Nearly every business needs a phone system. There are more means of communication than ever, but in many ways, the telephone still reigns supreme. Short of a face-to-face conversation, there’s no replacement for being able to actually speak with a client, customer, or business partner over the phone.

That doesn’t mean phones haven’t changed in our time. Far from it: the internet and the smartphone have both altered phone communications, opening up new platforms, features, and options for voice chat.

So, how should businesses sort out those options and find the best one for them? In the end, that comes down to a business: a 10-person company with a small sales team is going to have very different needs from a three-person accounting firm, which is going to be different from a one-person solopreneur operation. Let’s discuss your options so you can decide which one may be best for your small business’ needs.

You have three main options for a small business phone system: VoIP, landline, and virtual phone system apps. Let’s take a closer look at each below.

Voice Over IP (VoIP) phone system.

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP for short, is common technology you’ve probably used before. If you’ve ever made or received a Skype call, you’re already familiar with VoIP. As the name suggests, this type of phone system uses the Internet to transmit voice calls. Some VoIP providers go exclusively through desktop or mobile apps—more on that in a minute—but first let’s focus on business VoIP systems, which work primarily through desk handsets. Here are the main benefits of a VoIP system for business:

Inexpensive.
When compared to the installation fees and monthly charges associated with a landline, a VoIP phone line is much friendlier to your budget. A VoIP system for five employees will typically cost between $150-$300 a month, compared to a landline at $400-$500 a month.

Easy to install and use.
If you have the Internet and a VoIP handset, you have everything you need to install and operate a VoIP phone system. Handsets range from $30 on the low end to several hundred dollars for the top systems. With most VoIP providers, your service can be operational within minutes.

One of the best reasons to go for VoIP is flexibility. Unlike with a landline, you’re not tethered to your desk. You can leave the office and forward your incoming calls to your smartphone or any other line.

What type of business should use VoIP?
Since VoIP is so affordable, it’s a great option for any small business. Businesses that may benefit the most from a VoIP system include those with distributed teams that have no central office. If you manage a remote team but need everyone to have access to a central phone system, VoIP is a smart choice.

VoIP is also great for customer-facing businesses. Using advanced features such as barge or whisper, you can listen in on phone calls between your staff and customers and also coach them (or whisper) in real time. You can use these features to improve your customer service and employee training.

The biggest caveat is you need a reliable high-speed Internet connection to maintain consistently clear phone calls. For this reason, we recommend businesses take a VoIP speed test before committing to a VoIP provider.

Virtual phone system apps.

Is your small business fully mobile? Do you operate a small business where there’s no need for a dedicated office space with desk phones? Perhaps you’re always on the go and need your phone system to travel with you? A virtual phone system app may be the perfect solution to your needs.

Operating like any other app, a virtual phone system can be accessed by clicking on an icon on your mobile device, such as a smartphone. You can add departments and a variety of extensions to employees across multiple continents, and receive calls from any location.

A virtual phone system app gives you the option to use your existing number. You can also go with a toll free or local number—whichever would be easier for your customers to access. The varied options are perfect for businesses who want a separate phone number with advanced features but don’t necessarily need a desk phone. Most VoIP providers also include an app with their service.

What type of business should use a virtual phone system app?

A virtual phone system app is also a great option for small businesses. If you’re a solopreneur or a small team with the need to place and phone calls on the go, an app may answer all of your phone needs. You can pay monthly while also presenting a professional appearance to your customers.

Landlines.

Next up is the old faithful: landlines. Many businesses go with a landline because it’s the most traditional choice. However, compared to the agility of a VoIP system, landlines are sluggish, expensive, and antiquated. That said, there is at least one reason why a small business may choose to use a landline service instead of a VoIP: Internet. If your Internet service is unreliable, weak, or non-existent, a landline phone may be your best option. VoIP relies on Internet, but landlines are analog systems that use copper wiring. Businesses that experience frequent power outages may also benefit from a landline phone system.

What type of business should use a landline phone system?
Small businesses without access to reliable high speed Internet service should either consider upgrading their Internet package or go for a landline system. This system is also best paired with office staff that work from one stationary location, without leaving the office.

Final thoughts.
Which phone system should you choose? It depends on your budget and your office set up. If you need or want desk phones, opt for a VoIP system that gives you everything a traditional landline system does and much more at half the price. If desk phones aren’t important or necessary, choose an app that can be accessed on your smartphone.

Any of the above options will help you succeed in the most important task: being accessible to your customers. It’s only a matter of how much you’d like to spend and how often you’ll use your line.

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How cool are smartphones? These little computers allow us easy access to a wealth of information and services, and although we may rely on them more than we’d like, there’s no doubt about their ability to make our lives easier. Of the many ways smartphones allow customers to connect with businesses (email? online forms? social media? I’m looking at you!), a recent Invoca study shows that smartphone users are, well, phoning more than anything else.

With click-to-call functionality, smartphones users can search for, find, and call a business in seconds with just a few screen taps. And for small businesses, the stakes of these calls are high. 74% of those polled said they’re likely to choose another business after a poor phone experience, while 80% said a positive experience is likely to make them a repeat customer. Any call could be a raving fan in the making, or a bad Yelp review waiting to happen—a review that could easily be written from the very smartphone used to call your company moments earlier. Yep, the danger is real, folks. So is the opportunity.

So what constitutes a poor phone experience? You probably know all too well. Think of a time you were unimpressed when you called a business. One or more of the usual suspects was likely involved:

  • Long hold times
  • Distracted/flustered/annoyed-sounding/unhelpful person on the other end of the line
  • Repeating the same information to multiple people
  • Botched transfers—finally get to the right place and then whoops! your call mysteriously ends
  • Lack of a live person altogether; instead, a labyrinth of automated options with seemingly no hope for escape
  • Going straight to voicemail during business hours, or worst of all, endless ringing with no voicemail

How about a positive experience—what does that look like? Well, if you’re a small business owner, it’s probably exactly what you’d like give every caller if you could: an engaging, informative, helpful, friendly exchange. Of course, you never know when a smartphone user’s Google search will lead to a phone call, and fielding phone queries is just one of many demands of running a business. In between meetings and planning your next steps, you have to actually do the work your customers paying for—not to mention find time to eat, sleep, and maybe even have a personal life. Small business ownership can become an all-consuming endeavor, and the accompanying stress means even if the phone rings when you have a rare bit of downtime, you might not be in the mood to pick it up.

Any time someone calls your business, you have an opportunity to make a real, meaningful connection that sets you apart from the competition. A conversation relays so much more than any advertisement, website, or email ever could. When a new customer builds trust with the person on the other end of the line, they build trust with that company. Trust leads to lasting relationships, repeat business, and referrals.

The convenience of click-to-call means more phone traffic for your business, and that’s great news if there’s a friendly voice on your end of the line. Reap the benefits of the business call renaissance by reviewing and investing in your caller experience. If you’re looking for customer service expertise, Ruby Receptionists® has your back. We’re here to ensure your every business day call is answered by a live, friendly person who cares about the welfare of your company and delights in creating powerfully positive experiences for each caller.

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*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the canceled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner. Some restrictions may apply.