Workforces worldwide have gone through a great deal of change the past couple years, but the need for real-time communication and collaboration remains constant. Choosing the best small business phone system starts with understanding your needs now and thinking about what they may be in the future. From there, you can match those needs to the features and underlying technologies that separate the best business phone systems from the rest.
Whether you’re exploring new ways to connect your employees and customers or getting ready to move to a VoIP phone system, make sure you cover all the bases to find the best option for your company.
Here’s what we’ll cover today:
What is a small business phone system and what is cloud phone?
When you think “small business phone system,” what do you picture? A lot of wires, a clunky handset and a receiver? Maybe flashbacks to dialling the wrong extension, forgetting your voicemail password, or dialling 9 before making an external call? This sums up how many small business leaders feel: It’s way too complicated and we don’t have time for all of this.
For a long time, those clunky on-premises phone systems that took days to install and deploy were the only option. That’s why VoIP technology is so important to consider as you search for the best phone system for your small business. But what is VoIP?
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It is also referred to as IP telephony, internet telephony or internet calling. It’s an alternative to a public switched telephone network (PSTN). While it may sound it, a VoIP phone system is not complicated. So what exactly is cloud phone then?
Simply put, a cloud phone is a phone system that runs entirely over an internet connection (a.k.a. VoIP), instead of with on-premises technology. You can answer a cloud phone at a desk or even through your computer or mobile device.
5 steps you can take to pick the best business phone system
If you’re considering a new phone system for your business, here are five steps that can help.
1. Look at what works and what doesn’t with your current phone system
If you’re a startup, you can skip this step, but if you’re an established business with an existing phone system, list what’s currently wrong with your set-up.
Cost is a common issue for businesses of all sizes, and you can make significant savings by choosing the right supplier. Other reasons to change may be that you’re moving offices or the company is growing quickly, and your current set-up isn’t fit for purpose. Before scrapping the system you have, note down the size of your current system, including how many active users you have and how they use the system.
Having a clear description of your current issues can make it easier to find solution and engage constructively with your current provider and potential new suppliers.
2. Test your internet connection
IP-PBX and cloud-based VoIP systems require a secure and fast internet connection to work correctly. If your connection is weak or intermittent, you could find calls are glitchy and drop in and drop out.
You can use speed checkers to assess your download and upload speeds. Before speaking to a supplier, test your connection at various times during a working day to provide a realistic average speed.
If your connecting speed is weak, then speak to your provider or landlord before discounting a VoIP system.
3. Consider how your business uses its telephone system
Do you have a high volume of incoming calls, or does the phone rarely ring? Do you make many international calls? Does your team call each other or do they prefer to stay in contact in other ways?
The way your business uses its phone system will impact your choice of new supplier. If you work flexibly, are expanding or want the greater degree of control you get with VoIP – and the costs savings too – then a cloud-based system could be better for you. Spending time on investigating how your business uses your system will provide vital information when you make your choice.
4. Set your priorities
Cloud-based VoIP systems offer a level of flexibility and control of your business phones that supports modern ways of working, but do you really need all those features?
Set out what you want from a new system, listing the key functionality your new system must deliver. Separate the useful functions from the essential ones.
Modern cloud-based VoIP systems come packed with features and functionality that can improve business efficiency – and save you money too.
5. Speak to your team
Before talking to suppliers, ensure that you’ve spoken with your staff and understand their needs from a new phone system. Discuss with them the options and describe the features available.
If you’re asking your team to use their own devices, make sure they’re comfortable doing so.
Changing a phone system is a small, but disruptive change, so taking staff with you from the beginning is crucial to unlocking the benefits.
5 benefits for small businesses making the switch to cloud phone
If you’re still using an on-premises phone for your business, you probably already know the drawbacks of that system. They take up valuable space, require a lot of maintenance and there’s limited mobility for your team.
As small businesses change and grow, the ability to quickly scale up (or down) becomes a necessity. Adding new employees, for example, requires the company to adapt its phone system to accommodate the need for more lines. So, what are the benefits of switching to cloud phone?
1. Simple to use
One of the biggest benefits of using a cloud-based phone system is how easy the system can be to use. Without any expert help, you can be up and running with your new phone system right away, rather than waiting for installation and training that could take days or weeks.
Starting to use your new phone system can be as easy as downloading an app and you are ready to go. The app is configured to be user-friendly and intuitive so that all your employees can easily understand how to use it.
In many cases, you can use your existing phones, and employees can use their own devices with the app to make the learning curve practically non-existent.
For small businesses that can’t afford a large up-front cost for equipment, but can afford the small monthly fee, cloud-based phone systems can give them exactly what they need at a cost they can afford.
Similarly, small businesses can run the system with existing staff, with no hires needed to administer the system or maintain it. While some startups may have the capital to afford investment in equipment and personnel, there is simply no need to with the right cloud phone. Take RingCentral, for example. With a simple download, you’re up and running on any device in a matter of minutes. Plus, the interface is user-friendly, even for the least tech savvy people on your team. Jump from one-on-one calls to a conference in just one click:
Call controls such as record, transfer, and flip are available during an active RingCentral call.
2. Flexibility to scale up (and down)
As a business grows, so does the need to hire new employees, open new offices and onboard new customers. This requires a communications system that can scale up — or down — as the need arises.
With a cloud-based phone system, businesses can add as many extensions as they need to accommodate heightened call volume, or, if necessary, simply call in to deactivate these extra extensions. Unlike traditional systems, businesses only pay for the extensions they need for as long as they need them. This is how easy it is to add a new user with RingCentral:
3. Take your business with you
Small businesses have never needed to be more agile than they are today. With an office-based phone system, you’re tired to your desk and so is your team. A cloud phone system is run entirely via the Internet. That means you can answer calls on your desk phone, computer or your mobile devices (without having to give out your personal phone number). Whether you’re working in a brick-and-mortar building, your home office or the road, your customers can always get a hold of someone.
This kind of flexibility is also a huge bonus for your team. Employee retention is critical today, and a cloud phone system can allow your employees the freedom to do their best work, from anywhere.
Plus, when you’re set up for remote and hybrid work, your talent pool expands globally. You can even recruit and hire remote employees from a distance, if you have the right cloud phone provider. A platform like RingCentral combines a powerful cloud phone system with HD video conferencing and team messaging:
4. Improve customer service
With features that allow you to quickly and easily manage calls, businesses can easily direct calls to various departments and even create greetings unique to a given department.
For example, a business could set up a holiday greeting in advance (via the administrative portal) and pre-set it to revert to the non-holiday greeting on a specified date. It could also add an on-hold message about special promotions or commonly asked questions.
5. Make your small business feel big
In order to survive, small businesses need to compete with those who have much more experience, revenue and reputation than they do. In other words, small businesses need enterprise-level tools and capabilities even though they rarely have the budget for that level of solutions.
It’s crucial to work smarter, not harder, and to find ways to get access to enterprise-level resources and tools without the enterprise-level price tag.
Cloud phone systems give your business the big-company polish you need at a price you can live with. This goes a long way to helping level the playing field.
Find your cloud phone match for your small business
Your phone system plays a critical role in business operations and the experience customers have with your small business. Migrating your phone system to the cloud can help you to better manage costs, give your team the time needed to focus on growing your business and prepare your organisation to meet the future of business communications head-on.
When in doubt, be sure to look for a cloud phone provider that offers the kind of hands-on customer service and tech support that puts you at ease.
Originally published Jun 13, 2022