Small business connectivity: Optimising your phone use
Phones remain a critical line of communication for small businesses across Australia. Even as the internet allows for various channels for your customers to get in touch, like email, instant messaging, and social media, without a reliable way for customers to contact you by phone, you’re going to miss out on business opportunities.
So, how can a small business really optimise and leverage its phone lines?
What phone setups are available for small businesses?
Phone systems for businesses are a little more complex than the line that runs into your home to give you a landline connection for private use. You’re going to need to make sure everyone in the office can pick up the phone when they need it, and that customers have a great experience when they dial in.
There are a couple of different decisions you have to make for phone systems for your business:
Physical or virtual?
Many businesses like to have physical desk phones for their employees to use, but it’s also possible to now have what’s called a “virtual phone service.” This is where customers dial a number as though they’re calling a standard landline, but your employees can answer it on their mobile phones, as the call is routed through an application. This is incredibly useful if you want customers to get the impression they’re calling an office, but your team are actually on the road, working from home, and so on.
Hosted or local PBX?
If you do want desk telephones as part of your communications mix, then you’re going to want the voice communication to be delivered over VoIP. As the nbn™ is rolled out across Australia, existing copper lines are being “switched off”, meaning standard phone lines will no longer operate. Instead, businesses will need to adopt VoIP solutions. It’s better for the business anyway, as VoIP offers significant benefits over standard landlines, but you’ll need to decide if you want the technology that runs the phone systems (the PBX) to be based on-premises, or if you want it hosted in the cloud and managed by your service provider (hosted PBX).
Finding the right setup for your business
There’s no right or wrong set up for your business; finding the most effective and efficient solution depends on how your organisation is run, and what you want to get out of your phone system.
Why you might consider a virtual system
If you do have a lot of remote employees, or run a very small business, then a virtual phone system might be for you. These systems aren’t particularly feature rich, though they generally offer a few useful tools, such as an automated reception system, call screening, and voicemail.
Why you might consider an on-premise PBX system
If your business has been established for a few years then you’ll be familiar with having the PBX box (the unit that controls the office’s phone lines) on your premises. Under traditional telephones, there was no alternative to having that on-premise PBX box. As such, businesses that use these often want to continue to maintain control over their PBX as they shift to VoIP. With locally hosted PBX, the business is responsible for the maintenance and upgrades of the technology, which can be costly and require specialised technology skills within your organisation, but at the obvious benefit of having control over your systems.
Most small businesses, however, will find the hosted PBX solution to be the most appealing way to go. Under a hosted PBX solution, small businesses don’t need to worry about the technology itself. Rather, they pay a per-user flat monthly subscription fee to the hosting provider, who’s responsible for the maintenance of the equipment. Often, these solutions can be bundled into Internet plans, giving small businesses an opportunity to upgrade their phone systems when switching to the nbn™.
Additionally, through a hosted PBX solution, small businesses get access to features that would previously only be available to large enterprises running the most expensive equipment. These features include line hunt (where if a call goes unanswered it’s immediately forwarded to the next best contact number), company voicemail, night switches, and call queuing.
Finally, hosted PBX solutions offer much the same features as virtual systems; if an employee is working from home or on the road, it’s possible to have calls directed to their office line sent to their mobile phone instead. The customer never knows the difference, but will have the perception that they’re able to get in touch with the right person at the company whenever they need to.
Get set up
It’s important to make sure you’ve got an effective and efficient phone system – one that allows a maximum number of employees to use the system simultaneously and lets customers contact you without getting cut off or blocked out. Nothing is more frustrating than an organisation’s phone systems not working properly.
If you need to set up your small business with phone plans, the award-winning products and services at Aussie Broadband have got you covered! Contact the team behind Australia’s 5th largest nbn™ provider now!