What is VOIP
Voice over IP (VOIP) is a term used to define voice and multimedia services which run over the local area network and out across the public internet to the receiving destination which can be using the old analogue systems. VOIP providers use different ways to allow digital signals to be sent over to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) which is the more traditional home user telephony.
The positive of using VOIP is that you do not need expensive hardware to be able to setup your business, most (if not all) IT companies have a hosted (server outside of your network) which can hold your VOIP solution instead of the old PBX boxes which were expensive and you had to hide somewhere (usually the cupboard). The old analogue PBX usually had to be financed and could be quite expensive for start-ups/SME needing small business IT support, additional cabling to the phones is now not required, VOIP does require digital handsets but they can be connected via ethernet cable from your network device (switch) to the phone and then to your workstation (PC or laptop).
Wireless devices are also available to be able to make a call using Wifi or mobile internet (3G, 4G, 5G) allowing your remote staff to be able to make/receive calls on the move as if they are in the office without redirecting to your mobile phone number.
I am happy to see more VOIP solutions moving towards mobile applications to allow staff members to make/receive calls from mobile phones as if they are in the office without an additional cost.
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When looking at a VOIP solutions there are a few key considerations:
1. What functionality do you require?
a. Call Queuing
b. Call Recordings
c. IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
d. Call back
e. Call Parking
2. Legal compliance
4. Onsite vs hosted
5. Service /Functionality vs cost saving
When a call comes into the business and gets transferred to a member of staff, if that user is currently on a call then it can be placed into a queue for that user or the next available user depicted in the administration of the VOIP solution. This is very handy when you have multiple calls which can come in at the same time and the receptionist is on the phone, allows potential/current clients to receive the best possible customer service and satisfaction. If there is no queuing system in place and all of the users who can receive that call are busy, then the call will go to voicemail and there is a chance that it may not get followed up.
If you would like the ability to save the calls which have transgressed over the telephone, allowing the call to be saved on the server hosting your VOIP solution in an audio format which can be emailed, downloaded and listed to via a mobile or workstation. Some VOIP services allow voice recordings to be turned off by default and then the staff member user can turn the call recordings off and on, this is sometimes called Call Recording Restrictions.
An example of when to use call recordings would be a help centre who would use the call recordings to monitor customer satisfaction/quality assurance, a bank may use it for confirming identity and any disputes.
Your business number gets called by a potential client but you have multiple departments where this call should be routed, instead or in addition to a receptionist there can be an automated message asking where to direct this call by the caller interacting with the phone.
When a potential client calls in and gets placed in a queue, instead of waiting they can be offered a call back for the member of staff who they are trying to reach. When that member of staff finishes their call, the phone will automatically dial the customers number from when they called prompting a quick response back to the awaiting customer.
Allows member of staff to place callers into slots where they can be retrieved, this would be useful for placing callers who want to wait for the their desired staff member to finish on the phone or requiring to go find a member of staff without worrying about the call dropping and being able to pickup the parked call from any extension.
One of the main focuses of a new telephone system should be the reporting, allowing you to be able to setup automated reporting for certain criteria like, departments, call durations, no. calls and even integration with customer service surveys.
Web based portal should allow users with access to certain parts of the reporting based on minimising it down to the staff members they are responsible.
Certain industries like legal, financial, banking, government have rules they are required to abide to and this includes telephony. Confirm with your compliance office and VOIP solution to make sure all of the required services can be provided and at a reasonable price. We find a lot of VOIP solutions charge for these additions at a premium rate and it is wise to shop around.
When looking for a VOIP solution always take into consideration what you are currently paying, your invoice from your current provider will break this down by line item. If you have an analogue PABX or hybrid which is onsite then you may be financing which means a direct debit from the chosen finance company which will not be a telecoms or IT company on your statement.
Itemised billing provides a breakdown of all calls made for the previous month, understanding the costs for local, mobile and international will mean a comparison can be done to see how much you can save (I would always ask for them to do this).
When looking for a VOIP solution make sure you write down exactly the features you require, make sure the telecoms or IT services can provide this, so you do not waste your time. Saving money is always great especially when trying to get the project agreed by the board and you can prove this by using a comparison of call costs, hardware, licensing, monthly subscription services.
If you are looking for a solution by your are struggling with any part, please do not hesitate to contact me on email@example.com as we can help you implement the most cost effective solution to meet your requirements