Cloud Phones / VoIP
Email and video conferencing haven’t killed of the telephone just yet, so there have been some businesses where their telephones have caused one of the biggest issues for them.
Now, at Southern IT we provide ‘Cloud/Hosted/VoIP’ systems (these terms all mean pretty much the same thing) and for our clients that have this type of setup – and if you do too, then you can *almost* pick up your handsets and take them home to be used.
But for those of you still using traditional systems, this proves much trickier, as you can’t just pick the phones up and use them at home, so you only really have two options. Firstly, just to divert all calls to a mobile or secondly if you use direct dials, to have each number forwarded to the individuals mobile.
So, what have we seen happening so far?
• Call Answering services being used to take messages and email on the details to the relevant people who then call back.
• Businesses that have left a receptionist in the office just to take calls
• Calls diverted to mobiles
• Calls going to Voicemail which then get emailed to people.
In our opinion these are short term solutions, they will all lead to a breakdown in the efficiency & flow of communication which is only sustainable in the short term. Yes, your clients will accept a bit of disruption for a short period of time, but if your competitors are working more efficiently than you and are able to provide a better service, then who is more likely to win new business?
At the time of writing this we are into week 3 of working from home, the majority of our clients are getting into the rhythm of working this way themselves and productivity is at normal levels – something a call centre client of ours was very surprised to see.
So, what can you do now if you are using a traditional phone system and know that you need to up your game when it comes to your telecoms?
How can you continue as normal, as if you were all sitting in the office together? Well, you guessed it, its cloud hosted telephone systems (which usually come out cheaper in monthly bills as well).
As the name suggests, cloud telephones are internet based and all calls are done over your broadband connection. You don’t need super high speeds either, as voice uses a small amount of bandwidth, but if you have the kids streaming Netflix while you’re making calls then quality could suffer, so do be mindful of the speed you’re actually achieving.
Typically, you’ll just pay a flat monthly cost per extension and that includes all the calls in a minutes bundle so unless you had any other bolt-ons that would be it in terms of monthly billing. Most of the time you’ll also get a free handset, per extension if you sign up to a 3+ year contract as well, although you can pay for them outright if a shorter term was preferred or use a ‘softphone’.
Use Them From Home
Ok this is where things get practical and why you should seriously consider changing to a cloud-based telephone system, if not already on one. You could, if you wanted to, just pick up the handset and plug into your home broadband router and then it would ring when someone called your office number, or if you dialled out then it would still be your business number displayed on the screen, but conclusively, it really is that simple! You will likely need to order some power supplies for the handsets and a longer network cable to go from the phone to the router, if the router is in a different room you may want to consider a wireless dongle that can be plugged in to some models of phones. We have tested these out over the last week or so and the quality is good.
Not everyone will be happy with staff taking their phones home, or perhaps it isn’t as simple as you would hope. On some of the more popular offerings out there, you can have a ‘softphone’ bolt-on (the system we provide certainly has this). There are 2 choices, you can have it on a smartphone and/or the desktop/laptop that they are using, you just need a headset for the computer.
When a call comes in, or if they want to dial out then they just do so with this software, it’s basically a dial pad on the screen and will be just like they’re sitting in the office and using the physical handset. You can see who is on the phone and who isn’t, so if you were going to transfer to a colleague you can see if their line was busy.
There is a further option that doesn’t require any bolt-ons and that’s something called ‘twinning’. It simply means you can make other devices ring when the physical handsets are ringing, so essentially if your handset is kept in the office and someone calls, this will trigger another device to ring at the same time and whichever one picks up the call, talks from that one. This is only useful for incoming calls though, as you won’t be able to dial out.
You’d be forgiven for loving the idea of this solution replacing the old one, but assuming it takes weeks to complete, well not in most cases. If it’s an entirely new system you wanted from scratch (without keeping old numbers) we can do that the same day!
We practice what we preach too – it’s the exact same system as we use ourselves and making that transition to working from home, yet continuing to support our clients has been a very seamless and easy process, certainly not something we could do if we weren’t using cloud phones.
Hopefully this has highlighted the simplicity, yet importance of having a cloud system in place from a day to day, business as usual scenario and if you would like some advice, feel free to get in touch and we’ll gladly see what your options might be.