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.

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.

Business Phone System Maintenance Is Essential for Optimum Performance

A business phone system not only improves the customer experience, but also provides the business with a cost-effective and efficient way to route calls. However, this is only true if the system is running properly and is maintained by knowledgeable personnel. As with any type of technology, over time parts and components can cease to function and will need to be replaced. Depending on the system purchased, these replacement parts can either be nonexistent or very expensive to procure.

This is why it is essential that support and maintenance of the business phone be considered prior to purchase. Although replacement hardware is a key component of keeping a business phone system up and running, there are other maintenance tasks that should be completed on a regular basis to keep the phone system running at its optimum performance.

As technology advances, the operating system and firmware versions need to be consistently updated to keep pace with new technology. Many performance issues can appear when additional features are added without upgrading the core components of the system. In many cases, advancements in network technology can have a direct effect on the performance of a voice over IP enabled phone system. In most cases, the system vendor will have recommendations to upgrade firmware on key hardware components or they might even suggest that you upgrade to the latest version of software available.

In the case of upgrading software, the upgrade will come at an additional cost with the expense of labor for the upgrade being included in the total cost. When upgrading firmware, if the business system is covered under a maintenance agreement, the labor is covered under this agreement with no additional cost to the business owner. Firmware upgrades should be completed periodically to ensure that the system is always running with the latest version of firmware. Most manufacturers make changes to the firmware to address particular performance issues and they release this firmware for specific reasons. If the firmware is not periodically upgraded, the business might not be taking advantage of advancements in technology.

Backing up the business phone system is another area of importance that should be completed on a daily basis or at least whenever there’s a change made to the system. As with any computerized technology, should the system have a major failure you’ll need a backup to restore service as soon as possible. Without a backup of all extensions, call routing, and announcements, the phone system information would have to be re-entered manually. This essentially causes the system to have to be set up all over again which would cost the business valuable time and money. The preferable way to maintain backups would be to create a directory on a server where backups could be written to this directory on a nightly basis. The backups for the system would then be backed up as part of the backup for the file server. Having these backups immediately available is added assurance that should a catastrophic failure occur that communications could be restored in minimal time.

System monitoring is another way to ensure optimal performance and to stay ahead of potential issues before they arise. In most cases, when hardware begins to fail it will often trigger alarms on the phone system. Using software to monitor these alarms, a system administrator can become aware of a potential problem and arrange to have the hardware replaced before it fails completely. This is also true in the case of circuits or phone lines that are performing poorly. When the circuits are not performing properly, this can contribute to poor call quality or audio issues. Even though the issue resides outside of the phone system, monitoring tools can help the system administrator determine which circuit is having the issue so that the problem can be reported to the communications provider. Monitoring the system allows for a proactive approach for troubleshooting and system maintenance.

Since most business systems today are voice over IP enabled, network performance is a key element in how well the phone system performs when making or receiving calls. Monitoring on the network side should also be completed with VoIP technology in mind. The business phone system also has tools that will help the system administrator pinpoint causes of poor audio quality that are related to network performance issues. These tools are dependent on the model of phone system purchased however; most manufacturers recognize the need to have a way to monitor VoIP traffic on a converged network.

The purchase of a business phone system is not the last major decision that needs to be made for communications for your business. Ongoing maintenance and repair is required to keep the phone system running at the highest levels of reliability. Being proactive through monitoring and maintenance will ensure that the phone system for your business will always provide a professional and efficient way of communication.