Don’t Skimp on a Phone System for Business

When choosing a business phone system, remember the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’. If you put in the effort to start and grow your business, cutting back and using a free phone service will only cause you problems.

So you have a growing company, and you currently pay very little for your phone calls because you are using a free service. It might seem like a good idea now but what about as your business grows? Do you want people to continue to view your business as a one man shop? If not, then you need to upgrade to a professional phone system. And with all the inexpensive VoIP hosted PBX options out there (telecom in the cloud) you not only set yourself up as a professional business but are ready for growth.

VoIP hosted PBX systems normally offer many features that free phone systems do not offer like: call queues, call reporting, call recording, and transcribed voicemails (voicemail to text).

Now, don’t get me wrong, those free phone systems a lot of fans who rave about the features it gives them. But, it’s simply not a professional phone system that any size business should utilize for their day to day operations.

Here are the reasons why you should NOT use a free phone system as a business phone system:

1. It Isn’t a Phone System

No admin login, no separate user logins, no call reporting, no call queues, no unlimited phone numbers, no toll free numbers, no logs for different users, no logs for different numbers, no e911, no dial by name directory, no web faxing, no music on hold etc. etc. It’s just NOT a phone system.

But… if you need more reasons:

2. Most free phone systems are not Based on SIP (Session Internet Protocol) and therefore Lacks Features

Systems that use SIP have many advantages over a POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) in that they can utilize many of the programmable features that only calls sent over SIP can provide. As an example, Asterisk is a programming language based on SIP and is constantly coming out with new features for VoIP providers. Asterisk is an open source software and therefore available for free. Some of the features free services are lacking that a business will need include: Call Queues, Conference Bridges with a Pin Number and email reminders, Call Reports, Administration and User level logins for managing lines/extensions, web faxing, a dial by name directory, music on hold, e911, and much, much more.

3. You Cannot Use Free Services on a Soft Phone

Since most free phone systems are not based on SIP, users of the system cannot use a SIP based client like a soft phone. Soft phones are software programs that run on a computer that enable users to make/receive calls over the internet. An example of a soft phone is Skype. Soft Phones are used by many companies for call centers and in place of a company phone. Soft phones are free to start and then can cost a small one-time cost for a lot of extra features. One company that sells soft phones is Counterpath.

4. Most Free Phone Systems Only Offer One Local Number

With most of these free phone services you are only given one local number. With the advent of VoIP, businesses can finally get local business numbers for any location in the U.S. without having to have a physical location there. So, many businesses are seeing the benefit of maintaining multiple local phone numbers. For example, if your business is located in Austin, Texas but you have vendors in New Orleans, Louisiana, you may want to give them a local number that they can call instead of having to make long distance calls or using your toll-free minutes on your toll-free number. If you have a VoIP hosted PBX system, you can purchase as many local numbers from as many local U.S. destinations as you want. And, you can forward these numbers to any location you want including your cell phone, an extension at your business, or your VoIP phone (wherever that might be located).

5. Free Phone Services Usually Do Not Work with Powerful VoIP Phones

Many of the features that are making businesses more successful when using VoIP are only accessible using a VoIP phone. Polycom, for example, has a entire line of VoIP phones used just for conference rooms. There are also phones used by secretaries that show who is on the phone, as well as basic VoIP phones with buttons like ‘hold’, ‘mute’, ‘headsets’, ‘conference’, ‘forward’, ‘Contact Directory’, ‘Call Lists’, ‘Messages’ and much more. And with a VoIP phone, you can use your phone anywhere in the world you have a dedicated internet connection.

6. HD Voice (wideband audio) is Not Available with Free Phone Services

Wideband audio is an audio technology used in telephony. It extends the frequency range of audio signals transmitted over telephone lines, resulting in higher quality speech. With HD, Voice calls sound clear and crisp, almost like the person is standing right next to you. HD Voice is available with most VoIP hosted PBX providers and with most VoIP phone providers but not with free phone services.

7. Free Phone Services – Voicemail to Text Service is Crummy at Best

Perhaps one of the free phone services coolest features is also currently among its weakest. The transcription service can give you some less-than-literal translations. Voicemails may or may not come through perfectly when transcribed to text. “I hope to see you soon” may come through as “I love your friend June.” Ouch.

8. Privacy Can Be An Issue for Free Phone System Users

Preston Gralla of Computer World says “Lost in all the hooplah about the release of — is this disturbing fact: The service will give (Internet Browser Company) — enormous amounts of information about the intimate details of your everyday life, including recordings of your voice mail and possibly your phone calls. Combined with what (Internet Browser Company) — already knows about you, it could mean your privacy is at an end.” Gralla goes on to say: “— will be offered for free. (Internet Browsing Company) —, though, will certainly be looking for ways to make money from it. One of the most obvious ways is via targeted advertising, particularly because the company recently announced that it’s going to figure out new ways to target ads based on your interests. It already does this with — So don’t be surprised to see ad targeted based on who calls you.”

9. Free Phone Services Do Not Offer Phone Support

Okay, this has to be the biggest problem with relying on a free phone service for your companies phone system needs. Have you, or anyone you know, ever been able to actually talk to their support for anything? I doubt it. Go with a provider you can talk to any time since having a working phone system is most likely a crucial factor in your businesses success.

10 Free Phone Services Do Not Look Professional

Bottom line is, when you are trying to get a new customer to trust you, the fact that you are using free phone services instead of paying for a better phone system shows that you just don’t care. You don’t care that your phone calls are possibly being monitored, don’t care that your phone calls are breaking up and sound terrible, and you don’t care about having reliable business telecommunications.

Conclusion

Free phone systems are not meant to be used to run a business’s telecommunications system. The “fun” little features that they tout are just that, fun. They won’t help you run your business more efficiently and in fact will most likely slow you down. I mean who has time to set up different voicemail greetings for different callers when you are trying to run a business?? And do you really need that?? So stick with what works and grow your business without having to worry that your phone system will drag you down. Choose a VoIP hosted PBX system and you can’t go wrong.

Automated Phone System Can Improve Service To Your Customers

If you are in the market to buy an automated phone system, this powerful business tool would be effective for your business and can help you to reduce your employee staffing costs.

These telephone systems have extremely advanced functions and features that allows this type of phone technology to able to answer a large volume of incoming telephone calls. Some of these systems can even make outbound calls for your company. Generally speaking, these feature rich systems can easily be integrated with your existing phone, voice mail, or fax systems.

In order to maximize the power and efficiency of an automated phone application, it is important that you match the system you buy with the appropriate and specific needs of your business and industry. The typical automated telephone program will have a plethora of features like automated call answering, call forwarding and call waiting functions to help your business run more efficiently.

One of the most popular features that many automated phone systems can provide is when you or one of your staff are unavailable or not in the office, the system can re-route your call to your home phone number, your cell phone number or to any telephone number you designate.

When you accurately select a good quality phone software, all of your customers and prospective customers can be quickly routed to the appropriate company staff member who can best serve them.

As any business owner will attest to, in a small business there is always much to do and much to follow up on. If you have to pay someone to answer your company phone, you may find that doing so is not the best utilization of your personnel, especially if you’re a new business or a home business working on a tight budget.

If you have to designate a dedicated person to answer the phone, it may require that person to take time, energy and money away from other more important tasks that could better serve the company. And of course, you will have the additional expense and cost of training, hiring and replacing people to maintain the job.

So when you properly use one of these telephone application, you can actually reduce your staffing costs while improving efficiency.

Make Your Automated Phone System User Friendly

When setting up your software, it is important to always keep your customer in mind.

We all have been an unhappy customer after calling a big company. Although the company’s goal was to improve its efficiency, frequently the end result is an experience for the customer that is outrageously frustrating and time wasting.

To increase customer satisfaction, you should always make all messages as short as possible. Try to always give the customer five options or less at a time. If it is in any way possible, you should always provide your customer with an option to speak to a live person for immediate assistance.

By setting up your automated phone system properly with the customer’s needs in mind, your new software will actually help you improve service to your customers.

Consider Asterisk Phone Systems For Your Business Communications Needs

All business operations want to save money. One of the biggest office expenses can be the various aspects of telecommunication, from PBX setups to call center operations. Utilizing open source telephony, Asterisk phone systems have been under development since 1999, and can provide a wide range of services and applications. This free software can transform an ordinary computer into a communications server.

What exactly does the Asterisk system do that other systems can not? This software system is often referred to as a “development platform, ” and it can be used to run everything from small business PBX systems to huge media servers. Open source technology, besides being free, is customizable and versatile. The Asterisk system uses Linux, the freely available source code that has challenged other major systems.

Asterisk, while originally designed for Linux, now also incorporates Mac OS X, NetBSD, OpenBSD, FreeBSD and Solaris. It can also provide a Microsoft Windows port called Asterisk Win32. When installed, the Asterisk software can transform an ordinary computer into a device that can function as a conference server, PBX or VoIP gateway. Asterisk PBX systems include many of the same features found in proprietary systems, including voice response for phone menus, conference calling, voice mail, and call distribution.

The original operating code was written by Mark Spencer of Digium Inc., in addition to contributions from open-source engineers worldwide. Asterisk is not a phone company in the sense that it manufactures telephone sets or physical components. Rather, it will provide the basic software building blocks for many communications systems, and can be constantly changed as conditions require.

Many call centers around the world have adopted the Asterisk system primarily because it is flexible and adaptable to existing features such as bulk dialing, remote IP agent capabilities, and advanced routing. It requires no additional hardware for use with voice over IP. It does require hardware devices and cards for certain kinds of interfaces, including standard telephony cards, and this support comes from the parent company, Digium, Inc.

Featured in telephony and PBX are VoIP and PTSN drivers for interface cards, and routing and handling inbound calls as well as outbound. There is control of media management functions such as tone generation, record and play, and call detail for billing purposes. The system can convert from one protocol or media format to another, and is capable of database integration as well as Web services integration. It is capable of single or multiple party bridging and recording and monitor functions.

Asterisk can also provide a telephony setup program called AsteriskNOW. Downloading it allows customization, and the creation of solutions by building the inner workings of a system. Much of the complexity of Asterisk and Linux is handled by the administrative GUI. This allows your system engineer to completely incorporate into an existing system such products as VoIp or Skype Gateway, IP PBX, a Call Center ACD, Conference Bridge, and much more.

The free open-source technology of Asterisk phone systems has been adopted by call centers and businesses of all sizes worldwide. If you are looking for a different solution to your PBX or call center issues, the Asterisk system can combine the time-proven features and functionality of traditional PBX with the advanced Voice over IP system for a solution that is both cost-effective and up-to-the minute.