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.