smb-tech-trendsMany small business owners are making the switch to VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol – for their business phone systems.  Cost is a big factor. Figures on monthly telecomm savings vary but can be anywhere from 20 to 40 percent depending on your service provider. Typically plans include unlimited local and long distance calling for a flat monthly fee with very low rates per country, if at all. Some plans also include free international calls.

Scalability is another advantage of VoIP systems. You can easily add, move or change phone numbers to accommodate your team as it grows. Also your voice and data networks can converge into a single network, which makes overall management simple.

Besides its price, scalability and management advantages, VoIP systems offer a host of standard and optional features that can boost customer service as well as employee productivity and collaboration. Here are several must haves I recommend you include as you transition your phone system to VoIP, whether you choose to go with a Virtual PBX (also called hosted PBX) or on premise IP PBX

Auto attendant: An automated attendant can cut down the cost of having a full time receptionist. The auto attendant feature of your VoIP system not only greets callers, it can screen calls and through the use of voice prompts route them to the appropriate member of your team. The seamless transition of a call to sales, customer service or billing can help to increase customer satisfaction.

voip phonesRemote or virtual extensions: Also called a virtual number, a virtual extension is not associated with a specific phone line and often forwards to a mobile phone. When someone calls a virtual extension and the user is unavailable, the call goes to a voice mail, separate from the user’s mobile phone. Virtual extensions are particularly helpful if you have remote employees. The extensions make your small business look more unified.

Voicemail with Find Me/Follow Me: Voicemail is a standard feature on any phone service. With Find Me/Follow Me, unanswered calls are routed to a series of phone numbers – desk, cell or home phone – sequentially or simultaneously until the user picks up or the caller chooses to leave a voice message.

Voicemail to text: In addition to providing each user with a voice mail box, VoIP systems can unify messages by converting voice message to text and delivering them to an email inbox.

Conference calls: Many VoIP systems have conference calling features via unified messaging technology.  The value of VoIP conference calling is the ability to call a list of people at once to invite them to participate in the call. Some VoIP systems also provide integrated web and video conferencing solutions.

Priority alert: Users can assign criteria to incoming calls and set distinctive ringtones or patterns to distinguish them. This way, your small business can be sure to be responsive to priority callers – customers, prospects or partners – when they call.

Caller ID with name: When a call comes in, the system shows the name and number of the caller as well as customer record from your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

There are many other features available through VoIP systems. Choose the ones that help put your small business ‘best foot forward’ when it comes to customers and prospects and boost employee productivity.