Running a small business means trying to stand out in a landscape that’s more competitive than ever, making use of limited resources and likely wearing multiple hats at once. Every dollar counts, which often necessitates foregoing helpful tools in the name of cutting costs—like a business phone system. While useful in many ways, they’re also expensive and not always suitable for teams whose members work remotely or travel often.
There’s a fairly simple alternative: Forget a phone system. Just use your cell phones! Everyone has one, they’re great, who needs anything else. Right? It’s certainly an option, but one that comes with disadvantages, and thanks to new technology, there’s no longer any need to settle. Enter the cloud phone system.
In the rest of this article, we’ll explain:
- What a cloud-based phone system is.
- What you’re missing out on without a cloud phone system.
- How to further strengthen your phone experience with an answering service.
What is a cloud-based phone system?
A cloud-based phone system (also known as a virtual phone system) essentially gives your smartphone all the functionality of a sophisticated business phone system without the frightening price tag or unnecessary hardware. They’re nimble (setup involves little more than downloading an app), affordable (no contracts, low monthly pricing), and they go wherever you go. Designed to make your business appear as polished and professional as possible, cloud phone systems are undoubtedly the future of business communications.
How can my business benefit from using one?
Using your personal phone number as your business number carries with it a number of disadvantages and inconveniences, the first of which is: it’s just unprofessional. In the eyes of most customers, an established business has a dedicated phone number. A personal phone number in place of one can make you look smaller, a potentially costly and easily avoidable problem. When you setup your cloud phone system, you’ll either choose a new local or toll-free phone number or port in an existing number. This number will ring to any phone you want it to, giving you and your team better control of your phone calls.
Lacking a business phone system can also create headaches for your customers. Reaching a specific person or department in your company on the phone is much more difficult when everyone’s using their own phone number—advertising twelve phone numbers at once isn’t exactly visually pleasing—and you can bet they’ll be quick to call a competitor after a frustrating phone experience. This is where your cloud phone system shines: Call routing controls connect your callers to everyone on your team from the same phone number. Once they call, they’re prompted to press 1 for this person, 2 for that department, et cetera, and the call rings right to that user’s phone. In the case of a department or group of users, the call will ring to all of their phones at once, so whoever is available at the time can answer quickly.
There’s a wealth of actionable knowledge to be gained by analyzing how your business uses the phone. Is a lot of your business coming from a certain geographic area? Are your phones busier on certain days or at certain times? Did that advertising campaign lead to an uptick in calls? Accessing that information is much more difficult, however, if your business calls are taking place on a handful of different cell phones. With a cloud phone system equipped with analytics, all of your call information is available in detailed reports, so you’re always informed and up-to-date.
An answering service captures every call.
While a cloud phone system absolutely strengthens your business communication structure, some calls will inevitably slip through the cracks. The occasional missed call might not seem like a disastrous mistake, but that missed call might just be your new biggest client—just one more slip-up that’s entirely avoidable with the right tools at your disposal. An answering service with 24/7 availability keeps your phone calls covered and offsets the calls from customers seeking basic information (business hours, return policy, pricing, etc).
The best answering services  do much more than take messages: expertly trained agents can process orders, manage appointments, act as a help desk, screen calls, collect lead information and more. This all happens based on your customized script, which helps agents sound exactly like a member of your team. And one more thing: the best answering services can integrate with any online systems you have in place, like a CRM or case-management software like Salesforce or Clio.
Once you’ve set up your answering service, they can step in to answer calls as often as you’d like. Are you taking off for the week? Do you only want business calls during business hours? You can even route calls to your phone first, then the answering service if you don’t answer in a certain amount of time. You control your calls, and they’ll always be answered by a friendly, knowledgeable person.
It’s true, small businesses have to do more with less, which can be a disadvantage. Fortunately, the sophisticated telephone tools that were once inaccessible to smaller businesses now exist in a mobile app that’s flexible and affordable. The flexible features of a cloud phone system paired with the dependable support of an answering system are a powerful duo that ensure you’ll never squander another phone call.
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