How to Find the Best Phone Service for your Small Business

It should be obvious by now that having a dedicated phone service for your small business is important—It ensures you appear professional to your customers when they call your company.

It allows you to take advantage of many convenient features that a simple landline does not.

It lets you work smarter as a team within your organization.

Even more compelling, a survey by NewVoiceMedia that aimed to provide a snapshot of customer service in the US found that a whopping 75% percent of customers still believe calling is the most effective way to get a quick response from businesses.

A Forrester study titled the “North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey” conducted in Q4 of 2009 also found that 69% of customers are more satisfied when they talk to an agent over the phone, as compared to other customer service channels like emails or FAQs pages. It’s important to opt for a system that gives you the features you need in one place to communicate better with your customers.

The bottom line: Your customers want great, phone-based customer service from your company.

But because legacy phone systems can be quite expensive and cumbersome, they often aren’t the right choice for companies that are just starting out. Fortunately, there are now more reasonable options they can go for—such as a cloud phone service.

Go for a Cloud-Based Option

Cloud-based phone systems are being used more and more by businesses.

This is in part because small businesses that switch to these virtual phone systems reduce the cost of their local calls by up to 40%, and the cost of their international calls by up to 90%. Additionally, with a cloud-based option, you won’t need special equipment such as clunky hard drives to get set up. You can also say goodbye to unsightly wiring that traditional business phone services often require you to rely on.

Instead, a cloud-based phone service runs on the same internet connection your company already uses. These systems run best on high-speed internet connections, such as DSL, fiber optic, or cable internet.

This kind of system enables you to make calls from any laptop or smart device. This means your company doesn’t have to be limited by your phone system if you decide to hire remote workers or want your team to work while traveling.

Additional benefits of cloud phone systems include:

  • A secure system, virtually comparable to landlines
  • Superior service reliability
  • High-quality call clarity (with strong internet connection)
  • Advanced features such as texting, affordable unlimited calls, and fax via email
  • Accessible from a remote administrator panel, allowing for off-site management and control

Many such solutions also allow you to track key customer service-related metrics like customer hold times, call durations, and initial call wait times. These can help influence larger business decisions, since they help answer questions like the following—

  • Do we need to hire additional customer support personnel?
  • Do we need to better train support staff members who handle incoming calls?

So now we know that if you’re a growing company, internet-based telephony will be your best bet. But you still might not know how to find the best phone service for you.

There’s no need to worry. We’ve got your back. Here are things you should do:

Choose an All-In-One System

Set your business up for success by choosing a provider that offers a comprehensive business phone service. It’s important to consider not only your company’s needs right now, but your future needs too. While your team might consist of only a few employees today, you probably have plans for growth in the coming months and years.

A great way to start planning for a new business phone service is by asking your current team members about the features they use the most, as well as phone features they wish they had.

Consider asking them some of the following questions:

  • Which phone features are the ones you can’t work without?
  • Which features do you wish you had access to?
  • Which features do you rarely use? Why is that?
  • What capabilities do you wish you were able to take advantage of?
    • Ex: customer service calls via a mobile device, audio or video conferencing tools, etc.

Standard internet-based business phone services typically include features such as call forwarding, call waiting and transfer, and caller ID. More sophisticated services include online fax, video conferencing features, and integrations with other business systems such as Dropbox and Microsoft.

It’s important that your company’s phone service includes both basic features as well as more advanced options.

Ideally, it should eliminate the need to use several different apps and programs to communicate with both customers and team members.

Look for an option that includes voice calls, faxing, and conferencing tools in one system. This will allow your team to spend less time switching back and forth between several systems to accomplish one task. It also eliminates the need to train employees to use multiple programs, and in effect remember a slew of different logins and passwords. An all-in-one platform like RingCentral is a more efficient way to go for your business’s phone service.

Select an Easy-to-Use Phone Service

It goes without saying–your company’s phone system should be easy to use.

Before committing to a new platform, be sure you’ve studied how easy it is to understand the setup. Next, consider how the system would work on a daily basis with your team members’ workflows.

Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Is using this system going to be a challenge for new and existing employees?
  • Is there a major learning curve involved in understanding the system’s basic and advanced features, or are they fairly straightforward?
  • Does the platform come with an implementation specialist or offer any type of setup support?

That third point is important.  You want to make sure that you have the technical support you need (should issues arise) for your business phone service.

Save yourself and your employees serious time and effort by ensuring you’re not left to figure out your new platform on your own. You’ll want to choose a platform that either sets up your new system for you or walks you through the process so you’ll know how to handle things without calling them. Be sure to ask about the support options these services offer, such as 24/7 customer support, FAQs pages, support consultations, best-practice recommendations, and more.

Additionally, ask them if their technicians can help you figure out the following:

  • how many phones you need
  • whether or not you need new phone numbers
  • how to transfer over any existing numbers you currently use and want to keep

Ultimately, you want solutions—not more problems. It’s very important that you don’t get inconvenienced by something that’s supposed to help you.

Don’t Forget About the Hardware

We mentioned having to figure out the number of phones you need. There’s a good reason for that.

When implementing a new phone service, you need to take into consideration the hardware required to make this system work. This includes the phones themselves, as well as any additional pieces of equipment that may be critical for deployment.

For your convenience, we recommend choosing a phone company that allows you to buy desk phones directly from them. That way, you’re guaranteed that your equipment will be compatible with your new service, pre-configured and ready to use.

If you’ve already invested a significant amount of money into your phone system, then be sure you’re confident that the tech support team for your new service is willing to work with you to make your devices work seamlessly. Some providers don’t offer adequate customer support for syncing your existing company phones to their service. Be wary of this!

Consider the Type of Numbers You Need

We also mentioned earlier that it’s important to consider your company’s phone needs for both today and the future.

Although you may only need a simple phone line or two now, there is a good chance that could change over the course of a year or two. In the future, will you need both a local and a toll-free number for your customers? What about a vanity number?

If you plan on doing advertising online, on the radio, or on television, vanity numbers come in really handy. Because they spell out words or have repeating digits, they help your customers to remember your number more easily. They are also easier to relay to a wide audience.

If you’re an established business and want to keep your existing number, be sure that’s a service your new business phone platform offers. Your provider should be able to help you to port your number over from your previous system. Typically, if you end up choosing this option, your business will receive a temporary number while the transfer process takes place. The process can take between 2-5 weeks on average, but it may well be worth it if you’ve had the same company number for many years.

Choose a Reliable Service

At the end of the day, the most critical element to any business phone service is how reliable it is.

If it keeps breaking down on your employees when they use it to communicate with their customers, that’s a major problem.

To screen for quality and reliability, be sure you’re asking your phone provider the following questions before committing:

  • What is your system’s uptime? How many total minutes was your phone service down for over the past year?
  • What support measures do your company have in the event of an outage? How are calls rerouted in situations like this?
  • How many data centers do you have globally? How many are located within the United States specifically?
  • How are the data centers monitored? In other words, will you know immediately whether there is a service issue and let us know so we’re able to prepare on our end?
  • In terms of security, what firewalls do you have in place?
  • Do you monitor your system for things such as intrusion analytics, fraud, or vulnerability elements? How protected is our company data?

Reliability and security should go hand in hand with your business’s phone service.

Look for a system that safeguards your communications over the entire transmission journey. This means asking questions about whether or not a phone system’s network is encrypted, or if they use layers of authentication. It’s important that you take your company’s (and your customers’) data seriously!

Find Something Optimized for Mobile Devices

Working from a mobile device is no longer a foreign concept for small businesses. Considering this is often how we check and send work emails, transfer files, edit and send documents, and so much more, isn’t it time your business phone service offered mobile services, too? Choose a phone system that allows you to text, fax, and work seamlessly using your business number on any mobile device.

Most virtual business phone services worth their salt will send incoming work calls automatically through the same business call routing rules that you set up in the office to your cell phone instead. This allows you to work seamlessly from home, on the road, or even in the airport. Your business’s mobile capabilities should also allow you to set up and join conference calls as well as check your work voicemail from anywhere.

Some Additional Helpful Features to Consider

  • Advanced call routing – Consider a phone service that allows you to set up specific call answering rules for different times of the day. For example, all calls that are received during business hours will be sent to a customer service team member while calls that come in after business hours will be sent straight to voicemail.
  • Business app integrations – Would a system that integrates with the different business apps you use every day be beneficial? Chances are, the answer is “yes!” Find a phone service that easily integrates with business systems such as Google and Office so you can make calls, send faxes, and schedule meetings directly from them. The goal is for your business phone service to better serve your entire workday.
  • Customer service elements – Don’t forget about the features that help your customers feel more comfortable! Be sure your phone service includes call hold music options or advanced auto-receptionists.
  • Better voicemail features – Your phone service should allow you to check your voicemail from anywhere, at any time. For example, RingCentral Office allows you to utilize a traditional work voicemail system as well as voicemail-to-email and visual voicemail that allows you to preview your messages in text form when you can’t listen to them.
  • Softphone – The softphone allows employees to make and receive calls from their computers. Once they are logged in to the system, all they need to do is use the computer microphone and speakers or plug in a Bluetooth headset to start making calls.

Remember, the best way to figure out the extra features your business could use from your phone service is by polling your employees.

By speaking to the people that are actually using the phone system each day, you’ll get a sense for what features are most used as well as those that could be a big benefit in the future.

Bonus: Find a Unified Communications Platform with Superior Collaboration Tools

Consider a communications solution that offers a range of collaboration tools that your team can benefit from. In the modern workplace, it’s common to use a variety of conferencing tools, messaging apps, and digital systems along with your phone service to make communication easier.

Here are a couple of features that could come in handy for your company:

  • Online audio and video conference – If your team works remotely, or is located in various office buildings, this is a must-have feature. You’re able to host and join audio or video conferences via your internet connection. You’ll want an option that allows a significant number of participants to join conferences. You’ll also absolutely want screen sharing capabilities for video conferencing, to make sure you and your team are on the same page.
  • Team messaging – If you have a geographically-dispersed team with different schedules, you’ll definitely need this. You can have documented messages and discussions about tasks without having to rely on email (which can be cumbersome). You’ll want to be able to create a group or team chat for every project your employees, partners, and customers are working on. You’ll also want the ability to manage tasks, projects, and calendars if you’re aiming to get this feature.

Standard small business phone service providers don’t offer these, of course. But in order to get an edge over your competition, would you really want to settle for just a phone service?

Why not go for a unified communications system, which throws in online video meetings and other team collaboration software, instead?

Want to know more? Check out all of our RingCentral Office plans.

But Don’t Forget to Make Sure the System Is Within Your Budget

Shopping for a communications system for your business can get a little overwhelming. As previously mentioned, a lot of systems can be really expensive for small businesses. While you know you need something that allows you to serve your customers better, you also don’t want to break the bank each month paying for it, either.

Also, it’s important to consider how you’ll receive your bill each month. Does your new provider itemize bills to make what you’re paying for clear to you? Will your payables begin to skyrocket after one year of service? As your team grows, will you be stuck paying for multiple plan upgrades? Are there price breaks offered to companies who pay annually versus monthly? These are all important questions to ask.

RingCentral offers your company an advanced communications system with affordable pricing options. Explore our small business-friendly plans below:

  • Essentials: The Essentials plan is available for businesses with 10 employees or fewer. The plan is $19.99 per user per month. It includes 100 toll-free minutes, unlimited calling, unlimited video meetings with screen sharing for up to four people at a time, visual voicemail, and voicemail-to-email. This plan also features file sharing, and instant messaging.
  • Standard: The Standard plan is $24.99 per user per month. It includes everything in the Essentials plan, as well as 1,000 toll-free minutes, a multi-level auto-attendant, call log reports and online faxing.

You don’t have to use all of the extra communications features that come available with these plans—you can opt to stick to using just the basic business phone service. But in case you need to make conference calls or launch team messaging for your business, you’ll be more comfortable in the knowledge that you already have them.

Choose the Best Phone Service for your Small Business Today

Small businesses often face the challenge of running on small budgets while also striving to address their customer’s every need. In addition, it can be hard to give your employees the functionality they need. The great news is that there are several advanced phone service options that small businesses can take advantage of on a smaller budget.

Choosing a trusted, reliable phone service provider is vital to the growth of your business.

RingCentral is trusted by more than 350,000 companies around the world. We understand the challenges that small businesses face and we’re uniquely positioned to help you. Our services are safe and secure, priced to accommodate your company no matter how small or large it is, and include options that suit your needs.

At the end of the day, an excellent phone service is one of the best ways to take your small business’ customer service abilities to the next level.

No matter the size of your business’s budget, RingCentral can help your business run safely, securely and efficiently. Learn more about RingCentral’s cloud phone service solutions today!

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