When considering tech investments to modernise your small business, you may think there is no good reason to replace your good old phone system. And yet, phone systems have evolved a lot in recent years, bringing cost-savings, and efficiencies that could truly benefit small businesses, especially in tougher economic times.
Analog vs cloud
There are now two main families of phone systems: analog and digital. Legacy phones use the old copper wires’ network and desk phones, when digital phone systems (“cloud-based” or “Voice over Internet Protocol – VoIP”) work by sending and receiving voice packets over the internet using specific software. They run on computers or mobile devices.
Digital phone systems are increasingly becoming popular. Because they run on software, they offer sophisticated functionalities, as well as lower costs. They don’t require purchasing extra equipment, and because the information goes through the Internet, there are no rental costs associated with traditional phone lines.
They also offer more flexibility, with the ability to create domestic or international phone numbers in a few clicks. As a small business grows, this scalability is welcome, and there is no need to reorganise office spaces for physical phones. They are also adapted to remote work and distributed teams, only requiring a laptop, a working internet connection, and perhaps a headset.
Finally, they include smart functionalities, such as Interactive Voice Response systems, conference calling and call whispering, note-taking and sharing, call recording or call routing to name a few. They also integrate with other business apps and tools. For example when a customer listed in the company’s CRM calls, their name will appear, and the agent who picks up has all the information and history related to the caller available.
Cloud phone systems have one weakness: the quality of calls is related to the internet speed. When inquiring about cloud phones, small businesses should check with vendors if their internet speed is sufficient.
Sales and customer services transformation
Customer services and sales is where VoIP systems show their full potential. Among 2,000+ customers surveyed by Aircall considered that their recent interaction with customer services had an immediate impact on their perception of the brand, and their loyalty to it (55%). There is an increasing correlation between the quality of customer services and the success of a business, and the right phone system can empower an agent to provide a better customer experience.
It can also improve sales activities. Plexus is an Aussie legal tech company that uses Aircall, which is plugged into their CRM, Salesforce, and their sales engagement platform, Outreach. Their Head of Growth Operations, William Clarke, says “Our sales team has seen a 240% increase in call volume since the team paired Aircall with Outreach. Based on call volume alone, it’s worth every dollar.” He adds, “The biggest win for me here isn’t necessarily the increase, but getting an accurate representation on where time is spent which we couldn’t see before.”
Assessing phone systems
If you are considering a digital phone solution, here are a few things you should absolutely ask vendors:
- Reliability & availability – What is the anticipated failure rate? What level of downtime can your business anticipate, and what are the contributing factors?
- Usability – Ask for a demo to assess how user-friendly a solution is, and how easy implementation is . You want to avoid a tedious roll out and spare your team long training sessions.
- Cost – What are the “all-in” costs of hardware and software? Consider dialing costs, including long-distance, and additional numbers/lines or features when inquiring.
- Vendor References – are there existing, local customers able to provide a reference or discuss their experience with you?
- Local support – if there is an issue, is the support team based in your region?
- Integrations – Does the solution integrate with your other tech tools?