Every business needs a telephone service. It’s your vital connection to the world and your company’s success is reliant on being able to keep in touch with your customers.
However, for some business owners, this lifeline is all too often only considered as an afterthought in the processes of setting up shop. They figure that perhaps their home provider will be sufficient at the start, or they are completely unaware of how a hastily chosen business telephony provider could end up costing them thousands unnecessarily.
Pitfall 1: You opt for the first service you see
There are three main types of telephone service you may want to consider for your small business.
Traditional Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN), work like your normal landline telephone at home and offer a reliable connection. These services also come with voicemail and auto attendance features and are great if you want the security of having your telephony hardware in the building and if you want all of your telephone data to have its own dedicated lines of communication. However, the hardware is expensive and bulky; and the costs of scaling your phones up and making overseas calls quickly mount up.
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Trunking is the use of VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) to enable the connection of a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) to the internet. In laymen’s terms, SIP trunks allow you to utilize your business’ broadband connection to make calls, instead of using traditional analogue telephone lines. You need a PBX with SIP Trunking connectivity, an enterprise edge device that accepts SIP and a SIP Trunking/internet provider.
VOIP systems are cost effective and flexible, but they do require your business to have enough internet bandwidth to accommodate.
A blended telephone system combines PSTN and VOIP and offer business a reliable connection as well the flexibility to scale up your phones inexpensively.
Pitfall 2: You go for the cheapest option
The cost of bills, hardware, installation and maintenance are all things that need to be taken into account when choosing your telephone system. For some business owners, going for the cheapest option wins and in many cases, small business owners who opt for VOIP telephones can see a 40-60% reduction in their telephone bills without having much to contend with in the way of hardware costs in comparison with PTSN’s.
However, VOIP puts a greater strain on your broadband connection, so if you go over your internet data limit you will not only see a higher internet bill every month; the quality of your telephone connection may also be affected.
Licensing is another issue with VOIP as some providers may advertise a monthly cost that omits the cost of the licence that is required to use VOIP. In order to make sure you are getting a good deal, you have to do your homework and check out some reviews online from a reputable provider.
Pitfall 3: You ignore the customer
Because we are so used to experiencing a good connection from our landline telephone, many business owners don’t think about what could potentially happen should a customer experience a dodgy connection on a call to your company. Or worse still, your phone network crashes in the middle of the day and no one can get through!
Your customers will not be impressed, and from your point of view, a crashed telephone system comes off as unprofessional and you may end up losing their custom for good.
Testing your connection thoroughly (inside and out of office hours) is key. Considering details such as, do you want callers to access you by name or department? The cost of on-going maintenance, whether or not you want to be able to re-route calls remotely, are all factors that will effect which system you opt for in the end, so take your time to consider your customer’s needs as well as yours.
Pitfall 4: You don’t consider growth
With traditional phone lines (Primary Rate Interfaces PRI’s) business owners have to ‘dream big’ because lines can only be sold in increments of 23. This means that if you have 30 employees you would have to buy 46 telephone channels. SIP trunks, on the other hand, can be bought in increments of one and added to the existing network easily.
You can also move promises and keep the same telephone number with SIP trunking.
Future-proofing your business communication systems should be a priority, in order to save yourself some heavy installation and line rental costs, should your company expand.
In conclusion, choosing the right telephone system from the start can save you money and a lot of hassle, so make sure you shop around.
If you can think of any other mistakes to avoid when it comes to choosing your company’s telephone service, I'd love to hear about them!