by Ken Narita
Independent Retailers today face numerous challenges. Missing calls from customers and prospects shouldn’t be one of them. Many indie retailers have switched to voice over internet protocol (VoIP) systems from traditional landlines because of significant cost savings; the ability to work from anywhere (and still use your office phone number); and the numerous features VoIP provides.
This article aims to help independent retailers sort through the VoIP noise, get concise answers, and feel confident about switching to a VoIP system. For an even deeper dive, you can download a free VoIP guidebook at www.ooma.com/business/voip-phone-system.
What are VoIP Phone Systems?
Voice over Internet Protocol phones, as the name implies, use the internet to make and receive calls. Some service providers enable you to use analog phones, but the majority provide IP (Internet Protocol) phones that can be plugged into any Ethernet jack.
Once connected, you can make and receive calls. Using a web portal and login, you can customize features such as a virtual receptionist welcome message or adding new users.
VoIP Versus Traditional Landline Phones
The most significant difference between VoIP and landline phones, in a word, is technology. Landline phones haven’t changed much since the beginning of the 20th Century and require an infrastructure of wiring and exchange hardware. By today’s standards, landline phone technology is limited, allowing users to only make and receive voice calls.
VoIP technology has changed how businesses communicate. While IP capabilities have been around several decades, VoIP services have advanced in recent years, thanks to innovation and faster internet speeds. Unlike landline phones that require add-ons for features at additional costs, VoIP systems come with an array of popular communication features already built-in.
How VoIP Systems Work
VoIP phones work by turning your voice into data which is then transmitted over the internet, similar to sending emails. If you’ve used Skype, you’ve used VoIP. VoIP calls are made on your phone, connected to the internet with a network cable or adapter, or via a computer’s microphone and speakers using an app. When making calls, the VoIP service provider routes the voice data between you and the other caller — all within a split second.
VoIP Systems Transform Business Communications
As businesses grow, having a phone system that aligns with customers’ expectations is critical. Unlike traditional landlines, VoIP systems come with powerful features to help small businesses make big impressions, such as:
- Virtual Receptionist.
Missing new business because your phone is busy or your greeting is unprofessional is easily resolved by a Virtual Receptionist. When a live person can’t take a call, the Virtual Receptionist takes over. Instead of hearing a busy signal or being put on hold, callers listen to a message and can be given options on how to proceed.
- Ring Groups.
To ensure every caller has a positive experience, you can program Ring Groups to ring simultaneously — so everyone in a department, like sales, receives the call; or to ring sequentially — to ring from person to person until someone picks up.
Staying connected to customers when away from the office is critical today. It’s not practical or professional for employees to use their personal number for business. VoIP systems, unlike landlines, support working remotely through mobile and desktop apps, as well as voice messages forwarded as email attachments — allowing employees to make and receive calls from anywhere in much the same way they would from their work site.
- Keep Existing Phone Number.
Keeping your business phone number, your lifeline, makes the transition to an IP system seamless. The moment you plug in your phones, you’ll be able to make and receive calls. No need to change business cards, letterhead and website information. Your VoIP service provider can take care of moving your number to your new system.
Key Advantages of VoIP Systems
- Big impression.
How customers perceive your business often depends on their initial phone interaction. Will they hear a welcome message with easy directions, or be put on hold immediately? Whether your business has two or 200 employees, your business will sound professional with a VoIP phone system.
- Excellent call quality.
With technology advances and increased internet speeds, your VoIP phones will provide the call quality you need.
- Reduced costs.
Lower costs is one of the most appealing benefits for switching to VoIP systems. Those with landlines understand the significant expense — setup fees, monthly costs, per-line expenses, etc. — all add up, including IT support.
- Connect with remote teams.
Employees today are working everywhere. A VoIP system provides the tools to communicate with staff effortlessly — no matter where employees are.
Ken Narita is the Vice President of Business Marketing at Ooma. His marketing career spans two decades of helping businesses large and small grow. At TriNet from 2011 to 2017, he led the revenue marketing team through a period of rapid change where net service revenue grew 15 to 20 percent per year and reached $650 million.