The challenges of business communications in todays mobile world are particularly apparent as workers communicate from a variety of locations; whether that involves traveling employees, branch offices or telecommuters. The pain is often easily identified from the billing perspective, but stretches into many operational and customer-facing touch points as well.
1. Talk is not cheap
First and foremost is the pain of having to manage a separate phone system and service provider, often the local phone carrier, for each office location. This also means separate billing and operational costs for each office. Then take into account the idea that employees in different locations may actually want to speak with each other.
If they are in different locales, states or even countries, the call usage charges can really add up.
A large percentage of a companys calls are outbound to customers and outside contacts, so keeping a close eye on those call usage rates is also very important. This is of particular interest to businesses with a more global reach, as international calls can quickly run up a companys phone bill.
2. Keeping everyone connected
As if costs associated with phone usage are not enough to give business owners a headache, next consider the operational challenges.
Often businesses with multiple locations, employees that work from the road, or telecommute from home have issues connecting calls between offices or even just knowing what number to dial for a particular employee.
This dispersion is also apparent to the customers of multi-location businesses, as they often have to spend time looking up phone numbers or hang up and dial different local phone numbers if they reach the wrong location. Not the best customer experience!
3. Buying and managing expensive equipment and systems
Another issue that often comes into play with traditional phone systems is the cost of the phone systems themselves.
Traditional premise-based phone systems are essentially those that must be housed and managed onsite or on premises - hence the name premise-based. This may be a good fit for a business looking to manage their system in-house, but it also involves a huge capital investment in equipment.
This equipment, like most technology, will be outdated someday in the not so distant future. Bundle that issue with the need for staff to install and manage that equipment, and the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) begins to rise to a level that is simply out of reach for many SMBs.
While managing this equipment in-house may have its benefits for some businesses looking for more control, it also means that when they lose power or disaster strikes in one location, their phone calls usually cannot be transferred elsewhere; and their customers will simply hear a busy signal.
Finding a Solution
Solving the many communication challenges of businesses is not a one size fits all solution. Every business has unique needs. However, there are common threads among them that allow for a solution with customizable options.
There is hope for business owners struggling to make sense of the many options out there to save money on phone systems. Let us explore one of them.
Adopting new technologies
For businesses looking to reduce phone costs and take advantage of new technology that enables them to be more flexible, productive and competitive; Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the fast-growing alternative to traditional phone systems using phone lines from local phone carriers.
VoIP is just what its name implies: the voice calls are delivered over the Internet. This means that the voice signal from a telephone is converted to digital packets and delivered over the Internet instead of over traditional phone lines. When they reach their destination, the packets are converted back into a voice signal, so the phone call between two parties takes place just like it did between two land line phones. This is also referred to as digital or broadband phone service.
VoIP has been around for a several years, but the technology today has evolved to a much higher quality, giving it more attention as of late. The trend of switching to VoIP is catching on with even the smallest businesses.
According to a recent survey by ISP Star, a research firm, 41 percent of businesses with 100 employees or fewer have already adopted a VoIP solution. In addition, the study reveals how 20 percent of respondents are looking at deploying VoIP systems within the next year. Reducing financial pressure was cited as the leading reason for making the switch. (Source: Techworld May 2010, SMBs look to VoIP deployment)