Small business owners wear a lot of hats. You’re the CEO and the financial director. You’re the operations manager, and sometimes the head of IT. And that’s all in one day. Often, the tactical tasks take up so many hours, you don’t have the time to take a longer view. When you have fires to put out every day, strategy always seems to take a back seat. In order to grow your business, you need communications tools that will make life easier, not more complicated. They’ve got to fit into your budget and be easy to implement and use. Most important, they must serve your customers better and make your employees more productive.
Hosted phone service, often called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), accomplishes all by delivering seamless voice, collaboration and contact center features in a single cloud solution. Using a cloud-based phone service like MiCloud Connect, your phone can be transformed from a piece of hardware to a powerful tool for enhanced communications and collaboration.
Here are nine communications features a hosted phone service provides, and that your small business can’t afford to live without.
1. Personal dashboard.
If you’re considering a VoIP system, make sure it offers a personal dashboard where employees can manage all phone communications. For example, in one place, they should be able to view all voicemails and call logs, including missed calls. The home page includes a contacts database so staff can “click to call” anyone right from their screen. And they don’t need to call from their desk, either. With any Wi-Fi connection, they can use their mobile device to access their home page via the web. The result: Your salespeople or field personnel can stay on top of calls no matter where they are.
2. Easy conference calls.
“What’s the bridge number? Who should I call? Why is this not working?” Sound familiar? Setting up conference calls shouldn’t require a degree in engineering — or a struggle with unreliable third-party apps. With a hosted phone service, your staff can easily set up audio and video conference calls, even with outside parties, from a single dashboard. What’s more, participants can share their screens and files during each call. Collaboration has never been so simple.
3. Group pick-up and extension monitoring.
If you’re running a typical small business, you’re not the only one wearing several hats. Your staff has to juggle multiple roles, too. With a group pick-up feature, calls are routed to one extension that several people can answer. So if an employee is away from their desk, someone else can monitor their extension and answer incoming calls. Instead of going to voicemail, customers connect with a real human who can answer questions and resolve issues.
4. Visual voicemail.
After a day in client meetings, checking in from the road often means confronting an overflowing voicemail inbox. Instead of forcing your staff to replay and replay each message while scribbling down key information, make sure your VoIP solution includes visual voicemail. Imagine how much faster you’ll respond to a voicemail from your biggest client: After they leave a voicemail, the message is immediately transcribed and emailed to you, with the audio file attached. You can even reply directly from your email with a simple click.
5. Personalized call routing.
If you’re like most small business owners, you don’t spend a lot of time at your desk. But customers and staff still need to reach you. A hosted phone service provides powerful call-routing options for every situation. Use call forwarding to screen incoming calls and choose where you want them to go: to your mobile, another extension or voicemail. You can choose forwarding options based on specific numbers (internal or external), time of day or day of the week.
6. Presence status.
As you’re walking out the door, how often are you asked, “How can I reach you if …?” When you can’t be interrupted — let’s say during a client meeting — your employees need to know how to best communicate with you. With the right VoIP, you can indicate your availability as, for example, in the office, away, on the phone or in a meeting. Your presence status can even change automatically if you’re on the phone or scheduled to be in conference.
7. Virtual contact center.
With traditional phone and PBX systems, growing means spending more money on hardware and infrastructure. But with a cloud-based contact center, you can easily add new agents — no matter where they’re physically located or what type of device they’re using. This means staff can sign in from wherever they are, whether they’re working from home or another location.
8. Instant messaging.
Why send an email when a text message is more effective? We’re all buried in emails as it is. Short instant messages between colleagues (e.g., “What time is the meeting?”) are more efficient than starting a thread of emails that may very well get lost. With a hosted phone service, staff can easily instant message within your communications system, instead of using third-party apps that aren’t integrated.
9. Call move.
Here’s a familiar scenario: You’re in the middle of a conference call that’s running long. You want to stay on the call, but you’ve got another meeting across town. With the VoIP call move feature, you can easily switch devices and pick up the call via your mobile in the car.
Find the hosted phone service that’s right for you
When it’s time to move from your personal phones to a business phone system, here are some questions to ask your solution provider:
Is your system easy and intuitive to use?
Will it integrate with our existing systems?
What can we expect during implementation?
What kind of support do you offer?
Can we add functionality as we grow?
Will this system enable us to track all communications?
Does this system come with collaboration tools that will improve my staff’s productivity?
How can we serve our customers better with this system?
A hosted phone service should make your life easier. It should be more cost-effective because you pay for what you need, and only when you need it. There are no large upfront investments and no need to pay for software upgrades down the line. With a hosted phone solution, you can have all the functionality that the “big guys” enjoy for your growing business.