In the wake of the internet revolution, many businesses were able to start up and even run without an actual business phone system. Smartphones and apps changed everything and allowed people to truly go cordless.
People ditched their landlines, using their smartphones and tablets instead, and outsourced their incoming voice traffic to call centers or deployed call center software. You could cobble together a communications solution built out of email, chat and maybe a free telephony service like Google Voice.
You jumped on your computer, grabbed a Wi-Fi signal, and could even make a phone call from a headset. It was even possible to forgo phone service entirely, and conduct all of your business with a telephony solution over the web, supplementing spotty VoIP service with chat, email and video.
The Virtual Revolution
In many ways, Google Voice was an ideal solution for independent contractors and solopreneurs. Free software and services like Google Voice leveled the playing field for small companies to disrupt. The call forwarding feature was a godsend for many small companies relying on an informal BYOD network. It allowed virtual companies to have a central number, tied neither to a single location or person.
The ability to forward calls to mobile allowed companies use a business number on websites or print collateral, and to add or delete mobile phones easily. Many small business owners opted for a free Google Voice number in order to use their personal landline and smartphone with a privacy screen, at a fraction of the cost of having a business line installed.
While Google Voice wasn’t perfect, it introduced the idea of an online phone system that could be deployed on your desktop or mobile and managed on a web application.
The vast appeal of the service, which still has millions of users, testifies to the demand for more flexible, mobile and virtual solution to telephone service.
The transcription feature interfaced with email, and created a text-based voicemail inbox that could be accessed through email. Allowing multiple users access to the email account linked to the business line created a shared interface where data about missed calls could be accessed. Integration with Hangouts in 2014 allowed users to make videos calls, send texts, and expanded voice calls on the app.
Essential business phone features
If you’re using Google Voice, or thinking about it, you might require one of the following features:
- A business phone line that can be easily forwarded to different phones
- Access to a local phone number in a different city
- The ability to make and take low cost phone calls
- A virtual answering service
Although Google Voice can work for an independent contractor or small web-based company, most businesses will eventually hit a wall as far as functionality and service goes. Because it is a free service, Google makes frequent changes, and it’s a lot of work to keep up on changing protocols.
Customer experience can suffer as a result. Poor call quality and lost calls can also be a problem.
While Google Voice provides many useful features, it is not by any means a robust or complete solution.
As with most free services, there is little support and few privacy protections. Data about you and your business may not be as secure as you’d like. Future updates may suspend or radically restructure how the service works, with little or no warning.
Next generation virtual phones
The future of Google Voice and similar services may still be evolving, but the idea of a virtual phone system is here to stay. The future of work has created a new business environment that is mobile first in every sense of the word.
Legacy phone systems don’t offer the flexibility, mobility and scalability that businesses require. You may be limited to a set number of lines or users, and even have to buy new hardware to add users. If your team expands or contracts as the business climate changes, can your business phone system scale with it?
Google Voice is a great stop gap measure for budget-pressed entrepreneurs and independent contractors, but as you start to grow, you’ll probably need a more robust solution. In addition to the features that makes Google Voice and other similar services so appealing, you may want other business grade features, including:
- A dedicated dial-in (DDI) number, with a choice of local numbers all over the world
- Phone extensions and mobile-to-mobile call transfer
- Masking for outgoing calls, to protect employee privacy and your company data
- High quality voice service over your cellular network so you don’t use your data
- Business essentials like multiple lines, hunt groups, easy transfers, and instant contact updates
- Advanced features like a learning AI attendant, smart routing, and live presense
- A smart directory with contact information for suppliers, contractors and employees
- A robust shared call history that keeps track of missed calls and follow ups
- The ability to easily add new numbers, lines and extension
Is your business phone system designed with you in mind?
Most business phone systems were designed for large enterprises with a complex internal structure. Spoke has built a virtual phone system designed with the core features small businesses need to work anywhere, anytime. For just a few bucks a month, you can get a 100% secure business phone system that can help you make and take more calls. You can easily add and delete new users, expand to new markets, and travel internationally, while managing your entire phone system directly from your phone.
Spokes is a simple but robust application that can help you deliver a consistent experience across any mobile network, using any device, anywhere.
Learn more about how Spoke can grow with your business. Contact us for a free demo and test out a full-featured virtual phone system.