Voice over IP; until recently, it was a technology that made you think more about patchy free overseas calls rather than cutting edge business tech – but there’s a new generation of service provider that are helping businesses make the most of these hosted phone systems.
It’s not just cost savings that’s driving the uptake of next-generation hosted phone systems either. A fresh look at what telephones can offer has paved the way to some incredible business benefits; but why is that fresh perspective needed? What can VoIP offer forward-thinking businesses? And, crucially, how much does this innovation cost?
Rethinking the humble phone
For most businesses, phones have represented the backbone of communication for as long as we can remember. We know the basic functions well; as well as answering and making calls, we can hold, redial and transfer – but that’s about it.
The thing is, this doesn’t sound entirely unreasonable. In fact, we’ve generally developed our business processes around what our phones can do – but for many of us, these processes haven’t really updated – despite leaps forward in what phones could offer.
Since the processes remain the same – there’s no need to improve the tech. As a result, our fairly limited phones have sat on our desks for a long time, never growing on the basic functions that we rely on.
To really understand what phones are now capable of, it’s helpful to forget the phone functionality know.
A phone system is no longer just a voice communication system – instead, it can be a complex part of an IT network, representing a mesh that has the potential to securely tie together all our applications. Combine that with a series of APIs, and we can transform the conversations and inputs our customers and end-users make into real action across our applications.
A digital interface with phones at the core
The real power in a hosted, VoIP phone system lays in the programs that tie it all together. Now, voice or button-push inputs no longer simply have to be translated into verbal communication with an end-user in your company – these inputs can be translated into a world of possibilities.
The beauty of this approach is that it doesn’t require any additional knowledge or skill from your customers. Sure, it’s nice to have a website with deep functionality and user admin panels – but this kind of tech isn’t accessible to everyone – whereas picking up and phone, pressing a few buttons and talking comes as second nature to almost everyone. Phones are ultra-accessible – and it’s this kind of accessibility that businesses are using VoIP to capitalise upon.
What’s possible with VoIP systems?
Hosted VoIP systems are almost infinitely flexible. Quite simply, they facilitate a range of inputs into your IT network, which, tied to the right applications, allow for an enormous range of functionality.
Of course, it’s not just their tying to your applications that make VoIP systems a hit with businesses. They also offer a huge range of call management options – all accessible from a management portal – allowing fine-tuning of the system on the fly.
Boosting end-user productivity
It’s suggested that call-handling staff generally spend just 62% of their working time actually handling calls – with the other 38% generally handling the administration and follow up work that’s needed around the calls.
With a well-setup VoIP system, this administration time can be slashed – primarily through the automation of tasks that would normally need to be carried out manually.
In some regard, using a VoIP system could be seen as completely ruling out the end-user ‘middle-man’ – and instead, providing a voice/multi-choice interface for the customer who calls in.
Making payment on an outstanding invoice is a good example here – as it highlights the inefficiency of end-user communications. With a customer calling an end-user, the process looks like this:
- Customer calls – end-user answers
- Customer explains requirement
- End-user accesses appropriate system
- Customer relays payment details
- End-user enters payment details and waits for response – before confirming payment
- Customer ends call
- End-user enters call details on CRM system
When a hosted voice system handles the call, the process is cut down to:
- Customer calls – system answers
- Customer choses requirement – system immediately directs to next step
- Customer follows instructions – payment is taken – system logs full interaction, transcribes call and updates CRM in real-time
- Customer ends call
Clearly, the second option is preferred – both from a customer service point of view and an end-user time perspective.
Don’t misunderstand though – tying a hosted voice system to a call management application isn’t intended to replace your human staff – instead, it’s designed to let them focus on the parts of the role that only humans can do. For instance, a computer system’s ability to handle conflict or delve into technical issues will be very limited – but these are thing kinds of things that end-users can excel at.
As such, productivity is up. Your end users don’t get bogged down with parts of the role that are repetitive or time-consuming – instead, they handle the parts that only they can do. What’s more, customer satisfaction goes up – as customers generally wish to get their business handled with accuracy but without unnecessary delay.
Dynamic routing of calls
VoIP solutions are also exceptionally useful when it comes to routing your incoming calls to suit your business need. For instance, calls into your company can be invisibly redirected to any other number in the world – so, if you’d like to put employees in work-from-home positions, embed them with clients, or even simply move them around your office according to need, your phone system makes getting calls to the right places simple.
How much does a sophisticated VoIP system cost?
After reading an article that goes into detail about the benefits of a VoIP system, you might expect to get to the end to find an installation and maintenance cost that is difficult or impossible for a small company to justify – but that simply isn’t going to be the case with VoIP.
You’ve got most of the infrastructure in place already.
VoIP hosted systems run on your IT network hardware, so, when you’ve found a company to get you up and running – you don’t need to worry about having engineers in to lay copper wires around your offices. In fact, in many cases, costs actually drops compared to the installation and maintenance of a traditional copper-based telephone system.
It’s rare the next-generation tech costs less than its predecessor – so, when it does (and it comes with countless other benefits) – it really makes sense for businesses to explore what VoIP can do for them.