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December 27, 2012

Dial-In to Better Service for Your Small Business

If there was one thing you could change about your small business heading into 2013, what would it be?

Better communication among employees and one’s customers is oftentimes looked at as needing an upgrade. If you don’t communicate properly around the office, your employees may not get their marching orders. Fail to properly communicate with customers, and you could lose some of them to the competition.

To more effectively communicate with both, are you considering adding Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to your game plan in the New Year?

According to an Infonetics report, worldwide service provider revenue from both businesses and residential/SOHO (small office/home office) services accounted for close to $58 billion in 2011, an increase of 16 percent from 2010. Meantime, the number of seats for hosted business VoIP and unified communication services are on pace to more than double between now and 2016.

For those business owners not dialed-in to what VoIP can offer them, consider:

• Savings – What small business owner is not interested in saving their company money? With VoIP, you not only save on in-house calls (talking to employees who are traveling for you or work remotely) compared to standard phone systems, but you also spend less on communication hardware. If you run a sizable call center at your business, you can see savings over time with all the phone traffic that you are required to handle.

• Efficiency – Along with the monetary savings, VoIP allows your small business to be more efficient, both among employees and in dealing with customers. Voice and data needs can be satisfied with a lone set of networks protocols and wiring, providing your team with better functionality. If you have employees on the road for work or telecommuting, you can dial-in to audio conferencing, with both national and internationals calls doable from one PC to another or via a PC to a landline.

• Hosted or Non-Hosted? – If you choose VoIP, you must decide between a hosted or non-hosted system. With a hosted system, an outside company handles all the placement and management of the system. A non-hosted system involves in-house management. A hosted system offers the opportunity for small business owners to get their hands on more recent technology and features for a monthly rate for each phone. In many cases, this will come with a PBX (private branch exchange) phone system. The question oftentimes becomes, do you want someone outside of your company having the responsibility and control for the system? With non-hosted, you purchase the VoIP equipment and set it up. While the initial expense for such a system is greater than that of a hosted system, keep in mind that once paid off, you own the equipment, essentially an investment for your business.

• Growing Business – Finally, VoIP can definitely make sense if you plan to grow your small business in the years to come. As you add more workers to the mix, you don’t need to pay for, and deploy more phone lines in your office. Simply provide an extension and hook it up to the current system to plug-in new lines. If you outgrow your office space, you can simply keep the same business phone number and take it with you because you are connected through the Internet, not one phone line in the present office. Speaking of growing, one item you need to have covered prior to choosing a VoIP system is your available bandwidth. Do some testing beforehand to see if your present network configuration can take on more traffic.

If 2013 is the year you give VoIP a try for your small business, you could be dialed-in to better efficiency and more communications savings over time.

Dave Thomas covers a variety of small business topics, including how to locate a great VoIP service provider.