Hosted VoIP: The Business Case for SMEs

Business VoIP ServicesAccording to the telecoms regulator Ofcom, 95 per cent of small businesses in the UK still use traditional landline telephones.

However, the further up the enterprise chain you travel, a very different picture emerges. Amongst larger businesses, landline use has fallen into the minority, overtaken comprehensively by Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) – otherwise known as internet telephony.
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How Hosted VoIP Can Save Your Christmas

Christmas is the time of year that most office workers look forward to. It offers family time, some decent TV and a chance to forget about deadlines and stress. For entrepreneurs and business owners, Christmas isn’t always a time to switch off, since there’s always another phone call to handle.

If your family members are already fed up with your smartphone addiction, they aren’t going to enjoy hearing your ringtone when they’re trying to watch Dr Who. How can you manage your availability without switching your mobile off for good?

VoIP - Voice of IPEnter the IVR (Interactive Voice Response)

An IVR is an automated menu that lets customers select options with their keypad. Most banks use IVRs to direct calls to the right department, or deliver automated messages to callers.

When you set up hosted VoIP, you can create an IVR menu that puts you in control of the way calls are routed. You could send sales calls to an answerphone, while sending support calls straight to your mobile phone. You can also assign a ring group to any selection so that the calls are spread evenly over a team.

IVRs let you stem the flow of enquiries without making people feel abandoned. You can allow certain calls to come through, while filing less urgent enquiries in your voicemail inbox so you can deal with them once Christmas is over.

All of this can be controlled using Cloud4’s simple, straightforward VoIP dashboard.

Our 4 Golden Rules of IVRs

We’ve all encountered IVR menus that have driven us to frustration. A complicated IVR is not a great way to spread festive cheer. We recommend that you follow these four golden rules to ensure your IVR is successful:

1. Keep it short and sweet. IVRs can have up to 10 options at every stage, meaning they get complicated very quickly. Don’t use 10 options, ever. Five is plenty. If you send your callers on a wild goose chase, they will be more likely to abandon the call. Remember: each caller should be on the phone for 5 minutes or less.

2. Make people feel wanted. Your IVR needs to manage calls, not turn people away entirely. Reassure the caller that their message is important, and give them a timeframe for a reply. Then stick to it.

3. Speak slowly and clearly. Don’t use jargon or slang. If you’re not confident about your vocal abilities, hire a voiceover artist to record your IVR message. It’s amazing how much better the pros sound.

4. Offer an emergency contact option. Make sure your valued clients can reach you in a dire emergency. Many businesses assign the 0 key for this purpose.

Is There Still Time to Save Christmas?

If you’re still using an inflexible PBX system, or handing out your mobile number, it’s time to rethink your approach to business telephony. Hosted VoIP is a far more flexible solution, and it costs less than a PBX while offering much, much more.

If you sign up with Cloud4 today, you could have your shiny new IVR in place before the festive season arrives. Contact us to find out how VoIP can make your business more streamlined and responsive to its clients.

Attention: Your Phone Number Isn’t Working

Businesses do a lot by email these days, but the phone is still a critical tool.  Despite the existence of teleconferencing, video calling and real-time instant messaging, it’s often better to pick up the phone and call.

Through convention, most businesses have acquired geographical or non-geographical numbers pointing to fixed landline phones.  We have also seen a surge of mobile numbers replacing geographical numbers, particularly for businesses who do not work from an office.

But there are some problems with the traditional phone system, and they can result in the competition getting an edge.

The Evolving PBX

Traditionally, businesses have installed PBX systems on premise to handle incoming calls.  An old-fashioned PBX requires engineer visits to achieve most management and maintenance tasks.

If you need more lines, fewer lines, or a repair to the infrastructure, it’s generally going to be an expensive affair.  Phones are hard-wired to desks, and there’s no freedom of movement at all.

This is where VoIP steps in to fill the void.  A hosted PBX is entirely software based, apart from the device you use to answer the call (your laptop, or your phone, in most cases).  So there’s no engineer to call out.  Need a new line?  Add one in a click.  Noticed a fault? Your host is there to fix it, under the terms of your monthly agreement.

Call My Mobile

Naturally, the mobile is more portable.  But with mobile numbers, we have another problem: people don’t trust them.  A landline or geographical number can be traced; it has longevity.  A mobile phone number could be attached to a throwaway pay-as-you-go SIM.  It could be obtained online for free, and disposed of at the end of the week.

For many businesses, mobiles don’t give their business gravitas, or a local presence.  That matters if you’re running an ad campaign and you need people to convert.

Let’s face it: the main reason people like mobiles is that they’re not in a fixed place.  What if you could use your mobile, but advertise a landline?  That’s exactly what VoIP allows you to do.  You can purchase any number of telephone numbers and route them to your mobile, laptop or tablet, providing you’ve purchased an extension for each device or user.  Numbers are available with your own local area code, or another area code, or even another country.

Switch and Save

Changing the fundamentals of your business can be costly, confusing and more hassle than it’s worth.  But if you’re still using a fixed line phone, VoIP is worth the effort.  It will free you from line rental, release you from your desk, and allow you to take more calls as you go about your main line of business.  And, most importantly, it’ll save you money.

If you’re still advertising a mobile number, VoIP’s a no-brainer, too. For a small monthly fee, you could advertise a fixed-line number without giving up the convenience of your smartphone.  And if you’ve got more than one business, you can have as many lines as you need, all pointing to the same place.

Intrigued?  Find out more.  Contact Cloud4 and find out how VoIP could work for you.

Why Professional Services Are Adopting Cloud

Professional services companies provide support to other businesses. They are in a sector often known as ‘B2B’, and are responsible for providing assistance to other companies.

Professional services providers have been quick to recognise the potential of the cloud, and we find a huge amount of our customers come from this sector. In fact, there are far more small businesses taking on cloud computing than large enterprises, partly because they are more agile.

But that isn’t the only reason.

Cost savingsCloud services

Pre-cloud, most small businesses would have had to have a server in their office – perhaps expanding this to a small data centre over time. For a startup, finding the desk space for a large, bulky server could be an issue in itself.

There’s also the cost of maintaining IT hardware, or paying someone to maintain it for you. The more business-critical applications you amass, the more important it will be to keep the server online.

And what about backups? Client data is subject to stringent checks, and if any business works with personal information, they need to make sure it’s properly cared for. At one time, that would mean creating tape backups and shipping them off for storage. None of this is cheap – quite the opposite.

Practicalities

Looking at the day-to-day side of the business, it’s easy to see why small businesses have embraced the cloud. There are fewer reasons to be stuck in the office, and far more scope to collaborate with colleagues on the move.

For people who have to do 10 jobs in the place of one, this is a huge benefit. It’s a massive advantage when you can take calls on the move, or work on a document in real time with a far-flung team mate.

Barriers

Some clients ask us why they should trust their data to the cloud, given that there are so many high-profile media stories and scares. But there are far more reasons to trust the cloud with business data, than to write it off and use on-premise IT.

Hacks like the iMessage affair are few and far between, and they come abut largely because of poor security practices by the owners of the accounts in question. In business, providers like Cloud4 put security at the core of their provision. Two-factor authentication, encryption and real-time monitoring all ensure that data is safe at rest and in transit.

Often, cloud security is actually better than a business’ own internal IT. Many small companies think they are too small to bother with intrusion detection, yet hackers do target small professional services companies to get information on bigger businesses. When you move to the cloud, you benefit from pooled security resources, and the ability to lock down your data much more comprehensively than you can in your own office or home.

Find out more

Cloud4 is changing the way B2B providers work. We’re making startup businesses more effective, more efficient and more affordable. And we’re helping more and more existing service providers streamline operations and trim costs. To find out more about our simple migration solutions, contact us for a chat.