Finding the right phone system for your business is a key way to bring in more profits and craft better customer journeys – all while making your call agents’ jobs as easy as possible.
Ask yourself: does your current system do that?
You might think that the phone system you have now is good enough. But ‘good enough’ is a limiting mindset, and one that impedes growth.
The market for cloud-based phone systems for small businesses is constantly changing, and if you don’t keep up to date, you’ll get left behind. Even if your team is comfortable with what they’re currently using, they might not know what they’re missing out on.
It’s time for a deep-dive on how to choose the right phone system for your business — and why it matters.
Choosing your system
Every kind of phone system that targets small businesses has its pros and cons. There’s one key factor that stands above all the others, however: whether you’re upgrading an existing system, or putting in a new one for the first time.
If your business already has a phone system, upgrading it means getting access to new features, improved performance and enhanced flexibility. Quick and effective communication for your team is serious business that can dramatically increase your rate of growth, so don’t neglect it.
Even more important, a modern phone system for your business means more streamlined customer service, too. This is a key way to increase revenue and customer satisfaction: there’s no point losing potential buyers because of flaky or unreliable phone lines.
Alright, let’s say you decide to upgrade.
The next big question is what kind of new phone system is right for your business. The solution that’s taking the business world by storm is ‘voice over internet protocol’ (VoIP) calling, also called cloud-based phone systems. These new systems have the potential to massively streamline your business operations and connect more of its functions together.
What are the benefits of cloud-based phone systems?
A primary benefit of cloud-based phone systems is that they make it easy to set up call centers for inbound and outbound calls. While this is important, you might not be ready to switch over just yet. Even so, having the underlying VoIP infrastructure that supports it is a good idea, as you never know when you’ll need to switch.
Of course, if you’re a startup or your business doesn’t currently have any phone infrastructure in place – cables, contracts, dangling wires – then the most sensible option is to go with a cloud-based system from the start. You’ll get the benefit of VoIP integrations with your other tools from the start, saving trouble down the line and increasing efficiency.
Naturally, the specific kind of solution you choose will depend on the size of your business, your internet connection and how much time or money you’re willing to spend on setup.
What types of phone systems are there?
Even if a cloud-based phone system for small businesses is usually the best choice, learning more about the different kinds of phone systems out there will help you make a more informed purchase.
The main difference is how your voice is carried from one end of the line to the other.
There are two options: the traditional physical cables, which converts your voice into an electric current, or via the internet, which uses data packets. Of course, taking things online also gives digital phone systems several new features over ‘plain old telephone systems’ (POTS).
Here are the four main types of phone systems:
- Analog, which transmits your voice signals over copper wires
- VoIP, which transmits your voice signals via data packets
- Private branch exchange (PBX), an office-based setup where multiple phone cables each have the capacity of twenty-three individual lines
- IP PBX, a variation on PBX that uses digital data packets rather than physical wires
The primary difference between VoIP and IP PBX is that VoIP lets you share calls with other software on your computers, enabling what’s known as ‘omnichannel’ communication.
In most cases, VoIP is the clear winner out of these four, and is rapidly becoming the preferred choice for small businesses.
Why? Simply put, they’re more flexible. No longer tied to a physical cable at your office, employees can work from home. All they need is a working internet connection and a headset, and you’ve got yourself a virtual call center.
Remote working is also one of the most important perks a business can offer going forward. Flexjobs reports that 82% of workers who can work from home stay loyal to their business. That’s huge, and even bigger is CBS News’ report that remote-working companies typically see a 10% bump in revenue. These numbers don’t lie — remote working matters.
Do your phones work with the rest of your tools?
If you run a small or medium-sized business, you don’t really have the luxury of trying out every hot new product that lands in your inbox. It’s a lot safer – and cheaper – to stick with what you know.
The issue with this, however, is that leads to all of your tools working in isolation from one another. This siloed approach means your employees have to learn, manage and update each system separately, costing unnecessary time and money. Even worse, moving data between systems is a prime opportunity for confusion, mistakes, and even data loss.
The solution? Centralization. When you have a ‘single source of truth’, where all your data is centralized into just one tool, everything becomes much simpler. That might sound impractical to set up, but cloud-based phone systems can easily integrate with other tools to send vital contact information, like caller history and call recordings to your central database.
Using a cloud-based system to enhance your performance
There’s plenty of other benefits to using a cloud-based phone system for a small business, too. Here are some of them:
- They can talk with your CRM
- They let you share notes and information internally
- They enable an omni-channel approach — inbound and outbound communication all happens in the same place
- They offer call whispering, letting you coach call agents during their calls
- They automate repetitive tasks, saving you time and effort
- They provide cold, hard data in real-time for crafting actionable business plans
In short, using cloud-based systems integrated with the rest of your business’ software setup lets your employees work more efficiently and provide more consistently great service.
Can your phone system scale?
The point of starting a business is to see it grow. You should have goals for where you want to be five years from now, and then five years on from that. But growth isn’t something you can predict. Your business could take off any day, and you don’t want your tech to hinder it.
That’s why it’s vital to choose a phone system for your business that can scale, working just as well no matter how much pressure you put on it. This is another key benefit of using cloud-based phone systems for small businesses: they’re incredibly efficient at scaling to high levels.
But why care about scalability now, when you’re just starting out? To put it simply, it’ll save you trouble in the long run. You’ll save money on hiring new employees to handle increased load or busy seasons, not to mention the cost of installing new systems when you inevitably have to upgrade. Scalable software means it does the work – not you.
Streamlining your operations in this way lets your business offer more products and services without any extra cost. Using the right phone system can be the decisive advantage that makes you a brand leader in your chosen field.
Even if remote or distributed teams seem unrealistic right now, it’s good to think ahead. When you decide to start a call-center five years down the line, on-site or off, it’ll be a hundred times easier if you already have the right kind of phone system in place.
The best ways to use your phone system to grow your business
Websites are important because they let anyone learn about your company, whether they’re just down the street or on the other side of the world. As such, modern communication speeds means you can expand your business far quicker than ever before – if you take advantage of it. When customers find your website, they can be able to order your products or speak to one of your representatives without ever leaving their home.
As a consequence, retail is dying. According to Forbes, eCommerce sellers are seeing nearly 130% year-on-year growth in the U.S. and Canada, with online retail orders increasing by almost 150%.
Where do phone systems come into all this? As consumers shift towards online sales, cloud-based call centers are becoming the backbone of every successful eCommerce company. They’re what will enable your company to keep its head above the water in a rapidly changing industry.
Cloud-based phone system features you need to know about
The tech behind analog phones is over a hundred years old. It makes sense that VoIP, as the new kid on the block, would have a long list of features its older cousin doesn’t have. Here’s a list of how you can use them to hack your business’ growth:
- Automatically enable your phones according to your business hours
- Record customized messages for off-hours callers
- Send calls to the right teammates automatically with an interactive voice response (IVR) system
- Set up a virtual call center from your cloud-based phone system’s dashboard
- Use call commenting and shared inboxes to let your teams collaborate on tasks
- Keep all your systems up-to-date automatically
- Freeze inbound callers queues until agents are free
- Easily record any call for future training sessions
- Use a power dialer to automatically call long lists of numbers for you
- Send calls to your teams’ mobile devices easily
- Categorize and tag calls, so you can follow up on them later for after-call work
- Use call whispering to let you coach call agents during their calls
- Integrate your phones with your CRM to update data automatically
- Enable enhanced analytics to make data-driven call evaluations
- Get a real-time perspective on what your team is doing with live-feeds
Which features matter most will depend on the internal setup of your business, naturally. But all of them are useful things to add to the toolbox, and even if you never have cause to use them, it’s good to know that they exist.
Maximizing the benefits of cloud-based phone systems for small businesses
Let’s step back for a big-picture view of how these features come together to materially improve your business. The benefits can make a serious difference, especially for small or medium-sized companies, so it’s worth thinking about how they’ll help you reach the results you’re after.
- Increased efficiency – We care about software because it saves us time and effort, and cloud-based phones do this by streamlining customer support, increasing sales, shortening turnaround times and getting leads through the sales funnel faster
- A more professional image – Modern, high-quality phone systems lead to better customer experience, which in turn increases conversions and improves your PR. Call centers aren’t just functional – a good one will improve your branding, too
- Wider access to international markets – Moving away from legacy phone systems makes it easier to talk with people in different markets. VoIP is universal: calling someone in Dubai is just as cheap as someone next door
- Prevent missed calls – Missed calls are a sign your business isn’t scaling to demand like it should. Cloud-based phone systems inherently scale better than analog ones, meaning missed calls become a thing of the past
- An automated workflow – Manually transferring calls or updating multiple systems with the same information introduces chances for costly errors to be made. Using cloud solutions to automate this stops crisis situations before they even happen
Most importantly of all, these features don’t exist in isolation. The benefits of a cloud-based system all feed into each other, forming a positive feedback loop that takes your customer journeys to the next level.
The best practices for building your own call center
Building a call center isn’t easy. You’re dealing with a lot of traffic, and poor decisions could lead to very annoyed customers down the line. Here’s the best ways to stop that from happening.
- Train your agents and get them up to speed with the software so they can do their job properly – a craftsman is nothing without their tools
- Use your solutions’ follow-up capabilities to keep tabs on your customers – the customer journey doesn’t end when the phone call does
- Find your key performance indicators and take them seriously – track your speed, efficiency and call quality, then use them to make actionable improvement plans
- Establish a single source of truth for your customer data – this makes it easier to provide customized service that builds brand loyalty
- Train your agents to use positive language, even on negative calls – this will ensure your brand image stays warm and inviting to customers
- Conduct regular surveys to get data directly from customers on their experiences
- Tie all these points together to make a cohesive company culture that your agents can live and breathe, and that your customers can identify with
Keeping your customer service high-quality is as important to increasing sales as it’s always been. It’s how you deliver that customer service that matters: sell experiences and journeys, not products.
FInding out how to do that all starts with your phone system. Making the right choices at the outset in terms of infrastructure is the best way to build a communication platform for your team that’s stable, scalable and effective.
Cloud-based phone systems for small businesses are the way forwards. Investing in them is going to be key in building memorable customer experiences that reflect back in your bottom line.