Aug 11th, 2010 by marcelo

Maybe you’ve seen the commercials asking you to dump your phone company, but what does that really mean? You are really just going to dump them for another… that is, unless you become your own phone company. Actually, This can be done using your current internet connection and some simple, reasonably inexpensive equipment.

I am talking about VoIP (Voice over IP) connection and a premises based PBX (private branch exchange). A good consultant can get you up and running in no time and for very little up front. I know people who saved the cost to install within 3 months and became more profittable right away because of it. Here are 5 of the benefits and how it works.

1. Save money

It seems anyone who tries to convince you to go Voice over IP will list this first and why not? Businesses are around to make money and every penny saved helps the business to reach it’s goal.  How though? There will still be charges but they are different and generally much lower. I will explain.

The typical business needs several lines to operate and how many depends on the number of employees and the amount of business that is d0one over the phone. A parts supplier that does business nationally may have about 10 employees in the front office. Due to inquiries and standard business they will probably need at least 6 lines (5 people on the phone at one time and the ability to take an extra call without a busy signal.) From the phone company this typically means 6 different physical lines with corresponding telephone numbers. These numbers are tied together by some sort of hunt group where the caller calls in on one line and a device “hunts” for an open line to connect them to. Essentially 5 numbers are wasted in many cases. Average cost per line after all taxes and fees is about $45, so before making a single call this company has spent $280 monthly.

VoIP can beat this in many ways. Firstly, with a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) you decide how calls are routed and how many incoming calls you need. You still need to buy the bandwidth but you can specify how many concurrent calls you need, how many telephone numbers you need, and what happens when those numbers are called (more on that later). As an example, our company offers a package with 6 simultaneous calls and 6 telephone numbers for under $90 monthly. This deal also inlcudes unlimted local and 1500 long distance minutes.

Once calls start being made the bill for even a modest company can easily triple. Long distance and 800 services with a traditional carrier can run about 6 cents per minute. Any good VoIP company will be able to keep your costs around 2 cents per minute. Bottom Line? 10,000 minutes will cost $600 from the phone company versus $170. add it all up and the phone bill goes from $880 to $260. That is over $600 dollars in savings per month for even a modest  company. The savings are many times greater for a larger company, but VoIP isn’t just about savings… it is about running a business.

2. Give you scalability

If business could grow and shrink quickly to meet market demands the long term viability and profitability will be higher. When the opportunities are there the business needs to be ready to strike and during times of reorganization the company needs to be able to reign in costs. Adding employees with a PBX system is as easy as a few mouse clicks Anywhere there is internet an extension can sit, even wireless. Your company can expand its offices or move offices completely without ever calling a service technician. No running phone lines, no new switchboards and no new circuitry of any kind is necessary. However, overcoming physical limitations is only the beginning. You are able to take on new marketing capabilities with great ease.

Suppose your business wants to launch a new product line and start an entirely new marketing campaign. You can open a second business within your walls using the same employees and phone lines. While you can do this with a traditional phone company, it would take weeks to get the installer out and get it done right, also, you would have to allocate phone lines that you aren’t even sure would get used. With your PBX, it could be done in an hour and much more seamlessly. The intelligent system can identify what company the caller is trying to reach, route the call in any number of ways to the right people, and even flash on the screen of the employee how to answer the phone. A tied in CRM can even bring up the appropriate script for the attendant to read as they answer the phone. You can be ready to take on new ventures as quickly as they can be conceived.

No matter what the size of your company, callers will be presented with an easy way to get to where you want them, on the phones with the appropriate people from your company and doing business..

3. Extend features to help your business

When I am first asked to evaluate a company I bring a questionnaire that I go over with the client personally in their office. It is a list of questions, some technical, some evaluational that will help determine what the greatest benefit will be for them. There is a list of questions that often have the same answer. These are:

  • How many minutes a day is each person on the phone?
  • Are you missing any sales because the caller hung up before someone got to them?
  • What is your average hold time?
  • How do you know if your agents are making more personal calls than business calls on your time?
  • Are your agents following company policy on the phone?
  • Have you had any complaints to outside agencies recently (like bbb)? What exactly was said to the caller when they tried to resolve the issue with you?

The answer to these very important questions is usually “I don’t know…” No one can afford not to know these things. The reality is, if you don’t know if you are letting business slip away you most definitely are. And in our survival-of-the-fittest business environment someone else is going to pick up that business and then use the revenues to put you out of business. A typical PBX will give you access to detailed reporting, stats, alerts, monitoring, barging, whispering and recording. A good provider will make the access to all of this so seamless you can browse over the data during your morning coffee and identify where your lost opportunities are. Sometimes these things can be fixed with a simple retraining of staff. Some problems might take a complete overhaul of resources and allocation, but at least you knew what was happening and had the opportunity to make the change.

4. Expand your business geography

Imagine being able to do business anywhere you have an internet connection as though you are sitting in your main office. One of the biggest hurdles to expansion for business owners is keeping the integrity of business while giving up control. It is your vision that got you to the point of expansion but you can’t expand without letting go of the reigns. With a PBX and VoIP you will be able to monitor and track any number of offices as though everyone is under one roof. You can have call centers in Texas, Idaho, and Japan that may as well be sitting next door to each other, and you will know who is on the phone with who and how long they have been on for. You can tell where your sales people in the field are with the click of a button, instant message them, or even whisper to them while they are selling a client. The don’t even need to be in the same state. Suddenly, your biggest hurdles are gone.

You don’t even need new office spaces to expand geographically. All of this can be accomplished with individual agents working from home if you wish and not miss a beat. Callers will still reach them by dialing your 800 number and ringing their extension. As far as the client goes, your main office is as far away as the agent that meets with them. By keeping communication tight, your agents will not feel like outside representatives, just extensions of your company. With the conferencing features standard on a good PBX you can arrange interactive video meetings with all of your agents as though you are in the same room. You can even invite clients in for a high tech sales call with the head of the company in the comfort of their home.

If there is business out there beyond your current business radius, you need to take control of your communication methods and get to it.

5. Add Professionalism

First impressions are the most important. Just because the saying is overused doesn’t make it less true. For many companies, the first time they call you is when you get the opportunity to make that impression. While the interactive voice recording (IVR) isn’t new to VoIP, only a good VoIP provider and PBX system can ensure that the experience goes well for the caller. Asterisk Based PBXs come with such feature rich IVRs that you can impress a client with a professional presentation that seemed to be catered to them. You can make changes to the menu from your desktop to shape it in a way that offers the best presentation based on your reports of what callers like, or -more importantly- identify a spot that callers don’t like and make the changes in minutes.

Some of the features we have implemented are:

  • Allow the caller to choose thier own hold music
  • Make the ring tone a weather report pulled from the caller’s area code
  • Free Google directory available to all callers
  • Conference rooms
  • Surveys
  • Hold time indicators
  • Automatic Call back requests instead of hold
  • much more… anything that can be programmed, really

All of this goes to increasing customer experience and making you look better. While many smaller companies don’t need most of these features, they can choose to implement any of them at any time without increase in cost.Tthey can make an office of 5 seem like a fortune 500 company to a caller. Moreover, if you ever plan to expand, you will never have to change systems again!

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