to conform to how the system works, rather make it work to maximize your customers' satisfaction. Ring groups, call queues, time of day routing, and on-call programming are among the many tools available to have calls handled just the way you want them.
Automated Attendant. Many bristle at just the idea of an automated attendant, however, when deployed correctly, this can be a powerful tool available to a business. First, you have a choice of whether you deploy the automated attendant before or after a ring pattern. Thus, it can serve as your call traffic cop or as a back up to your initial call groups. The goal is to be able to route callers to the person that will best handle their needs. Good automated attendants are made up of a few options that cover the majority of the needs of your callers. Multiple options and layers only serve to frustrate callers. Again, a good Hosted VoIP provider can provide consultation and best practices to set up an attendant in the way that will suite your business the best.
VoIP phone systems also have great appeal among businesses with multiple branches or locations. They are able to consolidate the provider of their service, create consistency among locations, create efficiencies through extension dialing and transferring or even some function efficiency. For example, you can centralize a function, say the reception function, so incoming calls from all locations are funneled to a central group for distribution. Or, you can decentralize a function, such as customer service, so that the related ring group or queue is distributed across multiple locations for more efficiencies. To the external caller, they have no idea that their call is handled in a centralized or decentralized approach.
Finally, Hosted VoIP providers are turning the telecommunications industry upside down. There are opportunities to work with local providers that have set the bar high for customer service and technological excellence. The new telecom bundle is your phone service and phone system together. This puts the Hosted VoIP provider in a great position to get to know your business and provide awesome customer service commensurate with that understanding. Find one today and take advantage of all of the benefits to your business!
About the author: Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments.