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No matter how many bells and whistles you’ve incorporated into your business, chances are you still rely heavily on good-old phone calls. Numbers don’t lie: half your customers will choose a cordial ear-to-ear phone conversation over advanced technologies like AI or chatbots.
Unless you’re a world-beating enterprise, you need a small business phone system to drive callers to conversion. With such a phone system, you will hit the bull’s eye with most inbound calls, whereas disasters like an onslaught of incomplete and missed calls will never see the light of day.
- Your small business phone system must become your unique conversion machine that drives up to 15 times more sales than web interactions.
So if you don’t have a small business phone system, go get one. And if your phone system leaves much to be desired, upgrade or reconfigure it before it steals your customers. Nip it in the bud before any harm can be done.
Luckily, you’re not alone in your endeavor. We’ll walk you through the multiverse of business phone systems within the next hour of reading. And if you still need more information regarding “phone systems and where to find them,” don’t hesitate to contact our experts.
Without any further ado, let’s dig into it.
What Is a Virtual Phone System (VoIP)?
A virtual phone system (also known as a cloud-based or VoIP phone system) is a high-tech solution for receiving and making calls over the Internet, unlike traditional landline phone systems that rely exclusively on copper wires.
- A virtual phone system is hosted in the cloud, with the service provider overseeing the system’s operation and maintenance. On the user’s side, a monthly payment will unlock the power of a cloud-based phone system.
Cloud-based phone systems for small businesses boast low implementation cost, scalability, advanced features, and integration with call software. Above all, they enable calls from any place and device with a stable internet connection.
What Is a Cloud-Based PBX Phone System?
To better understand cloud-based PBX (Private Branch Exchange) phone systems, let’s turn to their predecessors — on-premise PBX systems.
- An on-premise PBX system is a private landline telephone network that enables cost-effective calls, advanced security, and customization within a particular call center.
As good as traditional PBX systems were in the past, they required hefty upfront investment – around $500 for the simplest solution – did not leverage the Internet, and was incompatible with other call solutions.
Did you miss our recent article on the on-premise vs. cloud-based PBX? Check it out here to see who’s winning.
The limitations of on-premise PBX systems eventually led to the emergence of their contemporary cloud-based analogs.
- A cloud-based PBX system is hosted on the cloud by a software provider and uses the Internet connection to process calls. On the user’s side, a monthly payment will suffice to leverage such a system.
Cloud-based PBX systems like Phonexa’s cloud PBX unite the basic features of on-site PBX systems and a plethora of additional features with no upfront investment. With a virtual PBX phone system, you don’t have to worry about security breaches, hardware damage, or maintenance, as your SaaS provider singlehandedly runs the system.
The Advantages of VoIP and PBX Small Business Telephone Systems
|Cost-Effectiveness||Unlike landline business phone systems, their cloud-based analogs don’t require an upfront investment. You don’t need to purchase hardware or software, nor do you need to maintain it. Your SaaS telephone system for office will only incur a modest monthly fee. |
Likewise, a cloud-based business phone solution will decrease the cost of international calls, enabling cost-effective – toll-free for your callers – global campaigns.
|Remote Call Processing||Cloud-based small office phone systems enable remote call processing through call forwarding, call transfer, and softphones. Whether you work from an office or home, PC or mobile, you will get access to the same call ecosystem and free internal calls.|
|Flexibility||Cloud-based telephone systems for small businesses enable the most diverse call routing through numerous pathways, such as: |
Every caller can choose the preferred type of connection instead of having to speak directly to a live representative.
|Integration||Virtual phone systems for small businesses perfectly integrate with click-and-call software. |
Virtual office phone systems take call processing to a level unattainable for landline telephone systems for office.
|Security||Hosted in secure data centers with redundant internet connections and power supplies, cloud-based phone systems for small businesses never go out of work. Contrary to popular opinion, the necessity of an Internet connection isn’t the bottleneck with cloud-based telephone systems for offices.|
Before your business phone system can step in to drive callers to conversion, you need to generate inbound calls (duh). Whether through digital or traditional traffic channels, you must promote your business phone number so your customers know where to call.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Inbound calls make little sense if you can’t squeeze the maximum out of them. For that, you need to track, distribute, and analyze your calls. There’s no way around it: either you dig deep into your callers or eventually lose your business.
Solution? Call tracking.
The magic behind robust call tracking is that you can embed trackable phone numbers in your marketing materials, whether digital or print, and dissect your callers in real-time while driving them to conversion. Call tracking software will maximize the efficiency of your small business phone system, ensuring the optimal caller journey for every customer.
How To Generate Calls for Your Phone System
For starters, you need to get and promote your trackable small business phone numbers:
- Local numbers – local-prefix numbers for local campaigns.
- International numbers – global communication phone numbers for international campaigns.
- Vanity numbers – custom business telephone numbers (for example, 1-800-GO-FEDEX or 844-PHONEXA) for imprinting a name, idea, or value into the caller’s mind.
Do you know the pitfalls of getting a toll-free 1-800 number? Learn to choose your 1-800 number for business with no repercussions.
Besides choosing the right commercial phone system numbers, you must ensure toll-free calls for all callers. Why toll-free? Even loyal customers are unwilling to pay for business calls (and why should they?). People won’t be happy with paid calls and thus won’t call you.
Static vs. Dynamic Phone Numbers
Phone numbers can be static and dynamic:
- For traditional marketing campaigns, use static phone tracking numbers. One static number for one traffic source will suffice.
- For digital marketing campaigns, use dynamic numbers. One dynamic number for 100 daily website visits will be enough.
Source: Spotlight on Calls: What Is a Call Tracking Number?
Speaking of dynamic call numbers, they will display different to different callers while connecting them to the destination point. Behind the scenes, call tracking will unlock actionable insights on these callers, speeding up their journey and warming them up before your live rep picks up the phone.
Elaborate Phone System: Delivering Callers on a Silver Platter
As a caller dials your business number, a good quarter of the job has been done. You’ve been crafty enough to spark their interest and now must drive them to conversion…which isn’t trivial by any stretch of the imagination.
Every caller is unique, making generalization your biggest enemy. Instead of a simplified one-size-fits-all phone system for small business, you need a well-diversified call tree that enables a perfect journey for every caller.
Long story short, you need these four pathways within your small business phone solution:
- Live operator
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
- Keypad operations
The success of your call center will largely depend on how well you configure these pathways and ensure seamless transitions between them. The good news is that a modern small business telephone system will allow you to enliven a call distribution tree of any complexity.
Call Connection Basics
The dreamt-about call flood is actually happening. Your phones are buzzing: it’s showtime!
Below are two sets of questions that might help you design a robust phone system:
Question Set 1
- What system works best for you?
- What system will grow as your business grows?
- What is the cost for an operator versus an automated system?
- Does one work better than the other for you or for callers?
Take a deep breath and proceed with a few more questions:
Question Set 2
- What is the best way to greet the caller, reveal their needs and wants, and get them to the right sales rep?
- Is there a way to achieve this while remaining cost-efficient?
- What’s the best way to exploit the advantages of your IVR?
It’s always smart to keep your eye on the next step. Instead of blindly routing callers to a specific live agent, consider whether they are a good match or need more qualifying questions. On the other hand, you can’t drag it out for too long not to irritate callers.
- Call routing is as much science as it is art. You never know what call routing architecture will bring you success, but you have no other ground for building one than data and common sense.
Below are general recommendations on using specific call pathways for specific callers. Take them with a grain of salt, as your business case will likely require a unique approach.
From Call Initiation to Post-Call Analytics: Dissecting the Caller’s Journey
After registering an inbound call, your small business phone system must automatically send it on the optimal conversion path – or at least you hope it will. In reality, though, you must first develop a diverse call routing system that will account for the features of your callers before routing them to whoever (or whatever) can convert them.
Let’s review how to optimize your call distribution for different callers at every stage, from call initiation to post-call analytics.
1. Call Initiation: Phone System Tools to Process a Call
Tool 1 – Live Representative
Connecting callers to live reps is the most widespread routing strategy, and not without reason. Many customers seek live interaction to reaffirm their choices, especially when facing complex or time-sensitive issues. You may want to connect your most valuable callers to sales reps if you believe that’s the best way to convert them.
- Sales reps are the tip of the sales arrow, but it doesn’t mean you must force your callers to speak to a live agent. Giving your callers a choice will always pay off.
A phone system that connects everyone to a live rep is bound to fail. At the end of the day, too many callers want alternative ways of communication, such as text messaging, qualifying questions, or an IVR-driven conversation, before they are ready to speak to a live agent (if ever).
Tool 2 – Interactive Voice Response
With increasingly more people getting used to voice assistants, IVR has become a common call routing choice for commercial phone systems of all scales.
IVR Communication Technologies
|Speech recognition||Speech recognition software compares the caller’s speech with the predefined commands, looking for a match. When the match is found, the response in the phone system routes the caller to a sales rep, confirms the order, or else. |
|Natural language processing||NLP software analyzes not only the caller’s voice commands but also the intent. Akin to a human brain, NLP guesses the meaning from familiar speech fragments. |
|Speech recognition + keypad selections||A hybrid phone system combines speech recognition and keypad selections and sometimes even NLP technologies.|
Choosing between speech recognition and NLP technologies may be quite challenging:
- On the one hand, you want cheaper and more familiar technology. If so, speech recognition will resonate with more customers, resembling popular voice assistants like Alexa or Siri.
- On the other hand, you want a more accurate and perspective technology. If so, natural language processing will recognize the most complex speech patterns, catering to the widest audience.
The ultimate choice of speech technology will depend on your business scale, routing complexity, the library of vocabulary and grammar within your small business virtual phone system, and budget. For a simple phone system, speech recognition may suffice. For a cutting-edge phone system for a small office, you may need more expensive NLP software.
Bonus: Down with underwhelming IVR! Learn to leverage the power of IVR for call centers.
Your IVR’s Target Audience
Connecting all callers to an IVR system is never the best strategy. What if a caller has an urgent issue? What if they are under pressure? IVR may not be the right place for such callers.
Common Requests with IVR Systems
|General||Company’s location, working hours, prices, etc.|
|Account||Balance check, transaction check, password change, etc.|
|Payment||Subscription payment, billing issues, transaction inquiries, etc.|
|Technical Support||Basic technical issues, such as downtime requests.|
|Sales||Sales-related requests that don’t require a live rep, such as subscription renewal.|
There’s no universal rule as to whom to connect to an IVR system, but it’s pretty clear that you must consider a multitude of factors, such as the caller’s demographics, psychographics, and history of interactions. As good as IVR systems are for driving callers to conversion, a human touch is still king in marketing and sales.
Common IVR Phone System Mistakes To Avoid
Configuring your IVR is a creative process that requires mapping out the customer journey and analyzing every touchpoint. In turn, the complexity of engineering an IVR system creates room for mistakes, with some blunders lying on the surface.
Let’s address the common phone system mistakes so you can avoid them.
Phone System Mistake #1: Your IVR Has Too Many Options
According to Hick’s Law, too many choice options will discourage customers rather than speed up their journey. With that in mind, offer three to four options at a time, breaking down the menu for your callers. When you control the menu, you control the choices. When you control the menu size, you control the time it takes to make a choice.
Phone System Mistake #2: Your IVR Is Programmed To Terminate Calls
Prematurely terminated calls can ruin your brand image in no time. If a customer hasn’t given up on the call, your IVR has no reason to terminate it single-handedly. In fact, automatic call termination shouldn’t even be allowed within office telephone systems.
- Call termination usually happens when IVR cannot properly interpret the caller’s speech. Advanced IVR solutions like Phonexa’s Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) will eliminate call termination and integrate with other vital call software.
Phone System Mistake #3: Your IVR Asks Too Many Questions
Does your IVR ask for a ton of personal information before routing the customer to the right department? It only takes around 10 minutes for an average caller to become irritated with subpar service, with the average human attention span being ever shorter: an evanescent 8.25 seconds.
- Each extra minute on the phone is a silent strike against your service quality.
With call analytics software integrated with your small bussiness phone system, you will collect the necessary information without forcing your callers to share data. Real-time demographic and psychographic reports will help you increase conversion and customer satisfaction rates.
Phone System Mistake #4: Your Hold Time Is Way Too Long
Hold time is tricky because it depends on the availability of a live operator. However, there is a way to prevent your callers from reaching the 40-second mark, which is when most of them will hang up out of frustration: hold music.
Personalized hold music can induce a feeling of a shorter waiting period, keeping the caller on the line for longer. However, if the music is too loud, muffled, or different from what your callers are used to hearing, it won’t fulfill its job.
Phone System Mistake #5: Your Speech Recognition Doesn’t Work Properly
Speech recognition may not always recognize speakers who don’t go the extra mile to clarify their speech. The best answer to this problem is investing in an advanced speech recognition system programmed to service multiple accents. Phonexa’s proprietary VoicePLUS does just that – minimizes misunderstandings to improve customer experience.
Tool 3 – Keypad Operations
Voice recognition technologies may not resonate with all callers, but almost everyone will find it comfortable to operate their phone’s keypad. Labeled from 0 to 9 plus additional symbols # and *, keypad buttons put the routing process in a caller’s hands – literally – with the latter easily click-choosing the desired option.
Tool 4 – Voicemail
In an unfortunate case when call agents are busy, unavailable, or cannot effectively serve the caller, you must have a fallback option: voicemail. A typical voicemail system will record a caller’s voice message so you can re-engage the caller later.
- Voicemail is perfect for customers from different time zones, busy professionals, introverts, and complex requests that take time to formulate.
Voicemail may be the least efficient to convert callers – leads unattended within the first five minutes are 800% less likely to contact you ever – but it enables round-the-clock availability for your business.
Not everyone can pull themselves together when speaking to a sales rep. A fair share of customers will appreciate an option to send a meaningful message and get a callback when your sales reps have prepared a detailed answer.
2. The Completion of the Call: Making the Caller Happy
Telephone systems for small business may support a call tree of any complexity, but most inbound calls are processed by your IVR, live representative, or follow-up system.
Ideally, you must satisfy the caller’s request without the latter requesting a follow-up, but it’s not always possible. That said, diverse call distribution criteria within your virtual phone system for small businesses will allow you to convert callers faster with minimum follow-up.
Common Call Distribution Criteria
|Availability||Availability-based call distribution will connect all inbound callers to available agents without considering the match’s quality. Albeit connected instantly, some callers may not get the best service.|
|Location & Language||Location-based call distribution will ensure callers and agents are always on the same page, increasing the quality of your service. On the other hand, a disproportion between popular and unpopular locations may appear.|
|Performance||Performance-based call distribution will help you convert the most profitable callers while depriving aspiring agents of top-level experience.|
|Round Robin||Distributing incoming calls evenly among live reps will unleash the full potential of your sales and customer support teams while reducing the time on hold.|
|Free Pick||Allowing your agents to pick the calls they want will promote competition and prioritize valuable calls. On the other hand, some calls may remain unattended or get irrelevant reps.|
A well-thought call journey will look as follows:
3. Post-call Analytics: Making Future Callers Happy
The call is over. What did you learn? We haven’t mentioned the “a-word” yet, but you knew it was coming: analytics.
Where did the call come from? Which phone number, campaign, and keyword drove the call? Did the call convert? Was the sales rep helpful?
You must learn this directly from the caller, or you call analytics. You must know your mistakes and how to correct them. Are calls being lost? Are customers getting into your system but can’t find a way out? Are particular times of the day surprisingly busy?
- Marketing data: the ad, campaign, traffic source, and keyword that triggered the call.
- Caller data: demographics, psychographics, purchase history, etc.
- Call data: timestamp, duration, status (new or recurrent; sales or support inquiry), and whether the call converted, bounced, or requested further assistance.
- Sale rep data: conversion rate, average order value, sales revenue, etc.
The post-call analytics will largely depend on the configuration of your phone system. For example, issues with live operators may indicate personnel problems, phone layout problems, or suboptimal routing. A low customer satisfaction rate may indicate clogged pathways (for example, an overwhelming call volume).
How To Choose a Small Business Phone System That Will Grow Your Bottom Line
Whether you go for a PBX or VoIP phone system, you must ensure it scales and enables diverse call routing.
Below are the phone system features to grow your call-reliant business sustainably.
Must-have Small Business Phone System Features To Convert More Calls
1. Call Routing
As the backbone of a virtual phone system, your call routing software must unmistakably connect callers to a matching live representative. For that to happen, you need an elaborate routing system and up-to-date software.
Call Routing Types
|Rules-Based Routing||Uses objective criteria, such as the caller’s number, the time of the call, or the reason for the call.|
|Intelligent Routing||Uses advanced call routing technologies like machine learning to recognize the caller’s intent.|
|Mixed Routing||Combines the best of both worlds|
2. Call Forwarding
Call forwarding is a basic telephony feature that redirects calls to another business phone number. For example, if one of your offices goes offline, call forwarding can redirect incoming calls to a currently operating office.
Likewise, you can forward calls that satisfy specific conditions. For instance, you may want to redirect calls only when the primary business phone is busy or during peak hours to take the pressure off the main office.
Alternatively, you can enable live operators to redirect calls manually. A live operator will click “Transfer” on the dialer (or a similar button) to redirect a call to a more helpful colleague.
3. Call Transfer
Call transfer is another basic telephony feature that allows you to redirect calls to another live operator during the call (not before the call, as is the case with call forwarding). If a sales rep understands that some other live operator can help the caller better, they can immediately transfer the call without any extra action on the caller’s side.
Call transfer will ensure quality service without the need to hang up and call back. It will help redesign your small business phone system so your callers can get to the destination point on the first try.
4. Caller ID
Having the caller ID feature within your phone system will allow you to choose the number or name to display on the recipient’s device. By customizing your appearance, you can get a head start with your call even before the caller picks up the phone.
5. Business Number Portability
Keeping the same business number when expanding to new locations or changing business phone service providers will preserve your brand identity. Whether you foresee the switch, it’s imperative to ensure you can keep your most profitable phone numbers in business.
6. Visual Voicemail
Some office phone systems for small business provide:
- Visual voicemail to translate voice messages into text
- Voicemail-to-email to attach voice messages to emails or translate them into text
Visual voicemail will spare you from the necessity to listen to every message. Instead, you will be able to scan messages much quicker, possibly while completing other errands.
7. SMS and Texting
Callers may prefer texting to calling for multiple reasons; for example, when they need more time to ponder their choices. The ability to exchange text messages with callers and other employees will improve internal cooperation and live operators’ performance.
Integration with other call-and-click solutions can transform your small office phone system into an omnipotent lead management platform. No isolated solution stands a chance in today’s ultra-competitive online business battlefield.
Without a doubt, you need an overarching approach to marketing and sales, with an equally pleasurable customer journey for every customer, whether from social media, email, or physical store. You need a system that collects exhaustive customer data while ensuring a smooth transition between marketing touchpoints.
Upgrade Your Phone System With Phonexa
With so many nuances to wrap your head around, one may dream of an all-encompassing phone system that will take care of all inbound calls while completing your sales objectives. If you think along similar lines, Phonexa’s PBX must be what you need.
Affordable setup, uninterrupted service, call scoring, and outbound calling, among many other features within Phonexa’s all-embracing cloud PBX, will help you generate and convert times more callers. Integrable with other Phonexa solutions, PBX will become an integral part of your comprehensive web and call lead management ecosystem.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a VoIP system?
A Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system is a modern telecommunication technology that transmits communications over the Internet rather than phone lines. VoIP converts analog audio signals – a caller’s voice – into digital signals to enable a call transfer and then unpacks them back into the caller’s voice upon the call. VoIP enables calls from computers, smartphones, tablets, VoIP phones, and even smartwatches.
There are many different terms for business phone solutions that transmit communications over the Internet:
- VoIP phone systems
- Virtual phone systems
- Cloud-based phone systems
- Internet phone systems
All these terms denote the same type of business phone systems.
What are the advantages of VoIP phone systems?
The main advantages of VoIP phone systems are automation, scalability, unified messaging, lower costs, and an abundance of advanced features like call recording, customer caller ID, voicemail, and more.
VoIP phone systems are superior to their landline analogs in all regards.
What are the disadvantages of VoIP phone systems?
VoIP phone systems require high bandwidth and a fast internet connection, especially when dealing with a flood of calls. Unlike traditional phone systems, VoIP phone systems won’t work during power outages unless they have a reserved power supply.
What is the difference between hardware and software-based VoIP phone systems?
|Hardware VoIP Systems||Software VoIP Systems|
|Require physical hardware||Installed on a server|
|Provide the highest call quality||Susceptible to network issues|
|Doesn’t scale and integrate||Scales and integrates most effectively|
|Limited customization||Unlimited customization|
|Best for large call centers||Best for small and medium-sized companies|
|Expensive (upfront investment required)||Cheap (no upfront investment)|
What is the difference between IP telephony and VoIP?
IP telephony allows over-the-Internet communications like calls, text, and faxing. Although IP telephony and VoIP are often used interchangeably, IP telephony is a broader term. Besides voice communications, IP telephony also enables text and faxing.
What is a PBX phone system?
A traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange) system is a private telephone network that improves, protects, and unifies communications with callers and within a company. There are three major types of PBX – traditional PBX, IP PBX, and cloud-based PBX.
Types of PBX Systems
|Traditional PBX||Hardware-based phone system hosted at a business location |
Key feature: uses physical lines to transmit calls
|IP PBX||Software and hardware-based phone system hosted at a business location |
Key features: uses the Internet to transmit calls; hosted and maintained by the business
|Cloud-based PBX||Phone system hosted in the cloud and accessed over the internet |
Key features: uses the Internet to transmit calls; hosted and maintained by the service provider
How much does a cloud-based telephone system for small business cost?
The cost of cloud-based small business office phone systems varies from $10 to $100 per user per month, depending on the features of the systems. For example, Phonexa’s PBX small business office phone system integrates with web and call tracking, distribution, and analytic solutions within a comprehensive lead management system.
Cloud-based office phone systems for small businesses are significantly cheaper than their landline analogs. A landline small business office phone system will cost you $50 to $100 per month for one or two lines plus a hefty upfront investment of up to a few thousand dollars.
What is an IP desk phone?
An IP desk phone (a VoIP phone) is a phone that uses an internet connection instead of physical wires. IP desk phones enable internal (using Ethernet) and external (using Wi-Fi) calls within cloud-based PBX and VoIP systems.
What is a softphone?
A softphone is a software application that allows internet-powered calls from PCs, laptops, IP desk phones, and other microphone-and-speakers devices that support the application. Most software phones boast advanced call features like video conferencing and instant messaging.
What is an auto attendant?
An auto attendant, or virtual receptionist, is a voice menu system that distributes callers to a matching live operator via voice commands and keypad selections. Virtual receptionists can provide basic information about the company, such as location, business hours, and other simple requests.
Auto attendants are a cheaper analog to IVR systems. However, unlike IVR systems, auto attendants do not interact with callers, have limited options, and do not use advanced technologies like speech recognition or natural language processing.