Have you ever noticed that things, good or bad, have a tendency to come in bunches? Recently, several clients have reached out to get my input on Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP for short. VoIP, in the simplest of definitions, is phone service over the Internet. If you haven’t heard the phrase before, then perhaps it’s time to start considering a new phone system because chances are the one that you have is outdated.
VoIP has come a long way in the last several years after its initial debut almost two decades ago. Some of the challenges of the first systems were related to call quality, bandwidth dependency, power dependency, emergency calls and security. Today, many of these challenges have been resolved and the advantages of using the technology outbalance the drawbacks.
One huge benefit to businesses includes real dollar savings! Time really is money with a traditional phone system where you pay for each minute that you spend communicating on the phone. With VoIP, you can speak as much as you need and the connection cost will remain the same. Other benefits include the ability for more than two persons to participate on a conversation as well as the addition of video transmission with the assistance of well-known downloadable applications such as Skype, Lync and Microsoft Outlook.
Cool features with VoIP
With VoIP in the mix, features worth noting include:
- Widgets/computer integration: use your computer to manage tasks (e.g. open a contact in Outlook and click the phone icon to automatically dial them).
- Listen live: a training/coaching tool that allows you to listen to a call for training purposes.
- Reporting: track calls like sales activities (e.g. how many outbound calls were made).
- Security buzzer integration: two-way calling with the front door and a buzzer to unlock it for them.
- Conferencing features: most VoIP solutions include conferencing for internal and external, some allow for controlled conferencing with management of caller muting, and hand raising.
- Auto attendant: think computer receptionist.
In addition to these cool features, many systems now offer the ability to do call screening. I’m not referring to the old method of looking at the caller ID and choosing whether you will answer the call. Imagine creating rule based actions for phone calls that gives you complete control over who can reach you by configuring the system to accept or reject calls from specific phone numbers. For example, if your spouse calls while you’re away at lunch, the system can be set up to ring through to your cell phone while you’re out of your office. On the other hand, if it’s that vendor who keeps calling, the system can be setup to reject the caller or send them directly to voicemail.
Avoiding the pitfalls
Business needs are changing the landscape of telephony in the marketplace. As more small organizations recognize the value of VoIP, it is increasingly important to manage that transition smoothly to avoid any pitfalls. If you’re considering the transition, make sure of the following:
- You don’t lose any current basic functionality that you have come to rely on. If possible, talk to someone else who is using a phone system with the technology.
- Ensure they offer 24/7 support, as you don’t want to wait for the west coast support team to arrive if there is a problem
- Understand the terms of the agreement before entering into a contract. If possible, negotiate a trial period to be sure this is the right solution for your business.