Small and medium-sized businesses are increasingly realising the tangible benefits of moving to converged communications systems through improvements in productivity, customer service and more agile ways of working.
Previously the domain of large enterprises, the smart features that come with VoIP are more accessible and more affordable than ever before. And now, with the reliability, security and flexibility of cloud-based service delivery, the journey to slicker, streamlined business operations is faster, more efficient and more straightforward.
Simplified communications with enterprise grade capabilities
With a cloud phone system, you don’t need to worry about big, upfront capital outlay on new hardware or software, and you don’t need a large IT team to manage the technology – it’s all taken care of. You’re able to access the services you need on-demand, from the office or remotely, and it’s easy to scale up or down and align your system with business requirements. And you only pay for the services you use on a per-seat basis, normally on a fixed monthly fee that also covers maintenance costs, technical support and software upgrades – which means your system is always maintained at the highest most up-to-date specification.
A hosted cloud system also keeps you in control and usually comes with a management console that allows you to easily configuration services, add or remove users and assign dialling permissions to specific employees. It supports distributed business locations and remote workers, and you can quickly integrate your CRM system with your telephony to take advantage of a more unified view of your customers and improve your business productivity.
Making the right call for a fast track without cutting corners
That’s all well and good, but how can you be sure you’re not cutting any corners on your fast track journey to improving performance? Choosing the right cloud phone system and the right service provider partner for you business is crucial – and there are many important factors to consider. The first thing to bear in mind is that voice calls are still at the heart of business-critical communications and guaranteeing their quality is essential for supporting collaboration with colleagues as well as delivering first-class customer service.
If your business calls are sharing bandwidth with all of your Internet provider’s other data transmissions, quality can suffer from jitter, stuttering or latency, and in the worst case, result in dropped calls. Ultimately, the quality of voice service comes down to the quality of your network. This should be assessed by your cloud phone provider at the outset to ensure that network capabilities are up to the job.
Most business-grade networks have symmetrical, uncontended bandwidth, so upload and download speeds are equal and performance is unaffected by other users on the same network. They also come with guaranteed quality-of-service and SLAs that support critical processes. There are many different options available and your cloud telephony provider should be able to advise on a connectivity solution that meets your business needs and your budget.
Fit for purpose
Service resilience and reliability is also critical. You need to know that your service has built-in resilience that optimises uptime – the best performing providers are able to offer service level agreements that include a 99.999 per cent uptime guarantee. And you need to know what plans are in place for failover and business continuity.
System architecture is another important consideration. Are you getting all the functionality your business needs from your cloud phone system? While requirements can vary dramatically, most organisations can benefit significantly from features like data integration, (such as voicemail-to-email delivery), automated call distribution, interactive voice recognition, video chat and teleconferencing software, and remote system management. If features like these are not included, it may result in purchasing third-party solutions in order to get the minimum service you need.
Watch out for the hidden costs of additional features. Remember that while some companies price on an all-inclusive basis, with a single price per user, per month, and all features included, others offer a very low starting fee, but then charge for additional features thereafter. These costs can escalate quickly.
Open Source architecture is another feature of cloud phone systems that has been well-established over the past ten years but, more recently, has found renewed enthusiasm from smaller businesses that demand freedom from vendor lock-in and the opportunity to integrate with applications of their choice.
Consider the longer-term for a more agile business
Then there’s the on-going management and administration of your system to think about. How easy will it be to manage features, view call activity, add or subtract services and manage billing? The best services come with access to an online portal with an intuitive user interface that enables you to do all this and more in just a few clicks to minimise administration and simplify management.
These are just a few of the issues you should be considering as you map your fast track route to cloud telephony and accelerated business performance.
To help you plan your journey and avoid cutting any corners, visit Foehn and download the Buyers Guide: Journey to Success in Your Choice of Cloud Phone System.