You can have an amazing website, a great social media presence, and a friendly staff that can field questions on all sorts of messaging apps. But when your customers have a question, one of the best things a small business can hope for is that they simply pick up the phone and call you.
A person's voice can communicate far more than, for example, a question about your business hours. It can indicate stress, frustration, or receptiveness to hearing about other solutions, and therefore can create a stronger social bond. Voice communication can enable those powerful soft skills like sympathy and empathy to enter into the customer relationship. And while we’ve all heard the phrase far too often, there’s simply no better way to say "your call is important to us" than to have a phone system that allows your clients and business partners to contact you right away and have in-depth conversations.
Considering the extreme amount of innovation that has revolutionized voice communication in recent years, it's probably not surprising that there are more options available now than there ever have been. However, some telephone systems offer more flexibility, security, reliability and cost effectiveness than others.
What is VoIP, and How is it Different from a Traditional Phone?
VoIP is an internet phone service that's sometimes also referred to as broadband phone service, internet telephone, or Cloud PBX. Instead of using cables to transmit sound, it converts a user's voice into a digital signal. Therefore, you can make VoIP calls from anywhere and at any time using a smart device, which can offer a great deal of flexibility.
Traditional office phone systems require you to be on-site when you make or receive calls, keeping you tethered to your desk. And while many offer a lot of features like call transferring, call waiting and more, installing office phones at every desk can be expensive, and any additional features can run up your monthly bill. If you need to make long distance calls from time to time, your bill may sometimes contain a few unpleasant surprises that can be difficult to plan and budget for.
VoIP, on the other hand, often comes with a simple monthly rate, and typically includes more features like video conferencing, chat and mobile apps at no additional charge. Users can also upgrade their service at any time using an online portal, with no physical installation needed.
If you haven't yet set up your business telephone, your decision is probably an easy one. VoIP is far cheaper to set up and offers a lot more features. It's the clear winner as long as you have decent internet speed, and you can find a good VoIP service provider.
If you already have business phones in place, you don't have to cut the cord completely. You might try a hybrid system; for example, you could make all of your local calls on your landline phones, and switch to VoIP when making long-distance calls. A hybrid system also gives you the ability to make calls even if one network is down. Then, as your business scales, you can continue using VoIP for new lines until it's easier to make the switch from landline to VoIP completely.
Cybersecurity is deservedly top of mind throughout the business world and nonprofit communities. However, it's easy to forget that landlines have always had their own security challenges. Granted, it is difficult to physically hack into telephone wires to listen in on calls. But once this is accomplished, the eavesdropper typically goes undetected. VoIP systems, however, have better monitoring systems to detect unauthorized access, and can include end-to-end encryption to protect your communication. Many providers also can offer HIPAA compliance and will conduct regular security audits.
Aside from weather events and other emergencies, rural Americans, by and large, have easy access to reliable phone service. The same can’t be said of high-speed broadband internet…at least, not yet. One third of rural residents don't have access to high speed internet, and that can cause problems with all internet-based communication, including VoIP.
But even in urban areas where high speed internet is more broadly available, before you sign anything with a VoIP provider, check out their uptime, which refers to the time their network is guaranteed to be up and running. These days, most providers guarantee 99.99% uptime. Some downtime is inevitable with any network, landlines included. But if you can't find a VoIP provider that can guarantee this level of uptime, or if the internet in your area is slow or unreliable, it's best to stick to landlines or a hybrid system for now.
Is it the end of the line for traditional business phone systems? The answer is not yet, but it's getting there. Among households that have a landline phone installed, about 40% have stopped using it. The pandemic has only hastened the demise of the landline, as more remote workers have gotten comfortable using video conferencing apps, mobile phones have grown less expensive, and call clarity has improved. Nuisance and scam calls have further reduced the likelihood of landline users answering incoming calls by about 25%.
VoIP and other internet-based phone systems are clearly where the innovations are, and at some point, landline phones are likely to become entirely obsolete. But until high speed internet is available and reliable throughout the U.S., landlines will still be a necessity for years to come, regardless of what future innovations will bring.
If you're still wondering which communication technology is right for your business, this ten-question survey can help point you in the right direction. If you’d rather talk to an expert who can quickly guide you to a custom solution, fill out this short form, and a Marco phone specialist will be in touch soon.