VoIP phone numbers for business efficiency
What is a VoIP number?
A VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone number is the number assigned to you when you sign up for a VoIP service. It’s basically the string of digits you enter on a dial pad to make a call, much like with traditional landlines. But unlike its older counterpart, a VoIP phone number can be used to call from any internet-enabled device, such as a desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, and of course, a VoIP phone.
VoIP phones don’t require much of a learning curve or technical know-how. Most of them are essentially plug-and-play instruments in that you can just plug your IP phone into a local available network (LAN) port, and the device will register itself on the VoIP network. From there, you can use your VoIP number like a regular phone number.
The power of an internet number
A VoIP number may look and work like a regular number to an end user, but there are differences between these two identifiers. For one, VoIP operates on a data network and therefore makes use of the internet to place calls. This opens up a world of possibilities traditional landline numbers cannot offer, which includes:
Choice of area codes
Traditional phone companies attach area codes to phone numbers to determine call rates, especially for long distance calls. This is not the case with VoIP phone numbers because they are independent from a location.
As such, it’s possible to pick an area code that doesn’t correspond to your actual location, as long as it’s available from your service provider. But this shouldn’t be a problem with RingCentral. Unlike other companies with limited local numbers, RingCentral lets businesses choose from more than 200 area codes across the United States.
Get an area code today so you can start placing calls to your chosen locality and not get charged for long distance. In the same way, your customers could easily reach you by dialing your local number. This setup is ideal for companies with multiple business locations and those that intend to establish credibility in specific local communities.
So if your main office is in California and you’re looking to extend your services to Texas and Florida, you can get local VoIP phone numbers featuring area codes from the state without actually putting up offices in the said locations.
Use of toll-free numbers
There was a time when only large enterprises could afford toll-free numbers, but this changed along with a few advances in technology. Now, even small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) can use a toll-free number so customers from anywhere in the US could call them without spending a dime.
You don’t want your customers to shell out money every time they contact you, right? If someone has an issue about one of your products, they can easily get in touch with your company and raise their concerns. Knowing you’re always a phone call away builds trust and loyalty among your customers.
Depending on your service provider, you can choose from a variety of toll-free numbers, including the popular 800 number prefix. If you wish, you can opt for a custom vanity phone number—you can request for a sequence of numbers that is easy to recall (e.g., 1-800-NYC-ROOFS) and makes for some solid company branding.
Use of shared lines
VoIP allows sharing a phone number across multiple devices. Calls made to that number can be answered from any other device that uses the same number, thereby eliminating missed calls from customers and the need for call transfers.
This is particularly helpful for retail businesses and restaurant chains where customer service is of supreme importance. You can leverage this feature with the RingCentral VoIP phone system.
Business communications have indeed come a long way from the traditional phone systems. And with VoIP tapping into previously impossible or impractical features, businesses large and small have so much to gain. Those that have implemented it are now enjoying these benefits:
The VoIP number assigned to your business is geographically flexible (e.g., you can carry it and access your account anywhere you go). So if you have to move to a new location, you don’t have to ask the phone company to move your line to the new address—if it’s even possible—as with traditional landlines.
With VoIP, you can retain your existing number and operate as usual when your business relocates. This saves you unnecessary downtime from installing a phone line and costs that come with updating marketing materials like websites, brochures, and business cards.
There aren’t many things more convenient than being able to contact anyone across the country or anywhere in the world at any time using any device. That’s because of the fact that VoIP only requires a stable internet connection to make a call. As such, managing calls and business numbers is also easier.
If you decide to get hosted services, you don’t have to worry about setup and maintenance. All the basic and advanced features you need for a streamlined communications system are available at your fingertips.
Your communications infrastructure should scale as your business grows and add more users. In a traditional phone system, this could mean purchasing new servers and wiring systems—but not when you’re using a VoIP number.
In a VoIP network, your capacity to add new users is only limited by your bandwidth, which, of course, can be expanded according to your requirements. You can add or reduce bandwidth as the need arises.
Often, your employees will need to move between devices to finish tasks. They could go from office to field and start where they left off if they have a smartphone on hand. With VoIP, it’s easier for your employees to catch up on their tasks even outside of the office.
Can your system support VoIP?
So you’ve decided that VoIP is great for your business (as it should be). But before you take the plunge, are you sure that your current infrastructure can handle the deployment? What are the specific components you need to purchase or upgrade to push forward? Do you have a business continuity plan in place?
Preparation entails some self-evaluation, which should get you looking into the current state of your internet and your existing network infrastructure. Done right, your assessment would usher in a streamlined communications system for your organization. It won’t take long before you reap VoIP’s benefits above the huge cost savings.
As VoIP relies on the internet, you need to evaluate the current state of your connectivity. You’ll need a high upload speed or pipe, which isn’t common on low-end internet services. Depending on your budget and requirements, you can choose between a T1 line or a cable internet. Talk to your internet service provider (ISP) to better understand your options.
A small business with 20 connections at most should be able to live by a speed of 75 Mbps. Bigger ones should go for 100 Mbps or 150 Mbps. If you don’t consider bandwidth requirements, your VoIP system is bound to fail. Keep in mind that how much bandwidth you need depends on the number of users and what you plan on doing with your connection.
Let’s say you’re conducting a video conference while two customer service reps are making a VoIP call and your sales head is downloading sales reports—all on the same network. If you don’t have sufficient bandwidth, it’s likely that things will feel sluggish for all of you. Now imagine how this plays out in a company of 100 employees or more.
To optimize VoIP performance, you should also segregate and prioritize VoIP traffic over regular internet traffic by segmenting the network with a virtual local area network (VLAN). The goal is to improve performance so you won’t have to worry about dropped calls, latency, or jitter. For this, it is best to consult with your ISP.
If you still encounter issues with call quality despite having adequate bandwidth, you better check on your network equipment. Often, outdated routers and switches are to blame. A reliable router is important in keeping a stable network environment while a dedicated switch is needed to ensure that the router can handle your required bandwidth.
The problem is SMBs lacking in budget usually retain their outdated equipment. Bad routers, slow switches, and other infrastructure issues like poor cabling all contribute to an unfavorable VoIP experience. That fact that latency-dependent apps like VoIP has a way of uncovering previously undetected issues makes things worse.
If possible, connect your VoIP devices to an Ethernet connection. You may need to invest in a Power over Ethernet (PoE) switch, which delivers power and voice/data over the same wire. What you get is an efficient power provision to every PoE-enabled device, such as a VoIP phone.
With PoE, there is no need to have a dedicated AC outlet or power cabling for each device. At the same time, it allows these devices to connect to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which would continue to deliver power to the system in the event of a power blackout.
None of these would work if businesses refuse to recognize that old systems and devices hamper the success of VoIP. But the truth is, you don’t necessarily have to purchase new equipment to make room for it. You can opt to upgrade specific hardware like routers and switches. If you decide to replace them, be sure not to skimp.
Subpar devices translate to more costs and headaches in the long run. Then again, if you decide to get hosted services, you don’t have to worry about all these.
IP phone number: Your business’s ticket to the future
For a forward-looking company, there is little room for failure. It certainly pays to have a concrete growth plan that will guide your organization toward reaching your targets.
Will you be having additional employees over the next three years? How many are you expecting? Is that store expansion plan that’s previously been shelved finally pushing through? The answers to these questions will help you determine the ideal components of your VoIP system.
If your business is growing rapidly, it would be wise to future-proof your bandwidth or invest on more sophisticated network equipment. You may also need to spend on a bigger switch with more ports to accommodate additional devices down the line. Consult an experienced VoIP provider like RingCentral to help you come up with an informed decision.
Are your employees ready for VoIP?
Any new technology introduced to an existing system will give rise to questions, no matter how simple it may be. Expect your employees to ask how to send a virtual fax or how to access voicemail. You can get everyone up to speed in no time by preparing a handy guide or by creating a slideshow explaining VoIP’s features and functions (which really doesn’t take much to absorb).
Knowing how certain tools make their tasks easier helps keep your employees engaged. You could have access to the most advanced technologies, but if your employees aren’t receptive to them, you aren’t hitting the mark.
Time to go live!
Now that you have the system in place, it’s time for a test run. Be sure to allot enough time to run through your new VoIP system so you can identify any issues up front and address them immediately. Consider testing for the quality of VoIP calls at separate times throughout the day to simulate real-world usage.
For example, if you discover that upgrading your internet service is necessary, do it right away. If you keep hearing echoes in every call, perhaps the wires are too long, and this could be causing the voice quality problem. Or, maybe all you need to do is move your router away from the computer monitor.
After a string of test calls, contact your provider to get a mean opinion score (MOS), which is a measure of quality and fidelity of voice calls. It isn’t uncommon for your MOS score to decrease as network traffic increases.
Implementing a VoIP phone system will help you and your employees communicate better within and outside your company. Rest assured that RingCentral will guide you every step of the way to ensure a smooth migration and a consistent experience.