Affordable Phone Systems for Small Businesses: Finding a Phone System on a Budget
Three things are necessary in order for a small business to succeed: an innovative product or service, great communication with customers and a meticulous approach to keeping spending in check. While many businesses prioritize the first part of this equation, the last two components can play an equally large role in your ongoing viability.
An affordable small business phone service helps keep your overhead low and your customers happy. In this article, you’ll learn all about why your business’s phone system should be a communications priority, and what your options are for moving your existing infrastructure into the 21st century.
Small Business Phone Systems: Facts and Stats at a Glance
How important are effective phone systems to small and medium sized businesses? What features do businesses want most? A March 2015 survey attempted to answer these and other questions. Here’s what they found:
- 74% of businesses rated voice communication “extremely important” or “very important” to achieving their goals
- 75% of internal communication is done over the telephone. Other tasks largely done by phone included ongoing customer/client communications (74%), inbound customer service and support (66%), and communication with vendors and business partners (63%)
- Nearly half (47%) of SMBs are likely to look for a new phone system at some point in the future. Of these, 86% plan on doing so within the next three years
- The number one reason why businesses were considering upgrading their phones was outdated equipment, cited by 64% of survey respondents. Other reasons included reducing costs (31%) and adding features (30%)
- 3-way calling is the most popular business phone feature, used by 60% of respondents. Other frequently used features include intercom (42%), conference call bridging (41%) and music-on-hold (40%)
- Most-desired features in a new phone system included voicemail-to-email functionality (38%) and remote desk phones (25%)
The survey also found that, while 68% of capital equipment purchasers were aware of VoIP as a current trend in the industry, a plurality (25%) of respondents could not identify what type of system their business currently used. Clearly, there is a need for greater education and awareness when it comes to phone systems for small businesses.
Why a Good Phone System Matters
For many businesses, the choice of a phone system may be more pragmatic than strategic. However, there are a few compelling reasons why it’s worth investigating your options before making a decision. Like any small business, you want to make smart choices that help you succeed, rather than cost you money. A good phone system will allow you to:
- Encourage growth — Choose a phone system that’s easily scalable to allow you to grow as necessary, without a large investment in infrastructure. You don’t want the cost of adding a new line to be the one factor preventing you from hiring additional staff. A quality phone system will be easy to expand and upgrade as necessary. While there’s no reason to pay for services or lines you don’t need, at the same time, it’s important for your business to keeps its options open for the future.
- Multitask more effectively — In many businesses, particularly those driven by sales, employees tend to spend a lot of time on the phone. A modern, high quality phone system will help them make the most of this time with additional features such as voicemail-to-email functionality, flexible routing and automation options, Internet integration and more. These features, as well as the ability to add new technology as it becomes available or as your needs change, are just a few of the benefits of a reliable phone system.
- Appear more professional — For many of your customers, a phone call is one of the first direct interactions they’ll have with your staff. Like it or not, the impression you make then will play an important part in how they think of you. A new phone system will help you respond to their needs more accurately, by directing their calls where it needs to go and minimizing hold times. A hosted phone system also allow you to add local phone numbers in other cities that ring into your central office and utilize all the same department or staff extensions, giving you a local presence in other markets without adding infrastructure. This gives you the appearance of being a larger, multi-location firm, even if everything is run out of a single office.
Ultimately, each of these benefits make the investment in a new system worth it. Upgrading now is a good idea, not just to plan for the future, but to help you make progress in a seamless, productive and profitable manner.
Today, there is no shortage of business phone systems out there. Available systems come in a wide range of price points, and with diverse feature sets. Finding a new phone system on a budget can seem like a daunting task.
Keep reading to learn more about your options, and about what you should look for if you’re in the market for an affordable phone solution for your small business.
Phone Systems in the Pre-Internet Age
When most people think of a business phone system, they picture a bulky, difficult-to-use landline based system. For many years, this was the way things were. Even as the age of smartphones began, many smaller businesses continued to use landlines, or an inefficient combination of landlines in the office and mobile phones for employees on the road. Clearly, there are major drawbacks to this. For starters, landlines are expensive to install and require a major investment in new equipment to add new numbers or features. You’re also often stuck paying long distance charges when doing business out of state or internationally.
Today, this technology and these limitations seem positively archaic. Most of us are now used to a world where information is available when you need it, communication across borders and vast distances is simple, and interfaces are intuitive. So why do so many cost-effective business phone systems fail to deliver on these promises? These days, the technology is available to make communication in the office as easy as it is everywhere else.
Beyond the Landline: Your Guide to Affordable VoIP in the Workplace
It wasn’t long ago that small businesses on a budget were limited in their options for upgrading or replacing their existing phone system. Enter VoIP. Voice-over-internet protocol, or VoIP, has come of age in recent years, as systems have become more reliable, more affordable and more sophisticated. Best of all, depending on the needs of your business, they can be considerably cheaper than traditional commercial land-line services.
With VoIP, instead of transmitting audio over a phone line, your conversation is converted to a digital format and transmitted over the Internet. When set up properly, the process is instantaneous — if you have ever used Skype or Viber to talk to someone, you’ve used a variation of VoIP technology. And many small companies you call are using a hosted VoIP phones systems yet you cannot tell the difference in call quality.
Business VoIP systems are a little more complex, but the principle still holds. If you’re considering switching your small business over to a VoIP system, one key distinction you’ll need to consider is the difference between on-premises and hosted systems:
- On-premises systems are business VoIP systems in which all components and infrastructure are installed at your location and managed on-site. Setting up a hosted VoIP system may require you to install a dedicated server at your place of business. This, of course, requires an additional expense. Another drawback of premise based VoIP systems is that when maintenance is required, either your own IT team will be responsible for it, or you will have to wait for a technician to visit your location. For these reasons, on-premises VoIP technology is more capital intensive with higher on-going maintenance costs and may be less suitable for a small business on a budget.
- Hosted VoIP systems, on the other hand, require less investment in infrastructure. As long as your Internet connection has the necessary bandwidth and your phones are compatible with VoIP, you can use a hosted system. Actually, you don’t even need a desk phone to use a hosted VoIP service, your cell phones can serve as your extensions, giving you and your team the ability to work from anywhere yet appear to all be sitting in the same office. As part of the general trend towards cloud-based systems in all aspects of IT, hosted VoIP offers many of the benefits of the software-as-a-service model. It’s easily scalable, reduces maintenance and infrastructure costs and, best of all, is completely worry-free. A good small business VoIP provider will guarantee a minimum level of up time and respond immediately to limit service interruptions and other issues when they happen.
Going Deeper: Benefits of VoIP Phone Systems for Small Business
As a small business on a budget, there are plenty of VoIP options available to you at nearly any price point. VoIP may be cheap, but as most business owners know, cheapest isn’t always best — particularly when it involves replacing your existing system. Here are some other key advantages of making the leap to VoIP:
- Mobile apps — Landline-based phone systems are extremely limited in the types of features they can offer their customers. With VoIP, however, you not only have a wider range of available apps and functions, but the apps available are also easier to learn and use. VoIP packages can be equipped with advanced features such as voicemail-to-email, virtual receptionists, customized call screening and more.
- Phone portability and virtual numbers — Because they are not tied to a physical line, VoIP phone systems allow for easy transferability between office and mobile devices. Say, for example, you have a salesperson who works part-time in the office and part-time on the road. With VoIP, customers only have to call one number to reach them. VoIP also allows you to add virtual phone numbers in any area code. If you want to attract customers outside your immediate region, VoIP allows them to reach you easily via a local number.
- Service and scalability — With a hosted VoIP in particular, as long as your Internet connection is working, you can stay in contact with your customers. This simplifies emergency planning and business continuity, and it frees you from outages when your local phone company is working on their lines. Additionally, VoIP more easily accommodates your business’s growth. Adding new numbers can be done remotely without requiring a service call.
How to Keep Costs Down
VoIP is the value leader when it comes to cost-effective phone solutions for your small business. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still a wide range of options. Being smart about what you purchase and doing the research necessary to get a clear picture of what’s actually out there is one of the best things you can do to keep costs down. Here are some other ways to save:
- Plan ahead — Know the true costs of what’s involved in installing a new system. Many VoIP providers appear cheaper on paper. But businesses soon discover that the necessary upgrades to their backend, which may include a new server or improved Internet connection, quickly drive up costs.
- Buy what you need — One of the great benefits of a VoIP is its expanded functionality compared to traditional landline-based PBX systems. The ability to add features is great, and many of them can have real benefits for your business that are worth the investment. With that being said, it’s easy to get sucked into paying more for apps and features you don’t need. Be honest with yourself about how your staff works and what they are most likely to integrate into their existing habits and workflow.
- Consider buying hardware used — Hardware is one of the main expenses of any VoIP system. Fortunately, as more businesses upgrade and expand their systems, the used market for VoIP phones has taken off. It isn’t difficult to find barely used hardware available for resale at a price that is considerably less than what you’d pay new. Of course, the usual caveats about purchasing anything used still apply — only buy through a reputable supplier who stands behind what they sell and offers repair service and other support when required.
Get Started With Affordable Small Business VoIP From Access Direct
VoIP is a great concept with almost limitless potential. As a result, it’s no surprise that countless companies are jumping into this growing market. As a small business owner, however, you know that even the best technology is limited when the company providing it doesn’t deliver on their promises. That’s why it’s so important to carefully select a business VoIP provider you can trust.
AccessDirect is a recognized leader in affordable small business phone systems. We started small and grew as a result of hard work, great products and exceptional customer service. We know what today’s small and medium businesses require in an affordable phone system provider, and we work tirelessly to deliver it to everyone we serve. We can put together a virtual phone system for your business that saves you money, improves your productivity and positions you for success well into the future.
While your business’s phone system may not immediately seem like a big deal, it’s ultimately a vital component of how you communicate with your customers. The more efficiently and cost-effectively you can do so, the better their experience will be. Let AccessDirect handle the difficult work of keeping you connected for less — browse our website to learn more about your options for finding a better phone system on a budget, or contact our office today for assistance.