Strong communications are vital for any growing business. Small enterprises in particular need to ensure they're always available for customers and partners, as maintaining a personal connection is often one of the key service drivers that sets these companies apart from larger competitors.
To achieve this, an advanced phone system is a must have. Customers today have very high expectations of every firm they do business with and demand reliability and quality when they contact a business. At the same time, smaller companies need to be cost-conscious, so any business phone system must be affordable.
For many small firms, the solution will be an advanced Voice-over-Internet Protocol, or VoIP system. This offers a number of advantages, whether you're an entrepreneur, a growing startup, or an established firm with a strong customer base.
A VoIP phone system works differently to a traditional analogue, copper-based technology. As the name suggests, it uses internet connectivity to make and receive calls. The technology converts analogue audio into packets of digital data, which are then routed to the other end of the line via the shortest route before being converted back to audio.
One of the biggest benefits of this solution is it means you're not tethered to a physical location like a desk or a traditional handset, as is the case with a landline phone. While you can still use this hardware if you wish - indeed, many handsets have long been equipped with VoIP capabilities, so you may not even have to change your equipment - you can also dispense with these entirely and connect via a computer or a mobile device should you so choose.
This means you can be contactable wherever you are, on the same number, with no need to set up expensive call forwarding or complex rerouting solutions. This is something that may be especially useful for freelancers,contractors and business owners who spend a lot of time outside the office or onsite, as it means you can be contactable without relying on your personal mobile number.
It also makes working remotely or working from home easier, which not only keeps current employees happy, but can also help you attract new staff as you grow, as it enables them to be more flexible, as well as simplifying the process of adding new numbers to your business.
In the coming years, every business will have to switch to a modern phone system, as legacy landline networks in the UK are set to be switched off in 2025. But a good VoIP service offers much more than ensuring you can continue to keep in touch beyond this date.
VoIP systems provide a wide range of advantages for smaller businesses. For instance, they offer you the ability to choose your number, so you can select a geographic number that's local to you if you want to emphasise your connection to the community, or opt for alternatives such as a London-based number to appear more national or international.
A wide range of advanced features such as call forwarding, call menus and queuing, customised greetings and reporting tools also help give a more professional impression of your business to callers and give you more insights into your business performance.
There are many choices of provider out there when it comes to purchasing and migrating to a VoIP phone solution, but you should look for one that's aimed specifically at small businesses.
These partners will have a better understanding of your needs and be able to help guide you through the process and answer any technical questions you may have, which could be especially important for startups and entrepreneurs.
At bOnline, for instance, we understand that value is hugely important to less-sizeable enterprises. That's why we offer a guarantee that we won't be beaten on price. If you do find a cheaper service out there, we promise to match it.
But price isn't everything. Small businesses also shouldn't have to settle for a lower-quality service just because they have fewer lines or users than their larger counterparts. Therefore, it pays to do your research and take a look at review services such as Trustpilot to find out what a potential provider can offer beyond headline prices.
In the past, some businesses have been wary about switching to digital landlines and VoIP services, as there are a number of misconceptions about the technology and how it compares to more familiar phone calling services. However, many of these are myths, and other perceived disadvantages of VoIP solutions no longer apply as the technology has evolved and improved.
Here are some of the common arguments against VoIP you may have come across, and what the truth is.
IP phone systems give smaller businesses access to advanced communications services that would otherwise be beyond their reach. This allows them to compete on a more even footing with larger and more established companies and deliver the best possible customer experience, as well as enjoy cheap calls.
Finding the right system for your business can be tricky. With so many business VoIP phone service options to choose from, it pays to do your research. This should start with assessing your own needs and identifying what features will be essential.
Cost is just one element in this. Other factors you should consider include:
Traditionally, landline phone systems have been a significant expense for small businesses. For years, many firms have found themselves paying upwards of £30 a month for line rental, plus call charges on top of that. And often, users got very little for this beyond a basic voice phone service.
With a cheap VoIP phone line, however, small firms can reduce this significantly. At bOnline, for instance, a VoIP package with unlimited calls starts at just £12.95 plus VAT. Our deals not only include unlimited UK minutes, but dozens of additional features, from mobile app offerings to call management tools and video and instant messaging capabilities.
The most important factor to understand about VoIP phone systems designed for small businesses is that, when it comes to reliability, call quality and features, you'll receive the same level of functionality as those intended for larger firms. In this respect, therefore, you can rest assured there is no difference in service, so you can compete on a level playing field.
However, one of the major advantages of choosing a provider that's focused on small businesses is the level of understanding of your company and the personal service on offer. Whereas a provider focused on large enterprises may regard small customers as less of a priority, or just a number on their balance sheet, one dedicated to small firms, startups and entrepreneurs can give you the time and support you need.
At bOnline, we also understand that small firms may not have the same resources or technical capabilities as their larger counterparts. That's why our services have been designed for business owners, not IT pros, in order to be as intuitive and easy-to-use as possible.
Effective voice communications are essential to the good running of any small business. Whether you're making direct sales through this channel or providing customer support services, a one-on-one conversation with a business is still many people's preferred way of getting in touch.
But a good VoIP solution offers much more than cheap, reliable calls. It can also provide a range of additional benefits that enable you to better serve your customers and support the growth of your business.
One of the major advantages of IP phones for small firms is the lower costs they can provide. For instance, international calls are much cheaper when compared with legacy landline systems, which may be especially useful for startups and growing firms looking to set up supply chains or enter new markets overseas. It's estimated that phone systems can save firms up to 70 per cent on their call costs, but this can go even higher if you're a heavy user.
VoIP services enable businesses to select their own numbers - including particularly relevant or memorable combinations - and add new extensions easily, without the need for additional infrastructure. What's more, by connecting to VoIP services through a desktop browser or a mobile app, employees don't have to be at their desk to make and receive calls, which can reduce your dependence on costly business mobile tariffs for remote workers.
Additional features can also give your small business all the capabilities of a full-service contact centre. From routing tools that ensure your callers get connected to the right person to customised messages and preset call flows that make the experience more streamlined, you can tailor your services to your unique needs, with no technical expertise required.
As well as their ease of use and high-quality audio, a comprehensive VoIP telephone system offers a range of add-ons that can transform your voice experience for both employees and customers. Some of the most useful features you can take advantage of include:
Small businesses may think that securing these advanced features will require a costly investment or need a level of IT knowledge they do not possess. But in fact, the process of migrating from legacy landlines to IP phones could not be easier.
All you have to do to move your service is get in touch with a provider such as bOnline, select your phone numbers and tariff, and everything is taken care of for you. The process can be completed in as little as 30 seconds, leaving you free to focus on activities that bring value to your small business.
In most cases, there will be no need for an engineer to set up new infrastructure, with remote setups taking just a few minutes. Once you're up and running, all these advanced features can be managed from your desktop dashboard. This is so intuitive to use that even the least tech-savvy small business owners can quickly start taking advantage of the powerful capabilities of VoIP.
Find out more about why small businesses can benefit from bOnline's VoIP services
VoIP solutions will be the future for the majority of small businesses, and how you implement this could be the difference between successfully growing your firm or stagnating. But with so many options to choose from, how can you be sure you're making the best selection?
One of the first steps is to determine how you intend to use the system, and what equipment you'll need. A good VoIP solution actually doesn't need any extra hardware at all, as you can run it via a desktop or mobile app. Therefore, all you'd need to get going is a smartphone or a headset and mic to make communication easier.
If you do want to use handsets in the same way as a traditional phone system, these will need to be VoIP-compatible. However, many existing handsets will have IP phone capabilities, even if your firm has only been using them as legacy landlines. Therefore, it's vital you check this to determine whether or not you'll need to upgrade this hardware.
The other must-have for a small business VoIP technology solution is a good broadband connection. You'll need a fast, reliable service capable of handling the bandwidth demands of VoIP, but most business broadband solutions should be more than able to cope with the needs of small business users.
Using VoIP for your business phone solution promises high levels of reliability. As it relies on your internet connection in order to function, all you need to ensure you have access is a broadband service. To guarantee you have enough bandwidth, it may be beneficial to secure a VoIP phone and broadband bundle from the same provider.
You need power in order to run a VoIP system via your internet connection. However, even if you encounter an outage, you can still stay connected by ensuring incoming calls are redirected to a mobile phone.
When choosing a potential business VoIP partner, make sure to look beyond the headline monthly cost figure. You'll need to be sure there aren't any hidden expenses, such as installation fees, and you know exactly what you're getting for your tariff.
Beyond this, there are a couple of key factors that you should always consider. These include: