Vonage Business Buyers Guide

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1 PERFECT FOR SMALL BUSINESSES Vonage Business Buyers Guide Buying a hosted phone system: how to make the right choice for your business

2 Small businesses worldwide are switching to hosted phone systems in ever-larger numbers. MZA Consulting estimates that globally, by 2016, small and medium-sized companies will be spending over USD10 billion a year on them in a market that is growing annually at around 10%. Might a hosted phone system be the right solution for your business? As you investigate your options you may be wondering if your company is paying too much for its phone services. Many are. You might have heard that hosted phone systems are cheaper and this is often true. You may also be interested in more advanced call management features that you suspect will help you to deliver a better service to your customers. But you are also likely to have a number of concerns about cost, about service reliability and about what features will actually meet your needs. This guide takes you through a series of questions that cover the most important areas that you should think through when choosing a hosted phone system and supplier. It will help you choose a system suitable for your company. The questions are grouped into four areas: 1. Establish your company s phone needs 2. Select the right set of features 3. Consider cost, reliability and service quality 4. Check installation and on-going service management processes Let s begin by outlining the questions you should consider in order to work out what your company actually needs.

3 1. Establish your company s phone needs By thinking about what your company requires from its phone system you can ensure that it gets the features it needs without paying for those that it doesn t. Work through the following seven questions to get a good understanding of what your company s needs are currently: 1. How many people make calls (i.e. how many phone extensions will you want)? 2. Do you receive a high volume of calls and want callers to be able to self-select which department or team they want to reach within your company? 3. Do you need a way to deal with callers who ring out of office hours? 4. Do you need to be able to transfer calls between users? 5. Do you have employees or contractors who work remotely? 6. Do you need calls to come through to mobile phones when your staff are away from a desk phone? Having done this, you ll be well placed to choose a phone system that has the right features for your company.

4 2. Select the right set of features Different sets of features meet different needs. Here we ll talk you through the main choices that you are likely to be faced with when choosing a hosted business phone service. Advanced call management features Call pickup all your extensions ring at once, anyone can pickup, you miss fewer enquiries Hunt groups if an extension is busy the call is routed to the next available extension, helping ensure all calls get answered Auto attendant callers can direct themselves to the right department and reach the right person faster Short code extension dialling dial any extension using a short internal number, saving you time Do you need a single business telephone line or a more advanced business phone system? The advanced call management features of a business phone system enables you to, for example, transfer calls between different users easily or to enable your customers to choose the department they want to reach when they call in (i.e. press 1 for sales, 2 for customer service etc.). If you have no need for this kind of functionality then your company will probably best be served by a standard business landline with basic calling features (such as caller ID, call waiting and call return). However, if your firm does need these more advanced call management features then you should consider a hosted business phone system. Such systems enable you to provide callers with a better impression of your company and to help them reach the right person more quickly. They also remove the cost of making internal calls as calls between users on the hosted phone system are typically free. Do you need your staff to be easily reachable wherever they are, on any device? You may have staff who are often mobile and do not work in a single fixed location. If so, then one feature to look out for is mobile client applications, which provide the the ability to make or receive calls to your firm s numbers wherever your staff are and on whatever device is most convenient for them whether that is a desk phone, a mobile phone or even a computer. This is a feature that is typically available on hosted business phone systems where calls are transmitted using broadband Internet connections. It can give you confidence that wherever your staff are located on any given day they can be reached without difficulty through one number. Would it be useful if incoming calls interact with your contact management software? Sales and service staff often find it helpful to have incoming calls integrated with their contact management software. This enables, for example, a sales or service call to automatically bring up on a computer screen the details of the person calling, and a record of their interactions with the company. This can help your team to deal with customer enquiries more rapidly and to deliver a more personal service. Once you ve identified the most important features you then will need to factor in the different costs and performance levels of different potential suppliers.

5 3. Consider cost, reliability and service quality Even with all the right features, the last thing you ll want is to end up with an expensive and unreliable phone service. So, the next step is to pick a supplier that can give you the services you need within your budget and meeting your performance criteria. Comparing the cost of services from different providers To work out how much your service will cost in total, calculate the following items over the length of your contract: one-off charges for any new equipment needed (such as new phones) standard monthly plan charges additional monthly plan charges for calling features not included as standard monthly charges for each additional phone extension call costs (based on your firm s typical calling patterns and the cost per minute for any calls made outside of included call allowances) any additional costs related to upgrading your broadband connection (see below). Make sure you won t be required to switch broadband supplier to get phone service. If your broadband is fast enough, you shouldn t have to. Hosted versus on-premise phone systems With an on-premise phone system, you buy the equipment (a PBX ), a specialist installs it and you then take out a repair and maintenance contract in case things go wrong. You will need to buy separate PBX equipment for each office. With a hosted phone system your service provider manages the equipment for you in its own data centre. It takes responsibility for repair and maintenance. You can connect your desk phone to any broadband connection to make calls. One thing to look out for: when you compare costs for hosted phone systems against those of traditional (nonhosted) phone systems, make sure you include the cost of the additional repair and maintenance contracts that traditional systems typically require. Check that your broadband is fast enough to support a hosted phone system. Hosted phone services use your broadband Internet connection to send and receive calls. Your broadband connection therefore has to be fast enough, given the number of people likely to be using the phone, to carry those calls reliably. Any supplier will be able to tell you what speed connection their system requires given your usage. Ask them. If required, factor in the cost of any upgrade to your broadband connection. (Typically an upgrade isn t required.) Reduce your risk by avoiding lengthy contracts. Contract lengths vary widely between suppliers. Shorter contracts reduce your risk and give you more flexibility as they lower the cost of switching if you become unhappy with your supplier. Finally, you ll want to investigate how easy it will be to switch to your new phone system, set it up and manage it on an ongoing basis.

6 4. Check installation and on-going service management processes Switching to and managing a new phone system should be painless. Asking potential suppliers a few questions about their installation and service management processes will help to ensure that you pick a company where this is actually the case. Happy Homes, an Essex-based estate agents, switched to a hosted phone system so that its customers could reach the right department (property sales, letting enquiries or accounts) without it needing to employ a dedicated receptionist to direct calls saving them time and money. Find out what will happen as you switch over to a supplier s phone system. Ask any potential supplier if you will need new equipment and if so whether an engineer will have to come out and install it. For the least disruption look for a supplier who can send you preconfigured equipment that simply needs plugging in and switching on (no engineer visit and no technical expertise required). Find out how new phones will be connected. Desk phones will usually plug into existing local-area network (LAN) Ethernet sockets the same sockets that are used for connecting your computers to the office network. Many buildings will already have the necessary cabling in place but not all. If your office doesn t, an alternative is to use cordless handsets with the base unit plugged into your broadband router. JB Recruitment s hosted phone system provides it with both a London and a Basingstoke number. Incoming calls can be picked up by any of its consultants in its Basingstoke office or, if none are available, by the firm s accounts manager in her London home office. As a result the company misses fewer enquiries and has gained free calls between staff. Check your supplier can supply the right kind of phone for your office. Ask how easy it will be to make changes to your phone service as your needs evolve. What your company needs from its phone system will, inevitably, change over time. Look for a system that will be easy to configure as its needs evolve. For example, how easy will it be to change how incoming calls are routed, or to add users as new people join your company? Check that each time you add a new user you aren t tied in to an entirely new contract for that line. (You shouldn t be.) Vonage is a communications services provider with, worldwide, over 2 million customer lines. It has over 375,00 business users of its hosted phone systems. In February 2014 it was voted winner of the People s Choice Award for Favourite Customer Service at the 8th Annual International Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service. Vonage offers a hosted business phone system that is designed to meet the needs of small businesses. It includes advanced call management features so that callers are able to reach the right person with the minimum of friction. We would be happy to discuss your requirements and to answer your questions. Call us now, on , for a free consultaion. Call us now, on , for a free consultation.

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