With a growing concern over the ability to cut costs while increasing revenues, on one hand you might expect businesses to wisely continue to invest in technology that will ultimately pay off in lower monthly expenditures. On the other hand, you could also argue that they might be hesitant to lay out capital in the short term in the interest of maintaining lower CAPEX, especially in the case of smaller businesses with limited capital resources.
One of the benefits of today's VoIP technology is that small businesses that can benefit greatly from 800 Numbers.
800 Numbers can significantly cut their costs by using IP-based communications for their 800 Number inbound calls.
For vendors that provide 800 Number service to the small business space, then, the good news, according to a customer survey conducted by 800 Number and hosted VoIP provider RingCentral, is that small businesses are prepared to increase their technology investment in the coming year. This is especially reflective of their strategy towards PCs and communications services, which can directly impact the benefits they can gain from 800 Numbers.
For unified communications solutions providers, this is particularly good news, since an overwhelming majority indicated multiple communications technologies (email, mobile device, business phone, Web site) are critical for their overall business success. Indeed, following only email, the business phone and mobile phone, both of which can be associated with 800 Numbers, clearly are a key component of successful business operations.
Given that, in addition to their 800 Numbers, each of these businesses likely already employs each of these additional technologies as well, and the fact that 60 percent of more than 100 respondents to the survey said they plan to increase their technology spend is cause for optimism for the vendor community. In fact, only 6 percent indicated plans to cut spending, while 31 percent are intent on maintaining their current spending levels. While a spending cut could mean giving up the 800 Number, the reality is that these businesses would benefit, instead, from adding VoIP to their 800 Number capabilities, which would substantially benefit them on an ongoing basis.
More than half of those with a planned increase in spending - 38 percent of overall respondents - say they are looking to leverage VoIP technology, including phone systems, smartphones, and VoIP services, which means they will be able to achieve even greater efficiencies from their 800 Numbers, as they combine their 800 Number service with their VoIP service. That will bring the total VoIP deployment to 78 percent of the respondent pool.
In addition, Web 2.0 technology usage is also set to climb in 2008, including click-to-call, blogging, social networking, IM, and text messaging, as business owners look to find new ways to interact with customers and colleagues, and provide various means for customers to contact them, in addition to their 800 Number.
For instance, while 34 percent of respondents already have incorporated click-to-call features on their Web sites and email signatures, another 41 percent indicate a desire to do so next year. Click to call, in fact, can easily be associated with an 800 Number, making it easy for customers to reach your business from a Web page or any other endpoint.
Interestingly, there still appear to be some issues with VoIP service: 14 percent of respondents said VoIP was the most disappointing business technology they had tried in 2007. This, however, poses an opportunity for 800 Number and VoIP providers, who can easily convince businesses that they can create an effective communications system, combining their 800 Number with a hosted telephony service.
RingCentral has a solution for those business owners out there that still have doubts about VoIP, including suggestions on how an 800 Number can augment their VoIP or other phone system capabilities.
"We realize that some small businesses that tried VoIP were disappointed - a number of early industry players over-promised and under-delivered on this technology," said Vlad Shmunis, CEO of RingCentral. "Our approach is to let customers try before they buy, and determine if their PC and broadband connections are VoIP-ready."
Importantly, services like RingCentral also don't require that customers outlay significant amounts of capital - it works equally well with PSTN phones and mobile devices, and, of course, VoIP devices.
In some ways, there is a struggle ahead for business VoIP providers, with a group of naysayers still lingering. But, the trend will be for businesses to continue their investment in technology, and offering solutions that combine IP Communications, 800 Numbers, and other alternatives, should present ample opportunity for continued growth for service providers.
Erik Linask is Associate Editor of INTERNET TELEPHONY, IMS Magazine, and Unified Communications. Prior to joining TMC, he was Managing Editor at Global Custodian, an international securities services publication. To see more of his articles, please visit Erik Linask's columnist page.
Although most companies today do business online, an 800 number remains a vital tool for serving customers. Just having a Web site and being available by e-mail is not enough; an 800 number lets customers get the information they need with a minimum of fuss.
Of course, while calling an 800 number is free for the customer, the company must pay to offer this useful service. This aspect of an 800 number makes it the reverse of regular long-distance phone calls which the calling party pays for.
The cost of an 800 number for a company is based on a variety of factors. These 800 number price factors include amount of usage, cost of the phone line itself, and perhaps a flat-rate monthly fee as well. These are factors a company should consider carefully when choosing an 800 number service.
For example, it may be less expensive in some cases to purchase an 800 number as part of a larger communications service suite, like RingCentral Professional. Or, it might make more sense to purchase a stand-alone 800 number. Regardless, this is an important service that most customers expect will be available.
Another thing to consider when purchasing an 800 number is what the actual number will be. The 800 number (possibly it will start with 888, 877, 866 or 855 depending on availability) may just be a random assignment of digits. Or, the company may choose a .vanity. 800 number, in which case the digits will .spell out. certain words when associated with letters on a phone keypad.
While an 800 number is not free for the company, offering this service to customers usually pays off. For example, the 800 number may be a way for customers to access for-fee technical support. Or, the 800 number may be a way to make initial contact with a customer, followed by a sale.
Giving customers the option of being able to reach support through a toll-free 800 number is a smart business move. An 800 number generates goodwill right off the bat, making customers more likely to make purchases or exhibit loyalty. The price of an 800 number is well worth the investment.
Mae Kowalke previously wrote for Cleveland Magazine in Ohio and The Burlington Free Press in Vermont. To see more of her articles, please visit Mae Kowalke.s columnist page.