How to choose the right business phone service

To ask the right question is half the problem solved. What if you can ask three great questions — like, Why? How? What? These questions will lead you to a fine choice of a business phone service.

WHY do you need a business phone service?

Every business, irrespective of the industry it operates in, will have to handle either or all three types of phone calls.

  • Inbound calls to render customer support, answer new sales inquiries or to provide emergency support.
  • Outbound calls for cold calling leads, outreach marketing or for feedback collection from existing customers.
  • Bilateral communication two-way street where incoming and outgoing calls are handled concurrently by different teams.

A business phone service is a fully-equipped offering that can help you handle all these types of phone calls. It can also perform certain additional functions that can augment your business productivity.

In a business scenario, each type of call requires a different set of features. Traditional phone systems had limited capabilities and lacked the flexibility to cater to these scenarios. Finding what kind of calls your business has to handle on a day-to-day basis makes it easy to select the right phone service for business use.

That said, here are some surefire reasons why your business needs a dedicated business phone service.

1. You have too many users

More hands on the deck makes it easy to share the workload and get things done in a flash. A scalable phone service can extend your business reach with shared lines. Also, having a dedicated phone connection for each business functions lightens the load.

2. You need visibility over call metrics

Set higher goals, chase them and win them all. In the process, your business must not lose track of how the phone system and call center metrics are faring. A real-time dashboard spewing live data is needed to fill the information void.

3. Your calls may have to be recorded

Every call and every customer is unique in their own way. Sometimes, you might want to record the conversations for future reference, training or quality control. An ordinary phone might be incapable, but a business phone service sure is capable of call recording.

4. You want to promote a remote work culture

This is the era of remote working and BYOD org culture. Businesses feel the acute need of portability to maximize productivity and collaboration. A business VoIP phone service can help delink the need for physical connections and make your business phone most portable.

5. You want to add/remove numbers in a flash

The first step for any business growing globally is to have phone numbers in their respective regional offices. But, securing separate and maintaining separate phone connections is cumbersome. Virtual phone numbers that are linked to a single business phone is the perfect remedy.

6. You want to automate your call answering

As call volumes increase beyond your wildest imagination, your business will face the need for an automated way of dealing with calls. An auto-attendant with custom welcome message, skill-based call filtering, call forwarding, automatic call recording and so on can be a welcome relief.

HOW  can a business phone service make a difference?

For most challenges faced by businesses, technology has a sustainable solution. The right technology can save businesses from recurring capital expenditure for acquiring new hardware, upgrading software and to keep their operations running at par with changing business scenarios. A one-time investment in the right technology can bring value to the business in the long-term.

For example, cloud computing has brought down the cost of commodity hardware drastically. Also, it is enabling businesses to reap the benefits of heightened productivity, seamless collaboration and rapid scalability.

If you are a business that is working with a toehold on the future, a cloud-based phone system can be an ideal choice. From bringing remote call centers together under one virtual roof to cutting down telephony costs with virtual phone numbers, there is a long list of possibilities that cloud can make reality. In other words, cloud telephony poses as a transformational technology upon which a business phone service can be grounded.

WHAT  makes up a champion business phone service?

The phone systems of the 21st century live in the cloud. They are powered by cloud telephony technologies like VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) which are superior than analog telephone systems. A business voip phone service takes the form of cloud software that has virtual phone numbers, comprehensive dashboards, mobile apps, admin consoles and so on.

So, when you are looking for a business phone service, the best choice would be one that is hosted on the cloud and equipped with features like shared lines, IVR, call flows, call forwarding, automatic call recording and the likes.

Cloud as a game changer for business phone services

Cloud as an infinitely scalable technology is a perfect fit for hosting a business phone service. It comes in various flavors that can fit business requirements like hand in glove.

SaaS

Software-as-a-service or SaaS is a software distribution model which offers great flexibility and versatility in providing ready-to-use applications for end user consumption.

SaaS software are usually centrally hosted by the vendors and is licensed on a subscription basis. They are accessed through a thin client like a web browser or mobile app.

Eg: Google Drive, Basecamp, Freshcaller.

SaaS software as a service
Working model of SaaS

PaaS

Platform-as-a-service is a category of cloud computing which allows developers to build, run and manage applications without demanding hefty IT infrastructure investments.

The hardware and software tools required to build and manage applications is provided by a third-party vendor over the internet. Hence, PaaS spares users from the hassle of having to invest and setup in-house software and hardware.

Example: AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Engine Yard.

PaaS - Platform as a service
Working model of PaaS

iPaaS

Integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is a set of automated tools that allows disparate software applications to be integrated with one another for better data collaboration.

It enables a business to bring together software tools from different environments under one roof to make on-prem hardware, software and cloud applications work in harmony.

Eg: Informatica, Tibco, Vitria.

iPaaS integration Platform as a Service
Working model of iPaaS

UCaaS

Unified communications is a type of cloud service which brings together the entire enterprise communication suite of online presence, messaging, telephony, online meetings, video conferencing.

UCaaS enables businesses to reap the benefits of a converged communication model without incurring hefty capital and opex.

uCaaS Unified communications as a service
Working model of uCaaS

Why SaaS is the best bet to grow your business on the cloud

SaaS is one of the core elements of the cloud wave that is tiding across all business verticals and functions. Under the hood, it is a software delivery method that allows users to access applications and data from any device irrespective of the operating system they are built on. All it requires is an internet connection and a web browser to use a SaaS system.

As a web-based model it liberates businesses from the clutches of upfront investment in expensive IT infrastructure. Also, SaaS adopts a pay-as-you-use pricing model where businesses have to pay only for the users/resources they have consumed. There is no coercion to pay lock-in fees or subscription for what you may not use. This makes SaaS an economical choice compared to the perpetual licensing model followed by traditional software vendors.

With SaaS-ification of your business phone service, you can avail the same level of phone infrastructure and facilities that are used by large enterprises.

In fact, a study by BetterCloud reports that, “73% of organizations say nearly 80%+ of their apps will be SaaS by 2020.” Legacy systems are getting phased out as they prove to be extremely expensive and difficult to maintain compared to cloud systems.

Here are some definite benefits that your business can accrue by opting for a SaaS-based small business phone service:

Ease of use

If you know how to use a web or a mobile application, you can easily handle a SaaS application. They are intuitive and have well-designed interfaces that require minimal actions to get things done. Hence, they require minimal training to get started and to keep running.

An ecosystem of apps

The beauty of the web is that it depicts a digital mesh of websites and applications that are intertwined with each other. Each one communicates, shares data and collaborates with one another through rich APIs to make lives easier for users. Needless to say, SaaS also follows the same system of integration where apps are built on the same infrastructure (sometimes by the same vendor) which facilitates quick scalability.

Operational consistency

SaaS vendors have their data stored on their own data centers or with third-party data center vendors. You can have access to data at any time without any interruption. In a worst case scenario, even if the SaaS vendor goes out of business, the data can be exported or migrated to a new data center. In other words, you will always have your data within quick reach ensuring operational consistency.

Data security

SaaS vendors usually are capable of establishing strongest security measures than on premises systems. The simple reason being they are spared from spending sums of money on hardware which can instead be spent on high-end security measures. This enables SaaS vendors to comply with several globally recognized data security compliances like GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation ), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), HITRUST (Health Information Trust Alliance), etc.

Omni-channel compatibility

SaaS systems work with Internet and web browsers as the cornerstone infrastructure. Hence, they are not restricted in terms of compatibility with operating systems or hardware devices used. They run on any mobile device or computing device that meets the minimum system requirements of memory and storage capacity.

Up-to-date software

In traditional systems, system updates and upgrades are to be carried out physically involving a whole lot of moving hardware, relaying of cables and re-programming of workflow, etc.. But, in the SaaS space everything happens over-the-air. Applications are updated or upgraded through patch releases that are transmitted over the internet.

Now, if SaaS is a great choice for business software, shouldn’t it be the ideal choice for your business phone service as well?

A world of cloud telephony choices at your disposal

SaaS + business phone service = your business flying on a whole new plane. Here are some worthy options that can make it happen for your business.

  • Virtual phone systems
  • VoIP phone service for businesses
  • Virtual PBX systems

 

Virtual phone systems

Also known as hosted phone systems, virtual phone systems are cloud-based phone systems that can be used to transact voice calls from a laptop, mobile or even a tablet device. They also work fine on specific models of telephone handsets that can be connected to the Internet, like IP phone devices. Since a virtual phone system is hosted on they spare your business from the need to invest in telephone hardware.

As one among the many options of cloud-based business phone services, virtual phone systems enable your business to many multiple phone numbers, share lines with users, forward calls to other extensions, record calls automatically, push calls to voicemail and do much more.

How does it work?

Virtual phone systems look up to the Internet for connectivity instead of telephone lines. They use virtual PBX systems to orchestrate call connections, forwarding, automatic call recording and the entire nine yards of phone system administration.

Pros:

  • Zero ‘phone’ hardware requirement
  • SaaS-based or subscription based pricing model
  • Remote data hosting
  • Heightened data security
  • Over the air upgrades
  • Easy maintenance

Cons:

  • Requires uninterrupted internet bandwidth
  • Network interruptions can affect call quality

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VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It is a cloud-based telephony system that allows users to make voice calls with the Internet as the transmission medium. VoIP users can also conduct telecommunication using their mobile, laptop or even a tablet that can connect to the internet. It eliminates the rigidity that made POTS (Plain old telephone system) a poor choice for business communication.

In addition to voice calls, a VoIP phone system for business use also allows users to exchange multimedia information. Owing to its versatile nature and the definite cost-savings, VoIP is witnessing a high rate of adoption as the default mode of telecommunication.

How does it work?

VoIP systems convert analog phone signals into data packets. These data packets are intelligently transmitted across the Internet using ‘packet switching’. Packet switching is the term used to describe the routing of data packets from the origin until the destination.

Pros:

  • Low cost
  • Easy portability
  • Supports desk phones
  • One line, multiple numbers

Cons:

  • Requires uninterrupted internet bandwidth
  • Certain emergency numbers may not be accessible (like 911)
  • Network interruptions can affect call quality

 

Virtual PBX

A business telephone PBX on the cloud that orchestrates inbound or outbound calls. Also offers intelligent telephony features like IVR, ACD, call forwarding, call recording, call routing, etc.

How does it work?

A Virtual PBX uses a cloud telephony software that allows users to handle inbound or outbound calls through a PC, laptop, mobile or even a tablet device. It takes the form of a web-based application or a mobile app that can be accessed universally like accessing an email id or online service.

Pros:

  • Zero ‘phone’ hardware requirement
  • Cloud data storage, access & retrieval
  • Quick setup
  • Easy maintenance

Cons:

  • Requires uninterrupted internet bandwidth
  • Network interruptions can affect call quality

 

Challenges in choosing a business phone service

A well-chosen business phone service will achieve the dual benefits of making your business efficient and keeping customers happy. But, making a final choice from many small business phone service providers is not an easy task. There are challenges that complicate the decision-making.

  • There are too many options

Too many options can paralyze anyone from making a timely decision. Especially, while selecting a business phone service, there are too many technical specifications to bear in mind. For a business owner who is short on time, it complicates the selection process.

  • You are already stuck with something

Legacy phone systems had complicated hardware, cables and separate phone devices for each user. If you are already stuck with a phone system like that, breaking free from it can be hectic. Especially without running into the risk of downtime.

  • Installation is time-consuming

Certain business phone systems proudly claim that they take just weeks to set up. Considering the pace at which the digital economy is marching forward, a week-long installation process is too slow. Finding a small business phone service that can go live almost instantly is difficult.

  • Hidden costs

The tiny asterisk at the end of the pricing is a tricky one to decipher. Also, only a minority of business owners read through the entire fine-print of the pricing page before committing themselves to an agreement. The end result? Hidden costs that defeat your plan of buying an affordable phone system.

  • Maintenance & upgrades are cumbersome

Most legacy phone systems like POTS operate with high hardware dependency. These hardware are difficult to maintain. Most often they also need an expert from the vendor company to carry out the maintenance process; furthermore, if you want to upgrade the system, like integrate an advanced hardware, add new users or customize the existing connections, the process is lengthy and requires expert intervention.

Now that you know that toughest challenges in choosing a business phone system it is time to know the ‘how’ to make the right decision.

How to handpick an ideal business phone service

Here is a gist of ‘what-to-look-for’ to pick the right small business phone service:

  • Reliability

The service should work round the clock and should have negligible downtime. It should also support HD voice calls without any hiccups during live calls.

  • Affordability

As a business-friendly phone service, it should not demand any upfront fees for hardware. Preferably, it should follow a SaaS pricing model which is economical and consistent.

  • Call center features

The phone service must assist your call center operations with telephony features like IVR, call forwarding, recording, non-business hour call routing, barging, etc.

  • Toll-free numbers

When in trouble, your customers should be able to reach your business easily and without being charged for the calls. Toll-free numbers can help with that.

  • Customer support

An always-on customer support system equipped with intelligent and supportive agents. Knowledge base, FAQ section or other DIY support resources are great add-ons.

  • Long-term friendliness

The phone service should be feasible for the long-term. It should help your business forecast costs with consistency and carry out operations without interruptions.

  • Security

To give utmost protection to user data and also to comply with statutory regulations, the business phone service must comply with compliance requirements like GDPR, PCI, HIPAA, etc.

  • Terms & Conditions

An honest business phone service should not give any nasty surprises with hidden costs for renewal costs, extra charges for number port-in, adding new numbers/users, etc.

  • Other bells & whistles

Artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities like sentiment analysis, voice biometrics, smart IVR, etc. can help the business keep up with changing times.

Bringing it all together

The choice of a business phone service should be never be done in haste as it would have a long-term bearing on your business productivity. From internal communication to customer support, a long list of operations will rely on your business phone service.

Also, since your business is living in the digital era, it makes sense to opt for a VoIP business phone service that is affordable, easily scalable and has a wide array of telephony features.

If you have been confused finding the right small business phone service, by now you should have some clarity on how to zero in on the right one.

Feel free to write to us if you need any help with choosing the right business phone service hello@freshcaller.com

Illustrations by Nikhil Kanda.