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Get smart about small business phone systems.
The first personal point of contact a potential customer has with you might be through the phone. So it’s important that you provide a positive and professional experience. And it’s not enough to make do with personal phones. If you really want to make your business ready to compete and meet customer demands, you need a dedicated small-business phone system.
There are lots of options out there, but many are geared toward businesses with hundreds of employees and multiple locations. While small businesses need to provide the same high-quality interactions as larger businesses, they have smaller budgets.
It can feel like a tall order, but it’s important that you make the right choice for your business. To help you evaluate your options, here’s a brief look at what to consider in today’s business phone systems, some common choices for small and medium-sized businesses ( SMBs), and why a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution might be the best fit for you.
What to look for in a small business phone system
No two business phone systems are the same. There are many options out there to choose from—and often there are huge diﬀerences between the quality and capabilities in each. You need a small business phone system that helps advance your specific business goals.
Here are a few basics to consider when evaluating small business phone systems:
Take stock of what you have—and what you need. Do you need a solution that only uses desk phones, are you fully mobile or are you a mixture of both? And if you’re only using desk phones now, do you have plans to integrate mobile in the future? The system you choose should address your immediate needs, but also be right for where you hope to take your business in the future.
Along those same lines of making sure the equipment will be right for your business in the future, you’ll want to make sure the phone system you choose will easily grow with you as you want to add new lines.
Only you know what your budget is, so you’ll want to make sure you choose a solution that fits within it. But it’s not enough to just look at the upfront costs of a business phone solution; you’ll want to look at the monthly fees and long-term maintenance costs to make sure that you are getting the right value for your investment.
With so many advanced calling features available, you’ll want to look for the ones that align best with the way you work. If you field a lot of customer calls, you may want a solution that oﬀers a virtual receptionist. If you have field teams working with oﬃce-based teams, then you could probably benefit from a solution that makes it possible to easily share screens. Just make sure the business phone system meets all of your needs.
Ease of management
If you’re a small business with limited IT resources and expertise, you want to make sure that the small-business phone system you choose will be easy for you to deploy, maintain and manage. And if you do run into issues, will you have access to the support you need to get things fixed?
Types of business phone systems for small businesses
Three of the more common choices for SMBs are:
A landline is what you’d most commonly call plain old telephone service (POTS). If you are looking for a straightforward system that lets you make and receive calls and requires no additional training to use, a POTS system might be worth considering.But for budget-conscious SMBs, the costs for landlines can escalate quickly. In addition to installation costs, there are monthly service fees per line, new-line fees, long-distance fees and more. And because landlines are physically connected by wires, they don’t allow for any flexibility; if you want to answer the phone, you must be by the phone, wherever it is plugged in. For growing businesses, flexibility could be the key to growth, so landlines might be too restrictive an option.
Virtual phone service
This small-business phone system is located in the cloud. Your service provider will host the systems you need and transfer your calls and data through the internet—which means you don’t need to own any additional networking equipment. With this solution, you are provided virtual phone numbers that can be routed to multiple devices. That way, you’ll be able to answer calls placed to that number on a desk phone, home phone or mobile device—wherever you happen to be working at the time.
However, there are limitations to this option. The quality and reliability of your calls is totally dependent on the quality and reliability of your service provider’s network. Plus, your provider will have complete control over managing the system, which could make it more diﬃcult for you to customize an experience that’s best for your business.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
VoIP is similar to virtual phone systems; it’s a cloud-based technology that transports voice calls over the internet rather than over a traditional wired phone network. It supports many advanced features, and also tends to cost less than landlines. VoIP also lets you use a combination of mobile and desk phones. However, unlike a virtual phone system that uses a private, hosted network to manage calls, VoIP can be used on public internet, so you can use the same internet service for both your voice calls and your data transmissions. Plus, with business phone system software, VoIP can help you compete more like larger companies by creating calling experiences that are good for both your employees and customers.
While there are pros and cons to each of these options, we think that most small businesses could benefit from a VoIP business phone system.
Why VoIP is a versatile option
Not only is VoIP a good first step to creating a more modern business, it also addresses many of the common concerns for growing businesses.
First of all, VoIP is budget-friendly. Because it uses public internet, you can get all the calling capabilities you need, without the additional costs of a private network. And as far as equipment goes, you can purchase VoIP phones if your budget allows, or if it doesn’t, there are adaptors that can be used to modify your existing phones. Or you could leverage your business computers and employees’ mobile devices.
When it comes to flexibility, it doesn’t get much better than VoIP. You can build your VoIP system using any combination of desk phones, computers and mobile devices. And it’s easy to add new lines as needed, so when your business is ready to grow, your VoIP solution scales with you.
Your customers keep you in business, so it’s important that you be there when they call. But what happens when there’s a power outage or other emergency situation? Because it’s cloud-based, it’s easy for your VoIP service provider to redirect calls to a backup number in the event of a service outage, which can help reduce downtime and keep your business operating as usual.
And those are just some of the benefits you could enjoy by choosing VoIP as your business phone system. The full range of advantages depends on the VoIP solution you choose.
A solution like Verizon Business Digital Voice* is designed to address many of the concerns of small businesses. If you’re looking to improve the user and caller experience, Business Digital Voice comes with more than 30 advanced calling features, such as automatic call forwarding, voicemail to email, seamless call transfer and more. If you’re primarily looking for something that’s easy to use and manage, Business Digital Voice has a simple app and online dashboard that gives you intuitive control over call management.
Whatever your specific goals for your business, the phone system you choose will serve as the foundation to get you where you want to be. It’s a big decision, and one that should not be taken lightly. But once you understand your needs—and your options—you’ll be able to make the right call when it comes to selecting your small-business phone system.
* Business Digital Voice is available in select areas of nine states and the District of Columbia.