One of the most often overlooked cost savings for small businesses is actually pretty simple process: switching to a VoIP or internet-based phone system. Switching is easy, fast, and can save your business thousands of dollars a month on phone-related costs. Over 86% of business owners rate their satisfaction level with their service as “very high,” according to one recent survey. That’s because VoIP systems offer a host of features that traditional phones can’t match- at a much lower cost. Here’s a quick guide to walk you through the switch:
What are my options?
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) based systems use an internet connection to place and receive calls. Most smaller businesses choose a basic VoIP package, like AT&T’s business in a box. You can also choose a hosted service, where calls are routed through an auto-attendant before being routed to your office, cell phone, or computer. Hosted options work well for businesses with a high call volume.
How much will I save?
It depends on how many long distance calls you make, how your business is structured, and how many employees you have. Expect to save on long distance calls (they’re not charged at a higher rate) and monthly bills- most service plans run up from $10-20 monthly. Most business owners are surprised to learn that you’ll save the most by becoming more efficient. One study tracked the impact on Intel Corporation as they switched to a VoIP phone system, and found a productivity gain across departments between 134% to 500% – a cost savings of $312,000 a year.
What features do I need?
First, look at the features you use currently. Voicemail, call forwarding, call transfers, and maybe even hold messaging might appear somewhere on the list. VoIP provides these features, plus a few more: Video conferencing, one-click dialing, call tracking, and forwarding to mobile locations are all options that might improve your communication with employees, vendors, clients, or customers.
How do I find a provider?
You can start by asking around or checking out the websites of some of the larger or well-known companies, such as Vonage. Many business websites (like ours, Resource Nation) provide list of vendors that meet specific needs- for example, those that serve certain geographic areas or those that cater to small or medium sized businesses. All of the providers on our site are pre-screened, in order to make sure you’re given only names of trustworthy and reputable providers. Once you’ve got a list of prospects, ask for itemized quotes and compare costs.
Can I negotiate for a better deal?
Of course! One of the best ways to save is to ask for additional features or upgrades as a part of your service agreement. One of the easiest “freebies” is equipment- salespeople are usually authorized to include adaptors or VoIP phones in order to close a deal. The best time to negotiate is at the end of the month, year, or sales quarter, but asking for extras never hurts no matter when you’re shopping.
What’s involved in the setup process?
VoIP providers require you to sign a service agreement. Review it carefully, make sure you know all of the particulars, such as “downtime,” monthly charges, and security measures. Depending on which type of service you choose (hosted or non-hosted) you’ll probably need to have a technician come to your office to test your internet connection and install the system. This can be done quickly, in as little as one afternoon. Typically, the whole process, from shopping to using the system, takes about 1-2 weeks.
Matt Lloyd says
This is great information. VOIP has turned into one of those terms that can mean so much. Most companies can think of VOIP in two terms. Services outside your business, like VONAGE, and systems inside your business, an actual phone system. There are many systems that you can buy for your business that are very inexpensive and have all the features the “big name” systems have. Usually you can get into a good VOIP system for under $1000 plus the cost of the phones. These systems can plug into standard Analog lines, (AT&T POTS lines) or VOIP lines from another provider. There are many systems out there so do your homework.
Magic Apple Technology LLC
Allen Porter says
You wrote: “You can also choose a hosted service, where calls are routed through an auto-attendant before being routed to your office …”
A hosted service doesn’t mean that the calls go through the auto-attendant.
Simply saying, a hosted service is when you don’t need to install all the equipment on your premises – because it’s all done remotely by the provider. If you use a hosted service then all you need is either an adapter (so called ATA) or a router or an IP phone.
For most small businesses a hosted solution is a lot easier because there is no maintenance and configuration to worry about.
Auto-attendant is an additional service that you can usually add to your phone service. Practically it’s an automated operator that lets the caller dial by name, dial by extension, listen to business hours, etc.
The cost of these services are amazingly low. I use Voip.com but there are many other providers that offer similarly affordable solutions (e.g. Jive, Packet 8, Speakeasy).
I agree. VoIP is a great way to go to cut costs. We wrote about this on Open Road to Savings, a blog for small and medium sized businesses that are looking for tips on how to save money. http://www.openroadtosavings also looks for submission on how companies are coming up with creative ways to save money and we can share with our readers. If you have any other ideas, feel free to share with us!
Merrin Muxlow says
Sorry for the confusion, I didn’t mean to imply that hosted services always use an auto-attendant, just that you can choose to route calls this way- it’s a pretty popular option for many businesses, as you mentioned. Thanks for the info about the benefits of hosted services!