If you still have an old school landline, it may be time to consider switching your phone service to IP phone service, or VoIP (Voice over IP). "I know, I know -- it's cheaper," you're thinking. True, that's one of the benefits of VoIP for small business. But in addition to being affordable, VoIP technology has evolved, offering increased flexibility with remarkably clear audio quality and options that keep phone service up even if the power goes out.
VoIP's benefits far outweigh any potential drawbacks, but if you're still hesitant to make the switch, consider these 10 features, most of which come standard with IP phone service:
1. Have Number, Will Travel
The challenge with standard telephone lines is that you are tethered to the location of the phone number. VoIP is tied to an IP phone, allowing you to make calls from any location where there is an available internet connection. You can take your number and telephone service with you as you travel anywhere in the world.
For you as a small business owner, this means you're not forced to communicate multiple phone numbers or contact information to prospects, clients, and vendors when you're traveling. You can be available overseas just as easily as you can when you're in the office with a VoIP phone system, making sure that there are no hiccups in communication when you need to be on the road to build your business.
2. Phone-Free Calls
VoIP apps are available in the app stores of most Internet-ready devices. You don't have to be equipped with a smart phone in order to use the device as a phone. Users of portable devices that are not phones (such as your tablet, laptop or Apple iTouch) can place calls or send messages when connected over 3G or Wi-Fi.
This can be incredibly useful to you as a business owner: You may want to save your cell phone minutes because you're hesitant to shell out for an unlimited data plan. Your cell phone battery is dying and you can't remember where you left your charger. You're in an airplane and can't use your cell phone. Ok, maybe not that last one. While's it's technically possible to Skype from 30,000 feet, it's rude to the passengers around you.
3. It Pays for Itself
If you're running a bootstrapped start up or brand new small business, phone bills can make an uncomfortable dent in your overhead. Long distance companies don't offer much flexibility or room for negotiation, leaving you feeling nickel and dimed for seemingly random fees and excessive taxes.
VoIP is a competitive market with many providers to choose from, giving you the power to make a smart and affordable choice for your business needs. Additionally, VoIP providers don't have to maintain a traditional phone network, allowing their costs to be considerably lower and to pass that cost savings on to you.
4. Be in Two Places at Once
It's well known that VoIP international rates are some of the cheapest you can find. One of the biggest advantages of using VoIP to make international calls is that you can use a phone number from another country that helps you establish a local presence without having to staff an office abroad.
For example, if you work out of a small office park in Boston, but conduct most of your business in England, VoIP calling services can assign you a local telephone number in England, giving your customers and partners a local number where they can reach you while delivering the calls to you in Boston.
5. A Voicemail-Free World
Many VoIP services offer features that transcribe all of your voicemails into emails or text messages, saving you time and frustration when you need to listen to voicemails multiple times to capture vital information or interpret a muffled message.
When you can read your voicemail, you're free to access the message at any time and quickly get the gist or see the contact information to return a call. Forward the voicemail audio file to someone else who can attend to it, and save your office -- and sanity -- from an endless stack of random notes with important but disorganized scribbles.
6. Mark Telemarketers as Spam
As a small business owner, you're usually the decision maker when it comes to purchases. As such, you're constantly barraged with phone calls from telemarketers and vendor representatives wanting to take "just a minute of your time" for something that is not important to you.
Anonymous call rejection is a feature of many VoIP services, allowing you to reject callers who intentionally block the display of their phone number. These services sometimes inform blocked callers that you're not accepting unidentified solicitations, giving you the power to mute many of those unnecessary and time-wasting calls.
On the flip side, when you do know who is calling you, but you're on deadline or in an important meeting, VoIP services allow you to automatically forward your calls to voicemails without your phone ringing at all. This gives you some much-needed silence, allowing you to focus on the task at hand or address missed calls and messages at a time that's more convenient for you.
8. Be Omnipresent
Many VoIP services allow you to get incoming calls on multiple phones at the same time. Calls to one number can ring on as many phones as you've designated, so no matter if you're in a conference room, in your home office office, or in a cab, whichever phone gets picked up first will get the call.
9. Can You Hear Me Now?
Imagine this: It's 7:30pm on a Wednesday and you're finishing up that one last item before heading home. Your phone rings, and you realize it's that prospect that you've been courting for nearly a year. They would be a dream client, so you can't leave them hanging, right?
VoIP services make it easy to transfer calls to another phone number while you're on the phone. You could pick up the call initially from your desk, and, while gathering up your coat and packing your laptop bag, transfer the call to your cell phone and keep talking seamlessly.
10. Domino Effect
Many small business owners spend countless days on the road: meeting partners, looking for funding, helping customers, and attending events. Not at your desk to pick up your main line? Features from Vonage and add-ons to Skype allow you to ring multiple phones in sequence until someone answers or is forwarded to voicemail.
Route your phone calls to your business partner if you're unable to answer, or schedule any calls within a certain timeframe to be forwarded to your assistant's voicemail. This allows you to ensure that anyone can reach you any time ... and no one is going to feel like they're low on your priority list.
For more great reasons why VoIP rules, check out the Business.com resources on VoIP solutions. Get information on how to compare the total cost of VoIP service and review the VoIP buying guide on the Business.com page.
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