Are you looking for a voice-over-IP (VoIP) service that is suitable for a hybrid workforce?
Here are some of the best strategies to be sure your choice is the right one.
Understand Your Rates
Small firms and startups frequently use business-grade voice-over-IP (VoIP) service providers, particularly now that the COVID-19 epidemic has sped up the shift in culture toward hybrid work. With per-user monthly billing in the majority of circumstances, VoIP excels at duplicating the capabilities of a large enterprise PBX for a fraction of the cost. However, it's also a fantastic choice for remote employees who want the same communications tools as they had in the office. Additionally, since your phone calls are now data, you have access to a whole new world of flexibility. VoIP becomes even more crucial for businesses when the different file-sharing, chat, and even video-conferencing functions are included.
Due to its adaptability, VoIP solutions can be combined with other systems, such as your help desk or customer relationship management (CRM) system. These connections might assist you in searching your call records for fresh information about the attitudes of your clients and the demographics of your target market. VoIP services are quite flexible and provide a plethora of capabilities for business customers to take into account, but what ratio of features and cost should you be looking for?
The simple answer is: Move cautiously, do your research, and don't base your decision just on price if you've decided to switch to a VoIP service but aren't sure where to start. There are many incredible corporate VoIP systems available, but picking one can be challenging because they all have distinct features and price models.
Despite the fact that we just advised against obsessing over price, let's face it: It matters. If you can't afford it, what use is selecting a corporate VoIP service with all the bells and whistles?
How can you determine which is best for you? That's where factors other than price enter the picture. Businesses in the growth stage should plan ahead for the features they will require today while also being imaginative enough to see what they will require in the future. Verify that your VoIP supplier can scale as needed and take future price implications into account. You'll know what your voice platform's absolute minimum requirements are once you map features to the business processes that call for voice. The next step is just comparison shopping.
Look for Dialing Options That Are Flexible
One of the best things about VoIP systems is the variety of call-making options they provide. Their most fundamental purpose is to simulate a conventional PBX, where employees make and receive calls using the most basic handsets and headsets. While some VoIP systems allow you to connect your current phones, others sell elegant VoIP phones with additional functionality.
Another dialing choice that is specific to VoIP systems is softphones. A softphone is exactly what it sounds like: software that runs on your computer and imitates phone functionality using the headset, microphone, and speakers that are attached to it. Numerous of these apps include a plethora of functions that are not available through standard phone systems, like calendar integration, team messaging and collaboration, and the capacity to transmit and receive files while on the phone.
Mobile softphones go one step further in this. Field workers frequently require a mobile device with a complete complement of communications features. Sadly, not all VoIP service providers have mobile apps for softphones that offer the same features and benefits as their desktop counterparts. The majority of the systems we evaluated support both Apple iOS and Google Android mobile apps, but their features and quality vary. For instance, if the call is not answered, the mobile app may occasionally be unable to record calls or transcribe voicemails. There is a movement within the industry to create mobile softphone programmes as strong and full of features as their desktop versions, but it pays to test these out on the mobile device of your choice.
Take Collaboration Features into Account
Full-featured VoIP services extend their speech capabilities with a range of online collaboration features that your staff can utilise to connect, communicate, and collaborate. Users have the option of accessing these features through a unified communications client (see below), individual apps made available by the VoIP provider, or third-party integration (also below). SMS texting, video conferencing, and online group meetings are examples of basic choices.
However, as the industry develops, you'll find services with either more features or sophisticated interpretations of the fundamentals. One common feature of online meeting collaboration and video conferencing is the ability to share the screen during presentations or software demonstrations. While keeping track of participants and versions, more recent interpretations might allow each call participant to annotate a shared document. Integrations for scheduling and calendars are also widespread, frequently employing a central directory service. Advanced services provide customization options that enable you to mix and match particular VoIP platform features with features acquired through third-party integrations (more on this in a bit).
Be familiar with call management
As VoIP platforms develop, their feature sets frequently adapt to target markets. As a result, even items that directly compete with one another may not have the same features. If your company is investing in VoIP because of the "brains" in the software, be cautious to make sure the solution has the intelligence your company requires. One area that needs special attention is call management because it encompasses practically everything the system can perform with a regular phone call.
For instance, let's say you have a lot of calls coming in during a certain time of year or to a specific set of phone lines (like a service desk) (holiday calling). The VoIP system can then intelligently divide calls between extensions based on availability, geography, or other factors. This is called call queuing. Another illustration is extension management, where the system administers a name directory that interfaces with your IT department's network directory and allocates extensions to specific users.
Make Third-Party Integration Plans
One of the main attractions of VoIP, especially for the high-end systems known as UCaaS, is its ability to link to various corporate systems (see below). These systems frequently feature a list of pre-built connectors with whatever apps the manufacturer thinks their clients will appreciate because they are software. For instance, RingCentral provides a good number of extensions, such as Desk.com, Dropbox, and Google Drive.
Customers can create unique processes with the use of these extensions to facilitate more productive work. An incoming customer call, for instance, could activate the softphone inside the Desk.com help desk software. The customer support representative may answer the phone and, in accordance with protocol, create a difficulty ticket, which is then stored on Dropbox as a document file and associated with the ticket number in the Desk.com database. But as part of the integration, you might also keep a WAV file of the call's automatic recording that is linked to the Desk.com ticket number as well as the ticket text file, so that anytime someone accesses this ticket record, both of those files are displayed as supporting evidence.
Refrain from Accepting Second-Class Support
Your VoIP service's functionality depends heavily on the quality of customer support you get, just like with most other goods. For clients that have plans for two or more people, RingCentral, for instance, provides 24/7 phone assistance. Only during 13-hour blocks, Monday through Friday, will you be able to get someone on the horn if you're a single user.
Live chat is yet another well-liked choice. Live chat help is available 24/7 from a number of providers. You should look for a service provider that can ensure your questions will be answered right away if you manage a multinational organisation with 24-hour needs (or at least in a timely fashion).
However, be cautious when adding features to your phone system, especially in the case of the aforementioned bespoke integrations. Although they could be appealing, you should anticipate an increase in cost. Additionally, just because your vendor provides good customer assistance doesn't indicate that your VoIP integration partner's vendor does, either. Even if they do, it's unlikely that they'll support a customer-developed integration mechanism.
Make sure you understand who to contact, when to call, and why by carefully inspecting each part of your entire voice communications system. Additionally, it's a really good idea to research premium support choices if you're intending to create bespoke integrations. Yes, there is additional money, but having professionals on hand for both development and daily operations can have a significant positive impact.
Don't compromise on security
Every cloud-based service that is integrated into your company must pay close attention to security. Attack methods change daily. Comprehensive security precautions are even more important for an internet-connected application like VoIP that serves as the centre of your company's communications. Investigate providers thoroughly to determine who is responsible for data that passes via their cloud-based services, and if at all possible, negotiate security provisions into your contract.
Look for services that provide end-to-end encryption for both at-rest and in-transit data. Additionally, search for solutions for enhanced authentication, particularly biometrics and multi-factor authentication. Such precautions are necessary since VoIP networks are increasingly being the target of cyberattacks.
Speak with the IT professionals working behind your firewall to ensure that security is a high priority there as well. Make sure your on-premises networking hardware is VoIP-aware and offers business-grade security capabilities, then check to make sure those features are turned on where they should be. For instance, virtual LANs (VLANs(Opens in a new window)) are frequently used to separate VoIP traffic because having a specialised network for voice traffic ensures that the data from other network programmes won't affect call quality. But if IT configures VLANs with VoIP security in mind, they can also be quite effective. For further information, see this list of dos and don'ts for protecting your VoIP communications.
Integrate Your Communications
As was already noted, your VoIP service provider can also serve as a one-stop shop for all of your communication requirements, and the majority of them have done so by offering unified communications as a service (UCaaS). This entails combining your voicemail, emails, phone calls, video conversations, and conference calls into a single app. All of the services we evaluated provide some variation of this service, although not all VoIP providers approach it in the same manner. Team messaging apps, which began as practical instruments to manage text messages and document collaboration but have since grown to include audio and video conferencing activities as well, share certain similarities with them in terms of functionality.
Platforms like AT&T and RingCentral, who won Editors' Choice awards, have robust unified communications capabilities that include all of the aforementioned channels in addition to smart meeting rooms and other collaboration tools. More software-focused suppliers, like Dialpad, will deliver extremely sophisticated and highly unified softphones, but they won't be as good at integrating hardware phones. Last but not least, extremely cheap providers like Line2 may not provide any unified communications services or may just provide one or two more channels, like fax and text.
The requirements of each firm are unique, as are the methods they favour using to speak with both internal and external contacts. You won't need to worry about it if all you use is voice, but in the modern business world, speech-only businesses are nearly extinct. Every organisation communicates through a variety of channels, and having a unified system allows for more effective use of those channels.
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