Choosing a business communication system for your company is no small task.
Whether you’re a solopreneur working from home or a growing business with a full-fledged office and staff, your business communication system is what gives you access to your customers, suppliers, and anyone else you might need to contact.
Here’s a list of tips for choosing a business communication system that will help your business thrive.
Understand the Critical Importance of Communications
Picking out a business communication system isn’t something that should be taken lightly. So don’t just pick a provider because it has a recognizable name or was the first company you came across. Do some research to make sure you’re getting the best value and the features that your business needs.
Be Able to Communicate from Anywhere
Few small business owners today stick to just doing business from one location. And with a cloud communication system, offered by some VoIP providers like Nextiva, you can access your business communication system from a variety of devices. You don’t have to stay put in your office.
Find a Provider with Good Support
Customer support is one of the most important factors you’ll need to consider when choosing a communication provider. So talk to other business owners, read reviews, and do some online research to find out which providers have the best support for their systems.
Focus on How You Want That Support Delivered
More specifically, you should find out exactly how the providers you’re considering offer support, and make sure they align with your preferences. Yaniv Masjedi, VP of marketing for Nextiva, said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends: “Some people like receiving support over the phone and some people would rather communicate with you over Twitter, Facebook, live chat or email. So if you prefer to communicate with a company in a particular way, look into it and ask people at the company,” he said.
Ask Where Service Reps are Based
For those who prefer to receive customer support over the phone, Masjedi says that the location of agents is often an important factor. If you want to make sure that your customer support reps are based in the U.S. or in a particular geographic area, specifically ask that when doing your research.
Call Their Customer Service Department
One of the best ways to get all of this information is just to call companies directly. You can use this to gather information, but also take your own experience into account. Masjedi says: “Call their customer service department and see what it’s like. Are you waiting on hold for a really long time or do they answer the phone right away? Waiting on hold for 45 minutes when you’re having an issue with your communication system is the last thing you want to experience.”
Shop Around for a Good Idea of the Services Available
The market for business communication systems has expanded in recent years due to new technology. So there are plenty of options to choose from. Once you’ve called and asked about a particular provider, do the same for several other companies and then compare them.
Compare Prices Including Affordable Business Options
As the market has expanded, so have pricing options. VoIP services offer options that are often more affordable for small businesses. And as with any business decision, price should be a part of your determination.
Take Some Time to Uncover Hidden Costs
But you shouldn’t just take the price of each service at face value. Some providers offer introductory pricing or only offer certain prices if you sign into a long term contract. Look into those factors before just choosing the lowest price option.
Read Reviews and Look for Warning Signs
Reviews can be a great source for information about different companies. Do a quick search of your top choices and look out for any warning signs if people have concerns about support or reliability.
Understand Your Company’s Needs
With so many different features and types of plans, there’s something for basically any business. That means you need to choose a plan that is best suited to your type of business. If you need mobile options, choose a plan that includes those features. If you want faxing ability included, choose a plan that includes that. Think about the features you want and compare those specific plans from different providers.
Find a System that Fits the Size of Your Business
There are also plans that are best suited for different business sizes. If you have a few employees, you probably don’t need a system that’s set up for hundreds. But if you have a decent sized team, don’t just stick with the system you had when you worked at home by yourself.
But Also Seek Out Scalable Solutions
But even though you don’t want to pay for more than you need, a solution that can grow with your business is a definite plus. Find one that gives you the ability to add lines or team members. Or at the very least, don’t sign up for a long-term contract if you plan on outgrowing it within that time frame. Masjedi says: “So many businesses start small and then within a few years they have hundreds of employees. So you don’t want a phone system designed for ten employees or less. You want a provider that will support you as you grow.”
Learn How Often Updates Are Provided
With so much growth happening in the industry, you don’t want to miss out on new features that could be helpful just because you’re stuck in a contract. Before signing up for anything, ask about new features the company is working on and how often they update their technology.
Don’t Overlook Small Features
Even little features can make a big difference when it comes to your business communication system. For instance, Masjedi says that many of Nextiva’s customers really appreciate the ability to change outgoing or hold messages easily. If you have a little pet peeve with your current system, or something small that you wish you could do with it, ask about that when looking into providers. There’s no detail too small.
Take Your System Mobile
Mobile communication systems are becoming popular now that many of them are cloud based. Companies such as Nextiva even offer mobile apps that business owners can use to take calls on their business lines from anywhere.
Look for Options Like a Separate Business Line
For certain entrepreneurs, just having a separate number for business operations can be a big plus. Masjedi says that lawyers in particular tend to appreciate the ability to make and receive business calls on a separate line, even if they’re actually using their personal cell phone, because it lets them avoid giving out their personal number.
Explore Any Innovative New Features
There are countless ways to use different communications systems. So if there’s a feature or ability you’d like, there’s probably a provider that’s offering it. For example, Masjedi says that some businesses really appreciate Nextiva’s vFax feature, which allows them to send virtual documents as faxes even if you don’t have an actual fax machine.
Find Out About Analytics
Analytics can be another useful feature. Even if you don’t currently use them, they can help your business in a variety of ways. So it’s a factor that’s worth looking into.
Collect the Data to Grow Your Business
Analytics information can provide you with data that you can use to expand your operations. Masjedi offered this example:
“If you’re a dry cleaner and you close at 5 every day, but you see that calls are coming for some reason on Saturdays until 7, you’ll know that maybe you need to keep it open an extra two hours on Saturdays,” he said.
Use Recorded Calls to Train Employees
Many phone systems also give you the option of recording calls. You can use this feature to evaluate phone service and even use the calls to train employees and improve your service.
Draw on Technology to Optimize Your Team
You can also use call recording and analytics to keep an eye on employee habits. You don’t want to see team members spending all day on needless calls. So you can use the data to make sure everyone is on task.
Don’t Rely on Your Provider for Every Small Update
Another main benefit of VoIP and similar services is that they give users the ability to update parts of their service on their own. This doesn’t mean that you can’t call for service or help. But if you just want to update your outgoing message or something small, you can do it without having to sit on hold or call a company rep out to your location. So if that’s something that’s important to you, find a provider that gives you the option of managing parts of your account on your own.
But Make Sure They Will Help When You Need It
But good service is still essential to your operations. Make sure that your provider is open and available to help for anything you might need, not just a small set of options on on their pre-recorded phone menu.