For any business, infrastructure is overhead, so building the right infrastructure is essential, including choosing the right phone system. The telephone is still the primary link to customers and business partners, and if you don’t choose an office phone system with the right features to support your growing business, you will find yourself replacing or upgrading that phone system in the near future at considerable expense. Your best strategy is to do your homework in advance so that you don’t choose the wrong phone system.
The Phone Still Matters
A new research report from Technavio shows that the U.S. telecom voice and data market is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 6 percent over the period of 2017 to 2021. It also shows that three factors are contributing to the growth of phone service for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs):
- There is a higher demand for higher-quality voice services.
- There is a demand for more unified communications services for mobile phones.
- SMBs are making up a larger segment of voice over IP (VoIP) customers, and more SMBs are outsourcing their phone service.
SMBs need to be smarter about adopting phone services that meet customer demand. A Deloitte study says that 62 percent of companies see customer service delivered at the contact center as a competitive differentiator. At the same time, more customers are using self-service tools for online shopping and support, but those same customers prefer telephone support when they want a faster response time, need advice, want to discuss pricing, or just want to talk to a human being. Although web self-service is becoming increasingly important to consumers, they still demand telephone support.
The same is true for team collaboration. Your company may rely on email communications, but there are going to be times when your team will want to collaborate in real time, and that’s going to require a phone call.
What this means for your SMB is your choice of telephone system matters—a lot! You need to find a phone system that can deliver both for team collaboration and customer support.
Common Pitfalls When Choosing a Phone Service
When choosing a phone system for your SMB, you want to balance the right features and infrastructure against cost. If you don’t shop for the right features, it could have a negative impact on employee productivity and customer service.
Here are six common errors that SMB owners make when choosing a business phone system:
- Not properly evaluating company needs – Many SMBs don’t perform an adequate needs assessment before they choose a phone system. They may look for the obvious stuff, such as voicemail and call routing, but with advances in VoIP technology and cloud-based services, there is a wide range of features such as teleconferencing, hunt calling, auto-attendant, and group calling, that could be invaluable. Assess how your company does business (or how you would like to do business) and shop accordingly. Also, think twice about paying for bells and whistles that you may not need, such as that cool intercom feature no one will use.
- Focusing on price alone – The natural tendency for any SMB is to minimize costs. However, with a business phone service, it pays to look for the right service provider, even if it charges a little more. You really want reliable, clean, problem-free phone service, and peace of mind is worth a little more.
- Running an old carrier on a new infrastructure – If you are going to adopt a new phone system, don’t saddle yourself with an old carrier service. If you are setting up a high-speed network to accommodate voice as well as data, don’t use it to run your old analog phone service.
- Choosing hosted VoIP or on-premises PBX – Both VoIP and PBX phone services can be run on premises or as a hosted service in the cloud. Be sure you understand the differences and how they affect your business. For example, an on-premises phone system could be more secure and offer advantages such as lower operating costs over time. Hosted services, on the other hand, are generally more versatile and can be more cost-effective, especially if you have remote workers. Starting with a hosted phone system is likely going to be easier than being your own phone company with on-premises services.
- Underestimating future needs – Your business will grow, but can your phone service grow with it? An on-premises PBX system, for example, has limited expansion capacity, and once it is maxed out, you have to install another PBX server. One of the arguments for hosted services is that they are easily scalable.
- Ignoring mobile users – The mobile workforce is growing at a terrific rate. The value of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) market is expected to reach $366.95 billion as early as 2022, up from $30 billion in 2014. More SMBs are adopting BYOD strategies to promote higher productivity and reduced operating costs. When choosing an office phone system, you want to be sure that you consider the needs of telecommuters and remote workers. Most VoIP systems, for example, offer a find-me/follow-me feature that can forward phone calls anywhere. The Spoke app is designed to turn any smartphone into an office phone extension, complete with features such as auto-attendant, voicemail, call forwarding, group calling, and hunt groups, so remote workers never miss a call and can contact others just as though they were at their desk.
As you contemplate which phone platform is best for your SMB, consider how your phone system can best serve both employees and customers.
Assess both the current features you need and future needs. Also, consider how phone services can be extended outside the office. Your business phone system can be one of your most important productivity tools, so take your time to assess your business needs and choose wisely.