Fed up with expensive and unnecessary phone bills in your business?
Do you want a solution that saves you money, increases flexibility, and potentially increases the productivity of your employees (especially if they’re working from home)?
“Yes, of course I do!”
In that case, read on. Voice Over Internet Protocol, more sharply referred to as “VOIP”, might be the ideal solution for your company.
Quite simply, VOIP is a way of carrying voice conversations over the internet. In other words, it has exactly the same purpose as your fixed line telephone. However, unlike your telephone, it doesn’t rely on a vast array of telecommunications infrastructure to accomplish its goal (the task of allowing you to speak to another human being, instantaneously, from another part of the planet).
This means that VOIP is a lot cheaper! Which is fantastic news for your business bank account! And if your company regularly makes calls internationally, VOIP could mean astronomical savings.
In fact, VOIP has proven itself so cost efficient that swathes of autocratic governments have corruptly cracked down on VOIP service providers; after discovering that a lot less money was lining the pockets of state owned, monopolised, telephone service operators. VOIP also created the pesky problem of allowing secure end-to-end phone calls, which the Gestapo struggle to monitor.
Nevertheless, across democratic nations at least, you probably already use a VOIP phone system in your day-to-day life. One popular VOIP phone service, more affectionately known as WhatsApp, utilises you and the call receiver’s internet connection to make calls for free.
Of course, this poses an interesting question: if you can already make calls for free with a service like WhatsApp, why not just get rid of all my telephone expenses? Why should I invest in a paid for VOIP solution?
Well, depending on your business, maybe you should completely discard your telephone bills. For instance, if you run a smaller boutique on the high-street, you might get away with a service like WhatsApp for business (which is gaining significant popularity in places like Latin America). However, many of you need the phone to fulfil a plethora of other important activities such as:
- operating a reception that can direct calls through to the right extension
- tracking sales calls and metrics
- recording conversations with customers or leads for training purposes
- running a unified customer service/satisfaction system
A free service like WhatsApp will not be sufficient in this situation. So, if your business is in the predicament that it needs more functionality from a phone service, yet wants to save money on unnecessary telecoms expenditure, then a VOIP phone system is very likely to be a great option!
However, there are some further considerations to make before your decision.
VOIP phone systems require relatively strong and stable internet connections to operate smoothly. This shouldn’t be a problem if your business is centred in a city or suburban neighbourhood. However, if you are based in a rural location, a poor internet connection may cause a degradation in the audio quality of your company phone calls.
This said, if you are based in a rural location, or have rural operations, and have large phone bills, it might still be more cost-efficient for your business to install stronger internet infrastructure and then adopt a VOIP phone solution. Our general advice is to do this anyway, such that your company will better benefit from the ensuing digital revolution. However, it is always case dependent.
Beyond internet connections, a noble concern to have is that of security. On certain, albeit outdated, VOIP systems, hackers were capable of eavesdropping on compromised VOIP networks, allowing entire conversations to be overheard. However, thanks to years of investment and research by various militaries, safe and secure encryption technologies are now utilised by the vast majority of reputable VOIP providers. Indeed, the encryption technology is so effective that our prior mentioned dictators were motivated to ban VOIP outright.
Another concern that many businesses transitioning to a VOIP service have is whether their existing telephone infrastructure will be compatible with any new solution that is brought in place. The answer is dependent on the age and quality of existing telephone equipment. For some companies, they will be able to use the same physical telephones as before and incur no significant bill for changing to an over the internet system. This said, many companies will have to invest in new VOIP compatible equipment, if they are to reap its full benefits. Ultimately, you will need to weigh up the advantages of VOIP versus the costs of change to make the best possible decision. Just keep in mind this question: for how long should I continue spending more money on a phone system that has less functionality than cheaper and more convenient alternatives?
Which VOIP services do you recommend?
Coming up is our review of two brilliant VOIP services that offer fantastic value for money. Although there are a considerable number of VOIP providers on the market today, they appear oftentimes unfathomably expensive, to provide a service that constitutes, in our opinion, something very similar to our two top recommendations: only for a much more expensive price.
Accordingly, what makes our recommendations the best VOIP services providers available on the market today, in our opinion, is down to the amount of functionality that they both manage to pack in, versus the cost of purchase. Ultimately, we believe they are the best value for money solutions you can buy!
We have endeavoured to give you a balanced perspective of the pros and cons of both, so that you can make the best possible decision for your organisation.
However, before we proceed, keep in mind the most important questions that will influence which VOIP solution you should buy:
- What does my company need and our staff desire, and what can we afford?
Your business circumstances are unique and accordingly, what makes sense for one company may not make sense to another.
For instance, the calling demands of a call-centre with hundreds of employees will differ massively to that of a retail company with a network of brick-and-mortar stores. And then there’s the fact that within your organisational structure, the size of different departments and their individual needs will probably differ starkly too.
For instance, the VOIP requirements placed upon your receptionists, who likely receive large numbers of inbound calls versus the sales team, who likely make large numbers of outbound calls, mean one size does not fit all.
Additionally, depending on your industry and jurisdiction, your company may have to adhere to certain data-protection regulations. To help with compliance, avoiding large fines and/or reputation damage, some VOIP services can be configured to automatically pause recording a call when credit card information is being discussed, for example.
We should also keep in mind the gains in productivity, that certain VOIP services can offer, versus the extra costs of investment that they require. Some features offered under certain premium plans might sound enticing and futuristic (they often are!) but certain flashy features might be a waste of money for your organisation if increased costs fail to bring a return on investment.
- What systems do we need our VOIP service to integrate with?
If your company utilises some form of Customer Relationship Management tool such as HubSpot or Salesforce, then a VOIP integration with this software is a massive opportunity for increased productivity, meaning saved time and increased profits, as well as an opportunity to give your management incredible analytics.
For example, some organisations with customer service departments are using the integrated data from VOIP calls to understand whether a new hire will be successful in a matter of weeks (instead of the years that it can take more generally). And sales departments have a big advantage when they can view all the information about their leads in one place (including live chat, email, social media, video, texts, and call records).
- Do you want to self-manage the software?
With traditional telecoms, to edit or configure the system (onboarding a new employee for example) used to be a job for the IT department. Either that meant spending money with a company like us, to get everything sorted, or it needed the time of a dedicated in-house IT team. That meant spending more money.
However, with newer and higher quality VOIP solutions, administration can be an easy task that your own staff can quickly perform: saving you time and money! Accordingly, picking a VOIP phone service that is intuitive to use is an important factor to consider.
VOIP Solution 1: 3CX (great for small to medium sized businesses)
The critics agree that for the minimal price you pay for a 3CX VOIP phone service, it provides phenomenal value for money in terms of the amount of functionality that is packed into the service.
It is intuitive to use, so your team will find it easy to migrate from older telephony sets or alternative VOIP solutions.
Provided internet connection is strong, it works smoothly for remote working employees who can place a call from anywhere in the world and have it appear that a call is being placed from company headquarters. We tested this ourselves with a remote working employee in Colombia.
3CX can also be configured to the cloud to grant you further flexibility and scalability.
While the set-up is largely straightforward once someone knows how to setup 3CX, the initial guidance can be unclear at times. Accordingly, your organisation may prefer to spend on an IT-Specialist to handle setup, costing you some additional cost.
While the dashboard functionality is perfect with a smaller number of employees, larger organisations (150+ employees) sometimes complain of not having all the desired functionality (it can be difficult to extract some of the desired information without being pounded by excess detail).
Similarly, some larger firms complain that 3CX lacks some more sophisticated functionality, software integrations, and API development.
Although it is rare that you should need to contact customer support, in the case that you do, they can receive an unfriendly and unhelpful reputation from certain bad reviews.
Based on an organisation with 25 staff members, the standard 3CX offering is free. Accordingly, if you want to give your organisation a flavour of what VOIP can do, this might be a good option for you to try.
This said, for any of the more advanced features that we have discussed in this article, you will need to pay a price of $0.88 per/user for the Pro version (which contains useful Office 365 and CRM integrations) or the Enterprise version for $1.08 (containing further technical features typically useful in larger or compliance-centric organisations). For the record, this is extremely cheap compared to competitors in the field!
3CX is a great value for money tool for the small to medium sized organisation. It provides most of the functionality that an average company will need to operate a smoothly-run call-centre. However, for larger organisations, we suggest that a VOIP solution with higher calibre integrations may be preferable.
VOIP Solution 2: TelcoSwitch (amazing for data-focussed organisations – incredible integrations)
When it comes to CRM integrations and call data analytics, TelcoSwitch is brilliant. You will be empowered with excellent analytical abilities afforded by integrations with, for example, Salesforce, HubSpot, and Microsoft Teams.
It is ideally situated to serving the SME market, reflected in its generous pricing structure however, due to its contemporary cloud-based system, it simultaneously offers near endless scalability (great for those of you with rapidly expanding organisations)!
And for those customers wanting to experience the full benefits of unified communications, TelcoSwitch also have an omnichannel solution which brings together telephony, email, social media, website interactions, and any other form of communication you can dream of between the customer and yourself; all of which allows the seamless delivery of phenomenal inbound customer experiences.
This is fantastic for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of your organisation on both an operations level (giving your team access to such depth and quality of information is a powerful tool to facilitate better decision making) and a customer service level (your business will find it easier to close sales when they can reach potential customers, on multiple levels, from a single centralised platform – tracking the sales cycle becomes a lot easier for your team when they can read a prospect’s emails, view a website chat, and see call history all at the same time: pretty cool for the software geeks of the world).
A further plus is TelcoSwitch’s exceptionally high customer service score of 97%. Scour the internet and you will find countless examples of business owners complaining about the poor service of other VOIP service providers. So, this is a very impressive feat from TelcoSwitch indeed.
Although TelcoSwitch is fantastic for call analytics, one disadvantage that might be picked upon is, depending on the pricing plan chosen, limits placed upon the number of free calling minutes a particular user can make for free. For most staff members, these limits are unlikely to be exceeded in any given month however, for exceptionally busy salespeople, that make huge numbers of outbound calls every day, the free limit may be surpassed, costing your business slightly more in monthly expenditure.
There exist some competitors on the market, such as RingCentral, who offer unlimited calls and video conferencing (nice for busy call centres) that also bring excellent call analytics to the foreground. However, the end price per user is likely to far surpass what you will pay with TelcoSwitch (which offers analytical tools of a similar calibre), even when considering the extra fees from surpassing free call limits.
TelcoSwitch licenses start at £11 per month, per user.
Clearly this is significantly more than the prices charged for a 3CX VOIP solution. However, you do get a lot more functionality than you otherwise do with 3CX. And relative to other providers in the world providing a service of the same standard as TelcoSwitch, it beats them by a long margin! For instance, the prior mentioned RingCentral charges $27.99 for their standard offering (approximately £20 at the time of this articles writing). In other words, it’s about double the price for a very similar solution.
Indeed, TelcoSwitch costs much more than 3CX however, it does pack in far greater functionality. This could save you more money in the long run if, for instance, you utilise calling data to analyse whether new hires in your company are likely to perform well or not. Underperforming employees can clearly cost your business a lot of wasted time, a degraded reputation, and consequently money. You will find it much easier to discern useful information from the TelcoSwitch interface than the 3CX one. However, as with everything, this is case dependent based on the nature of your organisation.
So, what to choose?
Both 3CX and TelcoSwitch are excellent options in their own right. You need to ask yourself, how much data do we need? What will give us the edge? What will allow us to provide a better service for our customers? What will allow us to save money and cut unnecessary spending?
If you’re just venturing into the world of VOIP solutions for your business now, it may be worth starting out with a cheaper option, such as 3CX, to ascertain whether it is appropriate for your company or not.
Then again, if you’re confident that your business, armed with avant-garde analytics, will be supercharged with this data, henceforth seizing every opportunity that awaits, then perhaps diving right in with a higher-spec service like TelcoSwitch is a great idea!
Ultimately, this comes down to a question of cost-benefit analysis: to understand what VOIP solution makes most sense for your organisation (or if it makes sense at all).
Fortunately, this kind of analysis is something we at Onestop are experienced in dealing with.
So, if you have any further questions regarding VOIP or telecoms in general, give us a call, and we’ll answer you on our own VOIP phone system